We made use of the free transport provide by Victoria House and cycled our way into the small village of San Pedro. I’m not sure quite what I was expecting but as the words of the cab driver who took us from the airport to Victoria House resonated in my mind I found a certain incompatibility. He had welcomed us "to Paradise". Is paradise a littered highway? Do people live in roughshod accommodation? But then the sight of beautifully coloured birds and smiling faces...
From Victoria House it’s about two miles to the end of town and as the road is flat all the way it was a fairly leisurely ride. Every so often we had to take defensive action against the wave of golf buggies creeping up behind or surging towards us. These are the favoured form of transport for tourists on Ambergris Caye and we were told that were literally thousands on the island. Certainly it seemed, on some stretches, that thousands were heading towards us and we then decided to follow the example of other tourists and cycle on the pavement. That was much less risky as it seemed that pedestrians, the few that there were, preferred to walk on the road. What a topsy-turvy world!
On the road to the airport we saw many birds, mainly a tiny yellow seed eating bird and a bright orange and black one (sorry I’m not an ornithologist) and we made several "emergency stops" to try and capture them on film (with varying success). After passing the main Tropic Air airport we headed to town "proper" and at the corner, of what we presumed was front street, we padlocked the bikes together at the side of a ramp down to the sea. We’d been told that we could leave them anywhere and if they were linked together no-one would take them. To be sure we used both padlocks front and back to ensure that they were well and truly hitched. Security sorted we headed off along front street with a plan to meander back along Middle Street and then up to Back Street all running parallel with the coast line. That would comprehensively cover the town!
There were many brightly coloured two-storey shacks (every so often a three storey place would seem like a sky scraper) as we made our way along the main street. Several had washing lines strung across them and unfortunate piles of litter down the side alleyways. Soon we obliterated the litter from our sensors and took in the ambiance of the place. Small market traders, one with a pet racoon, tried to interest us in their wares but none were persistent or aggressive in their demands. Most were claiming that the wooden bowls on display were personally made by them, but my natural scepticism ruled that out as a possibility (maybe I’m wrong).
We stopped off to check out the Catholic Church close to the town centre which was marked with a clock tower and electronic display (a real contrast to the rest of town) and were genuinely surprised at how large a building it was inside. It’s made out of breeze blocks and transparent bricks (the sort that seemed to have a popularity back in the 70’s as shower walls) but a large and impressive stained glass window dominates. Clearly it’s not a patch, architecturally speaking, on its older counterparts, but it just shows what can be done with modern building material.
We were surprised when we saw a flash of green in front of us and a parrot landed in a yard in front of us. This was obviously one of his normal haunts because he strutted around quite contentedly and ignored the growing group around us taking photographs.
Whilst in town check out the street names - some are quite elaborate - and the messages around the town. These include "no loitering, no drugs, no weapons, no fighting, no bicycles"; "keep the street neat"; and a memory back to hippy days "trash goes in the can, man". Perhaps you’ll see others!
San Pedro is an interesting place to visit (if you’re on the Caye) with a great mix of locals and and real nice feel to it. If you ignore the litter and the golf buggies it’s quite an endearing place and on Saturdays the town is full of traders bar-b-Qing food for visitors and locals..