Where in the world are we?

Where in the World are We?

02 March 2010

Visitors from a Distant Land...Finally

Mom and Dad Arrive; The view from our plane seat

During February school break a couple of weeks ago, Anthony's mom and dad left old man winter behind and headed for the much warmer climes of Belize. It was their first trip down here and I think they would agree that it was really pretty great.

The View from our plane of the many Cayes right off the coast

No complaints from Ant here, in fact, he suggested that it would be pretty easy to slip into this jet setting life

Mom and Dad arrived at Ambergris Caye on Sunday afternoon. As we met them at the airstrip after deplaning, it was a bit surreal. All of our talks and stories about Belize over the course of the last couple of years, and here they were, right here in front of us, in the place we've been calling home. As we gathered luggage and belongings, gave hugs, and caught up, Belize whisked us to our hotels with a nice, cool, and relaxing breeze. After arriving to the Mayan Princess and getting them checked in, we left to our room, dropped off our stuff and headed out together for dinner. Dinner was amazing, some of the best food we'd had in a long time. Ginnie and I shared some delectable coconut shrimp followed by scrumptious salads and delicious BBQ pizza. We all chatted a great deal about their trip down to Belize, catching up on what was happening with everyone back home, and then relaxing into a nice evening stroll back to our hotels.

Dinner our first night in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye

On Monday we spent the day shooting around the island on a golf cart (driven by Anthony's dad - see photo). We stopped along the way to go shopping at a real life grocery store, a one-of-it's-kind place for Belize. We introduced our visitors to the many overpriced items available for consumers in Belize, such as a half gallon of ice cream for $27.99, bags of Doritos for $15.99, and candy bars for $9.00. It was a lot of fun anyway, we actually ended up buying a few cans of coveted soda, an IBC cream soda, and a few small snacks. As we turned back around (we had just driven the entire southern part of the island), we headed to the less developed (well, I should say, not yet developed as of yet, but in the process), Northside.

The balcony view at The Mayan Princess
Cruising all over the island on a golf cart

We took in a tour offer at a timeshare from a Scottish fellow, which quickly went from the required 90 minutes right down to 10 as soon as we informed him that none of us was remotely interested in buying a vacation home. Ginnie received a week's stay at the resort for what was supposed to be completely free, but turned out to be a complete scam when they informed us of required booking fees and such.

Some of the yummy treats we indulged in over the weekend

It was an adventure anyways though, quite entertaining to be honest. We headed back toward the center of town, picked up some wine and cheese, and spent the remaining afternoon and early evening on the balcony watching the Mardi Gras paint fights among local kids, and also taking in the amazing Caribbean Sea. I'm not sure if the total hammock time was tallied by anyone, but there was definitely plenty of it.

Mom and Dad chillin' on the balcony

It was Mardi Gras in San Pedro and one of the many ways Belizeans choose to celebrate is by chasing one another around the streets and dumping, spraying, or throwing paint at one another. It's all in good fun (mostly), and the sea is nearby so it makes washing off easy (albeit not very environmentally friendly)

On Tuesday Ginnie and I headed back to Belmopan via Tropic Air (check out the photos, the trip was amazing and offered great views of all the surrounding islands). Anthony actually saw two manatees in the Belize river on our return trip (and Ginnie actually saw a good-sized shark on the way out). On Wednesday, everyone met up together in Belize City and we spent the morning visiting Trinity Methodist and St. Luke Schools. We had an opportunity to spend time with Ms. Gillett and visit the new library that was supported by South School, Mount Ida College, and many other family and friends. We were welcomed into all of the classrooms and even sung to by the Infant I children on our way out. Next was off to St. Luke where we arrived about 15 minutes before lunch and ended up visiting with many teachers throughout the lunchtime chaos and craziness. It was really awesome though to finally introduce our teachers and administrators to people outside of Belize. After leaving Belize City, we stopped at Brodies up on the northern highway, grabbed some lunch, and headed for The Belize Zoo.

We were fortunate to have had some continued cooler than normal temps, which made our zoo visit even better. All of the 5 cats were out on the prowl, as well as the many other birds, mammals, and large rodents. While walking around the "best little zoo in the world," Anthony's Dad noticed a couple of birds fighting with each other in their new habitat. Actually, it was fighting, as much as it was bullying. One of the birds was actually biting and tormenting the other to the point where it was picked up by one of its legs and dropped about 6 feet to the ground below. Dad became concerned and discussed his observations of two small birds with one of the zoo keepers. As things turned out, the zookeeper informed us that they would need to separate the two birds as soon as possible and thanked us for the heads up. I think that we all really had a great time visiting the many animals and snapping some really cool photos along the way, Anthony's mom even bravely held one of the large resident boa constricters (aptly named Balboa). She was a bit nervous at first, but ended up enjoying the experience in the end. (You may notice that the zoo pictures are mysteriously missing...we didn't have our camera and word on the street is that the person who did take photos is in the process of getting them uploaded). We left the zoo and ventured out to Belmopan for the remainder of our week, looking forward to the many planned adventures that lay ahead.

The dense jungle at Caracol; Local Belize Defense Force guards standing watch at the ruins

On Thursday, Anthony's Dad hung out and traveled all round Belmopan, getting a tour of the different areas of the tiny lee city we call home. He had an opportunity to see the different embassies, ministry and government buildings, and learn the lay of the land from a very helpful taxi driver names Elvis (who also prided himself in the fact that he had fathered something like 25 children).

A Belize Defense Force helicopter lands right in front of us as we were about to cross the bridge on our way to Caracol. According to our safety officer at PC, this is a pretty common occurence and is done to provide opportunities for the soldiers to practice manuevers and such. It was pretty darn cool though.

The rest of us traveled to Caracol Ruins, deep in the Mountain Pine Ridge area of Belize. Caracol is about a four hour drive from Belmopan on a long and winding dirt road riddled with holes and large rocks. We arrived to the checkpoint at around 8:45 and hung out for about 45 minutes before heading deeper into the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve to the ruins.

Security checkpoint where we met our armed escorts; Finally the welcome sign greeted us after a long morning

We arrived at the ruins, grabbed a couple of maps, and headed out on our adventure. Over the course of the next three and a half hours, we explored just about every nook and cranny of the sight and also attempted to climb a number of the structures.
Some of the many large excavated temples that lay all over Caracol; Much of the site remains untouched and uncovered due to the dense jungle that surround Caracol, but many groups of archeologists are diligently working to uncover more and more each day

Caracol, first "discovered" in 1937, is the largerst site in Belize and is considered a main center of the Mayan Empire (along with Tikal in Guatemala and Copan in Honduras). (http://www.caracol.org/) In AD 650, the urban area of Caracol had a radius of approximately 10 kilometers around the site's epicenter. It covered an area much larger than present day Belize City (the largest metropolitan area in the country of Belize) and supported more than twice the modern city's population. Urban Caracol maintained a population of over 140,000 people through the creation of an immense agricultural field system and through elaborate city planning.

Some more shots of the ruins; a few of the many large ceiba trees; view from the top of a smaller temple in Plaza B; a recreated frieze

Caracol is noted not only for its size during the Maya Classic era (A.D. 250-950), but also for its prowess in war; this includes an AD 562 defeat of Tikal (Guatemala) and a subsequent conquest of Naranjo (Guatemala) in AD 631. Caracol was pretty incredible and definitely worth a visit for anyone thinking about coming to Belize.

The Rio On Pools...very beautiful and quite peaceful (too cold to swim today though...shucks!!!)

On our return trip from Caracol, we stopped by a few more sights, including the Rio Frio Cave, Rio On Pools, and Five-Sister's Falls, all of which are conveniently located only minutes off the main road out of Caracol.
The Rio Frio Caves. These pictures hardly do it the justice it deserves.

On Friday, we visited the Peace Corps office and met many of the wonderful people that we work with. I think it was also helpful for mom and dad to have the opportunity to see where we work and what we do. We finished off the day with a nice lunch at Perk Up and Dinner at The Bullfrog. Before leaving, Mom and Dad also stocked up (multiple times) on Belize's famous Marie Sharps (I think they ended up leaving with almost 8 or 9 bottles...woohoo!!!)

You can make it, just a few more steps :)

We had a wonderful time and were very thankful to them both for visiting with us for the week. Maybe their stories and wild tales of Belize will convince some more of you to make the trip down here. I'm sure many of you are missing some nice and relaxing hammock time during
these cool winter months :)