Adventures in Belize: Day 2

Woah howler monkeys! As we drank our coffee and after I did some jungle porch yoga, we exchanged tales of the screeching monkeys that woke us at 3 am. Two males must have been quarreling over something because the noise filled the whole jungle! Adventures in Belize continued for day 2!

Lucy arrived with her little girl Chloe and while we chatted with Chloe, Lucy cooked up a scrumptious omelet with a side of pineapple. We were fueled to set forth on our pontoon adventure where we’d float, hike and explore the jungle. Laz, the captain of the pontoon boat was Lucy’s brother, his first mate, Milly, her sister and the skipper, Dennis, their cousin. A true family affair. As we drove down to the boat, we passed some of the Martinez family homes – Lucy’s mom and dad had 14 children, all living on the thousand acres the family inherited from the government back in the 1940’s. Milly’s home stood on stills and was made of gorgeous mahogany wood. Mike marveled at the beautiful Tropical wood they used for building. Laz explained he had killed his own wood, carried it on his back, built the home with his two hands. Milly had as well. “I always knew I wanted my own home. It’s humble, but it’s mine,” Milly explained proudly. The boat doc was at the end of a bumpy road, past Laz’s, Lucy’s and Milly’s house. A pirates flag flew proudly so we knew we were in for a fun day.

As we floated down the River, the family pointed out different foliage, explaining the symbiotic relationships with certain plants and trees. Small fly catchers, a king fishers, kites, swallows and a white hawk were spotted throughout the day, flying high above or close to the water, scooping up fish. At one point, we even saw a male iguana sunning himself on a rock.

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The first stop had twin waterfalls and as we docked on the rocks the sheer force of the water could be heard, even though it couldn’t be seen. Dennis let us know we needed our hiking shoes for this leg of the journey because we were hiking straight up the side of one of the waterfalls (or at least it seemed like that!). Once we made it up, grabbing on twisted vines and digging our shoes into rocks, we arrived at a small campground area where the family explained they offer overnight camping accommodations for those that want it. Milly led us down a short trail to a hidden Dipping pool surrounded by jungle and rocks. Heaven!

We swam and swam, relishing in the relief the water gave. Upstream we climbed and played on the rocks that formed small rapids and hopped into the pools between them. Dennis and Milly spoke of their adventures in guiding and past guests they had had. We hoped we stacked up!

The crew was full of wisdom and we chatted about politics, the unrest between Guatemala and Belize, the fact that neither Milly nor Laz wanted children, building homes from scratch, hard work and people in general. Laz sai, “People today don’t live to survive, they live to be comfortable.” I thought this was a very true statement.

After the glorious swimming we boarded the pontoon boat and headed straight into the waterfall, getting sprayed by the downspout, making a great photo opportunity. Our lunch spot consisted of pulling the pontoon boat over to the side of the river bank, where the granite shot straight up. We tied up and unwrapped the treasure Lucy had prepared for us: stuffed fried jack sandwiches, fresh pineapple, belikin beer and chocolate chip banana bread for dessert. Hit the spot!

Our river adventure wasn’t over yet, so we mosied on, enjoying the breeze. Two floats tied to the back of the boat were thrown over and Mike and I jumped into the inner tubes to troll the river. Thinking little of the crocodiles that were in the river, we lounged lazily while the pontoon boat pulled us along. I felt like a mixture of Huck Finn & a jungle princess.

After we had out fill of trolling, we swam back onto the boat and headed toward the next stop: Rio Frio falls. A short hike (much less strenuous than the last) and we arrived an a perfectly pristine swimming hole that had a gorgeous waterfall spewing into it. This water was quite a bit colder than the previous spot, hence the Rio Frio. The waterfall held water from the mountain pine region, just several miles from the spot. It felt glorious after all the sun we had gotten so we let the falls pound on our heads and shoulders. Jumping from the rocks, splashing into the cold pool, we felt like kids!

After the waterfall swimming, we hiked out boarded the boat and made our lazy way back to the dock. The day had been glorious, a jungle experience we all were sure to remember for a lifetime, complete with botanical teachings, birding, iguana spotting, waterfall sighting, hiking, and pontooning. Amazing!

Dinner was ready when we arrived with fresh belikin beer from town, and the fresh prawns, red potatoes and salad tasted delicious after the adventurous day we had. Only two days in Belieze and we felt like we had experienced so much culture, nature and fun. To bed to prepare for day three!

Adventures in Belize: Day 1

Having slept like humid babies, we awoke bright and early: at 5:30 am. Although the house didn’t have air conditioning, the fans on each level helped immensely. Plus, there’s just something about falling to sleep with the sound of palm trees swaying and howler monkeys screeching to really lull you.

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Waking up to sounds of chirping, the jungle alive around us and the pink sky slicing through our slumber, we were ready for a day of Myanmar ruins. After a lovely breakfast of eggs, black,retried beans, fried jack bread and freshly squeezed orange juice, our group wanted to first venture down to the Macal river. The river was only a few hundred feet from us down a windy path, but the thickness of the jungle prevented us from seeing it from the decks. Lucy’s daughter, Chloe, guided us down to the canoe dock, which really consisted of just a few rocks and a canoe that was ours to use. She warned us to be careful because there were crocodiles in the river. No swimming here for us!

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After the short hike to visit the river, we were ready to kick off the day, so we packed the car, our bags, filled our camel backs (it was going to reach 100 degrees!) and we’re off to Xunantunich. The drive out of the Eco village took about 30 minute with all of the bumps on the unpaved road, but we arrive to the river crossing over to the ruins by 9 am.

The ‘ferry’ looked like a bridge that hadn’t been finished to reach the other side and as we pulled on, the guards manually worked a wheel lever to take us to the other side. Once across, we drove a short ways to the entrance where we payed $10 Belize dollars ($5 US) to explore. A small museum explained the history of the temple and how the Mayans disappeared unexplainably around 1000 AD.

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The site consisted of several plazas with the largest, El Castillo, climbing high into the sky. Of course we had to climb it! Views overlooked Guatemala and we could see miles and miles. On the side of the structure an elaborate frieze had been reconstructed and had Chac, the rain God, in the center. We were glad we had gotten there early because as we were exciting after viewing all there was to see, there were droves of people entering. Pays to get up earlier!

The next Myan Ruin wasn’t far, it was closer to town and the older of the two. After a few wrong turns due to a GPS mishap, we came to Cahal Pech. Cahal Pech means ‘place of the ticks’ and consisted of a number of different sites in a condensed area. With tons of nooks and crannies, tunnels an staircases throughout and a smaller crowd (we were the only people there!) we all agreed this site was our favorite.

Lunch was up next and the guide book, along with Lucy, boasted about Benny’s, a local restaurant that served authentic Belizean cuisine. Grilled chicken for my mom, rice and beans with fried plantains for me, and Mike had a fish coconut curry soup with veggies and potatoes. Yum! The mayor of San Ignacio just happened to be sitting next to us and as he left introduced himself, asking us where we were from and how we liked Belize. Extremely nice man, who left us with his card in case we needed anything while here.

After lunch, and a quick stop to jump in the river) we headed back to our homestead and ventured onto the Macal River via canoe. It was glorious and the three of us took turns paddling while drinking in the river banks lush greenery. A slight breeze found its way to us on the water which made the trip even lovelier. The pontoon boat we had booked on for the following day passed us and we waved as the called to us, saying we were going the wrong way due to the current. Yelling back that we liked the challenge, we continued downstream to a small Rapids area. Here we turned and paddled back for a scrumptious dinner of white fish with loads of garlic paired with roasted corn and squash and coconut rice. Sleep came easy after the day we had, so we called it a night after dinner. What an amazing first day in Belize!

Adventures in Belize

Once a year, we like to plan an adventure to a far away land we’ve never visited. Costa Rica, the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Ireland and Vieques have been years past destinations and this year we decided on Belize. And my mom is coming with us!

It all started around Christmas, when we thought instead of presents we’d go on an adventure together. Who needs gifts when you can have an adventure!

The day started early (3:30 am to catch a 6 am out of Denver International) but we made it to the long term parking in quite enough time (unlike the trip we took to Vieques where we were extremely late, thanks to Mike, and had to park in short term, which was a small fortune!)

First to Houston (2 hours), then onto Belize! Our first leg of the journey took us deep into the jungle, southwest of Belize city, to an eco village, in which we had rented Casa Santa Maria. The manager Lucy got rave reviews for her cooking (breakfast was included in the stay but we purchased her chef skills for our dinners too). Beyond excitement best describes the vibe!

We landed on Belize soil, picked up the rental Jeep (so fun!) and we’re off! Sunsets at 6pm in Belize, so we were in a hurry to arrive before dark. Later we would realize how serious that warning to get to the Casa before dark really was! After about 2 1/2 hours (and some SKETCH directions) we pulled down a dirt road with armed guards….10 extremely bumpy miles later we pulled into the Better in Belize Eco village and wound our way down to Casa Santa Maria. We made it! Lucy came out to greet us and I had never been so happy to see a stranger!

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Placing our suitcases in our respected rooms (Mike and I took the gorgeous master, with our own porch complete with a hammock!) and mom had the downstairs queen bedroom. The house smelled wonderful and I immediately appreciated the fact we opted for built in dinners!

Exhausted as we were, we marveled at the gorgeous structure we were going to call home for the next four nights. Nestled into the jungle, Casa Santa Maria didn’t seem to have disturbed the jungle surrounding, more gave you a front row seat to the show. The main decks view couldn’t have been more spectacular and with the little light that was left gave us quite a show. Giant date palm trees and lush greenery surrounded us and the cicadas whistled so loudly it sounded as though they were everywhere!

Coconut curry shrimp, mashed potatoes, salad with a homemade dressing and Belizean ice tea followed by a delicious brownie. Scrumptious doesn’t begin to describe it after a long day of travel, so we thanked her graciously before she left for the evening and headed to bed. The adventure was delicious already!