Adventures in Belize: Day 5

The great thing about getting to bed so early is waking up with the sun. 6:15 rolled around and we were up! Coffee by the glorious pool before we headed out to our snorkeling adventure. Because we had brought our own gear, we didn’t need to arrive to meet the boat until 10:15, so an early leisurely breakfast at The Happy Lobster it was! A delicious spinach omelet with a homemade flour tortilla and Marie Sharps habanero hot sauce hit the spot. We were fueled to snorkel!
Our group looked sea worthy and ready for adventure as we walked to the dock. Our snorkeling vessel, The Ragga Queen, was on a mooring, so the captain zipped us over in a speed boat and we were off. After a short briefing, we were off, the beautiful ocean waters leaving a nice white wake and the shore behind. Mike and I sat on the stern and drank it all in…until we couldn’t take the scorching sun, and ducked into the cabin for some shade. We had a group of Irish med students onboard, 9 in total, who were delightful and who had been traveling for several weeks before their rotations started. A 30 year old Holland lad who was traveling alone, told us he had been traveling for almost 8 months, and had been all over central and South America. Brazil had been his favorite country and he said the four weeks he had spent there hadn’t been enough. I asked how he had gotten so much time to travel without working and he explained he was in between Army tours, so had had the time and took it to travel the world. It truly makes you think, and realize, anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

Since I’m recovering this from our trip over 4 months ago, I’m going to leave it here. The trip was amazing: filled with wonderful people, fresh food, memories we will all remember forever! If you have any questions about what we did, where we went, where we stayed, please reach out!

Here’s a breakdown of what we spent – for myself, Mike and my mom:

Nickels and Dimes of Belize

Jungle lodging: Casa Santa Maria: $912 (this included breakfast each morning)
Island lodging: Caye Caulker (with a pool!):
Crystal Auto Rental: 4 days, $422
Dinners at Casa Santa Maria: $25 Belizean per person, totaling
Mayan Ruins: $10 Belizean per person
Benny’s restaurant: $58 Belizean (for all 3 of us)
Che Chem Ha (Mayan cave tour) – $50 Belizean per person
Belikin beers stops: $2.50 Belizean per beer – with a .25 cent deposit (you get that back when you return the empties)
Botanical Gardens: $15 Belizean per person
Du Plooys Jungle Resort Lunch: $54 Belizean

Adventures in Belize: Day 4

We awoke early to pack up, as we were leaving the jungle and heading to Caye Caulker. The time spent here had been amazing and we all felt as though we had seen so much of this part of the country. From the Belizean people, to the gourmet food Lucy had made us, to the Mayan ruins, river adventures and cave tour….it had been quite the trip! Lucy made us breakfast, helped us pack the car and blew us kisses as we left. We would sure miss her cooking and hospitality!
The drive out wasn’t nearly as stressful, due to our having daylight on our side and we arrived at the rental car return by 11:00 am. Just in time to catch the ferry at noon! The manager at Crystal car rental even gave us a lift to the ferry terminal, free of charge, and gave us tips about catching a taxi on our return trip, where to get your luggage and how much time we should leave ourselves. Extremely helpful!

The ferry arrived on time (it was actually just a speed boat!) and we packed in and we’re off to the island. The 45 minute ride was beautiful, with turquoise water that stretched as far as the eye can see and a blazing sun shining down. We would spend the next four days in paradise and I was soaking it up! A man sitting next to me on the boat told me he was a reggae singer and played every Friday at on of the island bars. One of the guide books explained there was a big rasta vibe on the island, so we knew it would be laid back. Arriving at the dock, we left off, grabbed our bags, and found a taxi who was waiting for us at the dock to take us to our island getaway.

First stop was the management company the Airbnb house used to help coordinate guests, Palmetto Accommodations. They gave us keys to the house and told us we could come rent bikes later. The Island was about a mile long, so having a bike to cruise around on would be so fun! Ce-Ce, one of the managers, followed us to the house to explain the what’s what and answer any questions. The house had wi-fi, but no air conditioning, a trade off I’m not sure we loved, but the gorgeous pool in the front yard made up for it.

After exploring the two story bungalow, slipping into our bathing suits to take a dip (we were drenched!) and putting our suitcases away, we headed back to the office to rent bikes and went to explore town and get a bite to eat. The Rainbow Grill had gotten great reviews, so we pedaled there. Due to the fact that my mom was with us, and I know she was used to a certain way of traveling, eating and a certain level of service, I had worried a bit about Mike and my travel style jiving with hers. It’s a fine chemistry you need when you choose travel partners, friend or family, and finding the right concoction can make or break the vacation. So far, we had been go, go going (which was a style we all liked) so the slower pace this leg of the journey promised could be a challenge…we shall see!

Mike wanted to head back to the house to put the beer we had ordered from the management company in the fridge, so my mom and I biked down towards the restaurant and stopped at Raggamuffin tour company to inquire about the following days’ snorkeling excursions. They had an all day tour that included lunch, 3 stops on a sailboat, and rum punch for the way back. It sounded perfect, so we signed up!

Lunch was Devine: huge fish fillets with garlic and lemon, fresh veggies and a pina colada. And the view!! Water so blue it hurt your eyes, with palms swaying lazily in the breeze. Absolute heaven! With lunch finished, we moseyed on down to the split, not quite the end of Caye Caulker, but a pause in the island where a hurricane had ripped through in 1961. The remaining half of the island continued on the other side, you just needed to have a boat to swim to get to the other side. The Lazy Lizard had prime real estate at the very end of the island, so we stopped in and plunked right on down to the water stools to order some more fruity cocktails and play in the water. Now most of our vacations include activity after activity and we’re really not ones to sit and day drink….but it was the perfect end to a day of travel and a beautiful start to our island vacation. We chatted with a local older gentlemen, an American, who explained he had been living on the island for the last year and had just recently bought a boat. He said living on the island was ‘ok’ for now, and he really wanted a catamaran boat. Even in paradise, there are wants!

We finished our beverages and biked back to the house in dusk light, moseying along the streets, familiarizing ourselves with the what’s what and where’s where of the island. The houses on the island varied from shacks on stilts, to colorful bungalows, to private oasis’s you could barley see from the street. The people of Caye Caulker were poor, living in a third world country, but extremely proud, hard working, and ever so friendly. People smiled and greeted us and the vibe was super welcoming.

After a long day of sun, travel and boat drinks, we called it an early night. Snorkeling adventures awaited us the next day!

Adventures in Belize: Day 3

We awoke early to the sound of birds chirping loudly and the howlers off in the distance. Today we were going to Che Chem Ha, the Cave of the poison wood. Lucy’s cousin William had discovered the cave when he was just 18 when he was hiking for palm leaves with his dog. He wanted to get high atop a hill, where people rarely went, so he climbed up the valley and his dog ended up chasing a critter into a hole. This had behind it the cave!

Excited for our Mayan jungle cave experience, we headed into the jungle, leaving Williams house and small restaurant behind us. It was blazing hot, despite it being only 9:30 am, and we were drenched in sweat before we even descended into the jungle. The hike plummeted into a valley, then rose switchback style up the mountain. Thirty five blistering minutes later, we arrived at the mouth of the cave. Before entering, William retold the tale of discovery and had us on the edge of our seats. We were prepped and ready, so William unlocked the gate that kept wild animals out, and plunged into the cave.

Pre classic pottery was found, dating back almost 3,000 years, and the cave had plenty of it scattered without. William explained that the cave was used for ceremonial gatherings, to offer up things to the gods and ancestors ho had left the world for the under world.

As we traveled deeper and deeper into the mouth of the cave, light became scarce and we were glad to have brought our headlamps. William let us know when the archeologists came to inspect his discoveries, he helped them and learned much about what they used the caves for. Remnants of grain were found around the mouths of pots and carbon was discovered within the holes of the cave walls, allowing torches to be placed upright, shedding light in the cave. We crept deeper and deeper into the cave.

It was cool in Che Chem Ha, and there was an earthy dampness smell. Around each bend there were nooks and crannies, more broken pots, and a sticky clay floor that clutched onto your shoes. It was wide enough in the cave so we all stood upright and with much room around us. At some points in the cave, the ceiling stretched 30 feet above us and looking up, our headlamps cast shadows on the opposing walls.

After about 25 minutes, we reached the end of the cave and climbed down into a huge cavernous room. There was a ceremonial rock in the center, where rituals and offerings had been found. A small hole in one of the sides of the cave led to another room and Mike felt compelled (and brave enough!) to go through it. His 6ft 4′ frame barely made it, but he slid through then climbed up into the upper levels and back down to meet us. There was no way in HELL I was squeezing through, so we got ready to ascend into the light. William asked that we shut our lights off, just for a moment to truly feel the darkness. It was as if our eyes were closed and black filled everything. It was time to head into the fresh air!

When we hiked up to Williams, his dogs close at our heels, we all raved about the experience we had just had. Our guide books had explained the awesomeness but nothing can prepare you for the real thing. We paid and thanked him for the wonderful tour. Having sweated profusely (I mean, we were drenched) we opted for a shower break, since the cave was only a few miles from the house. Although I say that, so you’d ink it took us a few minutes to travel….well, the bumpy road was unpaved and extremely undulating, so a few short miles took 20 minutes!

Showers refreshed us, so we headed out to the Belize botanical gardens which were relatively close by and said to have a nice cafe. The guidebook told us to go to Duplooys jungle lodge and we’d find ourselves at the Botanical gardens. Down another extremely bumpy road and we were there!

The cafe was just beyond the main office for the jungle lodge, so we meandered back and ordered a delicious lunch amidst a tropical paradise. There was a back patio that had a long walkway that overlooked the jungle where we were able to see a number of birds flying about. The collared Aracari and the plain chachalaca were among the bunch and their coloring was gorgeous! The shade felt nice and while we ate we were thankful for the fans that blew overhead. We finished lunch and moseyed through the gardens; Mike was fascinated by all of the citrus, avocado and fruit trees. He plucked two lemons, the biggest I had ever seen by far, smelling the goodness of the sun kissed fruit, then putting them in our backpack.

With over 45 acres of plants, there was quite a lot to see and in the heat, we knew we wouldn’t last long, so we chose the medicine trail to follow, which led us to a replica of a Mayan dwelling, where there was a palm bed, what looked like a clay stove and handmade tools. The Mayans were a crafty people and they knew how to make use of nature. Pretty cool!

 

We wrapped up the botanical garden and headed back to Casa Santa Maria. Mike and I ventured out onto the river on the canoe that came with the house, hoping to catch sight of a crocodile. At dusk, the river was calm, quiet, full of bird songs and soft breezes. We paddled quietly hoping to catch glimpse of wild life enjoying the same breezes. Although no crocs were spotted, it was a lovely trip down the Macal with the sun setting and the jungle surrounding us.

Back up the switchbacks, we came to the house, where dinner of fish wrapped in grape leaves, coconut rice, and a zucchini medley awaited us. Scrumptious beyond words!!!