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#69899 - 06/19/03 12:06 AM Travel Journal - Belize 5/24-6/9
austink Offline
5/24/03
We arrive at Belize City International Airport at 2:30pm on Continental, then take the Aguada Shuttle to Parrot Nest in Bullet Tree Falls for $30 per person. Pat and Mango (the dog) were awaiting our arrival. Once we got settled in our tree house (#1) we wandered to the Mopan River (a mere 30 feet away) for a dip to cool off after our day of travels. Later, Pat cooked us dinner: chicken with capers, tomatoes, salad and pasta. Not to mention a great chocolate cake for dessert. At this time, we finally got our first Belikins. They were amazing…and cold. We headed off to bed sweating like crazy from the heat and humidity. And then at 4:30am, we woke up both freezing.

5/25/03
We got up with the roosters around 530 and had a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, banana bread, and cantaloupe prepared by Pat. At 830, Jamal (from PACZ) picks us up as we head off to Actun Tunichil Muknal. After a stop at Evas, we pick up another couple and head 45min on a very bumpy road. We then hike about 45 min thru the jungle, crossing the river three times by foot. We had a bit of lunch, packed by Evas and the best lunch filled with delicious fruit, then put our helmets and headlamps on. First thing we do is jump into the cave and swim thru to a ledge to climb out of the water. We spent about 4 hours in the cave in and out of the river. At the furthest point we hiked (with shoes and socks off) up to a dry region to check out more broken pottery from the Mayans (c. 700 AD). Here, we see ancient fire pits that still have ash in them. And the highlight was seeing the 4 human sacrifice remains. 3 full skeletons and one skull. We finally trek back thru the cave for another 45 min hike out of the jungle back to the van. We got back to Evas around 5pm had a few Belikins and checked our email. Then we walked over to Hannahs with another couple on our Actun trip for dinner. Once we got back to Parrot Nest, we had a quick shower and went right to bed.

5/26/03
We woke up early again and had another nice breakfast courtesy of Pat…scrambled eggs, toast, banana bread, and papaya. Snotty Fox picked us up at 730am to go to Caracol. Exactly 2.5 hours on the bumpiest road I have ever seen, thru the middle of NOWHERE, and we arrive at Caracol. We traveled thru the Mountain Pine Ridge on the way there, and boy are we glad we didn’t make a day trip outta this one. There wasn’t really much to see, the pine beetle destroyed the forest, and it was the dry season. Oh, and did I say it was hot…I mean REAL hot! On the way down the road, it seemed like we were driving thru a cloud of beautifully colorful butterflies. 2 hours climbing steps, and walking thru the largest ruin in Belize (and the 2nd largest in Central America – behind Tikal), we eat this horrible sandwich and some snacks we brought. Meanwhile, the other tours around us were having fresh fruits, juice, cold water, and great food. We got back into our Isuzu Trooper and take the bumpy road back. We did a small detour to try and see some scarlet macaws in their natural breeding ground. This is the place the government is vying to put in the dam. It was a beautiful location and would be sad to see it get destroyed. But we also recognize Belize’s need for affordable and reliable electricity. We didn’t see any birds. After getting back into the car for a bit, we made another stop at Rio on Pools. It was refreshing to cool off for a dip in the pools (river). We spent at hour here and it seemed like minutes. Back in the car for another hour back to San Ignacio. We went back to Evas for a drink and to see what we can do to get to Caves Branch tomorrow. We ran into the couple we went to Actun with. They had partnered with another girl who was traveling alone and decided to go to Placencia. We arrange for a Suburban to drive them to Placencia for $130US (from Mayawalk). They offer to drop us off at Caves Branch (45 min drive) for a bargain price of $22US for the two of us. Nice work! We end up having dinner at Marthas (which was great…and only $12US total). We headed back to Parrot Nest for a shower and bed.

5/27/03
We got picked up at 730 am and taken to San Igancio where we pick up the rest of the crew and head to Caves Branch. We checked in at CB, saw our jungle cabana, and headed out on our own to Blue Hole National Park. Went for a dip in the hole. It was cool and refreshing…but not nearly as big as we thought it was going to be. Oh well! Then we hiked the Hummingbird Loop trail. It was hot, and we were alone. I hope nothing goes wrong. Then we hear this thing trouncing around in the bushes. We can’t see it, but we hear it. Finally, we catch a glimpse and it is some big furry animal. Later we find out it is a white-tailed coatimundi. We went back to the hole for a dip to cool off, and we met some other guys from LA. They offered to drive us the .75mile down the highway to St. Hermans Cave. It was almost too hot to walk. We went on the hike to the cave entrance…started walking into the cave by ourselves, then realized our little flashlight with 2 AA batteries was not sufficient enough for us to continue. We left the cave, and walked back along the highway to Caves Branch. It was sooo hot, we were rationing our water by this time, and it felt like our skin was burning off our bodies. We couldn’t wait to get back to CB for a shower and a rest. CB definitely had some great outdoor showers – probably the highlight of being there. Finally clean and rested, we headed to dinner and sat with a fairly chatty group telling us all about the “nasties” at CB; bugs, tarantulas living in the thatched roof cabanas (i.e. ours) heat, dirt, etc. Good news was that we got to see the Howler Monkeys on our first night. They came in around dinnertime and were playing and eating in the trees above the dining area. After dinner, we headed back to our cabana only to get lost. There are no lights and they didn’t light the torches because it was too dry out there. With the help of a friend, we found the place.

5/28/03
We had breakfast at 8am; pineapple, papaya, eggs, pancakes, fries, and OJ. We then hopped on the trailer attached to the tractor and headed off with 5 other people and a guide for cave tubing. We were hauled along the highway with rain drenching us. Fun! 30 minutes later, we arrived at the river, which was very low. So we walked and tubed to the entrance. It seemed like we were doing more caving than tubing. We spent about 4 hours in the cave, in and out of the water. We saw more Mayan artifacts as well. Lunch was “catered”. Fresh tortillas, pastrami, cheese, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. We ate in the darkness with only our headlamps on. Once we exited the cave, the rain had finally stopped. Back on the tractor and back to CB. We had a nice long outdoor shower and rested. On the way to dinner, we saw our first toucan. Much smaller than we thought it would be. We had the usual dinner, until Ian asked us if we would move tables to accommodate a presentation. We all obliged and he gave us each a beer. Free stuff is nice especially when you pay this kind of money…and especially since a beer was $5bz!!! After further discussion about our next day’s activity, we opted to pass on going on the waterfall trip. We weren’t allowed to bring a camera, and we were told that we would be in the water all day in pants, shoes, and with a backpack. Just didn’t sound fun to us at the time. We have no regrets about choosing to go on a private tour in an A/C car to the zoo and baboon sanctuary. It rained so hard this night. Our thatched roof began to leak so we moved the bed. Not good for $70/night.

5/29/03
It poured all night from 8pm to 8am. By breakfast, the rain turned to drizzles…so more eggs, fruits, and tortillas. Then Pablo put us into the Montero, turned on the A/C and headed to the Zoo. The zoo was nice especially since the animals were in very natural environments. Also, they were very close to us; unlike the zoo here is Los Angeles. We saw the jaguars, howlers, spider monkeys, macaw, tapir, etc. We even got the parrot to say “hello”. After the zoo, we stopped off for lunch at “Cheers – with a tropical twist”. Nice to have normal food. We moved on to the baboon sanctuary, which was interesting. We drove thru this ‘neighborhood’ and got to a visitor’s center. It felt like we were in a small town. Then our guide, Alvin, walked us across the street and into the mini jungle where there were many mango trees. We heard the howlers from a distance and were trying to track them down to see them. Finally, we found a troop. It was a beautiful sight to see…wild monkeys gorging themselves on mangos. Had it not been for the biting fire ants, we coulda stayed there longer. But our feet were burning with pain so we headed back. On the way back thru Belmopan, we stopped off to visit a friend (who owns the Venus store next to the bus stop). He helped us plan the next phase of our trip to Ambergris. Told us about the $26us flight from the municipal airport to Ambergris. Great idea! Back at CB, we had dinner and it was the attack of the flood flies; termites with wings. They were swarming and wings were dropping off on our plates. While we were eating, one of the guides walks into the eating area with a fer-de-lance – the most poisonous snake in Belize. Nice right! We basically ran back to the cabana to escape the bugs. We have had enough of them!

5/30/03
Another 8am breakfast with the same basic CB food. Then we head off to the Black Hole Drop. Just the 2 guides and us. We had to wear pants, shoes, and bandanas on our heads to prevent mosquitoes from laying bot fly larvae in us. Nice right! The hike in was about an hour. It was SUPER hot. I thought for a second I wouldn’t make it. I was huffing and puffing as we climbed up the steep slope. I went second down the rappelling line. While my girlfriend was terrified, I sorta enjoyed the slow cruise down the line. I even did a 30-foot freefall. Once we got down to the bottom, we walked into a cave where we had lunch. It began to rain harder than I have ever seen rainfall before. Thank god there was no wind. Of course we now had to hike out of this limestone sinkhole in a torrential downpour. After a long and somewhat cool (but wet) hike out, we radioed to be picked up. Well, it ended up being a 30 min wait standing in the orange orchard waiting for a car. In the end, we saw a slow-moving tractor coming down to get us. They could have drove a real car and saved us 45 min!!!! When we got back to CB, they told us they moved our belongings out of the cabana we were in because we complained about the leaky roof and the broken fan. So they upgraded us to a Jungle Suite with bathroom and a tile roof. It was much nicer, but you could never in a million years get me to pay for this thing.. We had a few hours to relax, shower, and wash off all of our pants, shirts, and shoes. Off to dinner, but this night a little later to avoid the flood flies at dusk. I left in the middle of dinner to use the restroom and I walked in the dark with my flashlight to the head. Right as I was about to enter, I saw a huge tarantula. A big black-and-red furry thing! I immediately went back to show people, but it was gone when I went back. We asked to settle our bill that night. As you may have already heard, it was wrong. We were overcharged by quite a bit. After putting up a fairly strong front, the bill was fixed and I brought a check with the correct amount. I later found out we coulda paid the bill on a credit card if we had given them the card a day earlier (so that they could run it in town). That was annoying.

5/31/03
We are outta the jungle!!!! We woke up early because of the excitement of heading out to the beach. CB was nice enough to give a ride to the highway. We waited 15 min for the bus, which we took for $1us each to Belmopan. We got to Belmopan, and bought tickets for the Express bus ($7us) to Belize City. What a good call…we had comfy seats and AC. We hopped into a cab for $6us to the municipal airport and got there at 1125 and tried to catch the 1130 Maya Air flight. We missed it but got on the 1230pm flight for $26us. Such a good call. I got to sit in the cockpit with the pilot. What a treat! It was a quick 20-minute flight over the cayes and reef. Once off the plane, we gather our packs and walk 5 mins to find Rubies, our home for the next 10 days. After we dropped our stuff off in the barren, basic, but clean room, we talk a walk down the beach stopping along the way at dive shops to chat and ended up at Fidos for lunch. It was a nice lunch, but much more expensive than I thought it was gonna be (also, the shrimp burger is not much of a burger, but rather some shrimp on a burger bun). I learned really quick how expensive AC was gonna be compared to San Ignacio. Later, we took our first dip into the warm 84 degree water. It was perfect. We needed to just relax for a bit. After a rest and shower, we walked thru town a bit and ended up at Cannibals where we had our first panty rippers. Hung out with locals Trevor and Nano who play volleyball every weekday night there. They suggest we try the Jerk Pit so we head over for dinner; grilled fish and a fish basket – not bad, not great.

6/1/03
Last night was a rather sleepless night due to the noise and heat, more heat than noise tho. We woke up, got a cinnamon roll and juice from Rubies Café and walked a long way in both directions on the beach in search of Ambergris Divers. It seemed that no one could point us in the right direction. We finally gave up and decided to rent a Hobie 13 for 2 hours and sail up and down the coast. It was a great way to see more of the island from the sea. Thank god it was a bit cloudy. We got burned to crisp anyway. Off to buy better, stronger sunscreen. We cleaned up and headed to BC’s Sunday Beach BBQ. We shared the meat combo plate. It was really good, but we realized later we should have ordered the seafood combo instead. On our way back to Rubies we bumped into SCUBATSA, whom we were looking for the last day or so. We chatted a bit, and discussed diving during the week and agreed to go out tomorrow morning from the Aqua Dives dock. A little after 5pm, we came back upstairs to shower and get ready for dinner. We decided on Caliente which would have been good, but I got sick in the middle of dinner. I am not sure it was the food (this or previous meals) or the fact that I drank 3 beers during the day and was probably very dehydrated. I had to leave the dinner and go back to the room and lay down. Bummer because I was so much looking forward to this dinner. Needless to say, I crashed immediately.

6/2/03
There was a huge storm last night – almost felt like a hurricane, strong winds and rain. I remember in the middle of the night when my gf turned to me and said, “Should we pack up and leave?” I told her that we were on an island and there was nowhere to go and no way to leave. We both had a bit of a laugh. When we got up at 730am, it was beautiful outside, deep blue skies, calm winds…. We headed down to Rubies again for breaky. Met the crew at 830 and we head off for 2 tank dives. Went to Hol Chan first so that we could all have an easy dive to start and so that my gf could snorkel above. It was an OK dive, the visibility was mediocre the surge was a bit much. Had a bottom time of around 50 min which was more than I thought the shops allowed. I was happy they let us dive long, but I still had half a tank left! Then for the second dive we headed outside the reef. Talk about swells; they were 10-12 feet! Again the dive was OK, the highlight was these three groupers who hung around us like pet dogs. They let us pet them too. I guess we couldn’t get back to shore soon enough as my gf who was on the boat during our second dive was getting a bit seasick. She was happy to step back on land. We went to Celi’s Deli for lunch. It was cheap and tasty. We ended up just sitting and hanging out on the Celi’s deck for a few hours enjoying the scenery and relaxing. At about 630 we got up and ended up eating at Lagniappe for pan-fried snapper and a chicken enchilada. The food has all been good so far and you definitely get a lot of food. But the prices are very comparable to those here in Los Angeles. I find that disturbing. We hung out on the patio for a bit and enjoyed the warm breeze.

6/03/03
Today was the day my gf leaves me to go back home. It was VERY windy. We were slow to move this morning especially because we really didn’t have anything to do. We got up and, of course, went to Rubies for food. After catching some last minute rays, it was time to take her to the airport. It was a sad goodbye as we had such a great time together.

6/04-09/03
No real journal entries but I can say that winds didn’t ever let up so I only ended up doing 6 of the 11 dives I had planned. I spent a lot of time using Ramons facilities. Their lounge chairs, pool. Café, and dock for swimming/snorkeling. It worked out well. It was a great week.

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#69900 - 06/19/03 01:31 AM Re: Travel Journal - Belize 5/24-6/9
dbdoberman Offline
Thanks for taking the time to detail your jungle adventures. Those are places I am curious about, and hope to visit. I haven't read anything on here about Parrot Nest and Bullet Tree Falls - I hope Lan can add to this. I appreciate hearing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sounds like you really had a great time. Thanks again. smile

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#69901 - 06/19/03 01:36 AM Re: Travel Journal - Belize 5/24-6/9
Chloe Offline
Austink, COOL log of your travels in Belize.

Heavy workouts in the caves, hiking and such.

Food Expensive on Ambergris? HM!
_________________________
Dare To Deviate

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#69902 - 06/19/03 05:49 AM Re: Travel Journal - Belize 5/24-6/9
seashell Offline
Thanks for sharing your log with us.

It looks to me like you didn't take advantage of all the places that serve plentiful and tasty food, but for cheap, cheap, cheap. Did you ever try the vendors? Los Cocos? There are a bunch of little places that are all very good (though plain fare) and charge very little for what you get.
_________________________
A fish and a bird can fall in love, but where will they build their nest?


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#69903 - 06/19/03 07:13 PM Re: Travel Journal - Belize 5/24-6/9
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
ddoberman,

I think I might have recommended Parrot's Nest to this fellow. I recall I did tell him I thought it was a good budget option in Cayo, after he had heard what I thought was a bum rap on the place. Parrot's Nest isn't fancy, but it's a good value and almost always gets good reports from those who stay there.

--Lan Sluder
_________________________
Lan Sluder/Belize First
http://www.belizefirst.com

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#69904 - 06/20/03 04:56 PM Re: Travel Journal - Belize 5/24-6/9
austink Offline
Yep Lan, that me. You did tell me that you thot A/C was a must in the Cayo. You suggested the Aguada. We decided to go with Parrot Nest for that natural lodge feeling. I figured that going on trips like these doesnt happen often, so I wanted to try something new. I have to say that of the three places we stayed, we enjoyed Parrot Nest a lot. It was reasonably priced, the food was good (when we had bfast and one dinner), beers were cheap, it was clean, and friendly. There just wasnt a lot of hassle there.

As for food on Amerbergris, you are correct that we didnt take that much adv of the cheaper food like Los Cocos. I did, however have 5 meals at the vendors. The food was the best I had in Belize! And it was only about $2us per meal. How can you beat that? Also, for those looking for a budget place to stay on Ambergris, you really cant beat Rubies. I thot the rooms were fine, the staff was great, and it was really in a great location.

Lan, I thot you should know that when we all sat down at dinner each night at Caves Branch, the only people that were upbeat about the place were those that arrived that day. I think that says a lot about the "operation" Ian runs. For example (albeit briefly), I cant believe he charges $5bz for a Belikin!

Cheers!

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#69905 - 06/20/03 06:16 PM Re: Travel Journal - Belize 5/24-6/9
scubatsa Offline
Austink -I really enjoyed your report about the inland trip. We've never done that but hope to some day. Maybe in the winter time when it may not be as HOT, DRY, or Buggy.........

You forgot to mention your seeing a sea turtle on your last dive (after all the dives I've had, I still haven't seen one). How about the "sponge fish"? What about the visit to Sweet Basil and Capricorn (don't forget that? I think you left some things out on your AC report..... Sure did enjoy our time with you and Ally though...we'll have to do it again. smile

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#69906 - 06/20/03 07:52 PM Re: Travel Journal - Belize 5/24-6/9
austink Offline
Alright Scubatsa...

I only had so much time to write this summary. You are correct, highlights on the dives were the giant frogfish (not called the spongefish) and the turtle. And yes, Sweet Basil was great. Thanks to you and Sara for including me.

There is always next time...

Over and out.

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#69907 - 06/20/03 08:07 PM Re: Travel Journal - Belize 5/24-6/9
IslandJunkie Offline
Austink –

It’s really too bad you didn’t have a great experience at Caves Branch, and that as you describe, the only people excited about the place were those that had just arrived. I spend a couple nights there (in the bunkhouse) a year ago, and my traveling companions and I just absolutely LOVED it, and all the guests seemed to be thrilled with their experiences. We sat around each night and talked about the day’s adventures, and wondered what the next day had in store. We never had any problems with our bill, the food was expensive, to be sure, but it was good and plentiful. And, we were treated superbly by Ian and all of his staff. Anyway, not to minimize your experience, but just to say it’s unfortunate it wasn’t stellar like ours. I can’t wait to go back there and do the black hole drop again!

IJ

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#69908 - 06/20/03 08:14 PM Re: Travel Journal - Belize 5/24-6/9
scubatsa Offline
Island Junkie - what time of the year were you there? I was told by a native that May/June is the worst (as far as heat and bugs go).

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