Island Life: Days 3-5

There’s something to say about island life. It’s kicked back pace. Long hours of scraping out a living… or doing absolutely nothing but digging your toes in the sand and sucking up some rays. That soon can growing quite boring, at least for Chris and I.

Day three started quite early. We had to catch the 7am ferry back to Belize City in order to catch a taxi and get to our meeting place by 8:30. Of course all of this is in Island time which means, a fifteen minute of error has come to be expected.

We had a golf cart taxi waiting for us at 6:30am. Chris was getting off at the Amore Cafe for some coffee and I was to go the rest of the way with our backpacks, check our luggage and wait for Chris. I began to worry when it was 6:55 and Chris was still no where in sight. There are times when that fifteen minutes comes in handy. She finally showed after walking all the way to The Split and realizing she had missed the docks somehow.

The ferry ride was uneventful, we gathered our backpacks and a taxi and met up with our group, with plenty of time to spare. We soon found out that the group had just come off the Glover’s Reef trip and were now known as the double atollers. For once it appeared we wouldn’t be the oldest in the group… as a matter of fact the group was an average of 55 years old, all professionals, all trying to get to a place in their lives where they can “retire”. We were on the perfect trip!

Most of the third day was spent on boats, getting from one island to another at the furthest eastern land mass in Belize. Arriving at our tent camp on the small island of Half Moon Caye, we were broken into our groups, the double atollers and the newbies… Our tents assigned and lunch served, our day could finally begin…nine hours after we awoke.

Impressions of Half Moon Caye:

Unlike many islands were have been on, these Belizeans care about the cleanliness of their little piece of sand. There was very little garbage littering the sandy white beaches and the windward side of the island, that would normally collect what the tides bring in was also devoid of all ocean trash. This is the rest spot for divers of The Blue Hole. This is also the furthest Belizean outpost for The Autobahn Society. They patrol the waters of The Blue Hole for illegal fisherman, help educate the visitors to this island and keep this turtle hatchery pristine.

Half Moon Caye is also a bird sanctuary. There are nesting colonies of Red Footed Boobies, Frigate Birds and Osprey. There are three predominant species of lizards and an exorbitant amount of Hermit Crabs. The camp actually uses the crabs as a form of composting. All the food scraps are put into a bin and the hermit crabs swarm the pile and become a moving, crunching mass of bioengineering, turning these piles into nothing overnight. Remember anything we create (trash wise) on this island must be disposed of, either by burning, hauled off on boats, or organically disposed of.

The air on the island is thick with salt, humidity and birds. It’s like a kite festival with thirty or fourth birds souring on the ocean breezes…silently swooping and diving, gliding effortlessly. On the windward side the breezes keep the humidity to a manageable level, although everything is soaked and wet in the mornings. The further you get away from the ocean breezes, the humidity gets quite unbearable and the turquoise blue lagoon becomes very inviting.

The frigate birds have huge thin wings and forked tail. They glide stealthy on the wind and watch for the boobies or osprey to catch a fish. In a second, the frigates go into action, diving in long swoops, weaving and turning gracefully in the air as they begin their assault on the fish bearing sea bird. They grab hold of the fish, lock talons and spiral towards earth. Eventually they hit the water or until one of the seabirds releases and flies off to hunt again.

At night the hermit crabs come out by the hundreds. The path ways from area to area become a seething river of these creatures. It kinda creeps you out at night when your flashlight accentuates the size of these crabs when walking to the restroom or shower. It reminds me of some alien organism out to snatch you in your sleep and carry you off. With no real predators on the island they thrive!

Most every activity has been centered around water. There is something calming about water. Whether submersed in it or floating on top, it has a magic over me that rocks to my soul. It can be gentle and calm or a raging surf. It has the ability to shape and reshape with little that can stand in its way. I feel fortunate to be able to see below its surface to its undersea world of bright colors. The fragile world that hangs in the balance yet is abundant with life.

 

 

 

 

When it Rains…It Pours: Belize day six

We knew that it was too good to last. So far our vacation has been perfect. Perfect weather, perfect food and drink and perfect group out here on Half Moon Caye. Our last night was full of dancing, drinking and sharing tales. We watched the sunset at the beach just outside of camp while partying with all our new friends. We took pictures and shared email addresses then went back to camp where the guides performed native Garafuna drumming, song and dance. We all danced the night away and had a lovely prepared meal (no shortage of those). Then off to bed.

The sun began to wake up the day as a big ball of pink in the morning sky. A cloud bank began to roll in and by breakfast the storm had arrived. We all ran out to our tents and secured the rain flaps. Within 5 minutes the rain began. First a little drizzle, then the lightening and thunder accompanied the sheets of rain. Now we are all sitting in the mess hall watching the rain, hoping the boat coming to get us today actually will leave Belize City and make the 2-3 hour trip across open water. I personally would be happy if the boat was unable to come.

Chris and I recounted our trip so far. Chris said that this island adventure reminded her of summer camp. There was always activities to sign up for each day, an applause after each meal, educational moments and of course glamping. So now every time I think of the last five days I smile and think “adult summer camp”.

You Better Belize it! Day One and Two (cause they all kinda blended together)

We just couldn’t pass up this trip. About two months ago we received and email from Delta Airlines about a reduced mileage fare to anywhere in Central or South America. For a measly 14,000 Miles we could get round trip tickets to Belize. Of course the travel had to be completed within a certain time frame… but who cares! Normal price on a round trip ticket to Belize…65,000 Miles! We scrambled for an hour trying to find just the right times and figure out what we would do, where we would stay and whatnot. By the time we settled on our dates, the price had doubled but was still an awesome deal. So here I sit on Caye Caulker, a little earthy crunchy island where the mode of transportation is bicycles, golf cart or old fashioned walking.

 

There is always a catch though. The redeye leaving at 1am arriving in Belize at 11am same day. It’s not too bad until you hit that wall. When nothing makes sense, you search for words to form a complete sentence. When every fiber of your being says stop, lie down and go to sleep. It’s similar to jet lag but more akin to an all night party that leaves you craving your bed all the next day.

 

We went kinda budget. Our first hotel was a little place called The Barefoot Belize. It’s a brightly colored arrangement of 12 little cabanas and rooms. Nothing to elaborate. There is AC, which if you plan on sleeping at night, is a must have. There’s a nice big, comfortable bed, a shower with good supply of hot water and pressure to enjoy it, a small kitchenette and full island sized fridge for keeping those delicious Belikin beers icy cold.

What hits you first is the humidity. It was tough to breathe at first. My lungs felt as if they were trying to breathe in water instead of air. You break out in a sweat where you didn’t even know you could sweat. We donned our backpacks and headed through the airport, breezed through customs and caught a taxi to the water.

When traveling in Belize… you have a choice of traveling to the islands by ferry or small puddle jumper plane. Each will get you where you want to go… just the difference in cost and time needs to be decided. The plane is $179 each way, for two, and takes about 15 minutes. The ferry takes about 45 minutes and the round trip cost is $56 for two. Unless you’re late for an important date, the ferry will get you there safe and sound.

A couple things to point out out on the Belizean island of Caye Caulker. #1 – there are no real swimming beaches #2 – there is every kind of adventure to be had from here #3 – this is an adventure island and a cheaper version of Ambergris Caye, which everyone has heard of.

There is a huge disparity in Hotel pricing here. There is also a huge difference in what you get. The place we chose was about $110/ night all in, $227 for our two nights. This is on the lower end of the spectrum. Further from town, we are talking a 2-4 minute walk all the way to the middle of town, or a 1-2 minute bike ride (you can’t ride you bike on the beaches but you can walk all the way along the beach). Our hotel, like many more, has a private pier with some handmade beach lounges. The “beach towel” they give you is an old bath towel they retired, stitched up the holes and called it a beach towel. What’s true is none of this matters on an island. Roll with it. We are so spoiled! You can ride down to the distribution center, over by the islands generators and buy a case of Belkin Beer for $12… and it’s 6.5%! See… it’s not all bad!

Have I Said This Before?

My girlfriend and I have been planning our escape for years. It was some fear and apprehensions that stopped us from taking the leap years ago and wandering our beautiful planet on a forever way of life…traveling.

We planned and saved every dollar we could. Tried to make good decisions about big purchases. Brought our company to a viable asset. Fixed everything physically wrong with our aging bodies so we could be young again. We made a goal of 2017 as our jumping off point.

Well 2017 came and went. We put our business up for sale at the beginning of 2017. We had several interested parties, but running a car dealership is not as simple as liking cars. Everyone that came to the table either faded away when they found out how much was actually involved or the banks turned them down. I fell into a deep depression that I kept hidden as best as I could.

We set ourselves up to live a good life. We built our dream home 18 years ago and are about 3-4 years away from paying it off. Our house is warm and comfortable and WAY too big for our little family of two humans and a corgi. It was a tax shelter and necessity which has now become a source of financial security, affording us freedom if we could cut the chains.

We have read countless books on becoming a minimalist. We have attended Overlanding expos and created good, healthy ties with fellow explorers and travelers living both here in the US and in foreign countries. We bought a 2015 Ford Transit 250 to build into our adventure mobile. Of course with our still busy schedule it has not had much attention. So here we sit, chained to our business and unwilling to give up our comfortable home until the sale.

To make matters worse… everyday we wake up to another mass shooting, another unarmed kid shot by cops, a narcissistic POTUS who is batshit crazy and can seriously impact our financial health, physical health and turn the world against us. Kids are taking to the streets demanding change but getting the hand by the grownups they rally against. It is just too much for my fragile psyche to be bombarded with everyday.

Why take off and leave all that we know? Why sell off everything and have nothing but freedom to show for it? Why break away from all that is comfortable and travel to third world countries where people are happy and live harmoniously with the world around them? Seriously… you need to ask!

The Sand Trap

For an adventure…aside from walking the beach, renting a SUP, or a sea kayak, there is always driving. Although 4WD is not a must… I’d say it is a definite suggestion. We rented a “small compact car” at first, then decided to upgrade to an SUV. Number one for the extra clearance but secondly for the off-road capabilities. Of course an SUV in Mexico is NOT the same thing as an SUV in Utah. Do not assume the SUV is 4WD or AWD!

The second full day we ventured out to explore all the east cape of Cabo had to offer. It’s only about 40 km from our Hotel into Cabo Pulmo proper. Along the way is the Sonoran desert landscapes, prickly cacti, windy sand roads and beautiful vistas that constantly changed around each turn.

There are many camping villages on this stretch of sandy road. Huge motor homes line the edges of the many arroyos…there is an entire makeshift tent city right on the beach. We chose to drive out to investigate and soon found out that our SUV was in fact a RWD NOT an AWD! Now being from Utah we have learned to navigate through sandy tracts… but we normally have a vehicle that all four wheels are doing the driving. Of course we could air down the tires…but we would have no way to get them back to the proper levels when returning to paved roads. We proceeded with caution and on our journey helped free some Europeans in a 2WD Ford Ranger, who had somehow managed to get themselves buried deep in the sand sideways across the road. They had little knowledge of driving in this terrain. We helped get them free and they sped off thinking driving faster would keep them from getting stuck again.

We found our way off the beach and back onto the sandy road and proceeded into Cabo Pulmo.

It has been about ten years since we found this little town and like all little things, the town had grown to accommodate the thrill seekers, fishermen, and kayakers. There were shacks lining the road to the beach all vying for the business of the tourists who braved the road to this destination. We ventured out onto the beach and played with Gandaulf in the surf for a while, enjoyed a cold beer and headed into the old part of town to find some food and internet. A small pizzeria caught our eye so we chilled out for a while, caught up on news from the outside, posted on our blog and FB, had some incredible guacamole and shrimp quesadillas, then headed back out.

The road back to the hotel was just as dicy, especially if you need to pass a huge dump truck. Yep you guessed it…we pulled up off the road to let the truck pass, went to get back on the road and we instantly were buried up to the rims. No biggy. A few minutes later we had dug ourselves out and backed onto the road and began our sand surfing all the way back to VidaSoul.

It wasn’t until the next morning that we found our good fortune…a screw had punctured our rear tire and in the morning it was totally flat. Had it gone flat on the sandy road, we would have been in a world of trouble.

Kinda funny, the manager was all worried and said he’d get one of his guys out to change the spare. Of course Chris and I… being the strong willed women we are, beat him to it and had the tire all but changed by the time Miguel came to help out. We graciously let him finish the job and tipped him $20 USD in gratitude. Yes and thank the stars we had a full size spare and tools.