We’d been emailing and planning Bob, Elizabeth, and their daughter Nicole’s trip for months, so when they finally arrived we were almost as excited as they were for them to do all the stuff we’d planned. Unfortunately, as you read in the Trekforce entry, their first day started out a little rocky when their guide to Caracol didn’t show up. Tom drove them to Caracol, and it turned out to be a very good thing that he’d left late and only caught the tail end of the convoy, because between where the convoy starts and Caracol, a guide from one of the local resorts who also does bird tours had pulled over on the side of the road. Tom pulled up next to him to make sure everything was okay, and found a car full of very excited people – guide and guests – who were watching a flock of 20 to 30 Scarlet Macaws in trees visible from the road. Since the Chalillo Dam was built, it has become very rare to see Macaws in that area. In fact, most Belizeans never see Macaws in the wild, so this was a huge treat for everybody lucky enough be there. Tom was suddenly glad the guide hadn’t showed, and our guests knew enough about Belize and the area to know that this was a truly special sighting.
It was a good thing that the replanned trip started out on such a positive note, because things didn’t go so well at Caracol. Because it was Sunday and Permanent Residents and Citizens of Belize can get into the parks for free, Tom decided to walk around with our guests, who were suddenly taking an un-guided tour. They purchased one of the guide books, and were walking around looking at things as 18-year-old Nicole – the only one with eyes young enough to see the small print – read from the guide book. They climbed one of the big temples, and as they came down Tom was approached by the Tourism Police. The Tourism Police patrol at all the archeological sites both to keep an eye on things and make sure nobody is being robbed or harassed, and to make sure that nobody who is not a licensed guide is giving tours. The Tourism Police wanted to talk to Tom, because they had been told by somebody else on the site that Tom was giving a tour and is not a licensed guide. Tom was a bit taken aback and explained that he’d scheduled our guests for a tour, the guide didn’t show, Tom drove them to the site so they wouldn’t waste a day of their Belize vacation, and he was walking around with them only because it was Sunday and he could enter the park for free as a Permanent Resident. The Tourism Police backed off, but wanted his contact information. Tom walked around with our guests a little more, and then decided that he wanted to know who had complained, so he asked the Tourism Police. They pointed out the gentleman who had complained – and it was the guide who had been supposed to pick them up, and who had arrived at Caracol about a half hour after Tom! We have no idea why he did that instead of just approaching Tom and our guests and asking if he could take over – which would have delighted Tom since he could have turned them over to the guide and then headed home to do what needed to be done there – but needless to say we won’t be using that guide again. Tom double checked with the Tourism Police who said again that everything was fine, and our guests were actually entertained by the drama, so there was no harm done. When I got home with the horseback riders, Elizabeth hustled out of the cabin to fill me in on all the day’s happenings, so despite a late dinner and an un-made room, they had an exciting start to their stay in Cayo.
The next day was pretty relaxed, with a leisurely breakfast and then a trip to 7 Miles to Ka’ax Tun. They were as awed by the trip as April and Zack, and told me – again – that I need to get over there to get the full tour.
The following day did not start with a relaxed morning, since they were taking a trip to Tikal and in order to make all the ride connections from here to San Ignacio to the Guatemalan border, we need to get out of here by 5:45am. All the connections went smoothly, and they had a great day at Tikal, and were delighted by their driver and their guide. The only glitch was getting caught in road construction on the way back to the Belize border, which meant they didn’t get into San Ignacio until after 6PM. I had a dinner planned, but I thought we’d be home by 5:00, and not getting home until 7:00 meant that it would have been a very late dinner. So, we decided to eat at Erva’s in San Ignacio, which turned out great. Germo took good care of all of us and made sure none of us ever had an empty Belikin bottle next to our plates, and we introduced Bob and Nicole to Erva’s delicious chaya burritos while Elizabeth had Belizean chicken cordon bleu, so everybody was happy.
The next day Nicole, Elizabeth, and Bob went to ATM with Gonzo. They were predictably awed and had a great private tour, although their return home was delayed by another Belize transportation snafu. The hike from the cave to the parking lot is about 2 miles. Gonzo had another group booked to go in the cave after Nicole, Elizabeth, and Bob, so he left his pack at the camping area by the cave and walked them out to meet his next group in the parking lot. They got to the parking lot and the second group wasn’t there. Gonzo made a phone call and found out they’d missed their connecting flight, so they weren’t going to make it for the ATM tour. That meant Nicole, Elizabeth, and Bob had to wait while Gonzo hiked two miles back to the cave to pick up his pack, and then two miles back out to the parking lot. They could have returned to San Ignacio with another guide’s group, but they elected to wait for Gonzo and said he made great time getting in and out for the second time that day.
Despite a week of tenuous transportation connection, they decided to delay leaving for their last night at the Belize Zoo until the afternoon. This gave Bob and Elizabeth a morning to kick back and relax, and it gave Nicole time to go out on Nessa on a short trail ride with Tom. They had a great time riding, Elizabeth and I had a great time gabbing on the porch, and Bob had time to get out and walk on some of our trails. We had a late morning brunch, and then Tom took them into San Ignacio to catch the 1:00 bus heading towards Belize City and the Zoo. They left us with lots more fun memories, as well as a much appreciated pile of books which I’m steadily chewing through and thoroughly enjoying.