Our last two full days were spent on holiday. Two days of total relaxation with nothing to worry about other than when to eat dinner and whether we needed to get another bottle of rum.
Susie joined us for dinner and drinks on her last night (Monday) and we put the world to rights before she headed off to Mexico and Tuesday was spent by the pool, reading. We finished off with a dip in the rooftop jacuzzi and a meal of home-made ceviche of snapper, bought from the fishermen by the pier outside our apartment. Perfect.
But the travelling was not quite done yet. There was one more challenge but it was an easy one – water taxi to Belize City, taxi to the airport, flight to Miami and flight home to London. The water taxi and the taxi journeys went without a hitch, the rasta taxi driver enjoying the fact that we weren’t from the States and telling us of Queen Elizabeth The Second’s love for Belize. “She been here twice”, he announced proudly. “De last time was in 1976”. She can’t get enough of the place, clearly.
But it was when we arrived at the airport that things started to go wrong. Our tickets said that our flight to Miami was with British Airways but BA does not fly from Belize. After much discussion with the locals, it seemed we were flying with American Airlines. We queued up to check in but on arrival at the desk, were told that we had not obtained permission from the US government to enter their country. “It’s OK”, we said, “we’re just in transit in Miami on our way to London.” Not good enough apparently. They refused to check us in before we crossed the road, found an Internet cafe, entered our details into the US government website and obtained the 15-letter authorisation code which confirmed we were not terrorists (or something). Having grudgingly obeyed and waited whilst the authorisation codes were verified by the staff, we finally checked in.
After some insane instructions regarding departure tax payments and a restaurant which had sold out of most of it’s food before 1pm we passed through security and spent our remaining local currency on booze to take home. The three bottles were given to us airside as usual and we climbed aboard.
Deciding to have one last rum and coke on the plane, we were overjoyed to find that American Airlines charges money for drinks and we had to pay more for two drinks than we had just done for a whole bottle.
When we arrived at Miami, we were then told that any bottles of liquor we had purchased must be packed into checked-in luggage before boarding our onward flight as it turns out that Miami airport has been designed so badly that passengers in transit must collect their baggage and actually legally enter the country before immediately depositing their bags and leaving again, meaning the insane liquids rules will apply.
Immigration, predictably, took forever as everyone has to fill in mountains of forms and have their fingerprints scanned and photo taken, but at least we didn’t have to pay import tax on our grog as someone had suggested we might be forced to.
We spent a while repacking our rucksacks with three litres of potent alcohol and crossed our fingers that the bottles (and our clothes) would survive – their fate is still unknown to us.
It has been a frustrating day – we never intended to enter the United States but were forced to. And having been forced to, we had to jump through an array of bureaucratic hoops put in place by the very people who insisted we enter their country. I heart America.
We have navigated numerous complicated borders, figured out insane buses, taxis and tuk-tuks and fended off all manner of travelling-based scams since we left England but flying to London has proved to be one of the most challenging and annoying experiences of the entire trip.
But we are now on our way home and it feels quite strange.
It is widely agreed that time moves at a greater speed when one is partaking of enjoyable experiences. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what ‘they’ say. Odd then, that for most of the last seven months, I have felt the passage of time creeping along extremely slowly compared to normal.
When you are travelling, as opposed to working, there is an awful lot of time available for thinking. Long bus journeys, waiting for long bus journeys to begin and really long bus journeys all give rise to time which can be used to let ones mind wander and I have often found myself wondering why it is that, despite having had such an incredible few months, the weeks and months seem to have taken so long to elapse. The conclusion I have come to is that, for the last 29 weeks I have actually been living my life.
I don’t mean this to sound all existential and hippy (man) but it does seem to me that we spend an awful lot of our lives wishing time away. When I am at work I want it to be home time, when it is Wednesday I want it to be Friday, when it is two weeks til my holiday I want it to be one week and when we are 1-0 up with twenty minutes to go I want the referee to blow the final whistle.
But since December it feels like I have sat, stood or laid through every single minute of my life. It hasn’t always been thrilling and exciting and interesting – there have been some crushingly dull periods – but I have been there at all times, thinking, wondering, chatting or watching.
That said, I think (I know) that we are both really looking forward to getting home. Travelling is tiring and there are big things about home that are irreplaceable like friends, family and our bed. The oddest thing for me is that, having spent the last couple of months thinking how slowly time has been moving and how long it feels since certain things happened, as I sit here on the flight home it seems as though the last seven months has whizzed past in a flash. I can only draw one conclusion and that is that I have gone completely mad.
I feel quite optimistic about things at the moment which, for those of you that know me, is very unusual. I have got all sorts of plans for how I’m going to make myself better (less telly, more reading, eat more healthily, blah blah, you know the sort of thing) and I’m quite confident I can bring them to fruition. Then again, these things all feel like New Years Resolutions to me so we shall see.
Neither of us know whether this will be the last trip of this kind we do. We probably won’t go for so long if there is a next time but it’s certainly whetted our appetite to see more of the world and it’s made us realise how little we have seen. We’ve not been to Africa, not seen Australia, hardly touched Asia and not done North America or Europe (save for today’s caper and our home) so there is plenty more for us to do.
For now we shall just have to make do with boring everyone we meet back home with tales of paradise islands in Thailand, temples and genocide in Cambodia, cons and great food in Vietnam, monks and great people in Laos, skyscrapers and racing in Hong Kong, wine and scenery in New Zealand, volcanoes in Chile, steak, wine and lakes in Argentina, cold and salt in Bolivia, Incas in Peru, buses in El Salvador, ruins and diving in Honduras, jungle and Mayans in Guatemala and the beaches of Belize. I think that’ll do.