Punta Gorda Stories and Tips

Pausing in Punta Gorda (PG to those in the know)

The centre of Punta Gorda Photo, Punta Gorda, Belize

We were a healthy cycle ride away from the centre of PG and despite the condition of the road it only took our gang of 4 around 20 minutes to get there. PG is built on a grid of roads with Far West Street being the furthest inland followed by West Street, Jose Maria Nunet Street, Main Street and Front Street. At one point the land enable the emergence of another street between Jose Maria and Middle Street. That they’ve called Middle Main Street! We parked our bikes outside one of the two local banks and looked across the "main square" of the town. In the centre was a brightly coloured clock tower (seems to be feature of Belizean towns) with the clock on all four sides showing a different time. I mentioned this to our host at Hickatee Cottages and he, with a completely straight face said "well it tells the correct time eight times a day". You can’t say fairer than that, can you?

Now if you’re expecting a grand metropolis you will be sadly disappointed. PG is a lazy, relaxed village with small business, a couple of supermarkets (which sounds rather grander than it is as they carry limited stock) and a lot of friendly people, many of whom seem to have been abandoned here in the heyday of the Hippy. We passed government buildings that were compact and can best be described as shabby, but I guess they’re not out to impress.

We had been recommended a trip to Cotton Coffee where they process the bean and create chocolate for selling on the premises. The smell of chocolate was intense when we opened the shop door (reminiscent of a trip we’d made to Hershey many years ago) and a very jolly woman told us that she was just finishing off a tour and would be with us "shortly". We took in the smell of the chocolate for a few moments and then were taken on our free tour. It seemed a very small business with all the processes contained in a very small area, but as the woman explained to us the product is purely for tourism and is sold in PG and at airports and their output services those demands. She explained that the locals couldn’t afford the chocolate, which in a way was quite poignant.

On the front street there’s a market which is purely for the locals. It’s not a glamorous sight as this is a market that does its job. It’s not trying to impress just to provide a service to enable the locals to stock up on their requirements for the weekend. However, no local craftsman "worth their salt" is going to pass up a chance to sell their goods so you need to be aware that bag makers, cloth weavers, wood crafters and the like will appear, as if by magic, and try to entice you to look at their goods. In PG you don’t need to push them away as they seemed content to try and if told "no thank-you" will disappear as quickly as they appeared.

There are plenty of small cafes in town and we stopped off at "Snack Shack" for a drink. It was busy and it’s fair to say that you don’t need to be in a rush if you’re stopping off any place in town for a drink or a meal. You’re now officially in Belizean time and things will happen at some time. We ordered pretty quickly but we sat for at least 15 minutes before there was sign of our order being processed in the kitchen. The activity was purposeful and measured (euphemism for slow!) and finally a drink was brought to the table. Ok, it wasn’t quite the drink we’d ordered but it was close enough for one of our party to say thank-you and accept the fruit smoothie. We were assured that the other drinks were "on their way" and a few seconds later we saw one of the staff leave the kitchen. She returned a few minutes later with a plastic bag of fresh produce. We were to see this action repeated several times during our sojourn at Snack Shack and it became obvious that ingredients were being sourced on an "as required" basis. After another few minutes I went to check on our order and guess what? Yes, they’d forgotten it. A profuse apology and several minutes later our fruit drinks arrived. My word they were good. Worth the wait? Well I’m not too sure, but we’re on holiday so it doesn’t really matter, does it?

The town is full of noise most notably the strains of Reggae Music that can be heard in almost all parts around the town centre. Several "come day, go day" Rastafarians saunter around the place bringing their colour and happiness to all that pass.

It’s fair to say that a half day visit is probably enough and I’d suggest that you get there in the morning before the heat of the sun takes hold.

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