Sunday, May 30, 2010

Uncle Don, Doreen, & Lorraine

Tom and I were absolutely thrilled to have the first member of the older generation of my family come to visit us in Belize. Tom’s parents were here the first January we lived in Belize, before we even opened the lodge, and we’ve had a number of friends and family members from our generation here, but my Uncle Don was the first of the older generation in my family to brave the wilds of Belize and visit us. He came with my cousins, Doreen and Lorraine, and while they were only here for five days, we packed in a full Belize vacation for them.

Their plane didn’t land until almost 4PM on Thursday, and they gave us a good scare because they let all the college students coming to Belize for summer internships off the plane first, and they waited so they were absolutely the last people off the plane. We have had guests who have missed a connection and not arrived on the plane we expected, so it wasn’t an unheard of thing that this could happen – but we were very relieved when they walked down the steps, across the tarmac, and into the terminal. We then expected to wait quite a while for them to get through immigration and customs, so we were very pleasantly surprised when they were among the first passengers out of the terminal. The secret to their quick exit? Carry-on bags and a trip through the duty-free shop for some tequila for me, which allowed them to bypass the normal customs line. Lesson learned – to bypass the long customs lines, buy tequila for Marge!

Because of how late it was, that day we just drove them back to Moonracer Farm after a quick stop at Brodie’s in Belize City to pick up necessities such as some cough drops for Uncle Don and some wine. We had a great dinner catching up, since we hadn’t seen Uncle Don since we stopped at his home in Delaware on our drive to Belize at the end of 2006, and we hadn’t seen Doreen and Lorraine since my mom’s funeral five years ago. I also had to figure out how to store the two dozen bagels they brought, which brought huge smiles to my and Tom’s faces because these are the best bagels in the world, and when Uncle Don used to visit us for golf weekends in NY, he always brought bagels. Of course it was a little easier to store them in my huge chest freezer in NY than it was here with our very small butane fridge/freezer combo, but between cramming as many as I could into the freezer and eating them whenever we wanted them over the next week, we managed to eat all of them while they were still at least almost fresh. The fact that Uncle Don’s, Doreen’s, and Lorraine’s bags all smelled like onion and garlic bagels was well worth it!

On Friday, we took them on a marathon tour of the Mountain Pine Ridge. We left here at 8:45AM and made it to the army base to meet the convoy a little before 9:30. Only two other vehicles went to Caracol that day, and they were at the Rio Frio Cave when we got there, so the soldiers told us to start up the road on our own. We made a stop at the Guacamaya bridge to look at the Macal River, and the rest of the convoy caught up to us there. We drove the rest of the way into Caracol and spent the morning touring the site. Only Lorraine and I climbed Ca’ana, and I kept having to tell Lorraine that it was only a couple of more steps, but when we made it to the top she found the view well worth the climb and was glad I had pushed her. We came down the front of the temple doing the five point crawl – 2 hands, 2 feet, 1 butt – and rejoined the other three to tour the rest of the site. While Tom and I aren’t guides and don’t even pretend to be, we were able to point out a few things like the cojones tree, so named for obvious reasons. [cojones.jpg]

At lunch, Lorraine shared a smoke with one of the soldiers, who then posed for a picture with Lorraine and his buddy so Lorraine could tell her kids she was arrested by the Army while in Belize. We told her the kids would probably figure out the soldiers were protecting her rather than arresting her, but it would have made a good story!

Although the convoy usually leaves Caracol at 2PM, we and the passengers from the other two vehicles were ready to go a little after 1PM, so the guides talked to the soldiers who said we could all leave if somebody would give them a ride. After talking to Lorraine, and because we had an open pickup where they could ride so they could flag down the ride coming back to pick them up, the soldiers jumped in our truck and we all headed back to the base. We felt well protected with two armed guards in the back of our pickup!

After dropping off the soldiers and signing out, we took the bumpy road down to Rio Frio Cave, which all three found very impressive. We then continued north and made the obligatory stop at Rio On Pools, although we didn’t swim and just took in the very impressive scenery from the picnic area. Then, we took the long and bumpy road past Hidden Valley Inn to Thousand Foot Falls, the highest waterfall in Central America.
Uncle Don, Doreen, and Lorrain (not to mention Tom and me) were all getting a little tired and had considered missing this stop, but the waterfall is so beautiful and impressive that we were all glad we went out of our way to see it.

After a dinner with Julio, Marjie, and Chuck, we all went to bed and got up the next morning to pack for a couple of days on Caye Caulker. We stopped at the Belize Zoo, where we saw all the animals and even went in the cages with Junior Buddy the Jaguar and Charlie and Hilario the Macaws. We had great pictures, which unfortunately disappeared with the stolen camera, and we were sadder about losing these pictures than we were about losing the camera itself. We went to lunch at Cheers after our Zoo stop, and then Tom drove the other four of us to the water taxi terminal in Belize City. We had arranged to have the Isuzu’s well child checkup at Bravo, so he drove the truck back to Bravo, followed by a taxi, and then the taxi brought him back to the water taxi terminal where he met up with us before we were even ready to board.

We arrived on Caye Caulker around 5PM, and Tom took off to find a golf cart to rent. We again discovered that Belize is very small, and the golf cart company is owned by the parents of friends of ours who live here in Cayo so we had a good talk with them when we went back after delivering everybody to the hotel to show them that Tom has a driving license, which was in my bag when he went to get the cart. We had booked rooms at Barefoot Beach for Uncle Don and the girls, and Tom and I intended to head down the beach to Ignacio’s Beach Cabanas. However, Susan was kind enough to upgrade Uncle Don’s room to a suite with two beds in separate rooms, plus a kitchen, so Tom and I bunked in with Uncle Don. We went out to dinner at the Rainbow Grill where we had delicious conch and snapper, and then crashed for the night.

Sunday was a very relaxing day. In the morning, Tom took us all on a golf cart tour of the island. It was fun, but Tom and Uncle Don, who were in the front seat under the canopy, forgot that Doreen, Lorraine, and I were out in the sun on the back seat. When he turned to head down a long road towards the back side of the caye, the three of us howled and asked that the tour be ended. At least we got some color to show for our time on the reef! We did a little bit of shopping, and then spent the rest of the afternoon on Barefoot Beach’s beautiful dock, drinking rum drinks, reading, chatting, and eating take-out pizza from Joe Habaneros. That night we went to the Sports Bar for dinner and trivia night, and while we didn’t make a very impressive showing – our dinners came at the same time the trivia contest started, and we were more interested in dinner! – we had a good time.

Monday morning Uncle Don and the girls had to take the puddle jumping Tropic Air flight back to the International Airport for their flight home. We said sad goodbyes, and told them to plan more trips to Belize, and promised to get to see them the next time we get to the Northeast. Tom and I spent the rest of the rainy Monday hanging out, distributing posters we’d promised people out there, and trying to relax, although neither of us is very good at just hanging out. On Tuesday we’d intended to take the 10AM water taxi back to Belize City, but we were up and ready to go on the 8:30 taxi, so we headed home.

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