Monday, January 18, 2016

Caye Caulker, Belize (Day 3)

On our third and final day in Belize, we were feeling a little sick, but headed out on our bikes to find the company Martin had signed up for a scuba dive with.  
Martin walking to the boat with some of his gear
Martin's scuba group heading out
After seeing him off, I biked back over to a little breakfast place and had a delicious waffle with Nutella and bananas before figuring out what to do for the rest of the morning.  I ended up going back to the cabana and researching ferry times as we had our flight back home that afternoon.  I quickly realized with the time frame of Martin getting back from his scuba adventure, we weren't going to be able to catch a ferry that would get us back to the mainland in time for our flight.  I remembered reading a recommendation to fly either in or out of Caye Caulker for the sights, and riding past a tiny airport a few days earlier, and decided to ride my bike back to that airport.  So I did just that, and purchased two tickets for us to fly from Caye Caulker, back to the airport where we would catch our Southwest flight that afternoon.  Problem solved!  Man.  What a TINY airport.  It was awesome to not have any lines (or security) though!  I spent the rest of my free time getting a massage in a cabana down by the split, riding my bike around the island, then enjoying a freshly-made smoothie before Martin returned.

The airport in Caye Caulker
Beautiful white sand
Another scenic view
Once we grabbed our things at the cabana, we caught a golf cart ride to the airport and boarded our Tropic Air flight back to Belize City to then catch our flight back to Dallas.  The flight to the mainland was definitely worth it, so beautiful!  Plus it was cool to experience such a different, small airplane.

Martin looking out the window

Sitting on the little plane
We were a couple of seats back from the pilot
Almost there!
Our Tropic Air plane after landing in Belize City

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Caye Caulker & Lamanai Mayan Ruins, Belize (Day 2)

On our second full day in Belize, we caught the ferry back to Belize City to join a tour we'd signed up for online through a company called Tsunami Adventures, "Lamanai Mayan Ruins and Jungle River Cruise."  When we arrived on the mainland, we found our small tour group and loaded into a van to drive a couple of hours to Tower Hill bridge and begin our cruise along New River to the Lamanai Mayan ruins.

When we arrived at the dock for the river cruise, I took this picture to remind myself to mention something that was different about Belize.  When using the restroom... you had to put your toilet paper in the trash can!

It was interesting to see the different sights along the river including termite nests, snake cactus growing on trees, bats and a Mennonite community.

Termite mound on a tree
tranquil view
Greenish yellow Snake Cactus growing on a tree
It's hard to see in this picture, but the darker spots on the tree trunk below are bats.  Our tour guide hit the tree and several flew away.
Bats on a tree trunk
Mennonite community

When we arrived at the Lamanai Mayan Ruins, we deboarded the boat and followed our guide up to the first temple, Temple of the Jaguar.  On the way to the temple, he showed us a rubber tree.

Rubber Tree
A strip of rubber taken straight from the tree
Temple of the Jaguar
Martin and me with the Temple of the Jaguar behind us
From there, we saw an ancient athletic field and then continued on to High Temple, and climbed to the top to see a view of the jungle below.  Whew!  The hike to the top felt fine at first, walking up a few flights of a modern staircase, but quickly we found ourselves having to scale ancient stones without anything to guard from a falls.. thankfully we made it to the top OK!
High Temple
On top of High Temple
After High Temple, we saw Mask Temple and took a picture with the 13-foot mask carved in the front of the temple.  The mask shows a man in a crocodile headdress and dates back to about AD 400.

Martin and me at Mask Temple with a 13' mask carving
Sitting on the steps of Mask Temple
 After seeing Mask Temple, we made our way back to where we had entered the park to have the lunch that our tour guide had prepared for us.  Back in the park, we saw Spider Monkeys in the trees!  It reminded me of when I saw monkeys in the wild in Morocco.

The walk back through the jungle
Spider Monkey in a tree
River cuise back
That evening once we were back in Caye Caulker, I wanted to do something water-related and since there wasn't really a beach, we rented a couple of kayaks.  We didn't have much daylight left, but we paddled over to where the island splits in half and were able to see the pretty sunset.

Two women paddle boarding in the distance
A dock in Caye Calker
View of The Lazy Lizard
Me in my kayak in the distance
Tour Description: "Explore the ancient hidden ruins of Lamanai. Departing Caye Caulker early on the water taxi. Our guide meets us and brings us to Tower hill bridge, where we will start our journey down river to Lamanai, passing dense jungle vegetation and a Mennonite community. Located in the east-central part of the Orange Walk District. Focal points are a well-preserved mask of a Maya ruler emerging from a crocodile headdress. El Castillo rising 108 feet, is one of the largest pre-classic structures in the Maya area. This site was continuously occupied from 1500BC – AD1675. A variety of birds, crocodiles, howler and spider monkeys will greet you. Your guide is fully knowledgeable of the Flora, Fauna and Mayan History. A two hour guided walking tour of Lamanai visiting 4 main temples. Your guide also points out medicinal plants of the jungle. A delicious home cooked Belizean meal and local souvenir stands to enjoy. See ancient artifacts in the Lamanai Museum on site, entrance included. We journey back through the mazes of river to Tower Hill Bridge, where our guide is waiting to bring us back to the marine terminal."

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Caye Caulker, Belize (Travel & Day 1)

This week my boyfriend found out he had a day off so I arranged to take the same day off for a three day weekend.  We decided to book a trip to one of the international destinations offered by Southwest Airlines since we have a companion pass and after a lot of looking into flights, the one with the only realistic availability was to Belize City, Belize.  We booked the flights three or four days before, booked an Airbnb and on Friday were off!

When we arrived in Belize we went outside and peeled off a few of our Winter layers while waiting for a cab.  We thought we were in a cab line but the drivers didn't seem to notice and the first one to arrive after about ten minutes stopped at the middle of the crowd and accepted the first couple who came to him.  He then also grabbed a passenger who was traveling solo, and then us!  An interesting start to our journey since it was a five seat car and we had six people.  Thankfully the couple who had first joined doubled up in their seat and Martin and I hopped in.  The four of us in the back seat were all headed to the ferry to go out to the islands, hoping to catch the last one of the day at 5:30.
While the ride was crowded and warm even with windows rolled down, we were grateful to have gotten a driver who was aggressive enough that he got us through the bit of traffic and to the ferry before we missed it.  We arrived about five minutes before 5:30 and gave our bags to the staff to put on the boat while Martin ran to buy tickets for us.

By the time we got on the ferry, we had long before lost sight of our luggage and were praying a) the people who took it really worked there, b) that it was on the same ferry as us and c) that WE were on the RIGHT ferry.  Martin expected the ride to last about 15 minutes and I thought I'd read it would be 30, so as we approached 40 minutes and the outside quickly darkened, we really started to worry.  Thankfully after about 45 to 50 minutes, the boat slowed down and we could see we were approaching an island.  I asked the lady next to me what island it was and felt SUCH relief when she said Caye ("key") Caulker!  Our next relief came when we stepped off the boat and found our luggage had traveled with us and was on the shore.  We quickly grabbed our bags and found the taxi driver our Airbnb hosts had sent for us, Max and his golf cart.

Picture of the ferry's dock the next morning
Max pointed out the places to eat and told us the names of the streets (Front Street, Middle Street, Back Street) as we rode along.  After ten minutes or less we arrived at our little cabana, "Gumbo Limbo" and were able to settle in.  We had two bikes with the place and after putting our things down we hopped onto them and hoped to not get lost as we made our way back to a restaurant Max had pointed out that one of my friends had recommended, Rose's Seafood.

Each night Rose's has a table sitting in front of the restaurant by the street with a selection of seafood.  You pick what you want from the street and then they'll take it to the grill while you find a table.  We ordered a lobster and some sort of fish. 

The next morning after sleeping in, we headed out to find brunch and ended up at La Cubana since all the other places we tried to go to were closed.

We had pancakes and eggs with some cheese and fruit.  Martin even had some fresh watermelon juice.. yum!

We spent the rest of the day riding our bikes around an exploring the island.

A picture of our cute cabana
We rode around the town for a little bit, then took a trail just off of the water that took us through a more vegetated area.

Following Martin down Middle Street of Caye Caulker

The trail we followed close to the water
We then

Self-proclaimed World's Larget Conch Shell Wall

A dock out into the water

Can you spot the lizard?

Martin, me and our bikes
We spent the late afternoon at The Lazy Lizard, a popular hangout at the split where years ago a hurricane cut through the island, leaving a channel.