Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Another Expedition to the Offerings Cave

A few weeks ago, we went on another expedition to the Offerings Cave in the Elijio Panti National Park with Gonzo, his friend Becky, who is an archeologist, and with Antonio as our guide. I had visited the cave about a year ago with Gonzo and Antonio, as well as Selwyn and two of our guests. Tom heard so much about it from Gonzo and me that he went with Antonio and Selwyn shortly after that, but none of us had been there in almost a year. Gonzo wanted Becky to see it, and the rest of us wanted to take some more time to explore and to take a second look at some things.

When Gonzo and I went last year, we hiked in, explored the cave, and hiked out. When Tom went, he walked, but went with Antonio and another guy who packed their stuff in on horses, and they camped overnight.

This time, after much discussion as to how to get there, Gonzo decided that he would attempt to drive in with his 4WD, bush-equipped, Mitsubishi Montero. An old fire/logging road runs from San Antonio past the Visitors’ Center and almost to the base camp below the mouth of the cave. But, we’d been having quite a bit of rain and nobody had attempted the drive in quite a while. No worries, however. We picked Antonio up at his house and started down the track. Our first obstacle was a bridge that had burned when some of the farmers were burning off their fields, but it had been partially rebuilt with large rocks, which the Montero with Gonzo at the wheel handled easily.

We then ran into some deep muddy ruts, but thanks to Gonzo’s driving and Antonio’s advice from the back seat on the best places to attempt to hit on the road, we made it through. We ran into some more deep, slick, and muddy spots which the Montero crawled through quite nicely, and then ran into some downed trees.

Tom and Antonio got out, machetes in hand, and whacked the logs out of the road so we could pass. We ran through another muddy spot on the trail which made Becky and me a little nervous, because while it was at the bottom of a muddy hill heading to the cave, we knew we were going to have to cross the very sloppy spot and climb the muddy hill on our way out. The men reassured us that we’d be fine, and we made it the rest of the way to the cave with Tom and Antonio only having to get out to chop things out of our way a few more times.

Once there, we outfitted ourselves with helmets and headlamps, and headed up the hill to the cave entrance. We had noticed some carvings in a large rock outside of the cave the last time we were there, but didn’t have any equipment to try to see them better.

This time, Gonzo had picked up some paintbrushes in San Antonio on our way there to clear off some of the dust, and he had his large spotlight to better cast shadows to see indentations in the rock.

We spent quite a while looking at the rock, and noticed many carvings that we hadn’t seen last time. Gonzo also got a few good shots of the carvings on the top of the rock.

At some point, he and Becky also realized that as they sat on top of the rock, they were in a crocodile’s mouth formed by the stalactites. Once they pointed it out, it was obvious, but we hadn’t noticed before.

We then headed into the cave. It was very much as I remembered it, although the rock formations were much more impressive when viewed with the high-powered spotlight rather than just with headlamps.

We also went through a curtain of crystal stalactites and stalagmites into two more rooms of the cave where Gonzo and I hadn’t been before.

One was a burial chamber, with many bone and tooth fragments, and the other was a chamber with 26 pots, with 13 turned up and 13 turned down.

Becky and Gonzo also noticed that the pots were lined up on an east-west axis, a theme which, once we noticed it, we saw repeated in other parts of the cave.

We took a much closer look at the area of the cave where some very large pots had been placed under a natural rock shelf, with some pots on top of the shelf.

Becky noticed that many of the pots had charcoal in them, and what looked like burned bone and tooth fragments.

We spent a lot of time looking closely at all the things we’d just walked by before, and noticed more rocks that had been carved in a shape that we saw repeated over and over throughout the different cave chambers. We ended up spending about three hours in the cave before we decided that we’d seen as much as our minds could absorb at once.

We headed out of the cave and down the hill for lunch before heading back to San Antonio in the Montero.

We made it through the spot that had worried Becky and me, although not without a little bit of spinning tires and back sliding, and Tom running ahead to push big rocks and sticks that could have slowed us down out of the way. We clocked the distance both on a GPS and on the truck’s odometer, and it is almost exactly seven miles between Antonio’s house and the cave, and it took us about an hour and a quarter to drive it. So, when conditions allow driving, this is a good day’s exploration. If we have to walk or ride horses to get it, it would probably require an overnight in order to get a good feel for what’s in the cave. And, we decided, based on some of Antonio’s experience in trying to drive in with other types of vehicles, that the small SUVs such as the Montero are perfect – the bigger SUV’s are too wide and not maneuverable enough, and small pickups like our Isuzu are too light in the hind end. And, of course, you need a good driver, which Antonio says aren’t all that easy to find; he had a number of tales of people who had attempted to drive in with him, and was happy to point out how far they got before they got stuck!

Friday, January 22, 2010

We’re Number One!

Okay, this post was originally titled "We're Number Three!" and said how proud we were to have moved from hovering around #4 or #5 for the past six months or so to a solid #3 ranking in our category on TripAdvisor. I put the link in this blog posting, and when I clicked on it to check it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that we've moved up to #1, for today at least. The two places that were ahead of us are both extremely high quality establishments which have been in business longer than we have, so we’ve been happy to come in right after them with all good reviews - but we're even happier to be #1, especially since the current #2, Table Rock Jungle Lodge, was the Travelers' Choice 2010 winner for B&Bs and Inns for Central and South America, not just Belize! We have no idea how TripAdvisor calculates it rankings, but for today, we'll take it however they do it! And many thanks to all of our guests who have given us such great reviews! Come back any time! See our reviews here.

Dog News

Some of our dog news is good, and some not so good. Hollis – whose name we discovered is really spelled “Jalis,” is doing great. He loves being a house dog, and Nock and Louie are both oddly fond of him – oddly because neither of them, at the ages of 12 and 14, has much tolerance for puppy antics, but both seem to like to play with Jalis, who plays very nicely with them and only occasionally rolls Louie. He’s not so great on his recall when he’s outside and gets his puppy feet on, but we’ve found that by running through his whole string of names, something usually makes him respond. Sometimes he comes to “Jalis,” but sometimes he answers better to “Mico” or “Lico” – with Mico being monkey in Spanish, which is what Julio sometimes called him, and Lico being how Julio’s two-year-old son said Mico. We also call him Camo Dog, which usually earns us a look of disgust, and sometimes Jingle Boy, because we’ve forced him to wear a bell both so we can hear him in the bush, and when he starts to do something naughty like try to sneak into the kitchen or other No Dog Zones.

Our not-good dog news is that we had to put down the Ruckus Twins, Stout and Beli. We’ve been battling tick fever and demodectic mange with Stout since May, and instead of getting better he’d been getting steadily worse. Not only had he lost most of his hair and become very itchy and uncomfortable almost all the time, but the joints in his hind legs were damaged to the point where he had trouble lifting his hocks and ankles off the ground, and he could only get up the steps to the porch if he had a running start. His eyes were always infected and had become very cloudy, and we don’t think he could see much. The vet said he had virtually no immune system, and looked like a 10+ year old dog, and if we didn’t put him down, some illness would have killed him before too long, with much more suffering than euthanasia. Our difficult decision was what to do with Beli, who was completely dependent on Stout, didn’t get along with any of our dogs or other dogs we’d tried to introduce to her, wasn’t very stable mentally, and also had mange although it was controllable since she didn’t have the tick fever. Written like this, I guess it doesn’t sound like such a hard decision, but we had a very hard time putting down a dog that looked and acted physically healthy enough, even though we knew she was too unstable to live here without Stout or be re-homed where she might not be treated too kindly and might not get her mange medication. So, the Ruckus Twins are now buried together in our back field near Recona and Mel, and we’re hoping that they’re both feeling better on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

Giant Lemon

Over the holidays, a friend from San Antonio gave us this giant lemon from his tree. That’s a full sized dinner plate under the lemon!

Our friend told us that the giant lemons are great for making candied lemon rind, so that’s what I did. I peeled the outside lumpy part off the rind, then dug out the pulp, then sliced the rind thin and soaked it overnight. The next day I boiled it for ten minutes, then added the same amount of sugar as the weight of the boiled rind, and when I put it back on the heat and stirred it the rind magically became translucent and soaked up the sugar. After drying it on waxed paper, it was just like the candied lemon peel you get in a candy store – go figure!

Sasha, Irena, & Tim – and Elphie the Tourist Horse!

Over the holidays, Elphie joined the workforce. Herman, one of the guards at the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve Gate, sent a family, Irena and Tim and their daughter Sasha to us to go on a horseback ride. They stopped by one morning in between Christmas and New Year’s, and we made arrangements for a ride to Big Rock for the next day. I was very excited that Sasha was the right size for Elphie, and since she goes to horse camp for a week every summer, she knew how to ride – perfect for Elphie’s first time out as a “tourist horse!”

The next morning was gray and foggy, but after a short delay we set out on the trail with Selwyn on Esmerelda, Tim on Tony, Irena on Ness, Sasha on Elphie, and me on Glinda. I was happy to act as the tail guide to keep an eye on how Elphie was doing on her first official trail ride – and was very happy to find that I wasn’t really needed since everybody was fine. We had a good ride, and arrived at Big Rock after about three hours of very nice riding through the broadleaf jungle and the pine savannah of the Mountain Pine Ridge. On the way, we ran into riding groups from both Blue Mountain Rider and Mountain Equestrian Trails, and Joe from Blue Mountain Rider and Rego from MET were both amazed to see our little one-eyed pony packing a tourist. Joe had warned us that he didn’t think a one-eyed pony, especially a just-three-year-old filly, would ever make a good trail horse, but Tom and I had both been telling him how good she is. Joe was delighted to see that she was a good as we said she was. Tom met us at Big Rock with Tim and Irena’s rental car and lunch, and we had a good lunch on the rocks by the falls. Then, Tim, Irena, and Sasha stayed at the falls to swim and enjoy the scenery, and Tom, Selwyn, and I rode home, ponying the extra horses - but not until after Sasha climbed up in the saddle one last time to give Elphie an extra big hug!

Jessica & Nick

We welcomed Jessica and Nick, honeymooners from New Orleans, on New Year’s Eve. They were married in mid-December, and had traveled through Guatemala prior to coming to Belize and coming to stay with us. We weren’t sure what time they were supposed to arrive, so I went out shopping that day and left Tom manning the fort at home – a good thing since they arrived mid-afternoon, and Tom was able to put together a quick tour of Ka’ax Tun for them. They returned from Ka’ax Tun with Julio and his brother Carlos, who joined us for dinner. Tom and I are always fascinated with how groups of people here interact with everybody speaking different languages, and Jessica and Nick, art historians who lived in Rome for three years, added an entirely new twist as they conversed with Julio and Carlos in some mix of Italian and Spanish. We had a good dinner with the whole group speaking a mish-mash of Spanish, English, and Italian – and found that lots of laughter translates no matter what language you’re speaking.

The next morning Nick and Jessica headed down the Georgeville Road to meet Gonzo in Georgeville to go to ATM. That was a funny morning, because it had been raining for most of the week, so none of us were sure that ATM would be open that day. We made arrangements the night before to contact Gonzo via email to let us know the plans, and decided that if ATM was closed, we’d send Jessica and Nick up the road to Caracol. Not knowing until the last minute whether they’d be heading south to Caracol or north to Georgeville to rendezvous with Gonzo, I whipped up a pan of macaroni and cheese and stuck it in the oven in case they were going to Caracol, figuring that if they didn’t need it, we’d have lunches for a couple of days. We checked email shortly after 7AM, and there was the email from Gonzo – ATM was open! BUT since it was New Year’s Day and all the restaurants in town had been open until after midnight the night before, none of the places where Gonzo usually picks up lunch were open – so could I send lunch with Jessica and Nick? Not sure how many people were going to ATM that day, I packed four mac and cheese lunches, out of the oven just in time, and Nick and Jessica headed for Georgeville. As it turned out, Gonzo picked up four last minute guests to go to ATM in addition to Nick and Jessica, and only managed to get bread and cheese from one of the Chinese stores for their lunches. Both Jessica and Gonzo told me later that the mac and cheese lunches were much envied since Gonzo, Jessica, and Nick figured they could divide the four to feed the rest of the group, but after tasting them, those three became very possessive of their lunches and didn’t want to share, so the other four guests got to split the extra to eat with their bread and cheese. Jessica made me laugh when they got back to the farm because she said that she was very proud of herself for staying somewhere that sent the BEST lunches along for the day – and they really enjoyed the cave tour too!

The next morning was still a little rainy, so Nick and Jessica slept in and then relaxed with coffee, fruit, and coffee cake on their porch until late morning. They then took off for the next stage of their trip, across the river to the Macal River Jungle Camp.

Dawn, Chris, Cara, Jeff, Ann, & Patrick

The day Virginie and Catherine left, we had to do a quick cleanup on the cabin in preparation for an entire family’s two-night stay with us. Dawn, the mom, had traveled with her partner Chris from Australia for a few days of diving in Roatan before traveling to Belize to meet Dawn’s adult children, Cara and Patrick, and their significant others Jeff and Ann, who had flown in from their homes in the US. They rented a big, black, Ford Excursion – Tom had major truck envy – and drove from the airport to here, arriving Sunday night. We had a great time getting to know each other at dinner that night, and the next morning they all piled into their Excursion early in the morning to head to Tikal in Guatemala for the day.

They got back from Tikal after dinner in San Ignacio that night and invited us over to their cabin for a nightcap on the porch. They came equipped for a family party, so we had a really good time sitting on the porch and talking and acting like guests while they were the hosts! The next morning we had a big breakfast before sending them away to see if they could catch an ATM tour from San Ignacio – which they did. We hope they can come back to Belize and spend more time with us!

Virginie & Catherine

On Christmas Eve, when we drove into San Ignacio to pick Lisa, Steve, and Steven up from their trip to Tikal, we also picked up Virginie and Catherine. After traveling from Montreal earlier in the week, Virginie and Catherine had spent a couple of days in Belmopan, and then took a morning bus to San Ignacio where they met up with Link, who took them kayaking in the Mopan River. Virginie and Catherine are our first guests to go kayaking, and they gave the kayak trip rave reviews.

Both biology students in Montreal, this was Virginie and Catherine’s first Christmas not spent with their families. They were okay with that – they were taking a trip to a great eco-tourism destination – but they still missed their families, and their families still missed them. In fact, Virginie’s mother sent us a note to give to Virginie when they arrived on Christmas Eve. Unable to read French, Tom and I don’t know what it said, but it brought tears to Virginie’s and Catherine’s eyes, and thus to ours too, knowing too well how it feels to spend the holidays away from family and friends. But, they quickly joined the house party with us and Steven, Steve, and Lisa, so it did become a holiday spent with friends, just new rather than old.

On Christmas Day, they went with Selwyn on a full-day horseback ride to Sapodilla Falls. Catherine grew up on a farm with horses, so she was very comfortable on Esmerelda, and while Virginie hasn’t ridden much, she’s very athletic and had absolutely no problems on Nessa. Poor Tony was ridden by Selwyn, who kicked and whipped and kept him marching for the entire day – probably not such a great thing from Tony’s point of view, but from our point of view just what he needed after getting lazy being the packer before the holidays.

On Saturday, Catherine and Virginie were scheduled to visit the archeological sites of Xunantunich and Cahal Pech. However, we had a little bit of a communications problem and weren’t able to determine a time and a place for them to meet a guide, so Tom ended up just taking them into San Ignacio when he was on the way to the water taxi with Lisa, Steve, and Steven. They didn’t find a guide we knew, but it all worked out for the best and Tom dropped them off at Cahal Pech, which is right in San Ignacio, and after touring that site they took a taxi to Xunantunich. They walked from Xunantunich to get lunch at Benny’s in Succotz, and then caught a cab back to San Ignacio to meet Tom in the afternoon. If we had known how adventurous they are, we probably would have suggested the do-it-yourself tour in the beginning for them, since they ended up having more fun with the freedom and flexibility they had without a guide, and it cut their costs significantly – and they still saw everything they wanted to see and were quite happy with how things worked out. As we always say, it always works out in Belize!

The next day they had a relaxing morning, wandering around the property looking at birds and logging all the birds, animals, and flora they saw during their stay here. In the late morning, Tom drove them to the end of the road and left them at the bus stop on the Western Highway in Georgeville to they could catch the bus to the water taxi in Belize City. Tom left them with lots of advice – we both quickly decided we would happily adopt both of them as daughters, even though we apologized for acting like their parents! – as they headed west towards the Caribbean.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lisa, Steven, & Steve

Monday before Christmas, Tom made a run to the International Airport to pick up Steven, Lisa, and Steve. They flew in from Oregon, and were glad to arrive in Belize and escape the chilly Pacific Northwest. They made the customary stop at the Belize Zoo and then at Cheers for lunch, arriving at Moonracer Farm just in time to get settled in before dinner. Lisa is the most in-advance trip planner we’ve worked with, and Lisa and I had been emailing back and forth since February planning their stay here. Thus, we’d probably been anticipating their arrival almost as much as they had and, as expected, we all hit it off at dinner and were immediately friends!

That turned out to be a good thing, since their first day of adventures was not without complications, despite all the advance planning. First, Tom had to do the airport run to pick up Elinore and Maria, who had been delayed since Sunday. Lisa, Steve, and Steven were scheduled to go on a bird watching hike with Selwyn to Big Rock, and we were supposed to pick them up at the end of the day since that would be a long walk home. Things started out great – it was a little cool and gray, but that meant the birds were out in force and they probably saw twenty different types of birds just in our tangerine trees and on our property before they ever even set out for their hike; in fact, they might not have gone too far had 12-year old Steven not asked the obvious question of “When are we going???”

They finally set out, and had what they reported as a very pleasant hike to Big Rock. Tom took off for Belize City, and I stayed home planning to get things done around here and get dinner made before heading up to Big Rock to pick them up around 3:00. But, plans are only plans, and when I went out at 2:30 to head up to Big Rock, Tinkerbell decided not to cooperate. She wouldn’t start. I plugged in the battery charger to use the power boost to start her. That didn’t work. Nobody who has a working vehicle was home. Nobody who has a cell phone that works around here was home, although I don’t know whom I would have called anyway. I put the battery on charge and decided to give it a half hour. No go. I decided to do that again and give it another half hour, for whatever good that would do. I ran back and forth from here to Marjie and Chuck’s about 500 times to see if they were home. Nope. I tried to telepathically contact Tom to tell him to get his butt home from Belize City pronto. Didn’t work. I panicked. I swore. I stomped my feet. I yelled at the dogs. I thought about standing at the end of the driveway and hitching a ride up the hill, but decided all that would do was get me somewhere up the road where I couldn’t do any more good than I was doing anyway. So I ran around like a headless chicken some more, and finally, a little after 5:00, heard Chuck pull in. I ran over to see if his battery charger could maybe start the truck, and just as he was walking over here with me, I heard voices in the driveway. It was Selwyn and the crew, who were home safe and sound, and, oddly, a lot less wound up about it than I was.

Turns out that when I wasn’t there by 3:00, Selwyn figured there was a problem since we’re usually pretty prompt.

So, he made up a Plan B, and took Lisa and the Steves on the short hike to Five Sisters Lodge, where they all had a drink (fortunately Steve Sr. ignored everybody’s advice and took some cash on the hike) and Selwyn talked to a few people and secured them a ride down the hill in the back of one of the Five Sisters employee’s pickups.

They were happy that they got to see big cat tracks on the hike between Big Rock and Five Sisters – although less happy that they’d left Steven playing alone by the falls earlier! – and happy to have the adventure of riding in the back of an open pickup. And, the broken down truck (which as it turned out needed a new starter so all the battery chargers in the world weren’t going to do me any good) was all part of the adventure. It’s really great to have understanding guests!

The next day Steven, Steve, and Lisa went on a full-day horseback ride with Selwyn to Sapodilla Falls. That day, everything went as planned. The highlight of the trip was encountering a herd of peccaries in the trail in the Mountain Pine Ridge, and while all the sows scurried off the trail on their itty-bitty feet, the boar stood in the trail trying to decide whether or not to face down Selwyn on Esmerelda. Selwyn said he seemed to finally decide that the horse was too big to take on alone, and he crashed into the underbrush. Even Selwyn, who spends a lot of time in the bush, was excited by this sighting. We were a little worried when we saw them heading back in the driveway late in the afternoon since both Steve and Steven were leading rather than riding their horses, but Lisa just rolled her eyes – quite happy riding the wonderful Ness – and told us that they were just tired of riding. Six hours in the saddle is a long time for people who don’t ride regularly, something we have to be aware of when we send people on the Sapodilla ride.

The next day was a very early start since they had to meet Gonzo in San Ignacio at 7AM for their transfer to the Guatemala border for a day trip to Tikal. They were wowed by Tikal, as everyone is, although both Lisa and Steve commented on all the walking and temple climbing the day after six hours in the saddle! Lisa was unimpressed with the shopping opportunities, and ended up being much happier with the selection of traditional arts available just down the road from here at Sak Tunich. She guessed – and we guess she’s right – that most of the gift shops in and around Tikal have agreements with guides to funnel the guests to them in exchange for some sort of kickback, and thus they boost their prices since there isn’t really any competition that way. You may be able to find a few things in Guatemala that you won’t find in Belize, but overall you’ll probably do better poking around the locally owned places making their own arts and crafts in Belize – unless you specifically want to get something to say it came from Guatemala.

The next day was Christmas, and Steven, Steve, and Lisa had another fairly early start to meet at the end of the Georgeville Road to get in the van for their ATM tour. As everyone is, they really enjoyed the tour, although being the height of the holiday season, the cave was crowded that day. They said they did quite a bit of waiting since the guides who show the cave like to work together to keep their groups separated so each group can experience the sense of silence and mystery of the cave without listening to the groups in front and back of them splashing through the river.

However, the quote of the week came out of this trip as Steve, on the hike out from the cave, after a day of hiking, a day of horseback riding, a day of temple climbing, and now a day of hiking to and then swimming, wading, and climbing through a cave, asked Lisa, “Are we on vacation or just at a fat farm?!?” Ah, a relaxing Belize vacation!

He probably got his answer at dinner that night, which was definitely not something which would be served at a fat farm – a beautiful and delicious prime rib roast with the steer hand selected by Escandar from Running W then butchered and aged to be perfect on Christmas Day, my famous twice-baked potatoes, chaya with onions and tomatoes, salad, and a real carrot cake – with real carrots, not out of a box, which for some reason seemed to surprise everybody. Fortunately Steve is a cook and a carver, so I called on his skills to carve the perfectly rare beast, and he carved it perfectly. We probably all consumed at least a week’s worth of fat, but it was well worth it, and as Steve had pointed out, they’d undoubtedly worked it off.

The next day I sadly waved good-bye as Tom took Lisa, Steve, and Steven off to the water taxi as they headed for a week of fishing, snorkeling, and relaxing on Caye Caulker.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Elinore & Maria

Elinore and Maria were supposed to arrive from Boston just after Jessica and Aaron left here, but unfortunately Mother Nature interfered and the big Boston blizzard delayed their arrival in Belize by two days. All of us were bummed – they were only spending two full days here anyway, and we’d spent a lot of time before their trip emailing back and forth to figure out the best activities for them in those two short days, and had narrowed it down to Caracol and horseback riding. Fortunately, we were able to extend their stay by one night when they did arrive so they at least had one full day, but still had to make the decision about what they would rather do, go to Caracol or go horseback riding.

They chose Caracol, and since things always work out here in Belize, Gonzo had a group heading up that day so he picked them up in the morning and they were able to spend a very relaxing day touring the site and swimming in Rio On Pools. Although the weather here is now very cool and rainy, Mother Nature at least smiled on them while they were here and provided brilliant warm sunshine – some compensation perhaps for cutting off two days of their vacation! They were then off to Ambergris Caye for a few more days in the sun before heading back to chilly New England.

Jessica & Aaron

We started our Christmas rush a week before Christmas when Jessica and Aaron arrived from Texas. They left Texas literally as soon as Jessica finished her last final, and spent their first night at the Zoo.

Tom picked them up and they went cave tubing and zip lining on their way here. If our guests want to go cave tubing and/or zip lining, this is usually how we recommend that they do it – on their way to or from Belize City somehow, whether their origination/destination is the Zoo, the airport, the water taxi, Jaguar Paw, or whatever. Transfer costs, and thus expenses, are high here, and it’s cost prohibitive for us to take people out and back from here to Jaguar Paw just to do these activities, which aren’t all that expensive themselves. In any case, Jessica and I had worked that out a long time ago, so they were ready for the adventure. Tom got to tag along and do both things, which were both firsts in a way. It was the first time he went cave tubing as part of a small group rather than a cruise ship mob, and he said it was much nicer – and he was available to take pictures for Jessica and Aaron. The zip line is new since we both went over a year ago, and he said this new zip line is also an improvement – more, longer runs. He was glad Jessica and Aaron didn’t mind him tagging along, and they all had a good time.

That night at dinner, we had a minor catastrophe – I served spare ribs for dinner, and as Aaron was pulling the meat from one of them, he lost a cap on a tooth close to the front. Fortunately for him it wasn’t very painful since he’d had a root canal on the tooth, but it was slightly painful for Jessica to watch him smile. Hence the turned head or sly grin in most of their vacation pictures, unless Aaron was photographed from a distance!

The lost cap didn’t prevent them from setting out on a horseback riding tour with Selwyn the next morning. It was a drippy morning, and as I was shaking out the ponchos to pack, this big spider fell out of one of them. Selwyn and I looked at each other to determine if we should even point it out, and decided “what the heck.” Good thing, since not only are neither Aaron nor Jessica scared of spiders, they both relished the experience of picking it up to get a good picture of its size. They rode the vista loop, and were lucky enough to encounter a swarm of coatis squeaking across the trail, always an entertaining sight to see.

In the afternoon they went birdwatching, and in addition to seeing a bunch of birds, Selwyn helped them spot a howler monkey high in a tree not too far from here. Tom and I were incredibly jealous since although we hear them regularly, we haven’t seen one since we’ve been here. The things you get to see when you’re a tourist!

Jessica and Aaron’s too-short stay ended the next day, and Tom delivered them to the Municipal Airport in Belize City where they caught a plane to Ambergris Caye where they enjoyed beach and sun for the rest of their vacation before returning home on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happy New Year and Weather

Happy New Year to all our family and friends!

Ok, so the weather up north is hitting everyone really hard, especially the US. We used to live in the country south of Rochester, New York, USA and were used to the cold (well, at least I was, Marge hated the cold, that is why we are so far south now). My favorite temperature used to be 10-20 Fahrenheit while I was working in the barns, cutting and splitting firewood, and driving horse drawn sleighs. I didn’t even wear a coat to work all winter, no matter what the temperature or wind chill (it would get down to less than 0F for at least 1 week in February). But, right now it is 55 degrees outside, which for everyone, including the snowbirds in Florida, is quite balmy. However, we have a couple of huge disadvantages, and anyone that has come here can vouch for this:
• We have louvered windows that don’t seal and we aren’t used to shutting our windows.
• Our outside walls have cracks to let the outside air come in, there is no insulation in the walls.
• We live in shorts and t-shirts year round (we have only a couple of long sleeved shirts and long pants).
• Our main footwear are crocks without socks.
• We have no heating systems in our houses – NONE!
• Whatever the temperature is OUTSIDE, that is the temperature INSIDE! Think about heating your house to 55F right now.

I know we won’t see snow (at least Marge hopes not) and I don’t think our plumbing will freeze, but my feet really are cold since I don’t wear anything on my feet when in our house (a custom here which we have gotten accustomed to).

So, yes, it is cold out, and we are feeling it too. However our iguanas aren’t freezing off the trees and our pipes are not bursting, but we are feeling the cold too.

I am still puzzled though, aren’t we suffering global warming? Wait, don’t inundate us with responses, that is just a rhetorical question!

We will be blogging more in the next week or so. We have had a nice busy spell with guests over the holidays and have been catching up with a lot of loose ends. We also got to the Offerings Cave again just after the New Year and will blog about that very soon as well.

We hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year. We did, and we are enjoying our life here in Belize more and more as time passes. We miss our family and friends over the holidays but we are making some new friends and we are feeling very much at home down here in the jungle.