Lori arrived on Tuesday. It was good to see her after 46 days apart. We spent the first day just hanging out and went out to dinner with Dave and Noelle. The forecast for the following four or five days was rain and wind. It would have been nice to catch a break with the weather at some point. Wednesday and Thursday we had on and off showers and hung around the cabin, walked down the dock, and went into town for meals. We set up a tour into Belize City for Friday with Kim and Ruby, who manage the rental property for Dave and Noelle. At about 6:30 am Nick the golf cart cab driver picked us up and brought us into town so we could have breakfast at Amor Y Cafe before catching the 7:30 water taxi into Belize City. It takes roughly an hour from Caye Caulker to Belize City on the boat. We ended up being some of the last ones on the boat so Lori ended up sitting on my lap for the trip into town. Jason the taxi driver met us as we got off the water taxi.
Our first stop was Altun Ha where John our tour guide showed us around the Mayan ruins. It was really interesting to find out the size and scope of this site. It was approximately a 25 mile radius around the site where they've found buildings. When the Mayans left the site, they buried all of the buildings so they looked like small hills. Over the years the jungle took over, covering the mounds with trees and vegetation. This city would have rivaled many metropolitan cities in size today.
Our next stop was to the jungle, via what they refer to as roads. The road consisted of small patches of asphalt with chunks missing everywhere, just wide enough for for a single car to go down without dropping off the sides of the asphalt. When we reached the jungle, at Caves Branch Outpost, Nohoch Che’en National Park, we met our second guide, Marph. But first we were off to the ziplines, where we flew through the canopy of the jungle. In our harnasses we would travel 500-600 feet down a cable, 150-200 feet in the air. Both Lori and I could have spent all day flying through the jungle. But Marph was waiting for us with head lamps, life jackets, and inner tubes. We walked about 30 minutes up into the jungle until we came upon the river. We entered the river between two mountains, with the river flowing inside of them.
We floated down river inside a cave for about 3/4 of a mile. It was completely dark without our headlamps on, but the current kept moving us down the river. Somewhere in the middle we heard waterfalls, and there was a small opening in the cave to the outside. When we paddled up to it with our hands, we could see all the spring water that was flowing over the rocks and into the river inside the cave. Marph explained a lot about the caves and the area to us as we walked to the river, and as we traveled through the caves. All of the guides, including the zipline guides, shared a lot of knowledge about the jungle and all the symbiosis, and provided a greater appreciation for the ecosystem. There is one cave tubing tour that you travel 27 kilometers in and out of caves. It takes 12 hours to make it all the way through, which we didn't go on.
After we finished the cave tubing, we headed back to Belize City, stopping along the way at a small bar/restaurant and having a late lunch, before getting back on the water taxi for the hour ride back to Caye Caulker. Nick was waiting for us, and returned us to the beach cottage. It was probably one of the best days that we had, even being kind of touristy, but having our own private driver to get us around as we needed to was great.
Saturday we went snorkeling. Because of the bad weather, wind and rain, we had not been able to get out to the reef before Saturday. We went on a half-day, three-stop snorkeling tour that ended up being just a few miles off of Caye Caulker. First we went up to see some of the coral heads. Shortly after I got in the water, I kept getting water in my mask and up my nose, and sucking in water through the snorkel, along with breathing too hard, and not being able to slow my breathing down. So I ended up making the call to go back to the boat while the rest of the group continued touring that part of the reef. I was able to see a few coral heads and fish before I headed back. At one point the guide spotted an 8 foot moray eel, and tried to let everyone know not to free dive in that area, right when Dave dove down. He got part-way down when he saw the eel heading right towards him. Dave promptly came back up and got out of the area. The guide said that the eels have a viscious bite and not something to mess around with.
On our second stop, there were reef sharks and stingrays everywhere. The water was only three feet deep, so we could stand and watch as all of the rays and sharks moved around. The guide was feeding them dead fish, creating somewhat of a feeding frenzy. At some point Lori crawled up my back and held on to keep her feet away from the "blood thirsty mankillers." The rest of the group calmly floated around and watched the action, up close. The stingrays would brush up against us periodically as they swam by. On the third stop, both Lori and I stayed in the boat while the others ventured off to see more coral heads near the reef. The weather was getting colder and dark clouds were moving in, so it was time for the tour to end. The guide cut up some fresh fruit for us, and then drove the boat right to Dave and Noelle's dock and dropped us off. Just as we walked into the beach cottage, the skies opened up and the rain poured down in sheets.
Sunday morning we packed up. We decided to leave Flat Jane with Dave and Noelle for further adventures. We took a small plane into Belize City before catching the first flight back to Atlanta. In Atlanta, we were able to squeeze onto an earlier flight, so we didn't have a 5-hour layover. It was 50$ per ticket, but well worth it to get home at a reasonable hour. Lori's brother Brian picked us up at the airport and dropped us off at home.
There's a lot of great food on the island from nightly pig roast at a cuban restaurant to Syd's, a local favorite, and Don Corleone, which is Italian-Carribbean. Many were priced similarly to what you'd pay for a nice dinner in the states. One of the confusing parts was the money conversion. Most everything is priced in the Belizean dollar, which is half of the U.S. dollar. So when you see a $220 dinner tab for four people, it's really only $110 U.S. dollar. Most of the time we would get change back in Belizean dollars, but virtually every transaction we had to stop and convert to know what something cost.
On returning home, I promptly caught a cold. Yee haw.