Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Friendships Never Fade

Tom and I had a completely awesome day yesterday visiting with our old friends (or long-term friends as one friend said I should say now that we’re approaching an age that the kid-generation could term “old”) Bob and Tere from Prattsburg, NY. We’ve known Bob and Tere for 25 years, ever since I worked with Bob at my first job out of college, and then Tom became very involved with the Prattsburg Boy Scout troop, of which Bob was the Scout Master. We’ve stayed in touch since we’ve moved here, and a couple of months ago Bob emailed and told us that he and Tere were planning a cruise that had a one-day stop in Belize. Tom and I have spent the past couple months planning the perfect day in Belize (with the help of Sharon at the Zoo), and yesterday was it.

We left home at 5:30am to meet Bob and Tere at Tourism Village in Belize City, where they disembarked from the tender. Fortunately we met a guide we know at Tourism Village, who told us the process for getting visitors’ passes into Tourism Village so we could go in to find Bob and Tere. By 7:45 we were on the road to Cheers, a restaurant near the Zoo, where we had a delicious breakfast. I had my third fry jack since we’ve lived here and Tere fulfilled her craving for a real tamale, while Tom and Bob had slightly less Belizean breakfasts, although Bob did have a flour tortilla. While at Cheers I finally got to meet Chrissy face-to-face. Chrissy is one of the owners, and she and I have been emailing for months exchanging horse information since she’s also a horse nut. Then George, our neighbor from up near Hidden Valley, stopped for breakfast with his son, and we were able to introduce Bob and Tere to “our Belize.”

We left Cheers and headed to the Zoo, where we walked around and looked at the animals, talking non-stop, until about 11:00 when we met up with Sharon near Junior Buddy’s enclosure. That meeting was funny because I had described Sharon to Tere, and while Bob, Tom, and I were still around the corner watching Junior Buddy, Tere had settled on a bench. She saw a woman who fit my description of Sharon, so, being Tere, she jumped up and introduced herself. The three of us saw Sharon and Tere come around the corner talking like old friends, and Sharon invited us to go in for a Junior Buddy Encounter in the cage within the cage.

Tere declined – she was hot and ready to go tubing – but the rest of us went in the cage with Sharon and kissed, scratched, patted, and oohed and aahed over what a beautiful animal the now-2-year-old jaguar has become.

We left the Zoo right around noon and after a few logistical decisions, headed to the Sibun River for our tubing adventure. This involved dropping our truck at the end point River Camp and piling into the Zoo truck to get dropped about an hour’s float upriver. We had a delightful float down the river, watching the birds, spying the iguanas, trying to steer around branches and rocks in the river, and talking, talking, talking.

We arrived at the River Camp about an hour later, where John had set up a beautiful Belizean lunch for us – chicken, rice and beans, slaw, and Belikin. The only downside to all this fun was that we’d all been having such an enjoyable time, none of us had been checking our watches, and we suddenly realized that we had about 45 minutes to get Bob and Tere back to Tourism Village to catch the last tender to their cruise ship at 3:00. We piled up our dishes so we didn’t leave John too much of a mess, had John snap a couple of pictures of the four of us, quickly changed into dry clothes, jumped into Bluebell and started the mad dash into Belize City.

Well, it was sort of a mad dash. We went fast enough on the dirt road away from the River Camp that I managed to bang my head on the ceiling as we hit a bump in the road, but Bluebell’s speed was sorely tested. Tom and I have known that Bluebell doesn’t have much power – she is a “third world vehicle” after all – but we were really feeling it as we were watching the minutes tick by on the digital clock as Tom kept the gas pedal floored and we approached Belize City at the amazing speed of about 107 kilometers per hour, Bluebell’s top speed on the flat. None of the four of us said anything as 3:00 ticked past and we were still about 5 miles from the tender, and then Tom asked what happened if they missed the boat. Bob very wisely said that he wasn’t sure, and while he might get upset about being late back in their real life in NY, he wasn’t going to get upset on vacation until it was necessary. I told Bob and Tere that things always worked out in Belize, and I wasn’t going to get upset unless it was necessary either. Tere smiled and shrugged, and Tom apologized repeatedly and kept the gas pedal floored until we got into Belize City, and then simply went as fast as possible.

We hit Tourism Village at 3:08, piled out for quick hugs, and then Bob, Tere, and I dashed into the terminal. The security guards at the gate told them they just made it, and they dashed through the doors as I fumbled in my wallet for ID to exchange for the Visitor’s Permit. Tom charged through the doors with his ID just as I got mine out, and we went out to make sure Bob and Tere were on the tender. They weren’t. BUT….the last tender was radioed back to pick them up, and after an abbreviated docking job, Bob and Tere jumped on and headed back towards their ship, Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas. This picture is of the ship on the far left, the next to last tender heading back to the terminal in the middle, and the last, delayed tender carrying Bob and Tere back to their ship on the far right. Phew! While the last 45 minutes of the day were a little stressful, we were glad that we knew we’d spent every possible minute visiting and enjoying ourselves.

We’re also glad that this was our first real experience doing anything with cruise ship passengers beyond just joining them for a tour (as we did with friends cave tubing last spring), and that Bob and Tere were so easy going about it. Then, for the ride home, we ended up meeting our guide friend who had helped us in the morning, and we gave him and two other guides from Cayo a ride home. They told us that next time we needed to get the terminal’s phone number, and if we were running late we could call and make sure the tender would wait. We wish we had known that this time, but next time we meet somebody from a cruise ship, we don’t intend to push it all the way to the limit again!

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