Belize: How I Escaped From That Machete-Wielding Conspiracy Theorist

Nov 05, 2012    /    stories & photos

So, I have a bunch of fun things I wrote this summer (or even earlier in the year) that I never shared with you. Why? Because I ran out of time. Or was already talking about Spain and didn’t want to backtrack all the way to Belgium and ruin the somewhat book-like flow of the blog. But I’m over that now, so over the next couple weeks, in between the stories of scenic road trips and frequenting speakeasy bars in San Diego, I’m going to share some of the lost stories of 2012. I know. You’re totally excited, right?

Today I’m going to start this new trend with a look back at my quick getaway to Belize in February. Because there was this guy. And he was bat-shit crazy.

Yeah. Enjoy.

How I escaped from that machete-wielding conspiracy theorist

Back in February this year, I really needed a vacation. I’d been building my own business, running a professional meet up each month, and writing a memoir. Plus, I was living in Colorado, where January and February are totally cold and miserable. It got to the point where all I could do was sit at my desk getting no work done and visualizing myself on a beach with a Piña Colada and a suntan. So I booked a ticket to Belize.

After living my dream of listening to surf sounds while eating coconut shrimp, lobster, and Piña Coladas in Placencia for four days, I decided that I wanted to see other parts of Belize. I was done with laying on my beach. I wanted to see the jungle!

So, off I went to San Ignacio.

I should backtrack and tell you that pre-bumpy bus ride to San Ignacio I had contacted a British man through—a fantastic website that lets travelers connect with locals who have a couch (or sometimes a bed) they can crash on. It’s not just about crashing, though. It’s about connecting with the local culture. Learning new things. Exchanging ideas. And usually that’s all very well and good.

Well, unless your couch surfing host is a conspiracy theorist.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I arrived in San Ignacio’s dusty bus station and wandered from shop to shop looking for a pay phone to call my host. No cigar. Instead, a nice Belizean woman lent me her cell phone (and then demanded a dollar for its use). I called my host and he said he’d be there to pick me up in ten minutes.

Not much later, he did arrive in his beat-up jeep, wild-eyed, dusty, and wearing a t-shirt that had long-since lost its color. I tossed my bag in the car and off we went, driving slowly and swervingly back to his house—a grey concrete square up against some jungle paths guarded by two never-before-washed dogs covered in some sort of white slime. Said dogs proceeded to work themselves into a frenzy, jumping all over me so that I, too, could be covered in the delightful slime substance they had rolled in.

Obviously, I was thrilled.

Once the dogs calmed down, my host led me inside the house, which had also clearly never been cleaned (see a theme emerging?) to the spare room where I’d be sleeping.

It was as delightful as the rest of the house, with a bed covered in dog hair (and probably slime), hundreds of spider webs winding their way up the corners of the room, and a rather odd, undefinable smell. I set my bag down, trying not to touch anything. And then we headed to the living room to chat.

In the living room, I perched (trying to touch as little as possible of the chair I was sitting on, the floor, the table, and, dear god, the dogs) on the edge of a cloth chair and watched as he pulled out a mountain of weed. A mountain, people.

I have no idea what the laws about drugs are in Belize, so I sent up a brief prayer that I wouldn’t be caught here, hiding out in a hovel filled with weed. Because who knows whether the Belizean police would believe I’d been an innocent bystander.

That’s when the conversation started, him red-eyed, smoking, and slow speaking, me cringing and trying to shoo away the slime-covered dogs.

He told me that he left Britain because the British and American governments were using the media to brainwash us. That the whole thing was a conspiracy. Because Britain and America were going to TAKE OVER THE WORLD together. And Belize would be a haven in the storm.

He said he reads lots of blogs on the topic and was thinking about starting one himself. And then he said he was so relieved and happy to meet someone who truly understood. What a remarkable girl I was!

I nodded a lot and asked some questions (in part because I was morbidly curious, in part because I was a little afraid of being killed and eaten or something and I figured my best strategy was to be really, really nice to the crazy man).

And then I went to the bathroom. Possibly one of the worst ideas in the history of ideas.

The bathroom, as you might imagine, was small and dirty. But the thing I hadn’t counted on was this: it also locked from the outside. Now, this is a relatively normal thing for Central American bathrooms, but it’s not something you want to see when you are trapped in a dirty concrete house with a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist. I said a little prayer, peed faster than any woman has peed before, and came back out into the living room, contemplating plans that might get me out of there without setting off some crazy reaction.

While I was still contemplating, he decided to shower and change, returning a short time later with another muddy-colored t-shirt with a few holes in it. He then walked to the front door, picked up a two-foot-long machete and walked out the door with the slime-covered dogs, presumably to cut down some coconuts.

Who the hell sold this man a machete?, I wondered, thinking there should be some sort of mental stability check for people who wanted to own two-foot-long knives.

He came back in, proudly holding his coconuts, and sat down to smoke some more weed.

After what felt like another hour (and probably was more like ten minutes), I told him that I’d looked at the bus map and had underestimated the distance to Belize City. And, darn it all, I needed to leave for Belize City today, not tomorrow, in order to make my flight.

Oh no! He cried. But we were getting along so well. I understood him better than any other woman! He had even put on his nice t-shirt (the one with only two holes) for me!

Sorry, I said. Sorry.

And so the extremely high conspiracy theorist put his machete away and drove me three blocks to the train station, almost putting us in the ditch twice.

I’m so lucky I didn’t get machete-ed and turned into a skin suit.

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  • Ali
    November 5, 2012

    OMG that is so creepy! I’m glad you made it out alive and found a way to leave without spending the night. Even aside from the creep factor, it sounds disgusting!

  • gigigriffis
    November 5, 2012

    Seriously, right? This may be the reason people are afraid of couchsurfing…

  • Bethany@OurSoCalledLife
    November 6, 2012

    Wow. Good job escaping though. That’s probably the kind of luck we would have, couch surfing.

  • gigigriffis
    November 6, 2012

    Haha, I hear that. With my luck, it’s amazing that this doesn’t happen more often.

  • Lisa
    November 9, 2012

    Really enjoyed this post as I was just in Belize last week and had a similar experience. In my case it was a nice, but empty (imagine if the Shining took place in the jungle) lodge owned by two Americans and a squirrelly Dutch guy. There was definitely weed, a machete, and conversations about how Hurricane Sandy was engineered by the government to throw off the election. They were harmless and very nice, but needless to say my friend and I left the next morning. Your experience definitely sounds creepier.

  • gigigriffis
    November 9, 2012

    Oh, Lisa, that’s hilarious! I love how natural disasters are all pawns in a larger game. Either to throw off the election or to punish the sinners or whatnot. And, of course, elections make everything 10 times more crazy. I believe my own family is currently hiding out in a bunker waiting for the Maya calendar to end.

  • Like, O My God Becky!
    March 28, 2013

    I suppose machetes must be a naturally scary thing to a bubblegumming surface skimmer of a tourist. The guy lives in the jungle. Maybe that’s just the type of thing people have in the jungle. Can’t really expect useless people to understand useful things i guess…

    • gigigriffis
      March 29, 2013

      Hi there,

      No one is saying machetes aren’t useful items to have in the jungle – just that this guy was a little nuts and it’s a little nerve wracking when a nutso person has an enormous knife. :)

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