Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Ferry to Spanish Lookout
We've lived in Oregon and Washington most of our lives and have taken lots of ferries. The Washington State Ferry system is wonderful. Beautiful big car ferries in the Sound that take 50 or more cars and of course the scenery is spectacular.
Of course, little Belize doesn't have the money or need for large ferries, but my first views of a Belize ferry had me uncertain if I'd complete my journey on the bottom of the river. So far I've been on three very similar ferries. The first was near Orange Walk, there's one going to Xunantunich and the one we use the most, going to Spanish Lookout.
We have three options to get to Spanish Lookout from Bullet Tree. The direct way thru Santa Familia and Billy White is absolutely awful most of the time. Talk about rough road. It's actually best when it's wet as it's less harsh. We don't drive it much over 15 mph. The long way is east on the western highway almost to Belmopan where there is a new bridge over the Belize River. This road is paved and well maintained by the Mennonites. It's about 30 miles from our home, but takes about the same amount of time as the direct way because we can travel at normal speeds. The way we take the most often, when it's an option, is to take the ferry from near Central Farm. This way has a short span of rough road (almost every road in Belize is rough), but is fairly direct.
The ferry is open at the whims of the Belize River. If the water is too high or the wind is too strong, the ferry ties up. Driving in Belize is so much a matter of faith. You look at a bad road or a wooden bridge or a ferry, most of which are literally falling apart, and have to say to yourself, "Those folks made it across, so I guess it will handle us." Faith! The ramps onto the ferry take a beating and are not repaired until they are ready to fall off. It holds three cars at a time. It can be a little scary when all the vehicles are pickups. I've been the last one on and had to have the backend of the truck half on the ramp. My fear can almost put me in tears, but, hey, I'm a grownup. I moved to Belize! I can handle this! After about 100 trips, I no longer panic, just trudge forth like I had good sense. You come to the realization that they don't have much faith in the safety either as passenger's must walk on to the ferry with only the driver in the vehicle. I guess that's so that only one will go down with the car????
The ferries are powered by cables stretched across the river with a fellow turning a crank. Backwards and forward, all day long. There isn't a toll, so imagine that they're paid by the government. Can you imagine turning that darned crank for hours on end? I'm always happy to drive off and get on to S.L. to take care of business.