Angela Harteg(Treasures of Belize, Mar 2010)
I have included the emails we sent to our family and friends while we were on our trip. I think they tell it all. 1st e-mail: Hello from the jungle! We just came in on the boat (and I mean that quite literally)! This place is beautiful! The lodge looks like something out of Robinson Crusoe but the coconut cream pie is better than what he might have had! Angie: The boat ride is was a hour and half down a river. Just haley and I and our boat guide. It was so cool. He stopped and pointed out all kinds of wildlife on the way. Including bats hanging on the underside of a branch. The is apparantly a big draw for bird watchers. We have met several at the lodge. One very cute couple from England. Our room is a cabana in the jungle. It is open air(screened) with a thatched roof and ceiling fan. It has a wooden shower and toilet. Very cool. They have a safe in our room for us to store all our valuables( oops we forget to bring valuables)Haley: (and by safe we mean an old army shell box with a lock). Haley: The people here are all so friendly! Everyone has met us already! We miss you all and wish you were here! We are already signed up for a night jungle walk tonight and we are going to hold a tarantula!!!! And hopefully see bats and giant rodents! Tomorrow we are off to the Mayan ruins and after that who knows!!! Talk to you all later! For all the paladins happy spring break! Angie and Haley
2nd e-mail: Greetings from the jungles of Belize, Today we got up before sunrise again. I just can't sleep very much knowing there is a jungle just outside my cabana and I feel as though I am missing it by sleeping. Haley joined me which surprised me. We watched the sun rise over the lagoon. It was so lovely and peaceful. There were birds singing everywhere and the howler monkeys were howling in the distance ( I can't believe the sound they make. It is more like a gutteral growl than a monkey sound). We laid in the hammocks by the lagoon as the sky brightened. It was so 'jungley'. We had some tea at the lodge and then headed out into the jungle on our own. We went back to the trail the guide had taken us on the other night when we found the tarantulas and scorpions. The trail leads to an old sugar mill that the jungle has overtaken. It was a really neat place to explore and we were the only ones anywhere around as usual. Except for the monkeys of course We raced down through the jungle again following the sound of the howler monkeys. We again went into the jungle leaving the safety of the trail. We are very careful to keep our bearing when we leave the trail because we know how easy it would be to get lost in the jungle. It is east to locate the monkeys when they are howling. Two troops were arguing about who was going to get to eat from the particular fruit tree that morning. It was fascinating to watch. Haley got more good photos of the monkeys. My favorite was the mom with the tiny monkey clinging to hear back as she traveled from tree to tree. After another huge, scrumptious breakfast in the lodge, we walked with the guide into the little village near the lodge. About 40 families make up the village. It was very interesting. The people are poor compared to American standards but it is not sad or depressing. It is just a different life style than we are used to. They have fresh water in the village but it must be carried from a community spot by bucket into their house. They have outhouses behind their house and there are chickens running about. A few houses even had a old car parked there. There were a couple of horses tied up eating in the yards of homes. A lady was doing laundry on a wash board in a tub of water in her yard. We got to visit a school that was in session which was really cool. There were 2 classrooms. The younger kids around 3-6 and then the older kids around 7- 14. They were amused with us and got a big kick out of us taking their picture. They loved looking at their own pictures on the digital camera screen. The whole village was Guatemalans' that had ran from the violence in the own country. Their native language is Spanish but the school teach in English. They went to recess while we were there and Haley took a video of them in the school yard. There were cleaning out the bathroom by throwing buckets of water into a outhouse and kicking a soccer ball around the courtyard and climbing the flag pole in the middle of the school yard. It was really a neat experience. Got to go now we are going to look for toucans! the guide told us where to spot them in the afternoons! Missing all our friends!
Angie and Haley 3rd e-mail: Hello again everyone!!! We are still having an amazing time. We got up and went on a sunrise (and yes I went @ sunrise is that so hard to believe) canoe trip and it was gorgeous! then we went to the Mayan Ruins again since we had so much fun yesterday. We didn't do the tour this time, but instead we went on our own private howler monkey trek (just mom and I)! We could hear them howling and chased them into the jungle (I took video)!!! You can hear the howling from about a mile away, we heard them while canoeing in the early morn. We watched and took pictures and had a great time and were able to find our way back to the trail with no trouble at all! We saw 5 troops of howler monkeys today! That is a ton!` Even the usual guides were impressed. The monkeys were at the ruins every time we saw them. Our guide says there are more edible trees in those areas because the Maya threw out their seeds years ago and the trees that grew seeded more trees which seeded. . . well you get the idea! We thought that it was only in movies that you see monkeys climbing on ancient ruins, but all the ones we saw were in the trees next to the ruins! We also saw a Toucan (he looked just like toucan Sam!) but weren't able to get a good look @ him or a good pic before he flew away! This evening we did the sunset cocktail cruise (known as the booze cruise) and went birding while drinking Danilo's (the bar tender's) specialties that he sent just for us - a submerged crocodile and a banana howler monkey-- mmhmm!!! The staff here are great! We have gotten to really know a few . . . Carlos, Raul, Danilo. . . they are so nice and helpful and always trying to make our vacation even better! Carlos knows everything. He is the resident biologist, ecologist, avian expert although he never went to school for any of those things! Everyone is great and we are doing great! The weather here is unexpectedly delightful. I thought it would be so hot, humid and buggy. However, it is cool and calm in the morning and evenings. The wind picks up over the lagoon in the afternoon and keeps everything cool. There is very little humidity. Much less than we are used to in SC. There have been no mosquitoes at all. We are wearing shorts and tank tops at night and haven't needed any of the bug spray I brought with. This is the dry season and apparently it is a very different story during the rainy season.
Haley and Angie 4th e-mail: Yesterday we cooked in the kitchen with a group of Mayan women who taught us to make authentic tortillas. We used a basalt stone to grind the corn and then made the corn into tortillas that we then wrapped in plantain leaves and ate. We also had chicken soup and lime juice and other authentic Maya dishes! It was great to be in the kitchen with these women giving us instructions in Spanish and showing us how to do something that was their livelihood. The restaurant that they ran was a government idea to get a group of women to form a "cooking club". We enjoyed eating lunch there after walking around the village. Later yesterday afternoon, we spotted a total of 11 toucans on our walk. They are so beautiful and on my list of things I wanted to see while we were here. We went on a crocodile encounter last night. It was really cool. You take the airboat into the grasses. It looks like you are traveling across land. But it is actually very shallow water. We found a very large mammal in the water. It was a tapir which is the national animal of Belize. What a large and strange looking animal. About 700 lbs and it sort of looked like a hippo. I will look up when we return home. The guide just walked up to visit with us while I am typing this. He says the tapir is called a mountain cow locally. He says it is in the family of a rhino and a horse but it is usually found in the water. It had a long ant eater type nose and he said that was to help it breath above water even if it is submerged. Very neat. We did catch a baby crocodile. It was very cute and we all got to hold it. They put a band around its snout before we held it. It was very strong but seemed to enjoy the warmth of our hands. We collected data on it. We weighed and measured the croc and also gave info on where and how we caught it and what the air and water temps were and that sort of info. It was very interested. I loved the feeling of speeding across the grasses at full speed in darkness. I told Haley for some reason it made me think of being on a African safari in the savannas. Today I rose before sunrise again. They are so beautiful over the lagoon I don't want to miss one. We are hiking to the Mayan ruins today. We have always gone by boat and then hiked up to the ruins. Today we are going to hike through the jungle to get there. Today is our last day here. I am very sad to leave. The experience has been wonderful. The guides here are all native and it has been a cultural experience to get to know then. They willingly share information about their country and their personal lives and we feel like we have really gotten to know them all. We leave after lunch today to go to the coast. We have an hour and half boat ride out of the jungle, then 45 minutes drive to the airport. Then a 15 minute flight on small plan to the coast. I'm excited about the possibilities of what lie ahead. I don't know if we will have access to e-mail there so this may be our last.
5th e-mail Hi friends, We made it to the coast. We arrived at the airport at 3:20 for a 4:40 flight. The lady at the ticket counter asked us if we wanted to go earlier. We said sure, so she gave us a ticket and said gate 6. On our walk to gate 6 we heard an announcement that the flight was boarding. We ran to the gate and there was only one other passenger there. We all boarded the plane. It was a very small puddle jumper. Haley and I sat right behind the pilot so we could see the instrument panel and watch him fly the plane. There was a copilot seat but no one in it. He started the plane and taxied to the runway and took off all within 10 minutes of us entering the airport. It was a beautiful flight but always a bit scary on these teeny planes. We flew over the river in Belize City and could see manatees in the river everywhere. We landed 5 minutes later at another airport in Belize city. Picked up a few more passengers and took off again all within about 5 minutes. Then we landed on the island in 10 more minutes. It was a very small airport but was very busy and bustling. Our accommodations here are not the luxury accommodations we enjoyed in the jungle. It is a nice place and we have a patio that opens onto the beach but all the guides, elaborate meals and private cabana are gone. This is a wild place. Everyone goes out on the water during the day and then comes back into San Pedro in the afternoon to eat, party and talk about all the things that had discovered beneath the turquoise water that day. They use water taxis here to get around the island. The roads on the island are pretty rough so it is easier to go by water. There are docks all along the island and there is a light at the end of each dock. You turn on the green light to go south or the red light to go north. When a passing taxi sees the light on the dock they will pick you up if they are heading your direction. I like being on the water at night. The sky here is so beautiful. The sky is bigger and there are more stars visible from here than when were in 'the big sky' country looking gazing at the stars. Yesterday we went snorkeling in the marine reserve at Hol Chan and Shark and Ray alley. We went to shark and ray alley first. There are huge nurse sharks and rays that hang out there because all the fisherman used to clean their fish right at that spot behind the reef to avoid the waves. Now the snorkel and scuba guides hide pieces of fish in conch shells so that the rays and sharks all go after it and try to get the meat out. It gets them to hang around for a while and allows us time to see them and even pet them! They don't pay any attention to us at all. After watching that for a bit we went toward the reef and watched what our guide referred to as the "lil' culaful fishes". Then we went to the next dive site. At this site our guide took us to a grassy area where turtles are known to feed. We saw THREE sea turtles. Really pretty ones. Not the green ones we have seen before but little brown ones with really intricate patterns on their shells. After following them and taking their pictures we went out to the reef and the little channel where the water from the ocean comes thru the reef. We saw much bigger fish like Nassau Grouper and snappers and jacks. Then we saw the little reef fish like butterfly fish, parrot fish (I cannot get a good picture of one to save my life), angel fish and other pretty fish I don't know the names of. We saw two big rays too. One big spotted eagle ray! We saw another big nurse shark and a huge moray eel that our guide coaxed all the way out of his hole. Mom even saw a barracuda! I got to do some surface dives and make it deep enough to go through under some little overhangs and through some short little caves! We had a great time. Now we are trying to find another trip to go on but we haven't really found the one we are looking for yet. But hopefully in our next email we can tell you about that trip! It is a lot hotter here than it was in the jungle. Especially if you are on the roads and not on the beach. It is really funny to watch the morning news here because it is the news for Denver, Colorado. So needless to say the weather isn't really applicable. They are reporting 38 F and delays to avalanche clean up (haha)!
6th and last e-mail: Hello all! Haley: We did find that trip we were looking for! Another snorkel at Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan but this time a full day trip on a big catamaran sailboat. The trip was great and the weather perfect. It was warm but not too hot with the breeze and being able to get wet. We laid on the mesh from of the boat in the shade of the sails and spent the gorgeous day. Our captain and the first mate were great. The first mate would do a job and then once finished lay down wherever he was and just "rest his eyes" haha! Once again the snorkeling was great! I got pictures of huge rays. We pulled up next to some commercial conchers (is that a word?) and swam as they chummed the waters with their leftovers from cleaning. The rays were huge ! There were so many of them with one big spotted eagle ray soaring around the bottom of the boas! At the next stop we followed a big nurse shark away from the commotion and chumming and to a little reef where we followed him and the other nurse shark that were there. I swam as fast as I could trying to keep up with the shark but with a slight flick of his tail he would zoom away but then return to the reef over and over. At Hol Chan we again saw the turtles and mom and I petted one (although I got yelled at . . . oops). We saw more barracuda at that stop than the day before and another nurse shark. I saw an eel in a swim through cave but I couldn't get a picture because I had to breathe haha. Oh well. Then after our snorkeling we went to Caye Caulker, the neighboring island and had lunch and bought a couple souvenirs and walked around. It was more quaint and a much quieter island than San Pedro where we are staying but it probably wouldn't have entertained us as much these four days. Angie: We rented bikes today and rode to the south side of the island. We stopped at RasSafari's. It was a cute like tiki bar type place with hammocks hanging all around it. We chilled in a hammock and talked to the bar tender, Bob. He is from Jamaica and was pretty cool. He gave us markers to sign the bar with. I wrote ' A southern Belle was here from Greenville SC'. We rode our bikes back to Xanadus and had a pina colada and swam in their pool. Then we lounged in the shade overlooking the ocean and read a novel for several hours. We are getting ready to go to another tiki hut that serves pizza. It is a tiny place with picnic tables in a courtyard beside the tiki hut. Two Californian's came here and opened it. They have the best pizza. This will be our second visit there. We are going to come back after dinner and start packing up. We leave for home tomorrow at 9:00 am. It was a great trip! It has been so nice spending time with Haley. We have so much fun together.
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