’Bout the time that the blazing mountain sun pulls her annual spring prank, searing “Last Call for Turns” across the slopes and forcing Ullr and winter back to the frigid lands of the north for another season, down south of the border, she’s calling a different tune, one replete with a rough reggae backbeat, bikinis sand, rum and the sea.
With the selection of beer produced in Mexico, one would think that a journey beyond to the countries comprising the isthmus of Central America would relinquish a cornucopia of fine cerveza for the intrepid traveler to enjoy. While it is true that beer abounds, craft brewing is all but non-existent, and what brew is available is produced and distributed by giant beverage monopolies, not unlike the bad-old-days around these parts.
In Belize, the national brand is Belikin, and comes in three varieties, Lager, Premium Lager and Stout. The crafty company also produces another brand, Lighthouse, which seems to be the same liquid packaged under the premium label, only marked-up and sold in green bottles. To help keep the beverage inside chilled for an extended period in the Caribbean heat, Belikin Lager and Stout are packaged in brown glass bottles with much thicker sides and bottom than average. The theory goes that the greater mass of glass takes longer to warm in the sun. After conducting a thorough test, my wife and I concluded that, despite only having a 10-ounce serving inside, the thicker-glass-prevents-the-brew-from-turning-to-warm-piss was a bunch of shit, and on the morning of day two, purchased a fine pair of bottle coozies, (proudly sporting a stencil of the Belikin label), a cherished prize that we own and operate to this day. A beautiful country filled with wonderful people, coastal Belize spoons with the second-largest reef system on the planet. If you’re a fan of Cancun, staying on the island/peninsula of Ambergris Caye would be a fine choice, or if, like us, you’re style tends more toward Tulum or Mahawal, staying a slight distance south on the tiny spit of sand known as Caye Caulker would be a wiser move. It was on the third day, while enjoying a bottle of Belikin at the café Herbal Tribe, that tragedy struck. The details are not for print, but suffice it to say that either the sun, water, gallons of scotch bonnet sauce, mountains of conch ceviche, multiple lobster breakfast burritos and dinners of fresh-caught and grilled bonefish had caught up with me, or the brew was funky. All I know is that, from that moment forward, I chose to spend the extra fifty cents on each bottle of Belikin Premium, and the ship, as they say, was righted.
Flores, an island/town located on the stunning Lago Peten Itza in the Peten region of northern Guatemala, is absolutely not to be missed. A primary jumping off point for visiting the Mayan ruins of Tikal, Flores is the perfect place to sit and enjoy the sunset over the lake from the deck of your five-dollar-per-night hotel and to chat with fellow travelers about the splendor of the city and the mystery of the ruins over a cold beer. Gallo, (the rooster), is the national brand, and a litro of the flavorless lager can be had for under a dollar from any of the shops around town. Limes can help the taste, but not much. Half hidden on shelves in the darkest corners of the shops, one may notice many small pints of a nameless clear liquid adorned with labels featuring icons of saints and other religious figures. BEWARE! The poison contained within is distilled juice of the hangover vine cut with low-grade gasoline. One shot may cause dizziness, nausea and vomiting, with a full pint inducing unconsciousness or death. This same filth is sold as Guarro in Costa Rica and should be avoided, that is unless your taste tends towards such pleasantries as snake venom, scorpion poison or extra-strength Rophenol.
The surf on the beach at Santa Theresa, located on the pacific coast of Costa Rica near the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, features a right/left break on an endless sequence of kilometer-long rollers. Spider monkeys nurse their young and feed on breadfruit above your hammock at the treeline, while Ticas in tiny hot-pink Brazil-cut bikinis and hombres with eight-packs and sun-bleached dreadlocks absolutely shred the surf in front of you. Lying there, half dazed by the sun, and exhausted from hours spent on the board learning to surf, ice-cold bottles of Imperial and Pilsen, jammed to the brim with the tiny orange-fleshed limes that grow locally, tasted like ambrosia, the nectar of the gods. Later, the German woman who owned the hostel across the dusty road that ran along the strip of jungle separating the beach from the town shared a bottle of Centranario Rum with us (the 12-year-old variety), and it was then that I truly found out what ambrosia was.
Erich lives in Durango, CO, at the alternate reality ranch, just outside of town.