The Song of The Islands

21 November 2018 Bequia, West Indies

We are eight days into our vacation. Longest one in years. We’ve been bouncing around a couple Islands down here and have just jumped to the small island of Bequia. Home to only 4800 residence. There is no fresh water on the island. The residence fill tanks during the rainy season and make it last. Similar to Bermuda. Strange…but a fact of life here.

I think we finally settled in, both mentally and physically. There’s a peace and tranquility that just wraps you like a soft blanket. Your breathing slows, you start waking up at dawn… because you’ve gone to bed before 9. You are just present in the moment…What to do or not do next? I feel like the days have finally slowed down. We take time to watch the sunsets, take a nap or just kick back and chill.

The Sweet Retreat: perched high up on the side of the hill. Built going straight up just like all the pieces of land here. It’s a gayly colored home three stories tall. There are many rooms, studios and suites. I love the layout of out little room. Outside there’s a full moon and all the night peepers are singing loudly. The anoles that sneak into your room and sing like a spastic smoke detector that the battery is dying on, you can never find the damn thing. The ceiling fan creeks as it spins around on its rusting components. The island breezes rustling through the trees and the passing rain showers. Finally the sound of the waves on the beach below and the faint music of the bars floating on the island breezes tops off the symphony.

The song of the Islands…

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!

The Baja California Sur Adventure

The nicest thing about coming to The Baja is the closeness and direct flights available from Salt Lake. In less than four hours, you can be digging your toes into the warm sand, sipping a salt rimmed margarita and watching the waves.

It’s pretty easy to get Gandaulf into Mexico so he gets to vacation with us. He’s such a great traveler. He steals everyone’s heart and I never tire hearing people taking his picture or listen to them comment on how cute he is. He just prances on in his service jacket, ears pinned back, taking care of his mom, always alert. When we get to the beach, it’s all about the ball.

We got to Baja on Sunday. It’s a quick little battery recharge vacation. We spend the day bouncing from the waves to the pool and back again. We found the quaintest little Hotel in Cabo Pulmo called VidaSoul. It’s quite literally in the middle of nowhere. It’s about an hour drive across the east cape of The Baja. The drive itself is part of the adventure. The directions consist of a few pictures and some approximate mileages of where to turn. It was quite easy to get off track, or miss a turn because in the desert, things are in a constant state of change. A windy day can push a pile of sand to the other side of a turn and the picture may not look like what is actually there now.

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We ended up in the city dump, literally, and I had to use my best Spanish to try to get directions from an old Mexican guy who apparently works there. We missed one of the turns because it no longer looked like the picture or a sign was missing. We made our way back to the correct road and were off again.

The road was a sand wash for the most part and the closer we got to the arroyo it was evident that storms from the past summer had washed out huge sections of the surrounding area. Coming over the rise we could see the hotel was an oasis sitting atop a sand dune and visible from almost anywhere. It’s white and grey exterior poised high atop a pile of sand with the arroyo about 400 yards away. It is right on the beach and very private.

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They call this place The Crossroads. It’s origin was a dream of an expat and her son. This monolith came about from a small shack on the beach with a thatched roof. The owners son designed the whole Hotel with not a detail missed. All the cement was mixed by hand. It took nine years to complete. It has a grand staircase that goes down to a uniquely designed pool which is quite literally a hole dug in the beach. It is surrounded by sand, a few beach lounges and some material strung between some poles for shade. The pool has a bar in the center. In order to get to the bar, the bartender must wade out to the pit in the center. The bridge idea never materialized.

From the pool and the restaurant you can gaze out across the water and watch the whales spouting and playing. You can watch the Mexican hand fishers in their little skiffs. You can take in the crashing waves and the sea breezes. The staff is very attentive and your glass is always topped off, a fresh bottle of water, or a little something from the restaurant. Whatever it was we ordered it never disappointed.

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Chris and I just don’t like the crowds or touristy areas much anymore so VidaSoul was the perfect getaway. Being in the middle of nowhere, they have made a concerted effort to use solar power and keep it eco friendly. They do have a generator that runs most all night in order to keep the AC on and give its guests a comfortable night sleep.

The rooms are quite spacious. VidaSoul offers meal plans that help offset the meal costs. The portion sizes are huge. The bartender makes the best margaritas. The food was fresh and delicious and the drink pours were more than fair. We aren’t in Utah baby! We would highly recommend a visit to this oasis if traveling the road around the coastline of the east cape.

Life on Life’s Terms

The saying, “the best made plans…”, finish as you would. Our lives have taken a slight U turn.

About five years ago, we made the decision to sell off All we own, buy a plane ticket to Ecuador, and “retire”. We worked really hard to save all our pennies… set up ourselves to retire with means enough to live comfortably. We put our business on the market in January 2017, started selling off the “stuff” we have accumulated over the last 25 years and started planning our escape.

At first we had planned a getaway to a nice country, hoped to secure a long term rental then travel out from there. That soon turned into a road trip in a 1998 Land Cruiser we picked up cheap. We spent the next 9 months rigging it up for Overlanding. Again those plans were laid to rest after a quick trip to Iceland, where we rented a VW Krafter van converted into a rudimentary camper van. The focus switched to buying a Sprinter or Transit van and converting it into a camper. Let’s face it… we are a bit older than most who are Overlanding in an SUV. Small things like being able to stand up, get out of the weather, and the ability to cook inside when needed, became key needs.

That brings us to this current year 2018.

The business sale never materialized, even after a young man came in a couple times a month for six months, promising us we would close by the beginning of the year. The beginning of the year came and went. Every attempt he made to secure financing fell away. We were forced to resign ourselves to the fact this could be harder than we originally anticipated. He’s now a salesperson for us.

We did find a great deal on a 2015 Ford Transit van with the eco boost engine, which will give us similar gas mileage to the diesel Sprinter yet we won’t need to worry about any of the diesel emissions garbage they throw on the Sprinter. We were still proceeding as if we would be leaving for our adventure, even though the future was uncertain at best.

I was devastated when I realized that I was bound to Utah for another winter. I really wanted to believe that “the kid” would come through and buy us out. I feel as if the dealership is a means to an end, but also could be my end. The stress levels of being a business owner are sometimes insurmountable for me. Chris is my rock. She always picks me up, dusts me off, and convinces me everything will work out as it should… just get the hell out of the way. If you keep trying to stick a square peg in a round hole, eventually something is bound to give… that something is usually my mental and emotional health.

So today, I am sitting at a small metal table, in the middle of no where, on the east cape of the Baja of Mexico. I dream that this will someday be a big part of our lives. We are watching the whales breach just a couple hundred yards off the beach, Gandaulf is resting with his head on my bare feet, the smell of the salt water and the sound of the waves, lulls me into a trance and rests my uneasy soul. It’s hard to accept life on life’s terms.

So Your Here… Now What?

After spending 12 hours in airports and on airplanes we arrive at our destination, Peru. When everything goes as planned it makes for a lovely journey. Of course I ate too much and sat still for way too long.

Arriving at Lima Airport our bags arrived in as timely a fashion as we did. Walked through customs without issue and were whisked off by our driver to our quaint hotel. Checked in and off to dreamland for us weary travelers.


La Castellana Hotel is a small boutique hotel with solid plaster walls, dark wood accents and as few creature comforts as needed to be fairly comfortable. This is what true “locally owned” establishments look like. The room rate is reflective of the sparseness. There is no “European” frills here. The beds are small, there is dark wood accents with years upon years of dark paint spilling over the edges of the panes of glass in the windows. A small squeaky oscillating fan is mounted to the ceiling and moves the damp air around nicely for a bit of comfort. The only thing in the room that doesn’t fit is the 28″ flat screen TV chained to a small shelf in the corner of the room.

The sounds of the city of MiraFlores at night consist of nothing but the dull hum of the street lamps and an occasional cat fight on the tin roofs of the tightly packed buildings. The morning light arrives at 5:30 and the streets wake up to the bustle of cars, traffic cop whistles, impatient horns and the street vendors selling the fresh produce and catch of the day.


It is warm and muggy today, with a slight mist in the air. Our trip commences tonight with our CEO meeting us in the lobby. We have a “free” day today… What to do?


Part 2: Pisco Sours and Dirty Streets

We had a breakfast of bread and thee best damn coffee made on Earth! Back to the room with the normal get ready things which fortunately included a HOT shower and fluffy white towels. Put away everything of value and out the door for a “walk about town”.


In a country you are not familiar with there is a battle that arises between fit in and be safe but not look like a tourist. The things you see are so unfamiliar and yet hold a beauty of their own. You want to capture every moment with the camera, not necessarily the physical but the one of the mind. I only wish my mind had the memory of a camera.


We came upon a Central Park that was the home of at least 50 stray cats all lounging about. There was a circular pit that posed as the meeting point for college students, lovers, travelers, musicians and cats. We all sat around the pit and listened to the musicians sing and play, watched the lovers cuddle, petted the strays vying for whomever would give them a scratch, and the travelers and locals, faces planted I cell phones, share their deepest experiences with the unseen world around us…and a smaller world it is becoming.
Cultural Immersion

Hotel Reina Roja and The Red Room of Pleasure…

Sometimes pictures are more powerful than words… Hotel Reina Roja isn’t as scanky as it looks. It was actually an amazing find.  If ever in Playa del Carmen… do find it and wander through.  It takes quite a bit of creativity, insanity and balls to design a hotel front desk, bar and restaurant in an eclectic, erotic and almost S&M type theme.