So, my first time to Belize…………….and it was amazing! We left Saturday, June 7th from Newark and got a direct flight into Belize City that landed around 11:40am. It was a really easy and comfortable Continental flight and even the airplane food wasn't so bad!
When we arrived at the airport we went through the SARS desk and customs and it was all very quick and easy. We then proceeded to get our luggage and make our way to Thrifty for our car rental pick up. We also rented a cell phone that was $5 a day and then purchased some phone cards. Again, in true Belizean fashion it was very relaxed and they said ok since you pre paid we have a few cars just choose the one you would like. (It had been 149.00 total for 3 days rental and that included tax and insurance.) So, we went out and decided on a Suzuki Jimmy and off we were first to the gas station to fill up and WOW those gas prices! ----- Then down the Western Highway to the Belize Zoo. When we got there it was so hot! I mean really hot! We had just left NYC where it was 58 degrees, so our bodies were really attempting to adjust. The zoo is really sweet and well laid out. The animals are really tame and although you can no longer touch or pet, they will come up to you and you can get very close. Best zoo moment ….we were at the Tapir fence and two small children walked up pointing and laughing. The tapir turned around bent over and urinated all over the children. You can't make these moments up! So, the zoo was fun but they did have a lot of mosquitoes so be ready with the OFF!
And we were on the road again………. Next to San Ignacio. We drove through the town and wandered around a bit finally eating at Eva's which was very good and I was very hungry. We had a plate of chicken tacos and stewed chicken, rice, beans and cole slaw…….and a Beliken. It was all consumed for the bargain price of $12 American dollars.
We then made our trek to the Mountain Pine Ridge and Blancaneaux……….the road to the Pine Ridge is crazy to say the least. We were heading up right after a really bad storm so the road was in prime condition. Every bump, jump, hump----we hit it! We honestly believed that it would get better, so we drove slowly and it never did! After 1 hour we arrived at The Pine Ridge where a young man ran out from who the hell knows where and opened the gate into the reserve for us. He asked us our name, looked at our car, laughed and then welcomed us in. Another 20 minutes up and we arrived at Blancaneaux. From the first turn into the drive it was extraordinary. Beautiful grounds and facilities. We checked in to our riverfront cabana to find out we had been upgraded to a 2 bedroom villa and it was truly spectacular! An open air living room, 2 screened porches, an open porch over looking the river, an indoor/outdoor shower that you could see the stars, Cayo made soaps and fresh tropical flowers everywhere you turned. We were in paradise! The sounds of the waterfalls, the beautiful blooming flowers and the chirping birds made for a canopy that could not even be recreated in a movie. We settled in, showered (which we really needed) and headed to the lodge for dinner. We are huge foodies and the food was some of the best we have ever had. It is all fresh baked breads, home made pizzas with fresh vegetables from their organic garden, pastas, chops, chicken, and incredible desserts…….tropical fruit crepes, rum chocolate cakes, and delicious soufflés. Then we had our welcome drink….Jaguar Juice. All of the drinks at the bar were very special—Carcoal Cooler, Pina Colada, etc. YUM! Off to reading by candlelight on the porch and to sleep by 9:30.
Awoke at 4:50am to beautiful birds, a rushing river, and beautiful beaming sunlight. We headed out for a hike on the property and a tour of the grounds. Took a stroll across the river to the gardens, up to the stables, and through the many paths on the property. We finally came back to the villa for a shower and then off to the continental breakfast. Now my continental breakfast experience has always been some hard muffins, weak coffee, and Raisin Bran. Not in Belize, my friends. Fry jacks with mango jelly, Papaya muffins, gingerbread, fresh pineapple, melon, the BEST bananas you have ever tasted, incredible coffee accompanied by steamed milk and sugar---it was so delicious and perfect --especially when you are eating outside overlooking the beautiful surroundings. Then off to Xunantinich where we had a wonderful journey across the hand ferry, hired a local guide and made the hike all the way to the top of the ruin (I thought I was going to die!) and then we came down, which is much harder than it sounds. After all the heat, climbing, and history we could take we headed out again. The ruins were really fascinating and beautiful---quite amazing! So on our way off the ferry I wanted to capture a Kodak moment. Right as I snapped the picture I lost my footing and went sliding down a gravel road almost into the river. Well, I had some nice scrapes and wounds, but I wiped them off and headed on---I was on a mission. LUNCH. So we went to Clarissa Falls which is a local cattle farm, lodging, and restaurant. Once we got there we were warmly welcomed by her staff and enjoyed some of the BEST food I have ever eaten. Chicken tacos, cheese enchiladas, Clarissa's spaghetti, and oohhhhh her famous black rum cake…….it was heaven and so cheap. If you have never been here, drive out of your way, rent a car, take a cab, or boat….but get there! This food was tops! And the tacos for instance were 75 cents a piece. Then headed back home for an evening of relaxation. Did stop at a place called Janus Foundation on the way back up for some REALLY delicious rum raisin ice cream.
Next morning up at 5am for a sunrise horseback ride. Sounds so fun, right? --Slowly riding a horse through the beautiful country of Belize. No one mentioned that it would be straight down hill through mud and rivers. AHHHH!!!! So a little scary, but would do it all over again. It was beautiful! After we came out of the jungle we headed to a clearing and I decided I would like to trot. A nice gallop would be wonderful. So off I went. Literally. Off the horse. On the ground. In the dirt. I was fine. Just a little dirty and laughing hysterically. So poor Geraldo (our guide) pulled himself together and hoisted me back up on Katie. I think the horse was relieved I had fallen off---she finally got a break. That afternoon we tried to go to Carcoal , but that road is out of a horror film. Muddy and steep and narrow and dark----it scared the you know what out of us, so we turned around, but did see some of the most exquisite clusters of butterflies you have ever seen. We then visited Rio on on Pools and had a picnic over looking the beautiful falls. Blancaneaux prepared the picnic and it was so perfect with tablecloth to boot. We had wanted to swim, but it was started to storm. Back to the Lodge for rest, relaxation, and food.
The next morning was moving time so we packed up reluctantly and headed down to Belize City to return the car and get the water taxi to San Pedro. We left on the 1:30pm water taxi and arrived in San Pedro around 3pm. It was a nice ride and very easy. We took the suitcases off the pier and drug them to Caliente's for lunch. It was quite good and reasonably priced—the chicken tostadas were muy Bueno! Then we grabbed a cab for Victoria House. The resort is beautiful and well staffed. All was very nice. We did have a little trouble with our room. I had booked a larger one and our room was small, so they agreed to move us to a casita which was cute but hot! We had drinks waiting for our room to be ready because Sky Mall magazine was doing a swimsuit photo shoot and using our room. For most of the day there was a man in a thong on our porch. LOL!Finally moved in and settled. We had a very nice dinner there that evening and went to bed early. The next morning we awoke, rented our golf cart, and headed to Ruby's for chicken and beans in fry jacks……don't forget that Marie Sharp's hot sauce. Washed it all down with a delicious cinnamon bun…..MMMM. Explored the island heading to the split, taking the hand ferry over to the north part and viewing all of the resorts. Picked up some school children and a wonderful lady that had lived there 22 years. She went there on vacation with her daughter and then returned and never left. She told us a lot about the North side of the island. Took a breae at Capricorn and enjoyed the best rum punch I had while there…………yes, it was 10am in the morning……is there a problem with that? We then headed back to San Pedro--Rested and relaxed at the hotel a while and then headed to Elvi's for lunch where it was VERY expensive, but I must say it was also very good. I have heard mixed things, but I was happy. Grilled shrimp, coconut rice, slaw, plantains, but the best was our appetizer…….stuffed jalapeno peppers. And we ain't talking TGI Fridays………….I don't know how or what they do, but it will make you slap you Mama! Finally we swam and had a few more drinks before dinner. Oh, we had a very good rum punch at Mata Rocks. They have a great beach bar and there grounds are very nice. They allowed us to see one of their Ocean Suites and it was spotlessly clean, very spacious, and well furnished. The pool was nice (a little small, but cute) and the beach was nice, with a nice pier. Remember this place—I think it is a great deal and very nice. ($115 a night for their suite)
We had dinner at Jerry's Crab Shack and it was quite good---try the shrimp and garlic pizza with a stuffed crust!
The next day we ventured to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Ally with our wonderful guides Alberto and George. It was so amazing—my first time snorkeling and it was a thrill. The Rays and sharks were a little scary at first, but what an experience! The rest of the day was spent lounging, drinking, and swimming. Then they moved us to a new room that we liked much better! It had wonderful air conditioning, a nice ocean view, very spacious bath, and a private pool shared with just two other rooms. NICE! Dinner that night was a beautiful boat ride to Capricorn and oh what an experience. The ambience could not be manufactured. It was just beautiful and I had my first taste of conch! Sweet, and savory, and buttery. YUM! Dinner was crab cakes, and shrimp, and filet, and rice pilaf, and broccoli, and oh---CHOCOLATE RUM CAKE!!!! The whole experience is a MUST!! Save the extra money because it isn't cheap and be certain to ask for a deck table. What a night!
The next morning we snorkeled Mexico Rocks and I really liked that because it was not crowded (we were the only ones there) and it was a very relaxing/ peaceful snorkel. We saw a beautiful sea turtle , two star fish, the tail of a green moray eel----I begged our guide not to coax it out---I was scared, lots of angel fish, yellow tail snapper, barracuda, etc. Then we made certain to spend the rest of the day at the pool drinking pina coladas.
So, the next morning was time to leave. We spent a few hours crying into the ocean and packed our bags. We decided to fly Tropic Air out and that was a first for me in a tiny airplane, but it is a beautiful site flying over the caye. We then had a last minute drink at Jet's Bar in the airport and left for Houston. The flight was great, but the Houston airport…………make certain you give yourself enough time for a connecting flight. Customs and Immigration is an unorganized mess and many people were missing their flights. Then from Houston to Newark and a cab ride back into the Big Apple.
It was so amazing! I wish I were a great writer because then I may be able to express it more beautifully, but I truly do not believe that a travel log or a photo can capture Belize. It is in its rice and beans. It is in its palm trees and dusty roads. It is in the people that are the kindest most genteel that I have ever encountered, it is in its sunrises and moon beams. It is in its peace and calm that it brings you. Only 48 hours ago and oh how it aches to return.