Our friend Karin from New York arrived last Tuesday and left yesterday. Her husband gave her plane tickets to Belize to visit us for her birthday, so Karin, Tom, and I all had a week of vacation. Karin’s and mine started a few days before Tom’s because we picked her up in the late afternoon at the airport, and then Tom took Karin and me to the water taxi which took us out to Caye Caulker. We were a little worried about getting out to Caye Caulker because it had been raining for a few days – all the streets in Belize City were under water – and because Karin’s flight arrived so late, we couldn’t make any of the air taxis, so we had to go on the water taxi which is only partly covered. But, the rain gods paid me back for always raining on my laundry by stopping the rain shortly before we got to the water taxi station, and keeping it away for our two days on Caye Caulker.
On Wednesday, we started Karin’s vacation by going out with the dive company which had taken Tom, Tim, Kelli and me diving in July. Their dive that day accommodated snorkelers as well as divers, so I was able to dive while Karin snorkeled. We both managed to avoid getting seasick, although I was starting to get a cold, which made me a little anxious about being able to equalize on the dive. However, I took Sudafed, and was able to equalize with less trouble than I had in July, although I made a startling discovery – when blood comes out of your body and isn’t exposed to air, it’s a bright leaf green. With the beginnings of a cold, my sinuses started bleeding while I was down, but I didn’t realize what it was until I returned to the surface. At one point I saw a splash of green on my mask, thought it was algae, but it didn’t wipe away when I rubbed the outside of my mask. I realized more of the green stuff was pooling in the bottom of my mask, but since I was more concerned with breathing, keeping track of the dive master and my buddy, and checking out the underwater flora and fauna, I didn’t really think about it. I was really surprised when we surfaced, and when I lifted my mask the “algae” turned to red blood. Who knew?
On Thursday both of us went out with Tsunami Adventures and snorkeled on the reef. I really like diving because you see more different things, but I also love snorkeling because the colors and visibility are so much better near the surface that you get a much better look at what’s there. We had a great guide, Rene, who led us through the coral reef and pointed out moray eels, picked up hermit crabs in conch shells, and took us to three different snorkeling sites. The third site was an area where the snorkeling boat captains feed the sting rays, so as soon as the rays heard our boat engine, the were heading in and we could see their dark shadows flying over the white sand under the very shallow water. Rene threw some fish out to the rays and had us jump out with just our masks and snorkels so we could swim around with the rays, who had no fear of us, although we were all a little cautious of them. Karin and I were back on shore in time to get lunch and the last water taxi to Belize City, where Tom met us and took us home.
On Friday, we had planned to go on a trail ride but it was raining. The other complication was that Hilda’s grandmother had died, so Tom and Selwyn had to take Hilda and the kids to Hilda’s family’s home for the funeral. So, Tom went to get Hilda and the kids, then came back and picked up Karin and me, and took us to Barton Creek.
The river crossing was still a little high, so Karin and I had to walk over a very narrow suspension bridge with a number of rotting planks, reminding us that part of the adventure in Belize is just getting where you’re going. The sun had come out by this time, so we had a very pleasant walk on the Mennonite road through the farm fields back to the Barton Creek Outpost. Unfortunately, due to the weather, no guides had made the trek to Barton Creek that day, so Karin and I were unable to go in the cave. But all was not lost as we had a nice lunch and a nice chat with Jackie and Jim, the owners of the Outpost. We had agreed to meet Tom and Selwyn on the other side of the river at about 2:30, so we timed our walk out to get us there around that time. They weren’t there yet, so we started up the hill towards the road Tom would be taking in to Barton Creek. It took about 45 minutes for us to reach the top of the hill, when we heard Tinkerbell heading in our direction. Even in the truck, we could see the relief on Tom’s face when he realized that he didn’t have to drive back down the muddy, rutted, steep, twisting road to the river, and he thanked Karin and me profusely for making the hike up the hill.
Saturday turned out to be a very nice day, so we took the trail ride to Big Rock Falls. Tom and I didn’t even try to give Karin the jungle tour, partly because we wanted to save it for Selwyn to do when we rode to Sapodilla Falls, and partly because we knew neither the jungle information, nor the best route to the falls. Our jungle information goes something like, “Um, somewhere around here there’s something that Selwyn talks about, but I’m not quite sure what it is, and I don’t really remember what he says,” and we were hard pressed just to find our way to the falls since there are all sorts of loops off the trail up there, and we’d only ever been there with Selwyn and hadn’t really paid attention to the route. We managed to find the falls, finally, and had lunch on the rocks. We planned to go home by the fire road, but we couldn’t find that, and ended up retracing our steps. The route we took up was longer than the route we’d planned to take home so we ended up heading down the last hill on the Misty trail in the dark, but we made it back without being eaten by any predators.
Sunday was another nice day, and we took the drive up to Caracol. The Mountain Pine Ridge Road between here and Caracol makes the road between here and Georgeville look good, so the ride up was a little tense and we took 2WD Tinkerbell through some pretty muddy and rutted sections of road. We walked around Caracol, had lunch, and headed back to the ranger station with the convoy.
Only four vehicles, including us, had made the trek up to Caracol that day, and when we went to Rio Frio Caves and Rio On Pools, we found that none of the other three vehicles had elected to make those stops so we had those sites all to ourselves. We waited until almost dark to leave Rio On and head home, where we heard the news of the demise of our rooster, and then had Roadkill Rooster Recado for dinner.
We took another ride on Monday, this time to Sapodilla Falls with Selwyn. He did the jungle tour for Karin, and we spent almost two hours sitting on the rocks below the falls eating lunch, watching a white hawk soar overhead, and enjoying the scenery.
The trails were really muddy and the footing was somewhat difficult for the horses, but fortunately all three horses are getting pretty surefooted on the trails, so even when a hoofed slipped off a crumbling embankment, everybody was okay. However, it made for slow going, so we ended another ride after dark on the Misty trail.
On Karin’s last day here, we went with our tour guide/friend Gonzo to Actun Tunichil Muknal, aka the ATM Cave. This is the cave where you must swim and wade up an underground river to a site above the water where numerous archeological artifacts are found, including a number of human skeletons. After touring ATM, we went to a nearby cave where we saw ancient cave paintings and carvings, including Mayan handprints on the walls of one of the internal chambers, reached by crawling and slithering on our bellies.
We asked Karin if she ever anticipated doing this on the day before her 60th birthday, and she admitted that when she was thirty, she figured she’d be about done for at sixty, and doing something like this never crossed her mind. We got back to San Ignacio around 6:00, hungry and tired, and went with Gonzo, his girlfriend Becky, and Esa, a friend of theirs, to Sanny’s Grill, a restaurant we had tried to find and failed on the night Karin and I came inland. We had a great dinner recounting the cave trip, and didn’t make it home until almost 10:00…another late night for us!
Karin flew out on Wednesday, a sad day for all of us. Tom and I had a friend leaving, who we probably won’t see at least until the summer, and Karin was heading home to cold and almost 15 inches of snow. I guess we all wish vacations were longer, but we had a great time while it lasted.