If a stopover could be described in short, yet very descriptive, verbs, Dangriga would be crash – boom – pound. Lightning crashed, thunder boomed and the rain pounded. That was the strongest impression I retain of Dangriga.
We arrived about noon-ish off the little town of Dangriga, Stann Creek. Home to about 10,000 people, it was the second largest settlement after Belize City and is now the third. It was settled in the early 1800’s by “Garinagu”, Black Caribs from Honduras and, since the 1980’s has undergone a cultural awakening. This included changing their name from Stann Creek to Dangriga and fostering a cultural renaissance of the Garifuna, the ethnic group descended from shipwrecked African slaves and native Caribs. They had adopted the Carib language which is an interesting mixture of African, Creole, English, French, Spanish and probably a few others; it has very little relationship to any of them singularly but a keen ear can pick out terms and words from each. Fascinating, singsong, language and very pleasant to listen to.
These Garifuna have kept their African musical and religious traditions more so than other islands/countries in the Caribbean and celebrate mightily with festivals and rituals lasting days.
Dangriga is also where the Caribbean music, Punta Rock, originated and some of Belize’s more well-known folk bands came from here.
We didn’t get much of a chance to explore this little gem of a town that one day we were there but what we saw was lovely. We found a few provisions and stopped for dinner. Believe it or not we had THE BEST chop suey we’ve ever had anywhere – in downtown Dangriga, Belize! Fresh made, piping hot and way too much for any normal person to eat. I had asked for a coffee and, true to Belizean custom, was handed a mug of boiling water and the instant Nescafe jar and a huge bowl of sugar. Usually taking cream only, I asked if there was some, or even milk. After umming for a moment, the waitress conferred with another guy who took off out the door; we heard “Just buy one!” and then it dawned on us. The custom is to drink heavily sugared strong black instant coffee – they actually went to the nearby grocery store to buy a can of condensed milk just for me. Hmmm, third world country indeed! How little we know of these wonderful people.
It was amazing just how many Asian owned shops and restaurants there were there. There were Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Philippino establishments everywhere. No one we asked could supply an answer for this phenomenon.
Loaded down with our booty (and full stomachs plus doggy bags), we decided to head back to the boat and maybe leave exploring for the next day. We had just gotten to the beach when we noticed the sky to the east was dark, black, and moving fast. We whistled for David to bring the dinghy up for us and were being pelted by rain before we even got off the dock.
Rushing to close hatches and put away everything, we were soon soaked and completely overtaken by this storm. Although only about 4:00 pm, it was like twilight with such heavy clouds. Waaaay over in the east we saw lightning but with all the low-hanging clouds it looked more like sheet lightning. Then we started hearing the thunder as it got closer and closer. Withing a couple hours, the lightning and thunder had combined into a loud cacophony being directly overhead; coupled with the pounding rain, we couldn’t even hear ourselves think. We were rocking and rolling pretty good in waves kicked up by the wind, the wind generator about to take off into the ether it was spinning so hard. We had had the presence of mind to bring the dinghy up onto the davits to prevent drag on the boat, not knowing how the anchor would hold. (We found out next morning we had only dragged about 10 feet!)
Jean-Marie was very glad there was a 300 ft tower just a few hundred yards away, hoping that any lightning strike would find it instead of us. Me, I just sat up in the companionway and watched the awesome power and beauty of it all. Oblivious to the dangers of lightning (or ignoring them), I just love to watch thunderstorms – usually from as close as possible.
The storm passed by overhead and was going inland by about 10:00 so we were able to turn in and get whatever sleep there was to be found. It was a pretty rocky night and there is always the concern of dragging in the back of our heads. Jean-Marie and I met each other upstairs quite a few times that night, watching the shoreline to make sure it wasn’t moving. <sigh> the joys of anchoring.
The next morning dawned clear and beautiful with a brilliant sunrise. We decided to get the hell out of Dodge while we could as we didn’t have internet or any weather information, and really REALLY didn’t want that to happen again. We didn’t have a clue this storm was on its way, nothing had shown up in the weather reports we looked at. So we upped anchor and took off for Placencia, about 40 miles down the coast.
It was a gorgeous day yet again, spent watching the cays go by and looking out for the little fishing marker-sticks. It was a bit of a concern, since our prop is a rope-magnet, because they were in the main channel and we didn’t know just how much line was tied to them or where it was exactly. Our earlier dodging through a literal minefield of them had taught us they were not nets strung out – thank goodness for that, at least.
As we neared Placencia Bay we saw other sailboats in what looked like the opening between the mainland and the island. The gap was not large to begin with and we knew it widened out afterward but didn’t know just how congested the passage would be with those 4 or 5 boats there.
As it happened, the perspective changed totally when we got right up on it and we found that yes, the sailboats were directly in front of the opening but back in the middle of the bay. It is incredible the different perspectives on everything being out on the water as opposed to standing on the shore. I am learning every day – mostly that my spacial estimation ability is very limited.
During the day, from the water, the shore and other boats look a certain distance away. From the shore, the boat looks a lot closer. At night, it’s the same thing. It’s very disconcerting to say the least.
We found, once in Placencia Bay, that there were actually about 15 -18 boats there, all anchored here and there. We decided to pull up fairly close to one end of town just off what looked to be a decent sized hotel (hoping to be able to pull in their wifi from the boat), and laid the anchor. The current was fairly strong and it took a few tries to catch but when we did it held us very well for the duration of our stay. The bottom in Belize was more mud or clay than it was in Mexico, where it was more sand or sand over coral.
Looking around the bay we saw that Yonder had made it there already (Steve and Sandy) and Wind Whisperer was parked just behind them (another couple we met in Belize City). We are finding out that cruisers never really leave one another behind, we will always meet up again somewhere.