Thursday, October 28, 2010

Yvonne & Steve

Yvonne and Steve from Tennessee decided to spend their entire Belize vacation in the jungle with us rather than splitting their time between the jungle and the coast or cayes. I’m sure they needed a rest when they got home, but they proved that it’s very possible to spend your entire vacation inland and not be bored for a minute.

Their adventure started as soon as Tom picked them up and they headed to the airport. That was a good first stop to discover that they’d left home with a camera memory full of pictures, so Tom able to download their camera stick to a CD as soon as they got home so they didn’t miss any real action shots…

…and they still managed to get some good shots, like this one of the kinkajou which we hardly ever see out of his hollow log.

Steve and Yvonne had left home very early that morning, so we made a fairly early night of it and planned activities for the next day that didn’t require a wakeup call in the morning. In fact, instead of taking their breakfast tray on the porch of their cabin, Yvonne and Steve came over and ate with us, and we had a leisurely breakfast, finishing our conversation from dinner the night before.

They then went off to tour the Green Hills Butterfly Ranch before heading to Barton Creek Cave. After coming back here for lunch, they headed up to Big Rock, where Steve even jumped off the Big Rock!

The next day, Steve went to ATM while Yvonne and I went for a horseback ride to Sapodilla Falls.

Yvonne grew up on a ranch in the very western part of South Dakota, and spent her entire childhood and young adulthood on a horse. So, she was quite comfortable on Nessa while I rode Glinda, and we were very able to keep up a non-stop stream of chatter all the way to the falls, through lunch, through a nice whirlpool-like soak sitting in one of the small falls, and all the way home! We got home, untacked the horses, showered, and Yvonne, Tom and I jumped in the car to head into San Ignacio to meet Steve after his ATM trip and get dinner in town.

Steve, Carlos, and the other two guests on the ATM trip stopped at Jumanji on the way back to San Ignacio, so Yvonne, Tom, and I had time for a Happy Hour stop at Mr. Greedy’s where we were entertained by a couple of expats also enjoying $3BZ beers and $2BZ rums. When Steve and Carlos found us, the first thing Steve did was look at Yvonne and say “It was sooo cool!” That pretty much sums up how he felt about the trip.

They had an early start the next morning, meeting Hugo at the border at 7AM on the way to Tikal. They had a beautiful day to see Guatemala and tour the site, and climbed all the temples.

The next day they were able to compare the two largest archeological sites in the region when they visited Caracol with Selmo. They also stopped at Rio Frio Cave and Rio On Pools, so they had a good overview of the Mountain Pine Ridge area.

On their final full day in Belize, they visited Cahal Pech in San Ignacio, and the Chechem Ha Cave. They were supposed to go to Xunantunich, but the ferry was out, so the “ruin” part of the Cave & Ruin tour was changed to Cahal Pech, where Selmo showed them around.

They also toured the Chechem Ha Cave with Lea, which was the only cave Yvonne explored while here, since she and I went riding on the day Steve visited ATM. And, they had lunch at Benny’s in Succotz, so they were able to experience some real Belizean food.

The next day we were quite sad to say goodbye as Tom took them to the airport. Yet again, we made good friends in a week, after a series of dinners where we just sat and talked. Steve has a very interesting job which provided endless hours off fascinating conversation, and Yvonne works in the schools, so she had plenty of very interesting stories as well. And, they were curious about how two professionals end up living and thriving in the jungle, so none of us were ever at a loss for words. Steve was kind enough to drop us an email the next day to let us know they arrived home safely, and we really appreciated knowing that they had traveled safely and had a great vacation.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hurricane Richard Aftermath

We came through Hurricane Richard with lots of downed trees (including one mango, boohoo), but all people, horses, dogs, and buildings are fine. The road was blocked by downed trees both north and south of our driveway; Tom was out clearing the road before 6 this morning. We're not sure how the rest of the country fared since the only news sources we have are international internet news services, but no deaths are being reported so we're hoping for the best. We talked to Julio this morning and he said the Village of 7 Miles is fine, with some trees down, but as far as he knows, no major property destruction or casualties. We'll be spending today clearing away the downed trees and fixing fence.

Tree down in the heliconia near the porch

More of the tree in the heliconia

View from our house toward the guest cabin

More of the view toward the guest cabin

Tree down on the path to Tony and Lodo.  This one took down the mango.

Trees down in Tony & Lodo's paddock

Lodo says it was a very scary night.

We have some fence fixing to do

This one involved some fence as well

Tony says it wasn't THAT scary.  Where's breakfast?

Small tree down near the tack shed

Tree in the road to the south of our driveway

Tree in the road to the north of our driveway
Path back to the palapa

More path back to the palapa

Tree down near the palapa

Trees broken near the top near the palapa

Palapa area, by the driveway.  But nothing hit the palapa!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Carol, Lori, and Rob

Our next visitors were a trio of traveling friends from Colorado. They had spent the first part of their vacation in San Pedro, and flew into the Municipal airport on a 9:30AM flight. I drove to Belize City with our friend Ian, who is living in San Ignacio until December, and who had spent the afternoon and evening before with us, getting out of the city. Ian and I spotted Lori, Carol, and Rob immediately when they got off the little Tropic Air flight, and we got their bags loaded in the back of the little blue truck and we all piled in and were on our way. Our first stop was a bank to get more cash, and after some quick calculations about how much money they needed and a couple of stops at a couple of different banks, we were on our way to the Zoo.

Lori, Rob, and Carol under the banana tree in front of the guest cabin.
We had an absolutely wonderful time at the Zoo. Put together five people who love animals, add a chance meeting with the Zoo director who gave us a private tour complete with feeding some of the animals that many visitors never even see, add a bit of adventure – holding a boa and petting a jaguar! – and the normally hour and a half tour turned into a three and a half hour adventure. Ian had been to the Zoo on his own before, and he said it was much more fun to visit with a group and actually take the time to watch some of the animals. We discovered that Rob is some sort of animal whisperer; he would stand and look into a cage to try to see the animals, and they would get up from where ever they were and come to the edge of the cage to look at him. It was amazing!

By the time we were done at the Zoo, we were all starving, so we made our normal stop at Cheers for lunch. After a leisurely lunch, we headed to Jaguar Paw to zip line. We arrived there at 2:45, fifteen minutes before they officially start their last zips of the day, but because nobody had been in the park since noon, all the employees had been sent home a half hour early and the park was closed. The good thing about this stop was that the park management gave me their phone number, so if we’re running close to the edge again, we can call and make sure somebody is still there before we drive the six miles off the Western Highway, especially during the slow season when some attractions are occasionally closed due to a lack of tourists.

Although they were mildly disappointed, we made the best of it and headed directly into San Ignacio from Jaguar Paw, and arrived at Cahal Pech in time for Rob, Carol, Lori, and Ian to tour the museum and the site. They left the site when it closed at 5:30, so we drove down the hill and into San Ignacio and did a little bit of gift shopping before heading to dinner at Erva’s where we had the usual magnificent service of Germo, and were joined by Shawn, an archeologist friend we met this summer when he was working with Becky at Caves Branch. We then did a little more shopping from the street vendors who are out at night in San Ignacio before heading back to the farm. We really made the most of this transfer day!

The next day Lori, Carol, and Rob toured ATM. We went through a small period of chaos because we weren’t sure if the cave was closed due to some rain we’d been having, and didn’t know until Selmo and Carlos met them in Georgeville if they were actually going to make it to the cave. But, lucky for everybody, the cave was open, so they had a great day in the Maya underworld.

They were only with us for two nights, so they were heading back to Belize City to go home the next morning. But, their flight wasn’t until mid-afternoon, so they had some time to hang around here in the morning. We had just started digging in the ground under the palapa to level the floor for the kitchen, so we showed Rob, Carol, and Lori how we were finding pieces of pottery. They grabbed knives and trowels and started digging, and we all found pieces of pots, which they thought was pretty cool – and we were glad to find someone else so fascinated by digging up thousand year old garbage!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jennifer, Carla, & Pat

We had a laughter filled visit with Jennifer, Pat, and Carla, a sister-sister-daughter/niece trio from Georgia, Virginia, and Washington, DC, who met in Atlanta and flew to Belize. I picked them up from the airport, recognizing them immediately as they walked out of the gate thanks to Jennifer’s forethought in sending me a photo of herself and Carla. We than went to lunch at Cheers, and then backtracked a couple of miles for a tour of the Belize Zoo, where we were lucky enough to run into Sharon who was walking around feeding chicken parts to the predators – which gave us an up-close and personal look at some animals we might not have otherwise seen.

Pat & Carla with a famous Moonracer Farm breakfast. 
We have no pics of Jennifer since she was always behind the camera!
The next day Tom took them into town to meet Selmo, who took them on a tour of Xunantunich before handing them over to Link, who took them kayaking in the Mopan. After a great evening visiting, they were up early the next morning to head to the Guatemala border, where they met Hugo who took them to Tikal where they both ziplined and toured the site.

The next day they were heading to the water taxi to continue their vacation on the cayes, but thanks to the late afternoon water taxis, we were able to get a full days of touring in before they left. We started with a visit to the Green Hills Butterfly Ranch, early enough to still see the butterflies emerging from their chrysalises and drying their wings. We then traversed the rough road to Barton Creek Cave, where Jose paddled them through the cave while Louie and I watched Mango the monkey.

We got out of Barton Creek around 1:00, and started the run to Belize City. It was Belize’s Independence Day, so none of our usual lunch stops were open and we ended up stopping for takeout at a Chinese restaurant in Belmopan. That was fine, except a new speed bump had just been put in the highway between Belmopan and St. Matthew’s. That would have been okay, except I was talking, laughing, and trying to eat the fried chicken Jennifer was passing to me…and didn’t see the new bump until I hit it at about 55. I said something I probably shouldn’t write, and then looked in the rearview mirror as I hit the bump, and it looked like Pat and Carla were in a snow globe as they bounced up, surrounded by the flying fried rice. Lucky for me, all three of them have VERY good senses of humor, and we all started to giggle. They cleaned up the rice as best they could, and all the way to Belize City we all periodically erupted into fits of giggles. The car smelled like a Chinese restaurant, but by the next morning when I got around to finishing the cleaning job that was already quite well started, most of the rice was dry and I just swept it out! We made it the rest of the way to the water taxi, said good bye, and they headed to the cayes as I headed home.

The school children of 7 Miles got a big bonus from these three women. Jennifer is a sixth-grade teacher, and Pat is a retired librarian, and they arrived in Belize with an entire suitcase of school supplies. Because they visited over Belize’s Independence Day holiday weekend they weren’t able to deliver the goods to the school themselves, but as you can see from the picture, the kids were very happy and appreciative!

Christi & Mike

This time of year here is usually very quiet tourism-wise, and very busy weather wise since it’s the height of the hurricane season. This year, however, has been exactly the opposite for us, with enough guests to keep us busy, and generally gorgeous weather. So, when we haven’t been busy with our guests, we’ve been busy being outside and having fun, or, as you can see from previous blog entries, building our new kitchen and dining room. But, I’m finally getting around to updating the blog with the visitors we’ve had since the end of August! Sorry for the delay, Christi and Mike!

Christi and Mike from Texas stayed with us for the last couple of days of August. Christi and I had communicated quite a bit prior to their stay, and, on our advice, they spent the first bit of the inland portion of their stay at Caves Branch because they wanted to do the Black Hole Drop. It’s an awesome tour and worth doing, but it’s very expensive to do it from our place because on top of Caves Branch’s tour price, you have to pay for transportation to get there and back, not to mention it becomes a very long day by the time you add close to three hours of driving to a long hike and the actual Drop. So, they stayed at Caves Branch and did the Black Hole Drop, and caught a Caves Branch transfer to San Ignacio the next day, where Tom met them.

The next day they toured ATM with Gonzo, and, predictably, loved it. The water was a little high and Christi said the going was tough at some points, but they conquered the cave and were amazed at its beauty and archeological significance.

They were only here for two nights, so they had to leave the next day for the cayes. Fortunately, they only had to get to the water taxi and didn’t mind having a little bit of time to kick back and relax, so we had a very enjoyable morning visiting with them. Tom and Mike discovered that they’re both Eagle Scouts, and Christi and I enjoyed sitting on the porch and just visiting. Then, off to the water taxi for the diving part of their Belize adventure at Xanadu in San Pedro.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Done with the roof, on to the floor

Fortunately Tom and the crew made far better progress on the kitchen over the past few weeks than I have made on blogging! The following pictures should give you a pretty good overview of what they’ve done.

With Tom passing leaf to the guys on top of the roof…

…they made pretty quick work of getting the rest of the leaf tied onto the roof. The key was to get enough guys tying that nobody had to move back and forth too much. They just waited for the next leaf to be passed up, and then they tied it to the roof beams.

What amazed me was that while Tom was barely comfortable climbing the ladder to pass up the leaf, most of the tying crew completely ignored the ladder and just went up and down from the inside of the roof using the poles and the sticks in the roof.

When they had completed both long sides almost to the top, they put a couple extra layers of leaves over the gap.

Then they stuck short metal poles through the thatch perpendicular to the roofline…

…so they could set long metal poles on them, against the thatch, to hold down the roof cap.

Here’s a view of the completed roof from the inside.

And here’s a few of the work crew under the newly completed roof!

The next step was the floor. The biggest problem with the floor is that the very rocky ground in the back right corner was about a foot and a half higher than the ground in the front left corner. So, one day while Tom and I were out, Julio and Byron build a rock wall around the perimeter of the building and topped it with a level strip of cement that would be the floor level. They then started to fill in what was a rather obvious large hole with dirt and rocks from around the property, but it soon became clear that it was going to take weeks of back breaking labor for a few men to get the level up to where they could pour the concrete.

So, Tom ordered a truckload of sand, and it took less than a morning to move the sand from where the truck dumped it to under the palapa. The next problem was to get the sand mashed down so it wouldn’t settle after the concrete was poured. Tom tried pulling our little blue truck in and running it back and forth over the sand, which helped, although when the clutch started stinking they were back to a more manual method of flattening it.

The more manual method of flattening was basically wetting it enough to make it settle. Fortunately for us our water supply has been pretty dependable lately, so Tom and I didn’t get too anxious about it. We’re going to have different floors in the kitchen and the dining room. In the kitchen, we’re just going to have a flat concrete floor, while Tom is going to inlay some wood into the dining room floor. Since we don’t have the wood for the dining room floor yet, the floor is being made in two parts, starting with the kitchen. They cut some long boards to pour the kitchen section of the floor in two pieces.

They put some cage material in the floor, and then started pouring and flattening in four sections…

… making it level with another long board.

When it was all poured, it was left to dry overnight.

Byron has spent most of today working on giving it a smooth finish. I had to make the decision about what I want on the floor in the end, and I opted for the smooth concrete. If I wanted tiles, they would have left it rough because the tiles would adhere better, but I think that tiles tend to get slippery when wet – and my kitchen floor is always wet – so I think that a smooth concrete finish will be the safest and the easiest to clean.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

So, you're going out to see your lovers?

A funny Belize moment.

Tom and I were going out shopping today.  I was dressed in a flowered dress with my favorite red strappy clogs, and Tom was wearing decent sneakers, Carharrt shorts, and a button up shirt.  A couple of local friends were here working, moving dirt and stones into the area that we hope will shortly be our kitchen.

As we went to get in the little blue truck, we stopped to tell them what we were doing and to say goodbye.  One of them said, in Spanish, "So, you're going out to see your lovers?"


The answer:  Uh, Tom, you're not in a sweaty t-shirt, shorts, and boots.  Marge, you're not in your rubber boots, sweaty t-shirt and shorts, dirty, and surrounded by horses.

Obviously, you're not in your daily routine, so obviously headed out to see your lovers.  (Novios, in Spanish.)

Us:  Uh, yeah.  We're going out with each other.  So, yeah, we're both going out with our lovers.  Bye."

We love these guys.  They're so frank.  And we love living in Belize.