Part Six // An Attempted Departure
We are up early this morning in anticipation for the short flight hop to Belize City. It feels eerie outdoors when we step outside, with darkening skies and gusts of wind. Waves are crashing out over the reef so we know the water is very rough for this to happen. The shore birds are gone as well. It’s a rather sad way to say goodbye to San Pedro. We board a Cessna Grand Caravan and Jerry is thrilled to sit right seat with the pilot, as he himself is a private pilot. My seat mate is a chatter box and he begins giving me the weather report of a strong tropical depression bearing down on Belize in the coming days. The word hurricane is mentioned but at the moment my attention is focused on a sudden lurching of our aircraft and we are off and running. We jump into the sky swaying back and forth with the gusting air. I’m in awe of the waves crashing over the reef and how the view below us looks from my lofty seat. We are half way to the International airport when we fly into dark and rough clouds and our ride becomes a rodeo. The windshield wipers are slapping lickety-split and my seatmate has finally grown quiet. Within seconds our pilot drops us lower and curves more to the south and I realize our destination is no longer the International airport. I look downward out the window and we are about 40 ft above the water and my heart is racing. I know where we are going but not why. We will land on the little strip of asphalt that parallel’s the sea at Belize City Municipal airport. I tighten my seat belt as we touch down smoothly and race to the end of the short runway. I’m glad to be down and my seatmate is as well; he looks pale.
The winds are buffetting the plane as we climb out and run to the small ticket office. We are told weather conditions were not good for our flight into International with this smaller aircraft. We can taxi out to the bigger airport as it’s a 30 minute drive. I’m grateful our flight doesn’t depart to Houston for a few hours yet. Surprisingly the closer we get to the airport it becomes sunny and the winds calm. Pockets of good and bad. The airport terminal is crowded and noisey with so many people wanting to depart. We are told by the ticket agent the storm will probably be upgraded to hurricane status in the coming hours and the airport will shut down. They are trying to get a few flights on their way and our Houston bound flight is one of them. Our flight is called and we make no hesitation to get moving outside and up the steps to the aircraft.
We get seated and belted in and the plane is loaded within 10 minutes yet we’ve not heard the engines running. Security personel are in and out of the pilots cabin and I begin to feel uneasy as to what the delay is. It’s announced that the aircraft is having problems and they “must correct the problem” before we can depart. Yes, yes, please correct the problem pronto, I say under my breath. After 30 minutes we are told the flight is cancelled. Either due to the sliver of time limit to get gone or there was technical problems they could not address.
We are ushered off the plane and back into the airport lobby, passing through the same doors we walked out an hour ago. It is announced that ALL flights are cancelled and the airport will be closing down due to the coming hurricane which now has a name, Keith. He’s here, and he’s knocking on Belizes’ door.