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Traveling to Belize

This is the first of my travel-blogging posts! The Hubby and I are in Belize until May 12th. This is what we’re doing.

Our vacation started with 30 hours of travel. That’s right – 30. Here’s the deal: Last year we volunteered to get bumped from a flight and that earned us two round-trip tickets to anywhere AirTran flies. We wanted to get to Belize to visit some friends and to relax in the Carribean. AirTran flies to Cancun. There is a very reliable bus that drives from Cancun to Belize City. Tah-dah!

We woke up at 2am on Tuesday morning, showered, did a little last-minute packing, ate some cereal and then sat outside on our front stoop in the eerie, cool, silent night-morning. We had arranged for a car service to arrive at 3:45 am and the driver was right on time. Our flight from MSP-Humphrey Terminal was at 5:45am. Since we were flying international we wanted to make sure that we were there at least an hour and a half early, but since it was such an early flight we weren’t too concerned about lines at security. Everything went peachy-keen and soon we were on the plane to our connection in Atlanta.

Minneapolis Sunrise 1Leaving Minneapolis – one of two sunrises we would experience during the trip down.

We landed in Atlanta at 9:09 local time. And now a side story: I had started brewing an idea in my head about a week prior to this vacation – I wanted an digital underwater camera. I love to take photos and the little underwater disposable cameras always break my heart – the quality is not good, the film requires processing and I’m always limited in photos by the film capacity. Boo. For the past week I had gone back and forth on whether to spend the money on one. The cameras cost ~$180 to ~$400 for the basic point-and-shoots. The cameras seem to cost more the deeper you can take take them; the low end was about 23 feet, the higher end was about 55 feet. I considered the GoPro, which could go all the way to 180ft, but I didn’t relish the idea of working in video (you can take single frames with the GoPro, but it doesn’t sound very easy to do), or of having to spend all of the extra money on harnesses and other accessories that the GoPro lends itself to.

The deepest dive I have gone on has been 80 feet, so none of the underwater cameras in my price range were going to cut it. For that reason I decided not buy an underwater camera. But on the plane ride down I was reading a guidebook and I started thinking about how useful a water-resistant camera would be for activities like kayaking, cave-tubing and snorkeling. And it would be great to have a tiny point-and-shoot for small trips that don’t call for hauling around the big DSLR camera bag. It was back on - I wanted a digital underwater camera! I figured that ATL was a huge airport and that I might have a chance to find what I was looking for. Long story slight shorter: I found it!

Lumix DCMy new water-resistant camera – good for 23ft. Lumix DMC-TS25. 16 megapixels, 25-100mm, F3.9-5.7, autoexposure, still and video with microphone and speaker.

Yay! We still had a few hours until our flight so we had lunch at Moe’s (meh), I had a VERY expensive shot of 15yo Glenfidditch, and then we set off for Cancun.

We arrived at the Cancun airport, spent 45 minutes in line at immigration, and then the adventuring began. We found the ADO bus information booth and purchased two tickets each: one ticket to Cancun Centro and one from Cancun Centro to Belize City. Wheeee! We barely found our bus from the airport to Cancun Centro on time (damn it I WILL learn Spanish one of these days!), but we did make it. We arrived at Cancun Centro at about 3:45pm and found the departure seating. Those chairs were NOT comfy! The TVs were very loud and had super poor picture quality, and the bathrooms cost five pesos to use, so we decided it was dinner time, more in the hope that we could burn some time in comfier, quieter seating and in a place with free bathrooms.

Cancun CentroWalking up and down the street in front of the ADO terminal. We had our bags so were approached by a number of scamsters, but nobody was overly pushy or hostile.

We ended up eating at a crappy fried chicken place. They looked clean and had cushy chairs, but they didn’t have public bathrooms. On the way back we saw golden arches in the sky and decided to stop in to the nearby McDonalds for ice cream and bathrooms.

McDonald's

The Hubby with our dos aguas, sundae chocolate and Oreo Mcflurry.

The place was packed. There were at least three birthday parties taking place (including one with a Minnie Mouse piñata that came to a quick and brutal ending. Minnie had both arms beaten off and was disemboweled then decapitated), and the five open registers seemed to always have at least 10 customers waiting in each line. The service was very good though – food came up fast and a huge number of employees kept the garbages empty and the tables clean. We were lucky enough to find a table and we managed to eat up another 1.5 hours before the pandemonium and the setting sun were enough to drive us back to the bus station.

We read books and tried not to watch the Walking Dead episode that was playing (it was hard to not watch. We’re still in the first season, so it was tempting to peak up to see who was still alive. Happily, the Spanish dubbing meant that if we didn’t look we couldn’t understand what was happening). Then we sat through a really bizarre-looking movie called Trick ‘r Treat, and at 10:20pm it was finally time to board the bus.

The ride was great; the bus was a plush luxury deal with seats that folded back, a clean on-board restroom and air-conditioning that was chilly, but never too chilly. The driver kept it regulated by cycling it on and off throughout the trip. There was only one young child and we didn’t hear a peep out of her. Everyone was in agreement that it was sleepy time, so no one had lights on or was having conversations.

ADO Bus

Our ADO bus

We stopped in two towns early on, but the only other stops after that were leaving Mexico and entering Belize. And that was fun, because nothing say “Good morning” like answering to immigration authorities.

MX BorderWaiting in line to enter the Mexican immigration office.

Ugh – Mexican immigration officers charged everyone money to exit the country. Some people payed $200 pesos, some more. The officer we met told us that we needed to give him $300 pesos each. I pulled out some bills and told him I only had $560 pesos, which he gleefully grabbed and said, “No, that’s fine. For you, this is enough.” Uh huh. Two guys got really offended about having to pay. One pulled up some article from the internet and shoved it up to the officer’s face, saying “We’re not supposed to have to pay!” To which the very unimpressed officer replied, “No, you don’t have to pay to leave the country. Enjoy your stay in Mexico.”

Finally we all got back on the bus, drove a short distance and then got off the bus again - this time with all of our luggage – to enter Belize.

Belize Immigration

A tired, but nonetheless happy to see Belize, Hubby inside Belize customs at about 4am.

That went really smoothly and soon we were on our way. I stayed awake for this last leg of the journey and so I got to see the sun rise for the second time of the trip.

Belize Sunrise 2Sunrise over the Belizean countryside

Entering Belize City we saw signs of poverty – falling apart homes, abandoned buildings, more potholes in the road. There were a lot of stray dogs and three packs of five or more dogs roaming the streets. I had a moment of deja vu when I saw a graveyard – all of the crypts were above ground. The only other place I have seen this is in New Orleans

GraveyardGraveyard in Belize City

We exited the ADO bus in Belize City and were surrounded by taxi drivers. We followed one to his car (making sure that it had the green license plate that we were told to look for), and as I was getting in I heard some yelling happening very close by. I turned and saw a man standing too close to the Hubby and shouting at him; the man was very angry and was shouting threats (like, bad ones involving icepicks and holes in the Hubby’s body). The Hubby had his shoulders hunched and kept his back to the man and slowly got into the car. As we were driving away the Hubby explained that the man had tried to sell him weed, and when he said no the man started saying that the Hubby was killing his family, that his kids were starving. The Hubby tried to give him change, but the change was pesos and this set the guy off (Belize uses Belize dollars and USD dollars, but not pesos).

Dude. Welcome to Belize City.

We bought one-way tickets for the San Pedro Express water taxi to Caye Caulker (pronounced “Key” Caulker) for $10 USD a piece. The ride was very bumpy (sit in the back of the boat for a smoother ride, if you ever take it). As we pulled into the dock we saw our friends, and at that point everything was good and safe in the world. We were here.

We ate breakfast at a place. I don’t know which place. There were eggs and cake-like potatos involved. We took a golf cart taxi to their home, which was only about half a mile away, but between our bags and the already long trip the taxi was lovely. After we lugged our bags in and took the tour our host suggested we throw on our suits and go for a swim.

From the BeachYes, please. Our host’s dock leading out into the water. And guess who doesn’t have photo-editting software on her little travel netbook? Either that or the horizen is at a funny angle down in this part of the world.

The water was wonderful. I saw fish, including grunts, a baby barracuda and a HUGE crab digging a hole into the sand. One of the neighbors had thrown several old toilets under the deck to act as a coral reef, and it seems to be working. We saw a lionfish hiding out in one of the tanks, but our friends didn’t have the energy to cull it while we were out. Lionfish are an invasive species with no natural predators, so the general rule of thumb is if you see one, you kill it. But they’re also a pain to kill – they have venomous spines that can do some damage if you poke yourself.

Underwater

Grunts hovering around the toilet reef. ZOMG my new digital underwater camera RAWKS!

After we showered and dressed, we rode bicycles into the village to pick up zucchini, juice and a few sundries. The Hubby picked up some fried rice from a little shack advertising Chinese food.

And then it happened.

The cold that I had been denying for the past 72 hours, the lack of sleep over the past 48 hours and the heat, humidity and sun did me in. I was drained, possibly a little dehydrated. We rode straight home and I went to bed at about 6pm. I woke up a little, came downstairs for a few minutes and then threw in the towel. I slept until 7am this morning. I apparently missed an incredible fish grill (one of our hosts had bought red snapper from the fisherman at the docks as they came in with the day’s catch), lovely rum drinks and the nightly tarpon show underneath the light out on the dock. Whatever. I was so fatigued and stuffed up that I just wanted to be unconscious. I did sleep like a log, so that was nice.

Being sick on vacation is something that I dread. I mean, having a head cold/sunstroke combo isn’t as bad as getting malaria or Dengue fever (both of which are present in Belize – yay!), or as interupting as breaking a bone or getting the bends. Things can always be worse - life lesson number one, right? But when you’re on vacation you have a limited time and I don’t want to waste any of it feeling out of sorts, and I don’t want to be a drag on the Hubby or my hosts. I can’t dive while I’m congested, being in the sun for more than 30 minutes is draining. All I can do is nap and pick at food and blog.

Ah well. Shit happens. Hopefully I’ll kick this thing in the next day or so. Until then I guess I’ll sit on the deck and watch this:

The view from the veranda – a long dock leading from palm trees and sand, extending into the Carribean.

Yeah, things could definitely be worse.

Comments

  1. Erin B. says

    Oooh, get over your cold immediately! I demand it :D Also, I just learned from a project at work that lionfish, while definitely dangerous to catch, are OM NOM NOM NOM. So tasty, apparently! SI has a station in Belize, where they’re catching lionfish and examining the stomach contents, running everything through a DNA sequencer to see if the lionfish are eating species that we haven’t yet discovered. This story is the only way I though I might come close to making you jealous (we have a whole lab where they do DNA sequencing!), while I’m jealously looking through your photos.

    Tell hubby I hope his weed seller experience is the worst thing that happens the whole trip!

    • says

      That info about the research SI (that’s Smithsonian Institute, not Sports Illustrated, y’all) IS pretty cool. Dave and Noelle said for my birthday we might go down to the “fancy” restaurant on the island, and the only place to prepare and serve lionfish.

  2. Suzi says

    Hope you feel better soon!! If you guys have time, I *highly* recommend stopping for a tour in San Ignacio. It’s a great countryside town in Belize that’s home to some of the country’s best Mayan ruins (ie. Caracol, Xunantunich). The best way to visit is by horseback at Hanna Stables. Make a reservation and they’ll even pick you up from Belize City and can drop you off by the end of the day :) http://www.hannastables.com

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