Well some 6000km’s and 11 days later, My 1993 Toyota, my Guitar, my travel companion, and I have landed in Punta Gorda, Belize. The trip was long and flat, as we took the most direct route heading straight south of Eyebrow Saskatchewan, made it to Buffalo, South Dakota the first night, then swayed left to Fort Morgan Colorado, for obvious reasons. Another 2 or 3 days crossing Texas, stopping for a full day in Austin to catch some live music, before we finally reached the Mexican border on the eastern most point.
Mexico was an interesting enough drive. The roads were terrible but Simba held his own. My old Civic would have never lasted this trip without a flat tire atleast. But Simba was flawless. And, despite what everyone hears about the dangers of driving through Mexico we never came across anything terribly sketchy. Granted we were held up for money twice by La Policia, but by the sounds of it they would have settled for a cold Coke for a bribe. That’s what my Bass Player Doug said, he brings cold Soda Pops through Mexico and that usually pays off the crooked Cops.
Our first encounter, was a routine police Check, he waved me down to stop. Standing in full uniform and a machine gun in his arm, he muttered something in Spanish as I replied “Disculpe, Muy Poko Español”, Sorry, I speak very little Spanish. He asked for my papers, I gave him the first one, he didn’t even look at it. He didn’t even notice Maria’s head poking out from the back of the truck as she was laying in the mobile bed at the time, nor did he pay attention to the empty beer cans on the truck floor. He gave my insurance paper back to me. “Dinero” he says, and he rubs his fingers together.
“Quanto?” How much? “No Tengo” I Don’t have.
I pulled out my wallet, which was quite stacked with bills both US and Mexican, pulled out the smallest Mexican Bill I had, 200 Pesos which is about $10USD, and gave it to him. He nodded and waved me a long. Easy as that we moved along without any hesitation. This happened on about our 3rd Day in Mexico, and the night before we pulled into the small highway town of Naranjos, where we loaded our faces with Tacos and beers. Of course in a place that remote we were quite the spectacle for the locals. First, one fella bought me a litre of beer, to my understanding it was because he liked my beard. He left shortly after and then the rift raft started rolling in… The guys looking for a beer, or a dance with the girl, or to get us to come stay at their house, or to show them where my truck is parked. The one lady there who spoke english advised us not to go anywhere with these men and we probably wouldn’t have anyways. That same lady has us pretend to leave, and come back in 10 minutes as it was the only way we could get rid of these hustlers. When we returned she had a well lit driveway that we could park for the night.
The next morning, we had to leave at 8am, so I didn’t bother getting dressed up in my usual Cowboy attire and accompanying sunglasses. I thought maybe this was why the cop spotted me as an easy target. My bright blonde hair and naive blue eyes made me look the fool… I think… as from then on I went back to the look of a guy you don’t want to mess with.
And maybe by coincidence it worked because the next cop who pulled me over, an older, perhaps more respected member of the police force saw us drive by and pulled up behind us. His english was good and he was almost just more curious in our adventure. No bribe, just good wishes in our travels. Alright 1 for 1 on crooked cops.
The next routine police Check stop, I had my attempt of an intimidating appearance on the go. The cop with the machine gun stopped me, shook my hand and wished me a happy new year, I wished him a Merry Christmas. He didn’t ask to see any documentation but like a polite beggar he asked for just a dollar or two because he wanted a Soda. I smiled. If this is as bad as it gets I don’t mind. Better then the horror stories I’ve heard first hand of being robbed blind and humiliated.
A few more days later, the highways got a lot better and the Mexicans know it because they’ve got $20 toll booths every 50km’s or so. It was December 23rd by this time and we were starting to think we could make it to Belize by Christmas. Well we sort of did. On christmas day we sat at the border wondering if we should try crossing. The border was open but insuring the vehicle beyond that point was anyones guess. We finally decided to give it a try and in true Central American fashion the Border patrol said “No, the insurance place isn’t open, but I’m sure if you explain it to the cops that you couldn’t get insurance they might understand”
So we crossed over, it was a 2 hour ordeal, bringing a vehicle into Belize without any real game plan doesn’t bode well with those protecting the border. By the time we reached the first Belizean town everything was closed except a hotdog stand. We had a very Merry Christmas eating hotdogs and Jamming oceanside eventually falling asleep in the truck.
The next morning the Insurance places were still closed for another day so we said screw it and drove the entire length of Belize, only running into one Police Stop. I had my “I know what I’m doing” look on, and drove through it, slowly, but not stopping, He didn’t wave me down, he didn’t really have time to see if the insurance sticker was in the window but somehow we made it through without having to explain ourselves.
That night we rolled into Punta Gorda, My home town down here. We tried to find my friends, my Jamming buddies but no one was at any of the familiar stops so we sunk in, ate some food, drank some beers, and checked the Wifi. Sure enough Doug had messaged me saying they were at a bar on the edge of town called “The Green Fence” A dingy local dive that seldom sees a white man, they do embrace them though. The problem was I never remember how to get there, it’s down some old back Roads with many turns and heck, I was asking for directions from a lady when the Police rolled by.
“Yes Sir, could you show these people the way to the green fence?”
So there we were, Under the influence,(Don’t drink and drive) in an uninsured truck getting a Police Escort to the wildest little bar in town. Rock n’ Roll.
We were welcomed with open arms, to a pretty full bar, and the band, My Band, was tearing it up on stage, well it wasn’t 5 minutes before they had me go get my guitar and we were doing all the old songs from days of yore;
Punta Gorda White Boy Blues
Bring it On Home
and a song of mine that had become a regional favourite about the Anatomy of the African descended Male.
To say it was well received would be an understatement for half way through the first song we had one grand fan up front and centre. She had to have been a 60 or so year old Belizean but before we even got to the course she had her boobs fully exposed, bouncing them around not 3 feet from my face. Everyone got a good chuckle, right up until I couldn’t continue the song. Her bosom was wrapped around he microphone stand and she was rocking it back and fourth so that I couldn’t get the words out with any audacity. The song was cut short and I said “Well we only made it 2/3rds of the way through the song, but by the looks of things you folks wouldn’t be able to handle the rest” Everyone laughed. The Green Fence is always a riot.
So that was my drive from Eyebrow to Punta Gorda, I’ve been chilling on front street ever since. Playing music every day, which was the idea. Even if just a few Jams with people there’s always some sort of enlighening music experience. If you remember my mentor Oscar Burke, He’s been doing as good as always. Happy to see me. Him and Maria have really been connecting on spiritual levels which is beautiful to see because he has so much wisdom to share. Doug and I spent an acoustic night with Oscar a few nights ago which I would consider some of the most valuable guitar lessons I’ve had. It’s never technical, he pays more attention to bringing out the soul of the music. The whole reason behind it. He loves sharing the words of Bob Marley and I believe he really enjoys playing the roll of the mentor. It’s nice having him next door because He will have a long drawn out abstract answer to any question I approach him with.
He also put in a good word for me with a well established Raggae band in town that performs weekly at his Bar. They played yesterday and Doug was in on the jam so I modestly walked over with my guitar and tried to blend in. Not taking front and centre with my crude songs and what have you but blending into the back round trying to be the best Reggae rhythm guitarist I could be, with all the techniques I’ve learned from Oscar. Simple, Soulful, modest. I guess it went over well enough because the lead singer of the band approached me just this afternoon with a gig opportunity for tonight. He said there’s some private function going on a couple villages over. I have never and will never ask for money for these gigs but he volunteered the information that there will be free food and drink all night long.
So just like that, 4th day in, It looks like I’ve joined (if only temporarily) a reggae band in town. The most established band in town at that which is nice. These guys don’t flake out, or fall out, they’re very professional and very talented and I’m feeling quite blessed with the opportunities that are presenting themselves. It’s not always so seamless with the other band. In this little carib Town there’s a lot of drama as to who owns what equipment and who’s cool with who. Doug and I maintain to stay on good terms with everyone in hopes of just getting shows, but the guys who own all the equipment do like to throw their power around. There were talks of an all expenses paid gig at a resort 2 hours north in Placencia on Monday, but it already sounds like that’s falling through. THAT is why it’s nice to have this other band invite me along because they know how to get the show done. So stay tuned! I’ll try to get a picture from the performance tonight. The kind of memory a guy would want to document.