This is long and when I reread it, it doesn't sound all that exciting compared to some of the trip reports I've read, but I had a wonderful visit that was perfect for me! I lived my dream!
Friday, February 10, 2006
It was early, dark and cold when we left our home in Forest, Virginia, and gray and still cold when we landed in Atlanta. We had a five hour wait at ATL, so we ate breakfast, people watched, and read while waiting for friends from VA Beach and Seaford who would be making the ATL to BZE flight with us. We enjoyed our lunches and being together at Images and then headed to the gate for our 12:50 Delta flight. Yaaay!
As soon as our plane started across the Caribbean it was like we were almost there. The sun was bright and the sky and water were the same beautiful blue. I watched for cruise ships since I can never sleep or pay attention to a movie on the way down. My neck is always sore at the end of a flight. When we were over Cancun and then Cozumel I knew that it wouldn’t be long until I could see the tops of the palm trees over the other greens as we approached BZE. Seeing the palms means we’re there!!
Going through customs was fairly quick and easy and we only had a short time for Jet’s before our Maya flight to San Pedro. The guys were disappointed that Jet was out of Belikin, but happy to drink rum punches. My Jim (there was another one with us) had his annual BZE shoeshine. Before we finished our drinks our names were called for an earlier than planned Maya flight. What a great way to start!
We were in the smallest plane I had ever been in. It carried 9 passengers but there was no center aisle. The guys got in through the front of the plane and the girls in the back. Tight quarters! Again I had a beautiful (but very noisy) ride!
Since our Maya flight was early we had to wait a few minutes at SPR for our taxi to Oasis del Caribe. When we got there, the other three couples (from Bedford and Alexandria, VA and Raleigh, NC) were already unpacked and sitting around the pool with cold Belikins and Reef Swizzles ready for us. Five of the guys were fraternity brothers for what seems like only a few years ago. Three are now grandfathers, but to us, it is still Spring Break!!
We visited for a little while and then went in to unpack. Our villa at Oasis was nice...2 bedrooms, 2 baths, kitchen, eating and large living areas, and a private porch. Our only complaint was that after climbing to our unit on the third floor, our legs hurt. (It never got any easier, either!)
It was dark by the time we walked down the beach into town and had dinner at Ambergris Delight....the first restaurant we found that had immediate seating for our 12 and 13 more who were friends of one of our couples. I think we overwhelmed the place! A singing guitarist entertained us while we waited for our meals, and afterwards our waiter showed us a trick using two glasses, a couple of toothpicks and a match that I never quite understood…but one glass ended up sucked onto his cheek and the other he drank from…..using no hands! (We had a voucher from Ambergriscaye Discounts and remembered to use it, but I can't remember what it was for right now. Maybe a free drink? I do remember that the drink I had was very good!)
We were all tired and after a short walk down the street, we headed back to Oasis. One thing we have found in the last few years is that we don't stay up very late on Spring Break. The night was balmy—just the way a tropical evening was supposed to be. I went to sleep smiling. After a year of waiting, I would finally be waking up in San Pedro!
Saturday, February 11
I love waking up in San Pedro! I never wake up to see the sunrise at home, but I have no trouble getting up to see it rise through the low clouds hanging over the Caribbean.
Some of our group were having coffee and pastries in the ocean front condo and the guys were talking fishing and looking at their passing their poles around and deciding who would fish with whom. They left for “work” at 8 with fishing guides Omero and Armando.
The girls headed out to see the bridge progress and then to town to see the familiar sights and the changes that had taken place since our ’05 visit. We were pleased to feel the warm sun and the magic of the town still there as we walked around. We bought fresh fruits at a stand in town where the ladies were peeling and slicing it as we watched. Their children were with them, too, one in a walker on the ground behind the table, and a little girl in a hammock above us. We bought some groceries on the way back to the Villas and got back just as the guys were coming in for lunch.
We all ate lunch on Wet Willy’s deck…..wanting to be outside, but trying to sit in the shade out of the hot sun. It’s always amazing to me how I can be freezing at home one day, and hot and getting sunburned the next. I love San Pedro!
After lunch the guys went back to “work” and the girls sat by the pool talking, napping, reading and just grinning that we were in paradise again! We would watch for the men to get back around 5 and always tried to greet them on the dock with cameras when they returned with their catch. They liked posing with the fish. They had a good week of posing. (During our visit, our guys caught snapper, grouper, barracuda, black tip, and some that Jim can't remember. The ones that weren't returned to the sea, were eaten.)
That night Jim and I went out on the dock next to Wet Willy’s and listened to Jerry Jeff Walker playing over there. He sounded great and we can't understand why our friends don't like listening to him as much as we do!
When the others joined us, we walked the beach down to Lily’s for dinner. Our dinner out on the porch was very good. We usually eat there once each trip.
After dinner the others went back to the villas and Jim and I went to Cannibals to hear Dennis Wolfe. It was open mike night and we were amazed at all of the talented visitors! While we were there the sky suddenly opened up and it POURED buckets of rain for a long time!!! It got late and then it got later and it was dark, very puddly, and still sprinkling and my husband was beginning to worry about not getting enough rest and having to “work” again the next day. The lady sitting in front of us insisted on driving us back to Oasis in her golf cart. What an angel! I saw her again the next day at Fido's, so I know that she was real! Cookie, if you are out there reading this, I thank you again and again. Thank you!
Life is good. I looked forward to waking up in San Pedro again!
Sunday, February 12
I woke up in San Pedro again, but found it to be cloudy, cool, and windy! The guys still went out to “work” and stayed all day. (Supposedly they were taking advantage of a certain kind of wind that allowed them to fish in a certain place. Or something like that.)
The girls walked to town again, just waiting for the warm sun to come out. We were comfortable in short or 3/4 sleeves, but we saw some of the locals in jackets and stocking caps! The sun did come out a bit, and after visiting an internet cafe to check for and send emails home, eating lunch at Fido’s, and stopping for fresh fruits at our favorite fruit stand, we went back to the villas and were able to sit by the pool for a while. It didn’t warm up enough for us to want to get in, though!
During our visit we met and enjoyed visiting with people who live at Oasis full or part-time. They were also helpful! We hope to see them again on our next trip.
Instead of going out to dinner that night, we had a progressive dinner. Drinks and appetizers were served in our villa, fish that our guys had caught, coleslaw, and potatoes in another, and we ended our evening with a delicious mile-high merengued Caye Lime Pie (from Celi’s) and coffee at the other.
It seems that I had already climbed those 3 flights of steps at Oasis a zillion times. We were tired and happy, and I was going to wake up in San Pedro AGAIN the next day!
Monday, February 13
I love waking up in San Pedro! After the usual coffee and pastries from the bakery, the guys went to "work" and the girls went for our morning stroll/walk into town. The day was wonderfully uneventful (sat by the pool mostly) but our dinner was most memorable.
Verna and her sister Elaine cooked our fish and made coleslaw and rice and beans (they fried chicken for me, a non-seafood eater) for our dinner. After drinks and snacks at our place, some of us walked to Verna's stand (close to the ferry) and picked it up and we ate it at one of our villas...#6 because it had the best dinner seating arrangement and dishes. Dessert that evening was a Valentine Cake from Casa Pandulce Bakery with banana ice cream from Manelly's. Valentine treats and gifts were opened and then we went to our rooms to go to bed...so that we could wake up AGAIN in San Pedro!
Tuesday, February 14
I love waking up in San Pedro....especially on Valentine's Day. My husband tells his friends that since I retired from teaching elementary school three years ago, he takes me to Belize for my Valentine's present!
We got moving earlier than usual that day. Four of the couples in our group met Daniel Nunez of Tanisha Tours on the dock at 7:00 a.m. for a day trip to Lamanai on the mainland. (A few were running behind and he blew in a conch shell, making the most beautiful sound. I am sure now that he is one of the ancients!) I told Daniel that I had chosen that tour because of all of the praise I had read on the message board. He didn’t disappoint any of us. He is very knowledgeable and most respectful of the area, the flora and the fauna, and the history of the Maya.
You can read about his Lamanai tour on his web site, but you will have to go in order to taste the butter buns and fresh juice for breakfast on the boat ride to the mainland and the chicken, rice and beans, potato salad, and coconut tarts that he served for lunch at the Lamanai picnic pavilion. The sound that the howler monkeys made wasn't a howl like I expected. It was more like a gravelly raspy growl. Seeing monkeys in the treetops made the jungle complete for me! The ruins were amazing....how could they have been made by people so long ago? Most of the group climbed to the top of the large one. I stayed at the bottom and took pictures. (good excuse)
The weather was perfect at Lamanai for my tennis shoes, shorts and a sleeveless shirt. However, an electric blanket would have felt great on the boat rides! Since the area had been experiencing a cold front for a few days, the early morning ride across the lagoon was quite chilly. The hood on my sweatshirt was tied tightly on my head and everyone tried to sit close together! (Thinking of my grandchildren, I gave the two little shivering girls across from me the beach towel I had stuck in my bag!) The boat ride in late afternoon back to San Pedro was brutal. The sun had disappeared and it even rained on us a bit. It was COLD! (I guess you just can’t have it all…..a few days later, I heard someone saying that they were miserably hot when they went to Lamanai. Their boat rides were fine!) I would recommend the trip with Daniel to anyone wishing to do a ruin tour.
That night we walked to town and ate dinner at Celi’s. Jim and I looked for Dennis Wolfe again, but couldn’t find him. We headed back to Oasis full, tired and in bed by 9:30 smiling that we would wake up in San Pedro.
Wednesday, February 15
I woke up happily in San Pedro...to find it windy and cloudy. (Still better than a sunny day at home, huh?) The guys didn't go to "work"---so it had to bad if the fishing boats didn't go out.
Since we had more time this morning, Bob made omelets to go with our fresh fruits and bakery pastries and I fixed cheese toast. After a few more cups of coffee we headed out to show the guys the bridge in progress. After the bridge (and some seeing the ferry for the first time) we went to town…watching where we stepped more than the sights around us. The hard rains during the night had left the streets quite puddly and slick. When we got to the cobblestones, we didn’t have to look down…just OUT…for all the traffic! There were lots of people walking around, too. We roamed in and out of shops, but walking around the town not heading for a meal was a new experience for the guys and mine was getting restless! We ended up at the Holiday Hotel Bar and some had Bloody Mary’s and I had a panty ripper….earliest I had ever had one!
We went into Stained Glass Pub to make reservations for dinner. I recognized Capt. Jeff from his fishing pictures and chatted with him about the message board for a minute and then he and my husband talked FISHING. (Even Capt. Jeff didn't go out that day!) The rest of our 12 met us at Fido’s for lunch and then we went back to Oasis for an afternoon by the pool. The guys didn't go to work that afternoon, either.
Snacks and drinks at our place again, and then we had a delicious dinner at Stained Glass Pub. Filet mignon was one of the specials that night and it was delicious. It was my first steak ever on the island and I will be sure to get one there again. It was also our first time eating there and everyone says we will eat there on our next trip, too.
The girls were hoping that the next day and the rest of the days would be warm and not so windy so that the guys could get back to “work”...after waking up in San Pedro!
Thursday, February 16
I love waking up in San Pedro….especially to see the sun peeking through the clouds that are always hanging right above the horizon each morning. (Is it always like that? I’ve never seen the sun rising out of the water.)
The guys went to “work” ( "Yaaay!" said the girls.) and shortly afterwards, Pam, Joey and I watched Sis jump from the plane with one of the jumpers, Lyle. How brave she was! We loved watching her video and seeing her pictures, but not enough to want to try it ourselves. (A little while after her jump, we heard the plane louder than usual and were surprised at how low it was flying over the water. Later we learned that it was being used to search for the lost skydiver, Chad. How sad that was.)
We spent most of that day by the pool. We bought chicken and coleslaw from Verna for our lunch and lime tarts for dessert from the wife of one of our fishing guides. The tart was fantastic!
All were happy with their dinner that evening at Elvi’s, a favorite place of the other Jim's. The salads were especially good. My Jim and I found Dennis Wolfe afterwards (at BC’s, I think) and after listening for a little while, headed back up the beach.
And I was happy knowing that I would be waking up AGAIN in San Pedro! Life is good.
Friday, February 17
I love waking up in San Pedro! I sleep with the curtains open so that I will know when the sky is no longer dark and I can get right up and go out to see the day. (At home, I just roll over and go back to sleep!)
After breakfast, everyone boarded the “work” boats and headed north. The girls got out at Kitty’s Beach Bar and Picnic Area and the guys went on to "work." We drank limeades under the palapas while reading, sunning, and talking. I went out and sat on the steps at the end of the dock with my feet in the water, reading the same pages over and over while I daydreamed. I love the sun and the sea and my life.
The guys returned with very fresh fish for lunch, and the guides (or maybe their wives) had prepared potatoes for cooking and coleslaw. Omero, Armando, Ricardo, and Javier cooked on coconut shells (husks?) and we switched from the morning limeades to panty rippers (my favorite), rum punches, and Belikins while we waited for our picnic under the palms to be ready.
The girls went back to Oasis and the pool and the guys went back to "work" that afternoon.
The Blue Water Grill at the SunBreeze Hotel was our restaurant choice for dinner. It was nice eating outside and having lots of room.
Walking back to our villa I had a minor catastrophe. Ever walked on the beach between Blue Tang and Oasis? Know that speed bump rope stretched across the path? I knew it was there and had warned others about it at other times, but that night I tripped, couldn't catch myself, and slid on my hands and body like I was diving. No broken bones, no sprains, no blood, just a couple of small scrapes and a nasty knot on my knee that turned into a very tender bruise and after a month is still there! It didn't hurt to move it...just to touch it. There were no holes in or dirt on my clothes...just sand in my mouth! I was sooo lucky! I slept with an ice pack on my knee that night.
And I was going to wake up in San Pedro the next morning!
Saturday, February 18
I love waking up in San Pedro and finding that I can walk without my knee hurting a lot and that I have no other damage from the fall!
The guys went for their last day of "work" and the girls had some errands to run....like last minute shopping and returning bottles and crates for deposit returns. We rented a cart for the morning (great for my knee!) loaded it up and headed to the Belikin distributor. From there we rode down to the south end of the island just looking around. We stopped at Banyan Bay and enjoyed a limeade and then we just stopped at some shops.
When the guys came in for lunch, we went to Wet Willy's. Some of the group snorkeled afterwards. That is one of my favorite things to do while visiting, but I kept my knee cool in the pool most of the afternoon. It was easier to get in and out of than the boat!
That night we and our fishing guides and their wives had dinner at Papi's Diner. Papi's wife cooked the fish that our guys had caught that day. A sad group walked back to our villas. That night we sat out talking later than usual, not wanting our stay to end.
I had one last morning to wake up in San Pedro.
Sunday, February 19
I love waking up in San Pedro, but I love it best when it is not the last one! I watched the sunrise through the clouds and then went back in to start organizing for packing.
Some of our group had to leave earlier than the rest, so we all went out and waited with them and took a few group pictures on that big log lying out front on the beach. We plan to send the best one to the guys' alumni magazine...Spring Break: 36 Years Later. What a fun group of boys they were and still are! And they are loyal to each other to a fault!
The rest of us finished our packing and waited for our taxi to SPR. Our Maya flight was good, but not nearly as exciting as the one 10 days earlier. At BZE, my Jim lost his pocket knife to security (thankfully he remembered it was in his pocket while we were in line and just handed it to the guard) and then Jet was out of Belikin AGAIN! Does this always happen to the Delta flyers?
Then there was a problem with our plane and we were later leaving than scheduled. After we boarded, they said there was really nothing wrong, just a light that lit up on the control panel so it all had to be checked out. At ATL my Jim and I hurried so that we could get to the gate to make our flight home. We made it with a few minutes to spare to find there was a problem with that flight also and we had to wait for over an hour. (I like it when the problems happen on the way home like this instead of on the way down! Wouldn't that have been frustrating?)
We landed in Lynchburg after midnight. In the car on the way to our house, we saw patches of snow. It was cold. Jim had to go to work the next day. And we weren't going to wake up in San Pedro. Bummer.
Now I'm back in the real world and can only dream of my next trip to the island. I have my memories, my pictures, and the message board to keep San Pedro close. And I have less than 11 months to wait until I can wake up in San Pedro!
Life is still good. My family and friends are well. My grandchildren just spent their spring break week with me. The cows are calving. The weather will be warm soon and I'll go to the lake and on a few beach trips. Then it will be fall and we will see our friends at the homecoming game and Christmas will follow soon after. In January I will start making Belize piles for the February trip. I love my life!