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.