Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Belize! Belize! Belize!




Let me start by thanking my friends Christina and Vince for having a destination wedding and choosing Belize. I've been wanting to get back to Belize for 15 years and they helped get me there!

Emails about this trip had been circulating for 6 months, so when the week came, everyone was ecstatic. Nick, Jamie, CF and myself were in a suite together at Athens Gate Resort on Ambergris Caye. It was a short Tuesday- Saturday trip, but oh so fun with all 28 of us.

Belize has Cayes that follow the coast line and help protect the main land, much like North Carolina has the Outer Banks.  These Cayes protect the Belize Barrier Reef. It's the longest reef in the Western Hemisphere, and second largest in world, spreading down over 200 miles of coastal land. There are more than 200 cayes, cays or cayos that fall under the Belizan Islands.

The country is often referred to "Mother nature's best kept secret". It has pristine beaches, hundreds of islands, jungles, waterfalls, caves and Mayan Ruins.

I love fun facts and I love sharing fun facts... so here are some about Belize:
- Birthplace of chewing gum (Aztex women used it as mouth fresheners)
- Only country in C.A. with the official language being English. However Creole & Spanish are both spoken throughout the country.
- Mexico boarders the North, Guatemala to the South and West and the Caribbean Sea to the East.
- Belize is small: 8,800 square miles
- Population is the lowest in Central America at 340,844
- From 1862-1973 Belize was known as British Honduras
- 1981 it became part of the Independent Commonwealth realm retaining Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State
- Only Jaguar reserve in the world
- People of Belize do not swim in the sea or rivers on Good Friday, it's bad luck and apparently you will turn into a fish!
- Belize City was the Capital. In 1961 Hurricane Hattie did a lot of damage to the city so the g'ment moved it to Belmopan- more inland.

Tuesday:
Our crew arrive within an hour of one another at the Belize airport: it doesn't take long to snag a cab. It's a pretty drive for the most part ( not as pretty as flying in!) within 30 min we are in historic downtown Belize getting tickets for the water taxi. We have about an hour to kill so we grab some Belikin Beer to go and walk a block to see my old friend, Gilvano Swasey. He and Yasser, another old friend, run and operate a building that houses art exhibits, classes, after school activities, workshops, a travel agency and book shop right on the water.  I met them both when I was there in 2000. It was so wonderful to see a local familiar face in a foreign country. We visited about 30 min then we had to catch our water taxi to San Pedro. The water taxi is a local mode of transportation. A lot of tourist opt for the peddle jumper flight over to the Cayes. Not us!






After a bumpy 1.5 hours on the boat we get to the dock and find a cabby. We stop along the way and stock up on goods for the hotel, since they don't have a restaurant. Our suite at the hotel is way nicer that we thought! It's bigger than my apartment here in Raleigh. The beds were comfortable, huge tub and shower, balcony looking out to the ocean and the service was impeccable. The owner was there, so maybe that had something to do with it. He's from Texas!

Tuesday night we went to dinner at The Black Orchid with the crew that was in town already. All the menus were pretty much the same, fresh catch of the day, conch, pasta, veggies, rice - all fine by me.
From here drinks are had at the small pool bar and beach back at the resort.

Wednesday:
We are on the 8 am water taxi heading to Caye Caulker for a day of snorkel and sailing. Caye Caulker is the complete opposite of Ambergris Caye where San Pedro Town is. Caye Caulker is tiny, no cars, and three streets: front, middle and back.  When I last visited Belize we spent a lot time here and knew I wanted to take my peeps here. And old friend took over a snorkel company so we went out with them vs taking a stranger from San Pedro. We had enough time to stop and east breakfast in Caye Caulker before heading to Raggamuffin a couple blocks down the street.  Our group opted for the 6 hour (10am- 4pm) tour. For $70 we got; several hours of snorkeling; including reef, sharks and turtle snorkels, lunch, music, rum punch and one of the best days I've had in a very long time. Once they found out we were there for a wedding, they gave us a bottle of vodka!




















Most of our group goes back to San Pedro to meet the rest of the guest. Jamie, Pavia and I stick around so I can show them The Split. The well known bar, Lazy Lizard is a Caye Caulker staple. 


We met some cool guys from Colorado, who decided they needed to escape winter and heading South. We hung with them until our captains showed up., shared stories and drank beers. 
Our captains came to meet us to watch the sunset with a bucket of beers. 2 hours at the Split is all we got, before having to catch the last water taxi back to San Pedro. Once back at the resort, I see where a friend from Colorado mentioned they had friends in Belize and tagged us both. Turns out it was the guys we had just met! Small world!










When we get back, everyone has gone to dinner so the three of us shower up and go trotting around town looking for a place to eat, and we found one, Hidden Treasure was just that! It was beautiful, well priced and empty! The menu was incredible. That was the best meal of the trip for me. We all got different things and shared. Everyone is drinking at the pool bar when we return, so we join in.

Thursday:
Wedding Day is Thursday. We got take out lunch from across the street, helped the bride prep and laid by the Caribbean. The ceremony was at 4pm, right out on the beach. All day the staff was working hard to beautify the space, which seemed like a large task, considering where we were. But they out did themselves. They hung bulb lights, white chairs created a semi circle, palms were trimmed and trimmings used to make a standing space for Tina & Vince. The ceremony lasted about 15 min then we had cocktail hour while the bride and groom walked down the beach for photos. I had the pleasure of partaking in this! While all this was going on, the staff made a enclosed square for dinner, after dinner the DJ started up and dancing began. By 9;30 the bride was tipsy and we had to make her cut the cake, which ended in a cake fight with her new groom!





































Jamie, Pav and I decided we didn't want the night to be over at 10 pm, the owner's granddaughter was there and wanted to go out too, so the 4 of us did, with the manager, E.  Ha apparently the owner wasn't letting his granddaughter go without protection and it worked out to our benefit, he even drove us in the luxury golf cart! We went to a couple hot spots in town. The first one was Fido's.  We liked this place, but the band only played two songs before quitting time. It was all wood and had a thatched roof. From here we walk to Jaguar's. This was a treat. upstairs was a normal bar, where we drank blue shots of some sort. Around midnight that place closes and then everyone goes downstairs through the jaguar's mouth into the club. Intense. Around 2 we decide it time to get street food and go home!

Friday: 
We SLEEP in. Jamie and I pull ourselves out of bed and get dropped off at a beach front bar couple miles down the road. We drink bottled water, and a yummy lunch. We get there right when they open so there wasn't but two other tables occupied. We were right on the beach. Jamie almost had me convinced we quit our jobs and move to Belize and live out our beach bum, slow lifestyle life. I tell you, it wouldn't take much twisting of the arm. People seem happy, content, smart, well read, there. From here, we decide to walk the beach the couple miles back to the resort. What a great choice that was. Pathways lead us along the ocean that is clear as far as the eye can see, luxury homes, resorts, local homes, clothes hanging on lines, people reading under shaded palms and kids running around, just the most perfect 2 mile walk. 












Upon arriving back, Pav has completed his daily run ( go him ) and he and I decide to go exploring. We take the golf cart and head to town. We go downtown San Pedro, drive around and stop at a local soap shop. We bought a bunch of smell goods to bring back to friends and family. I even picked up one wrapped in pretty paper and it was made in Raleigh! From here we head to the locals end, pass a cool draw bridge, where families and children are playing in the water to the right. We pay a small fee to pass on the bridge. We are on the hunt for a bar called Palapa Bar and Grill, it floats on water. We wanted to check it out, not drink. Shew, our drinking for the week was done. We found it in a rural part of the island, packed to the rim. 










On the way back, we see an older man in his workshop.  We stop to check him out. Dimas Geurrero is sitting outside on his porch workshop making jewelry from local shells brought in from the fisherman/ boaters. Black Coral is his specialty. People all over the islands do this now, use shells for jewelry, but Mr. Geurrero was the first in Belize to do it and he's been doing it for over  40 years. He used to collect shells from around town, as there were an abundance of them. He was born and raised on this island and he's a talker. If we would have let him, he would have talked to us for hours and continued to tell us stories of "Old San Pedro" and how he makes his pieces. We purchase a couple pieces and chatted for about 20 min then moved along. 






We get back in time to shower up and go eat. We were all to bed early. Water Taxi was leaving with or without us at 7:30 am. The 1.5 hour ride back to Belize City was a lot less exciting than the one to the islands. Pavia and I sat on the top of the boat this time around and it was a much smoother ride, and we have the most fantastic views and it was just us and 3 others, so not crowded at all. Once back on main land, we give a yawn, good stretch and snap a couple last photos before getting in our cab to the airport. This is where I said see ya later!