Adventure in Hopkins: Will we have enough money to eat?

“Oh no, we finally got to Hopkins, but now we have no place to stay for the night…”

Welcome to Hopkins.

In case you missed the first part of our story (which you can read here) to catch you up, Staci and I have arrived in Hopkins, Belize after hitchhiking and catching a ride in the back of an old pick-up truck along with three grown women, five children and a Rastaman. It’s at this point in our journey that we had to hunt for a hotel on the village’s busiest tourist weekend.

Where can we stay?

Growing increasingly hot from the blazing Belize sun, and exhausted from the lack of food and water because we missed lunch earlier, we probably looked like zombies desperately walking around for brains in the shape of a hotel. We were growing restless and wanted to find a hotel fast. Only one problem, we pretty much had no money.

You see, since first landing in Belize, Staci and I have been using our credit cards for everything possible. Yes, we do want the credit card points, but we also don’t want to carry a bunch of cash with us and figured we could get cash anytime at one of the three ATM’s where we were staying in Placencia. That philosophy backfired on us in Hopkins for multiple reasons.

Hopkins road we traveled to get a hotel for the night. Hot, dusty and long.

Here’s what happened in a nutshell. Last week I had so gracefully left my debit card in an ATM and we couldn’t use Staci’s because she had forgotten the PIN to her debit card since she hadn’t used it in over two years. So, we were forced to turn to WesternUnion so we could pay our monthly rent and get an extension on our visas before they expired.

So we arrived in Hopkins assuming the $230 Belize Dollars that was was left over from the WesternUnion transaction would be plenty of cash to function since we assumed most places would accept credit cards, just like in the small town we’ve been staying. Hopkins, as we quickly learn, is a very small, chill village that had only just received an ATM ten days prior to our visit.  The businesses might as well put up a Jerry MaGuire sign over their doors that reads “SHOW ME THE MONEY” since only one business in the entire village center accepts credit cards; the rest are cash only.

Let the stress and countdown to zero dollars begin

Okay, back to the hotel-hunting story. Standing in the middle of the village, fresh off the truck, we stared at one another wondering what the heck we should do. Staci suggested we start at the beach and make our way down until we find something; it sounded like a fine plan. We walked to one hotel that was actually quite close to where we were dropped off. The little cabana, only available for one night, was small, right on the beach and pretty perfect. It was only$100, but we wanted to test our luck elsewhere. We end up going  right next door to the competition. After learning that this second place was charging twice as much ($200!!!) we quickly shuttled our butts right back to the first beach cabana to reserve the room.

We had very little money and needed a way to eat and afford to stay somewhere for the night. How could I let this happen?

We paid for the hotel (in cash, of course) and felt pretty good to have a place to ourselves for the night. We unloaded our stuff and headed back out for some food. We passed one local restaurant that was open on the way to our cabana and figured it was the place to be. We each had a very delicious hamburger and plate of french fries to fill the void in our stomachs. We paid $22 total for the meal and bottled water (the water is not safe to drink in Hopkins, according to everyone we talked with). In less than one hour we went from $230 in cash to $108. And we were here for three more days and had to pay at least $20 to get ourselves back to Placencia, Belize. This was not quite the adventure I had in mind when I started this whole move-to-Belize-and-explore thing.

Determined not to let my rising stress level ruin the picture perfect sunset from our beach cabana, we each put on our swim suits to get in the crystal clear water. Which just so happened to be dirty that night from the rising tide, so no swimming, just walking along the beach. After a few minutes we headed back to our porch. We watched the sun as it dipped under the horizon creating a scene right out of a Hollywood movie.

It was still early in the evening so we decided to walk along the main road to see if we would be able to partake in any early Garifuna activities that may have been happening.  (Oh, did I mention that the light broke right before we left, so we only had two very small lamps to light the room for the rest of the night?) The village was rather quite that night, but Staci ended up striking a conversation with another 20-somethings couple from Madison,WI visiting the area. We stood in the main road for over twenty minutes sharing travel stories before Staci asked if they wanted to grab a beer. We were still too broke to buy drinks at a restaurant, but one grocery store (and this isn’t like your local Piggy Wiggy or Safeway) in town accepted credit cards so together the four us purchased a few Belikins, the official beer of Belize, and headed back to our new friends’ hotel.

The view from our Hopkins beach cabana during sunset.

We returned to the couple’s hotel which was less than 50 feet behind a fence right next to our cabana. They were two intelligent and insightful people with interesting stories to tell. We sat outside on a few chairs and ended up talking for more than three hours about life, politics, childhood, family, money issues, being 20-something recent grads and everything else we could think of under the stars. One of the most lovely talks was if women were offended by being called ma’am and the right uses of Ms, Miss, Mrs. I mostly kept my mouth shut during that portion of talks, but we finished the conversation by concluding y’all is a safe word to use in most situations when addressing someone if you don’t mind getting looked at like you’re a redneck.

We parted ways with the couple and hoped to see them again during the holiday weekend. Staci and I still only had a few dollars to our name, but as we laid our heads to rest not knowing exactly what to do next I at least knew there continued to be great people in the world, I had a roof over my head, food to eat and a loving fiance by my side. I was reminded, in that instance, that life isn’t too bad at all.

So do we cut our loses early, miss the Garifuna celebrations happening the next day and head back home before we run out of money or do we stay in Hopkins and  try to scrape by? 

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