Discovery Part 2
DAY 6 Wednesday, June 13th, 1990
There was no hot water in this hotel, but the showers were bearable. Elaine broke the first or second rule of the jungle and forgot to check her shoe before inserting her foot. A very large black ant had taken up residence in one and bit her viciously through her sock. She kicked off her shoe and did a dance, then knocked the ant from her shoe. I clapped in time to the dance. The ant, angry at being evicted, ran rapidly towards me, and I stopped clapping and started dancing on top of the ant. End of music, end of ant. Next came another wonderful breakfast of eggs and refried beans and salsa. Then we did our laundry. I made a clothes line on the porch and we departed on our next adventure.
We met our Guatemalan guide, Mario, in the parking lot. And started the tour. Almost immediately another guide came running up and stated he was to be our guide. We must choose. We chose Mario. We hiked through many impressive ruins. Mario was fixated with the Mayan calendar and several other facts, all containing numbers. A few of these; every 20 years, 8 virgins and 9 prisoners were sacrificed along with the winners of the ball games, there were 9 priests for each temple and the Mayans had 7 gods, and each temple took 150 years to build. These numbers were coming out of our ears. He told us of the folklore about carrying 2 live chickens, plus their food and water, when you went into the jungle. This was in case you were bitten by a snake. You would cut the chicken in half and put it on the wound to help draw out the poison. The other chicken was for food to sustain you while you slowly walked for aid. On one uphill portion of the hike, Elaine grabbed a Give and Take tree (again) and received several punctures, we used some of the Gumbolimbo salve to help with the pain. It worked! We saw the Blue Foxes playing on the steps of a temple again. We climbed to the top of two temples, one with just steps, very steep steps and one with tree roots, vines, steps and a straight up ladder. Elaine (Miss I'm Afraid of Heights) really liked that! The views from the tops were excellent. Very hot, light breeze and hundreds of butterflies. Again note the lack of fences, guards, guard rails and signs to keep you from hurting yourself or destroying the property of others. And note as well, the condition of the grounds. Hmmm... What can we learn from this? Maybe there is more to something called "Pride" than we know.
We walked back to the hotel for lunch and I took a dip in the pool. it was just the right temperature. In the pool I encountered a huge bug. Thinking it was a beetle, I called for Phil. When Phil arrived, he stepped back from the pool edge, he told me to "Get out now!". Seems it was a giant water bug and he had been bitten once by a smaller version. Phil wanted no part of this one and again suggested that I leave the water at once. I decided to take the expert opinion to heart and I did a quick exit pool left. Later in our saga, we will again encounter one of these critters. Pictures will abound.
For lunch we had barbecued chicken and the standard (which are very good) fixins. To help the food settle before the next great adventure, we visited the Tikal Museum. How shall I describe it? The words that first come to mind are "Ho Hum". There was an excellent miniature replica of the ruins. The post cards and guide books for sale had the worst pictures and most of the color pictures had the three colors out of registration to add to the ugliness. Compare these two pictures, one from their guide book, the other from my untrained eye and quickly framed 35 mm camera. We couldn't understand how you could get such bad pictures from such good material. Maybe a business opportunity here?!
As evening approached, we went for a walk to the Tomb of the Inscriptions. Elaine and I walked though the jungle trails alone. Only guests with special permits are allowed in the park after dark. Our group had those permits. We saw several Spider Monkeys, including a baby and a pregnant female. (What else could it be?) We saw a fuzzy caterpillar and a most excellent Jade Hummingbird. It was drinking from a pool of water on the trail and we got a good view. We then fast marched to Mundo Perdido and climbed to the top of the temple to watch the sunset. The 360 degree view was just another notch in the already excellent time we were having. It was clear and cool, with a slight breeze blowing the rain forest smells up and over the top of this pyramid. The rest of the gang arrived just in time for sunset. Debbie's dad stayed at the bottom to have a smoke. The sunset was not spectacular, but the view and the feeling was. We walked back most of the way by ourselves in the Very Very dark. That's when we saw the "EYES" following us in the jungle undergrowth. I would shine my flashlight into the undergrowth and then these "EYES" would shine back at us for 10 to 20 seconds and then blink out. I really was not frightened. Really. After a few minutes, I figured out the mystery. Female Fireflies signaling their position and desire to mate.
Dinner was great and the entertainment was a baby raccoon, it was a monster. There were also a dozen baby parrots with their little bobbing heads. I spent some time talking to Gill after dinner, while Elaine helped Phil catch a large beetle and they saw a great moth. We had the gang over to our porch to socialize, while we attempted to clear our room of bugs, beetles and other unwanted insects. We had left the light on in our room and the door open. We hadn't known the light was on because the generator only ran for short periods in the evening. The light had been on when the generator went off the night before and it came back on when the generator was started this night. Many many creatures were attracted into our room by the light. I got several candles and lit them, then turned out the light in the room, and placed the candles outside. This was to draw the insects and anything else in the room out. While waiting for this migration to occur, I found a large Katydid and fed it to El Grande the Tarantula. Upon checking the progress of the great candle exodus, we discovered a huge Wolf Spider inside our room on one of the screens. Yes, these rooms actually had screens. We were told, to keep the Vampire Bats from bothering the guests. Phil and I now did our best Laurel and Hardy imitation trying to catch that Wolf Spider and put it outside. Debbie was in charge of the flashlight (remember the lights are out) but she was laughing so hard, she doubled over, and turned the flashlight away from Phil, Me and most importantly the Spider. Well you can imagine how Phil and I reacted to being left in the dark with a man eating Wolf Spider that we could no longer see!! Lets just say, Phil and I are pretty good sized boys and the doorway is fairly narrow. Or should I say "was" fairly narrow? Most of the bugs were gone by bedtime, but writing this journal was hampered by the flying ants or termites that were attracted to the flashlight being used to light the pages. But once again we survived.
DAY 7 Thursday, June 14th
We packed our stuff plus a few uninvited flying ants. Elaine checked her shoes (twice). The pet raccoon baby was running free around the pool. It ate a piece of cookie (the one the ants had been enjoying). And the parrots were eating porridge for breakfast. We had the eggs and refried beans again. You had to be there to really enjoy it, the sky was blue, the air was fresh, everything was perfect. We tipped Manuel and Ricardo (Gill had told us they receive about $30 US in wages per month). Then we were off on the next adventure.
A medium length hike into the jungle to a platform that was built to see out over the forest canopy, so researchers could study falcons. We climbed a "sturdy" but very tall "ladder". Again something Elaine really liked! It would have been an impressive view, if the temples had not come first. At the top, we were attacked by biting Doctor Flies. Everyone used our "Jungle Juice" from REI.
Then we were off again, the next adventure just around the next bend in "The Road". It had rained the night before and there were puddles everywhere along that nasty road. Of course these puddles hid some really huge holes. The good part was, to use Phil's words, we saw "Kadoodles" of butterflies at many of these puddles. A green tree snake dropped from a tree trying to eat the vehicle. On the way back to the border, we stopped at Lake Peten Itza and snorkeled. The water was warm (what else would you expect?). Some men and their sons had a little carving business and we bought a wonderful miniature canoe. They had a pet Kinkajou, very fuzzy. Lunch, of course, chicken, rice and beans. Plus a really great grape soda. Why does everything taste so good? Skinny dogs crunched our chicken bones. Baby chicks roamed the open air restaurant. Basilisk lizards running on two legs near the lake shore. And one very skinny squirrel.
We then pounded our way down the bad road to the border. Gill stopped at a small home about half way to the border. He always does this on his trips. He stops when going in either directions and gives the mother bags of fruit, bread and other things. David says, he does it for two reasons. It's good to have a friendly face in the middle of no where and David thinks Gill likes this lady more than just a friend. We made it to the border and the transportation did not fall apart. We stopped for a snack at the same roadside cafe as before. While waiting, I was approached by two young men in white shirts and black ties. They were Americans and turned out to be Jehovah's Witnesses. I guess I just look like I need saving.
Back across the border and safely in Belize and best of all, back on a paved road. A short time later we arrived at the lodging for the night, Warri Lodge. Thing just keep getting better. The sheets smelled wonderful. The buildings were quite modern and the plantation was very well tended. We went for a walk to tour the grounds, then had our best meal so far. Do I say that about every meal? It was buffet style and included meatballs, corn bread, salad with avocado, a cilantro sauce, rice cooked in coconut milk and beans, a carrot-squash-cauliflower-green pepper dish in a cheese sauce, fried plantain and last but not least cheesecake. YUM Yum yum. Seconds Please!
After dinner another walk. This time we did see an eel and Debbie almost sat on a scorpion. Are we having fun yet? We returned to the main building area and started a moth and beetle hunt. There was a tall pole with a very bright light. Here David and Phil were ecstatic and pointed out many types of moths, bugs and beetles. Elaine went to get our camera when a huge moth landed on my chest. I had first thought it was a bat. This moth was about 10 inches across and made flapping sounds when it flew. Just as Elaine returned with the camera, the bat, I mean moth flew away. No picture, but we still have the memory. This is a picture of a smaller cousin. As we prepared to return to our rooms, a huge "thing" buzzed through the air and Phil got very excited, saying it was a beetle for sure. It was so big, we thought it was a bird. Phil jumped around for a while trying to catch it, with no luck. Then the "thing" suddenly crashed into the pole and fell to the ground with a resounding thud. We all rushed forward and took pictures while it was stunned. And it was not a beetle, it was the largest water bug ever. Remember the swimming pool incident. We laughed ourselves silly. Elaine wasn't too happy when it tried to eat her flashlight. When the bug recovered and started into the air, we all decided it was time to turn in for a good nights sleep on nice smelling cotton sheets, with no bugs and a big fan.
It really doesn't get any better than this... or does it?
DAY 8 Friday, June 15th
We had a wonderful breakfast, packed and left early so we could stop in Belmopan. While in Belmopan, we went back to the Convention Center (my idea) to order some Soursop Ice Cream. The hotel said they were all out, "some people who were here a few days ago, ate it all". We all went to the bank to cash some travelers checks. It was payday. And half of the population was at this bank. Everyone was working at Belize speed. None of the local folks seemed to mind this slow pace. After banking was done, we went to the government offices and bought maps of Belize. I like maps.
Then we were off to the airport. Here we said good-bye to two of our party. Gill, our driver would not be continuing on the next part of the adventure and Phil was off on a different adventure. Phil was going to a more remote part of Belize to Chan Chich Lodge, to do some "serious" beetle collecting. He left in a small Cessna 172. We all waved and were saddened, but knew he was going to have more fun. The rest of us, Bob, Debbie, David and the Ziegler's boarded a seven seat something. Possibly a Cessna 207. I didn't get to sit in the front because Bob was heavier and we sat by weight. The takeoff was exciting, on the worlds shortest ( I thought at the time) runway (1800 feet and ended in the ocean). After takeoff we flew at about 1000 feet above the water and saw Hammer Head sharks and Bat Rays swimming in the shallow water. Lots of small islands and a few boats. We made a good landing on the island of Ambergris Key and the town of San Pedro. The runway looked like a roller coaster and ended in downtown.
We were driven to our new hotel The Victoria House by taxi. It just keeps getting better!! This hotel had thatched roof cabanas on a white sand beach with waving palm trees and the clearest, bluest, water I've ever seen. We are talking picture postcard here. We had a downpour for the first five minute we were there, but that was ok, because it was time for lunch. Chicken nuggets, cauliflower with cheese sauce and coleslaw. The dinning room was very airy with ceiling fans above each table.
After lunch, we took a glass bottom boat to a reef where we snorkeled. The water was 85 degrees, the air was 85 degrees. The fish and coral were unbelievable. We turned into prunes but stayed in the water for about an hour. Elaine (always showing off) ran into a huge lobster and tried to inhale some sea water. The lobster was just as excited and beat a hasty retreat.
Then it was back to the hotel, showers and then a bike ride into town. The shops, in San Pedro, were expensive like all tourist towns. We bought T-shirts anyway with pictures of jaguars. We saw shirts that said "Where in the hell is Belize" on the front and a map on the back. But we didn't buy them. (This time) We stopped in a bar with a sand floor and an underwater reef full of large turtles, nurse sharks and a huge electric ray. On the bike ride back to the hotel, we passed a home with a huge cage with a jaguar. We all went up for a closer look. I tried to pet the nice kitty and was warned with a load growl, that kitty didn't want to be touched. as we neared the hotel, two things happened at the same time. First, we were passing a swamp and second the wind stopped blowing. I saw a few mosquitoes on Bob's back, so I asked Elaine if there were any on me. She said there were so I stopped so she could kill them. (I hate mosquitoes) (Elaine had used the "Jungle Juice" before leaving the hotel) As soon as I stopped, I was covered by mosquitoes. Hundreds, Thousands... maybe even Millions! Did I say I hate mosquitoes? In Elaine's words, "Robin took off like a bat out of hell". I think I could qualify for the Olympic Bicycle Team. Back at the hotel with ceiling fans to blow away those nasty little "suckers", we went to the bar and had a Banana Daiquiri and a Pina Colada. We watched the clouds passing over the balmy Caribbean.
Next, you guessed it, dinner in the hotel dining room. We had a shrimp and rice dish with sweet and sour sauce and mushrooms. After dinner it was dark but still warm, so we decided to snorkel off the pier. We saw some little electric rays and other tiny fish and then we began to feel little tiny pin pricks on our exposed flesh. We both got out of the water. The rest of our group joined us on the pier. I tried swimming again but that didn't work, still getting bit. We learned later that small blood worms (which only come out at night) were stirred up by our feet and used us for meals. Two other snorkelers came out of the water. They had a huge hermit crab that was living in a conch shell. We watched the stars with our binoculars for a very long time. We saw many impressive clusters, clouds and galaxies. David was very interested in this, I think it was the first thing WE knew more about than he did. I am willing to bet by the next tour he will know a lot more about the stars. In our closing letter, we will mention something about what David knows.
Then it was time to hit the pillows, but as we reached our room, we were minus a flashlight. Elaine went back to retrieve it and had to disturb Debbie and David in the same beach chair. Seems like They Like each other.
DAY 9 Saturday, June 16th
We took an early walk on the beach. Then we went snorkeling and saw Moray Eels living in an old engine block near the pier. We saw "mean" Angel Fish, a Spotted Ray in the eel grass, and Cleaner Shrimp on the pilings for the pier. I saw a Barracuda and we saw many Needle Nose and other fishes. We saw Blue Land Crabs going home for the daytime, and the Iguana that lived next to our cabana coming out to sun himself. We then went back for breakfast. While we were in line for juices, the glass globe on the ceiling fan over our table came loose and fell on our table. No one was under it and nothing was hurt but the globe. After breakfast we went for a fast boat ride to an island that was a bird rookery. We hiked around the entire island. Interesting shells and huge Catfish. Elaine, our entertainment director, stepped on a Spiny Conch shell, a spine broke off in her foot and she did another dance. Once back on the boat, I performed surgery with a Buck Knife and tweezers. Then back to the hotel for barbecued Snapper. Tasty!
After lunch, we met our divemaster, Jacinto. He will be taking us diving. We board the boat at our pier, what could be easier? And we are off to the Hol Chan Marine Preserve. The water was warm and the dive lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes. We went down one side of the reef and back up the other side. We saw too much to detail and we didn't take our notepads with us. Here are some of the highlights. Some small shrimp that looked like spiders, territorial damsel fish that were very small but would try to bite you to protect their areas, one huge barracuda, a basket star, beautiful corals of all types and colors, a giant spiny lobster, a flamingo tongue with it's mantle out, two huge green moray eels and some tiny cleaner shrimp. The divemaster was very conscientious and at first he watched us like a hawk. Once he realized we knew what we were doing and we weren't a danger to ourselves or the reef, he would just enjoy himself, occasionally pointing things out to us and just generally leading the way. We swam through a cave and watched the bubbles collect on the ceiling. An upside down fish watched us as we swam upside down as well. Our guide gave us a feather duster worm and it felt just like a feather. Speaking of touch, Elaine was up to her tricks again, and brushed her arm against some fire coral. She did an underwater dance. We saw three beautiful conch shells, two with hermit crabs inside and one with a real conch inside. We saw very large tentacled anemones, beautiful parrot fish, trumpet fish and one spiny urchin with long spines. We swam up to a puffer fish like the one in Owen's (a friend) aquarium. We turned into prunes but never got cold. Finally we surfaced with about 800 psi of air and found David about as worried as I was when I thought he had disappeared at the Rio On Pools. None of his other "tourists" had ever stayed down so long. He thought we had died. Back to the hotel.
Once back to the pier, I talked to the owner of the dive operation and reserved a camera for the following day. We feed some baby coconuts to the hotel parrots and then went to dinner. Shrimp cocktails, chicken and slaw. Desert was chocolate cake. I think I'm addicted to pina coladas, for it was off to the bar for an after dinner drink. We heard the hotel in town was having a 25th anniversary and thought it would be fun to join in. So we took the hotel bicycles and started for town. I was first out of the parking lot and collided with a raccoon in the dark. Both of us survived. It turned out that the celebration was for invited guests only. So we went for ice cream instead (soursop). As we passed the town's police station we noticed the sign in a window, "esta cerado", which means "we are closed". This was a Saturday night and they were at the party. David, Debbie, Elaine and I walked out and around some of the piers eating our ice cream and looking at the stars. What fun not having a care in the world. This must be the best vacation ever. We left David and Debbie and rode back to the hotel. On our way back on the bicycles, alone in the dark, we came upon the Belize version of Pancho Villa sitting on the hood of a car. For a moment we were apprehensive, but then in perfect Queen's English he wished us a good night. The bar was closed (no pina coladas) but some other hotel guests were sitting outside and we talked to them before hitting the sheets. Another adventure tomorrow.
DAY 10 Sunday, June 17th
We awoke to our last full day in Belize, sigh... I just missed a great sunrise but took some so so pictures anyway. Breakfast was the best yet!! We talked with David about Belize and then got ready for another snorkel trip. I picked up the underwater camera, we coated ourselves with #2000 sun screen and off we went. I clicked off some pictures with the camera just to be sure it worked. Click, Click, Click... what a wonderful world. We went snorkeling at Mexico Rocks. We had a great snorkel trip even though Elaine did another dance when she was stung by a jellyfish. Too many things to report, just suffice to say... "Excellent". Elaine had SCUBA so ingrained, that when she free dove to look at a conch shell, she exhaled on the way back up, and ran out of breath before reaching the surface. She tried to drink the ocean again. Back n the boat they treated her sting with gasoline and back at hotel we tried other remedies but nothing seemed to help. We rested and went to lunch. As an aside, none of the pictures turned out. Bad directions from the guy at the dive shop. How could I screw up on my own?
After lunch the brave explorers (Robin and Elaine) went off on their own and bicycled south of the hotel. It was very hot and we stopped and walked out on an old deserted pier. We saw a barracuda jump out of the water, evidently chasing small fish. We then saw hundreds of little fish, several medium fish and a couple of large ones. All were practicing synchronized swimming. We wanted to feed the fish but only thing around were coconuts. I peeled and finally opened one (with great difficulty due to lack of tools). We drank all of the milk and ate half of the fruit. we saved the other half for our group. Rode back to the hotel and went snorkeling under the pier. We saw a world of miniature creatures living on the pilings, including small cleaner shrimp and tiny sergeant major fish. We were not bothered by the "No-See-Ums" from the night before. It was at this time we told David about our "coconut" adventure and he told us about the laxative properties of the coconut. He was right! We showered and had some pina coladas. Watched a small part of "Romancing the Stone" on the VCR in the bar and then off to dinner. It was Grouper and it was excellent. Then out to the pier to watch the stars and think about the last night in Belize.
DAY 11 Monday, June 18th
We got up at 5 AM to photograph the sunrise. It was not as good as the day before, but I got better pictures. There was very little breeze blowing and some strong winged mosquitoes chased us back to our ceiling fan in our room. By 6 AM we had packed our bags and were ready (prepared, not really ready) to depart. Breakfast was, as usual, excellent but no one seemed very talkative or hungry. We all climbed into the van for the trip to the airport. The van was FULL of mosquitoes and spent the entire trip to the airport slapping them and looking like a Keystone Cops movie. Slap, slap, slap...
We said goodbye to David and he told us the we were an endangered species (I think that was a compliment and he liked us). Up, up and away on a twin something or other, 140 mph. at 2,700 feet. Belize International Airport seemed much different after 10 days in the country. We rode to Miami in a commuter jet that originated someplace in South Central America. For an idea about our companions on the flight, you might remember the bus trip in the movie Romancing the Stone. Trip went fast for me. 1 hour and 45 minutes later we arrived in Miami.
Back in the U.S.A. our first
Millions of People
All Rude and Pushy
Customs was a breeze. They asked us a few questions and passed us without opening our bags. I had an orange pineapple sherbert and Elaine had lunch. We caught our plane from Miami to Dallas. This was a short, almost empty flight. We slept, ate a good snack and the landing was superb.
We only had a half hour wait before the flight from Dallas to San Jose. This however was to be the takeoff or lack thereof from Hell. We boarded the plane, the sun was beating down and the air temperature was 95 degrees outside. We sat in the plane for 30 minutes without air conditioning while the sun roasted and toasted the airplane. The temperature inside must have been 110 degrees. We were told, we were waiting for someone to wash the windows for the pilots. Finally we taxied to the runway and the pilot told us to prepare for takeoff. I could see at least 10 planes in front of us. We sat on the ground for another 25 minutes still with no air conditioning. Finally we rolled into position for takeoff and there was no one behind us. We were the last plane at the airport. We still had no air... At about 20,000 feet the air conditioning finally kicked in and relief was in sight. The crew never apologized for the delay or the heat. We used the Airphone to call Cindy and tell her we would be late landing.
And thus ends the first chapter of the
Great Belizean Adventure.
We do return again and again. Each chapter different than the rest.
New faces and old faces, new places and old places.
We sent this letter to International Expeditions.
To Be Continued