9-27-08 Saturday - Flight out of DFW at 12:55 p.m.
We left the house a few minutes before 9:00, got to DFW with plenty of time to spare. Got checked in and through security with no problems and not really any lines!!! We sat at an Irish bar right next to our gate while we waited. We met a man from Mississippi who was also going to Belize today. He was going to a friend’s place on the mainland of Belize to help him rebuild. He said his friend’s place was in a remote area and had been vandalized and he needed some help re-building. Vandals had apparently taken everything that could be hauled off. Windows, doors, cabinets and fixtures. He is staying for about a month or so (he’s retired).
The Flight to Belize was uneventful. Our AA flight was only about 2/3’s booked and we had a row to ourselves. We each ordered a beverage and settled in by loading a Tina Turner concert in the laptop. Jeff ordered a second beer and paid exact. Right before we landed a flight attendant came by and put $4 on his tray. She apparently thought he had paid with a $10. We were the last off and he just could not let a trip start with bad karma. He handed her the $4 and told her he paid exact. She said keep it and as he started to explain the karma issue she said the same thing at the same time. Must have been karma. She kept the $4.
We arrived at Belize Airport and got off the plane outdoors. That’s just neat. It has that tropical feel to it and unless you’re a travel snob (another post), it has a more laid back atmosphere. We went through immigration, got our luggage and then went through customs. This was uneventful as well, which was really nice. Everyone so far has been helpful and really courteous and friendly. We made it to Tropic Air, which is our puddle jumper over to Ambergris Caye. Like many before us, we did not bother trying to score an arrival drink, but rather wanted to get on our way and walk in some sand. This plane held 15 people, including the pilot. These flights were leaving from the airport constantly. If your luggage does not make it on the plane you get on, it’ll soon to follow. Jeff sat in the front behind the pilot. I was asked to sit in the seat in the far back because they needed 3 people to sit there. The ladies I sat with were from Arizona and were very friendly. One of them is a diver and they were coming to dive the blue hole.
We arrived in Ambergris Caye on a airstrip…..but then it seemed to turn into a parking lot. It was interesting. The pilot pulled up in there and turned around and we all got out. Felt like we were in someone’s back yard. Very rustic and we like it!!! The warm sea air was perfume to our noses. Other than weekend trips to my dad’s place in Crystal Beach (yes the Crystal Beach ravaged by Ike) we had not been in the salt air for 10 months. A long stretch for us.
A cab driver took us to Xanadu……we are in paradise! Shirley and Stacey were at the front desk to meet us. They are so friendly. Stacey had a beer for Jeff on the counter and said “Aren’t you on the message board?” Jeff said he was 2aggies. She said she thought so and knew he liked beer. An understatement. Shirley booked us in and took us to Loft number 15. The room was everything we imagined and more. It was more roomy and spacious. We LOVE it!!! The kitchen area is more spacious and it is stocked with everything you need. The downstairs, which is on the second floor, has a queen bed, couch, full kitchen and dining table. The upstairs loft had a king bed and full bath. We were told there was 2 small markets just a 5-minute walk away. It is fabulous. It is always a pleasant surprise when your accommodations are better than you anticipated!
We went to the Hairriri market for some rum and beer to get us started. After preparing a couple of cocktails we took a walk down to the water to check it all out and see the pool. The place is perfect. So tropical and peaceful.
For dinner tonight we walked down to the Catamaran bar, which is just next-door at Caribbean Villas resort. This is a new bar, only open for a couple of months. VERY casual and laid back. We met the owners and the kids of the owners. Ruth is the daughter in law of the owner. They are from the UK. They have 3 kids and they were all there: Adam, David and Lucy. They were all really nice. We had nachos and a chicken burrito right there at the bar, along with some rum punch, of course!! A few beers, met seven or eight people right away and next thing we know we’re all sitting in a makeshift circle, drinking and visiting. We have once again found a place where people are fun and genuine. No snooty, pretentious, high rollers, just fun people who really enjoy life. We have never had a problem meeting people and normally make new friends within minutes. We have learned that wonderful people are easy to find and be around. The owners are having a sailing contest the next day and invite us down to watch and have barbecue. Jeff has a few extra brewskies and we head off for our Shangri-La. We mix another drink and head out on the pier. We met the night security guard and introduce ourselves. He is very nice and welcomed us to San Pedro.
9-28-08 Sunday - It gets dark here at about 6:00 p.m. So it gets daylight earlier as well. We were up pretty early. Jeff went for a walk down the beach at dawn and walked into town. He took the camera and got some great pic’s of a nice (3’6” across) sting ray right next to the sea wall. He is in heaven getting to walk beaches in the early morning again. No beaches to walk in East Texas! I got up a little later and sat out by the water under a palapa. Dino, the Xanadu friendly kitty came and sat with me and kept me entertained. (We have 3 cats so it was nice to have a morning visitor)
Jeff went out on the pier and promptly discovered a huge green eel (@ 3 feet) and two lobsters living right below the deck. We haven’t even been in the water yet and we have seen at least 15 species of marine life. This trip is going to be a blast. We later learned that another eel lived in the sea wall right next to the Xanadu pier.
We headed out on foot to find some breakfast. We found Antojito’s just down the road a bit. It is a little family owned place. Very quaint, only 2 tables and some bar stools, but we had some wonderful eggs w/ beans and tortillas. Great breakfast. They are remodeling the entire kitchen so they are cooking right there in the sitting are. Once again everyone was so friendly. We were the only gringo’s and it was obvious from the come and go crowd this was a locals place. They charged us local rates we know because we heard them charging others. We love to eat at places were the chairs don’t match; the tables rock and the walls aren’t all fru-fru with modern art or something of the like. Antojitos is such a place.
We stopped back in at Hairiri’s store to see about some milk, but no dice. All of their milk was expiring today. This is something you have to look out for here. Jeff was warned about this on an Internet chat page. We though maybe Monday would be a delivery day.
We checked out bicycles and went to explore the town. This was a great experience. Lots of fun. There are lots of golf carts here, but lots of bicycles too. It’s just a short ride to town.
It’s Sunday, so many things are closed. It’s also low season so some places are closed for the month. But, there is plenty open and plenty to see and do. When we got back from our exploration of town we went out and got in the pool to cool off. It was quite refreshing.
We met a girl (Dana) who is originally from Alto, Texas. Can you believe that? She currently is a writer and lives in Houston. She also went to Tyler Junior College where Jeff & I met. Small world.
Jeff got a headache in the sun and headed to the room for a rest from the sun. After a brief break, he felt fine. Not like him to ever get headaches and he lives in the sun at home, so I was a little concerned about him diving, until he walked over to the fridge and opened a Belikin. Now that’s normal! No worries anymore.
After a while we decided to walk down the beach. Jeff had met Pugwash (another board poster) several weeks ago in Dallas and he arranged to dive with Coral Divers. Jeff called Genie with Coral Divers and left a message. We stopped in the office to ask about BC’s and the Sunday barbecue. Right after stepping out of the office, Shirley came out and told Jeff he had a call. It was Genie and they agreed on dive details. We walked down the beach to BC’s. We met a VERY nice couple (Joe & Consuelo). They gave us lots of pointers about the island and where food was best. We visited with them for quite awhile. Consuelo is Belizean. They told us we should never pay more than $10B. for any cab ride. If they quoted more than that, they were just taking advantage of us because we are American. What a nice couple. We enjoyed visiting with them. We also listened to the band, Usual Suspects. Lil Red, Drummer Dan and the now infamous young man, Derrick were there. These are people Jeff has communicated with or seen on the Belize message board. Lil Red came over to talk to Joe & Consuelo and they introduced us. Jeff said happy belated birthday and Sherry (Lil Red) looked surprised. He then told her he was 2aggies and had watched the board for several months getting ready for our trip. She was very nice and had a great voice.
Here we met Alex, an enterprising young man of maybe 10-11 years of age, who sold jewelry. Nice bracelets and necklaces. He was very polite and had two friends in tow. One of his friends was also a jewelry “broker” and they both saw easy prey in me. After some friendly negotiating I was the proud owner of a new bracelet and anklet. Both boys then stuck out their hands for a handshake and thanked me for the business. How wonderful to see such polite, well-mannered boys. They were not pushy and had the bar owners permission before walking up. More on our new friend Alex later.
We said good-bye to Joe and Consuelo and headed out. As we walked past Sherry’s gang enjoying a break she told everyone “That’s 2aggies from the board”. Everyone waved and said hello. Guess Jeff hadn’t offended anyone. We headed on down the beach to Fido’s. Fabulous dinner. Jeff had lobster. I had Fish ‘n chips. They were great. Had a couple of tropical drinks to go with them. GREAT!!! We decided to get a taxi back to Xanadu since it was Sunday evening and it seemed every dope peddler was on the beach tonight. No need to tempt Jeff and have to bail him out of jail before our first dive. Ha Ha
9-29-08 Monday - Tuffy Canyon dive site –
This is the day of our first dive. We woke up early because we fell asleep early. Our dive was not until 11. We got the bikes and went for a short drive to Banana Beach Resort to their restaurant El Devino for breakfast. It is just around the corner. The rain came down on us on our way there. The folks there were so nice and helped us dry off a bit. Jeff had a huge omelet. I had eggs Belizean style, very tasty!!!
We were not sure we would still go diving with the weather, but the rain slacked off and finally stopped before time for our dive.
Genie and his brother Chris from Coral Divers picked us up at the end of our pier at our resort. How nice is that! They were very nice and very patient. I had to get re-acclimated . Jeff kinda did too, but it takes me longer to equalize. Not a big deal thought. It’s like riding a bicycle; you remember it again as soon as you get in the water.
The dive was fabulous. By far the best dive we have ever had. The reef is absolutely beautiful. Not tons of marine life on this dive, but that made no difference. Just being down there and seeing all that lives there is fascinating. What a wonderful experience. Once this dive was over, Jeff and I both had a little queasiness from the nitrogen. Probably because we went over 60 feet and we have not been diving in nearly a year. We decided to call it a day after 1 dive and just get things together again. Genie had fresh pineapple and water after our dive.
We got back to our room and took a nap, which made us feel better. Then we headed out for some shopping briefly. Got a few things from the Caribbean Market, then headed back to the room.
While we lounged out on the veranda up walked Dino, the cat, who casually plopped down on our outside table and went to sleep. Being cat-lovers we did not mind and gave him an occasional scratch to let him know he was among friends.
Tonight we walked down the beach to find some dinner. We ended up back in town at the Stadium Sports Bar. It is a new place, nice. Jeff had chicken wings and I had tacos. They were good, not great. The atmosphere was great. All locals. We began talking with Fidel and Rudy at the table next to us. They were at the bar to celebrate that Rudy had just passed his exam to be a dive instructor. That is a Big Deal to you non-divers! They were so nice. After ten minutes or so, I looked over at Jeff and Fidel was standing there talking to him with his arm around Jeff’s shoulder. We talked about everything. Fidel was so funny, he kept looking at Jeff and asking where are you from or what’s your name? He was giving Jeff a hard time (for fun) I think. Belizean people are so nice!! This bar also had a beer holder thing that sat on your table, held 10 beers and you just pull them yourself. It had lights that flashed, it was sooooo cool!! Jeff was up for the challenge, but I don’t drink beer so he settled for bottles. Many bottles! He, Fidel and Rudy started buying rounds.
We took a cab home, $10 Belize ($5 US) you can’t beat that!! The cab driver was really nice. He actually had been in the same bar we were in. He had been in there playing pool until time to take someone somewhere. This was their recreation. Very nice guys. Very talkative all the way back to Xanadu.
9-30-08 Tuesday - Tackle Box dive site –
Another day of diving!!! Jeff went to the Hairiri’s market to get a few supplies early this morning. He did his shopping while Antojito’s was fixing us a couple of taquitos for a light breakfast.
Genie and one of his other brothers (younger brother Ismael), picked us up again at the end of the pier. This morning we left at 9:00 a.m. This dive was much more comfortable for me, which was a relief. Ok, we were barely in the water and the sharks came calling. It was AWESOME!!! One of the sharks (5’6”) came right up behind me and bumped me before I even realized there were sharks there. Genie held one of them while I petted it. It was a nurse shark. It felt very rough, like sandpaper. Very interesting and unexpected. We then proceeded to observe many valleys and walls of reef. There were many fish. Lots of little colorful ones. Several large grouper and some others which were very inquisitive, they were a silvery color with a bright yellow stripe down their back. Genie had fresh bananas, melon and water to snack on.
We went to Island Diver Supplies place (Rudy’s place– the newly certified instructor we met the night before) to check into his dive camera. Our little underwater camera only goes to 30 feet or so. Today when we passed 70’, it bit the dust! Rudy had a camera and charged the batteries for us to use it. He gave us the special rate quoted over the beers the night before and seemed somewhat surprised to see us. We had an hour to kill anyway, between dives, so it all worked out. Genie picked up a couple more tanks while we were there. Jeff walked out of Island Divers with a digital camera and case and they didn’t have a deposit or credit card cause he didn’t bring it for the dive. Rudy said no problem bring it later. In the US you have to fill out a questionnaire and give up the rights to your first born to rent anything. Here we just walked out with a $700 rig.
Esmeralda dive site – (we could not find this on the map, but it is near Tackle Box)
Our second dive today. This time Genie had a chum bucket for the sharks. This is where there are always nurse sharks around. Sure enough they came calling. Jeff petted several of them after they were finished eating. While they were attacking the chum bucket, we just knelt down on the bottom and watched them. What fascinating creatures. You just want to be sure you hands are nowhere near that chum bucket. Wouldn’t want them to mistake your fingers for a piece of fish. After we “fed the sharks” another group of 2 divers and a dive master came down to do the same thing. This was great to get to see. Large grouper also came around to see what was going on. Seems like all of the nurse sharks had some other kind of sucker/cleaner fish stuck to them. That’s interesting. They swam all around us, but were only interested in the chum. Genie and the other dive master held them and all that. They are more brave then me!!
We continued this dive by swimming through some of the valleys. We have good underwater pictures of much of this dive. It was wonderful. There is a very clear sandy bottom in all of the valleys and what appear to be mountain walls of coral on either side. Very cool! It’s another entire world down there. More fruit and water waited on the boat.
We hung around the loft for a while and decided to ride bikes to town. We stopped by Rudy’s (Divers Supply) and exchanged the batteries in the camera. While Rudy was doing that we walked out to get a beer. We felt great after 2 dives today and decided the 1st dive queasiness was the nitrogen. Now we were primed and up for lots of diving. After getting charged batteries in the camera we headed back towards Xanadu. I mentioned stopping by Pedros for a beer and Pizza so we headed there. It was about 3:45 when we rode up and went in. There was no one in site and we stepped back out to ask a young man who was painting outside. He said they didn’t open until 4:00. We told him we just wanted a pizza and he said to follow him. He went in and asked and the kitchen was just warming up so we told them we’d run back in an hour or 2. We went on to out loft and and had more drinks. Well, true to form we were “vegged out” soon and decided to order a pizza. I know that seems wrong to be on this beautiful island and order pizza, but we were wore out. Pedro delivered a great pizza and we ate out on the veranda. Aaaahhh – this is paradise! Rum, Beer, Pizza after a day of diving.
10-1-08 Wednesday - Today is another dive day!!! Jeff took his morning stroll and went out on Xanadu’s pier when he got back. While enjoying the view and getting some pictures this strange looking fish about 22-24 inches long swam up and started nibbling around the pier post. Jeff got some really good pictures and the security guy said it was a frogfish. Genie and Ismael are picking us up at the end of our pier this morning at 9:00 a.m. Jeff and I are going now to Antojito’s (also Antojito’s San Telmo) for breakfast, then to the store across the street for a few supplies. We have beans soaking so they will be ready to cook this afternoon when we get in. We are doing another 2 tank dive today. So we should be in around 1:00 or so!!
Pescador Canyon dive site -
Another beautiful day for diving. First this morning we went to the North. Genie picked this route because the wind was a little stronger and was out of the South. He thought the clearer, nicer diving would be in the North. We had several nice swim throughs here. One in particular was a little longer and narrower and even went around a corner where it was dark. Very cool. We had a brand new dive light and it was handy here. Dove the deepest I have ever done today…..107 feet. It was beautiful. Lots of fish, some we had seen before some we had not. Saw barracuda, mackerel and grouper along with many others. It was very nice. Today we had watermelon and water waiting on the boat. Genie and his brother were very good on the boat. They worked effortlessly and seemed to read each other’s mind. It made us comfortable and feeling like we were in good hands. They talked with us about everything from local politics, the reef, and the local way of life.
Tres Coco’s dive site –
Our second dive today. Genie said it was named for three large coconut trees that used to be on the shore across from this area of the reef. However, a hurricane took out the coconut trees, so they are no longer there, but the name remains. To me this dive felt like we were in an earth-sized aquarium. There were so many valleys and canyons, all with sandy bottoms down in them. There were fish everywhere you turned. None of them even interested in us. They were just going about their normal day. It was really nice. More fruit and water as usual. We both enjoyed the breaks and the time on the boat. Genie was very good about giving tid-bits of local knowledge as we went along. He was quite knowledgeable and had a tremendous respect for the ecosystem and the marine life.
Made plans with Genie to pick us up tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. at the end of our pier again. Today we got back to our pier around 12:00 noon.
We came straight into our room this time so as to not be eaten up by the mosquito’s that live down by the outdoors rinse shower where we were rinsing our gear. We decided today to bring it to the room and rinse it in our shower. Much better plan!!!
Jeff had soaked some beans this morning while we were gone. We had a plate of nachos, watched video of our kids (cats) and put the pot of beans on to cook. We had brought a large garlic and some dry spices from home to season with. They smelled wonderful. Don’t know whether we will have them tonight for dinner or just have them in the room for whenever. Either way works!!! We had beans and sausage from the sausage factory. It was a huge pot and Jeff asked Orlando if he wanted to carry some home to his family or come up to eat. He gladly accepted carrying some home and the next day he brought back the container. His wife sent her thanks.
10-2-08 Thursday - Another 2 tank dive day. I think we are going over to Hol Chan Reserve today, if the weather is good. Early this morning we walked into town to get recharged batteries for the camera. We ended up falling asleep yesterday and did not make it back to town. Today we headed out early, walking down the beach side. It was really nice this morning. We made it to the dive shop a little before 7:00. He was not open yet so we went to Estelle’s for breakfast. She is beachfront and serves breakfast all day. It was really good!! By 7:30 Rudy was at his shop and we got new batteries put into the camera so we were ready to go. We got back to our room in plenty of time to get ready for the dive.
Eagle Ray Canyon dive site –
It was a very nice dive. We did see 1 eagle ray. He was beautiful. So graceful soaring through the water. We also saw a nice Loggerhead turtle. The grouper were very friendly and were right there with us almost the entire time. As soon as we got into the water, they were there waiting. This dive we went down to about 80 feet. The grouper stayed back around 60 feet, but met us as soon as we started back up. No one was chumming, but they were looking!
During our break today we moored up in Hol Chan where we could snorkel if we wanted. There were a couple of other boats there with snorkelers. We just sat in the boat and watched. (I don’t enjoy snorkeling much when the waves are choppy, water always gets in my snorkel….not good!) The sharks came right up to the boat, along with some snapper, mackerel and groupers. Genie advised it was not a good time to put our hands in the water since everything there was looking for food. It was fun to watch the slow sharks trying to run off the darting snappers and mackerels. To me it was like watching our 18 lb cat Mogi (sweet boy, but slow) chasing our 13 lb. speedster cat Mister. No chance of catching anything, but they thought they were winning. We watched them play chase as we enjoyed mango, banana and water.
Pillar Coral dive site –
Our second dive today. Genie said this dive would be really neat because the coral has made tall fluffy pillars of coral. It was beautiful. Each dive just keeps getting better and better. The sun came out once really bright and it was like someone turned on the lights in a studio. It was so beautiful shining down through the water. This was a very pretty sight. We saw 2 lobster tucked up under a cliff of coral. We have pictures of them. They were really neat looking. Then Jeff saw a white spotted moray eel. He also was tucked up into a rock. He was beautiful white with black spots. We also saw several Christmas tree corals. Also Jeff saw a feather duster anemone. I did not see it until it was retreating back into its hole, but we have a great picture of it.
Got back from the dive at around noon or a little after. Jeff asked Genie about getting some fresh lobster on the bay side from the fishermen. Genie told him he knew a lobster diver and would check into getting us a couple of tails. His friend did not sell to the public. Today we were determined not to go to sleep so early. So we got cleaned up and headed for a walk down the beach again. We stopped in at Crazy Canucks bar for a cocktail. Jeff had beer. I had a panty ripper. Very good!!! Drummer Dan and a couple of other guys were there along with the owner/bartender. We listened to some great tunes from the 70’s and visited back and forth. Sitting there under the shade of a palm we commented on how fortunate we were to get to travel, even as modestly as we do, to these wonderful faraway places that so many people only see pictures of. We have several friends who cringe at the thought of leaving the US for a vacation. We on the other hand can’t wait to see what adventure lies ahead and greet it with a grain of salt.
Heading north we then stopped in at The Blue Hole Bar & Grill for more cocktails and a snack. I see a crawl forming. Doesn’t seem like we made it too far, before it was time for another drink break. We had their seafood ceviche. It was fantastic!!! We went on the Rudy’s dive shop to get new batteries for the camera so we will be ready to go in the morning. This time we also got to see some of the pictures we have taken so far. They are looking really good. Rudy gave Jeff some pointers about using the filter on the camera, so tomorrow’s pictures will be even better.
We went on a walk around town and did a little shopping. We walked further north down Front Street. There are 3 main streets in Ambergris Caye. They are: front, middle and back. Easy enough to figure out. Along the way back we stopped in at the Jaguar bar and had more cocktails. We went to see if El Patio was open for dinner, but they have closed for a bit for remodeling and construction. This is what several places do here during this time of year. This is low season and they take advantage of it. But, we have had plenty of selection. We may have missed out on one or two well-known places, but there have been plenty of other very good places we have gone to in their place. No biggie.
It looked as if a storm might be coming in, as a large black cloud was headed toward us from the water, so we went into Jam Bel Jerk place and got a bit of dinner to go. We picked up a couple of things at the market and headed to the house by cab. Nice cabbie. Enjoyed the visit. Dinner was good. Not what we expected, but good. Had grilled shrimp salad, a hamburger and jerk chicken.
Walked down to the water’s edge and observed for a bit and headed back to the house. Went to bed around 7: 30 and slept all the way through the night. Unbelievable!!!
10-3-08 Friday - Today will probably be our last dive day, as it is Friday and we are leaving on Sunday. At this point, we have decided not to dive tomorrow and to just take it easy for a day. We’ll see if we stick with that decision once we have dived today. Probably will. Although we absolutely LOVE the diving, we are also both a little tired and looking forward to a day of rest. Genie is possibly bringing us a couple of pounds of lobster today. We asked yesterday where we could buy some and he said he had a friend who did not sell to individuals, but did sell to him, so he is bringing us some today. We have plans to cook it out on the grill at our place this evening. Xanadu had just built a new grill area by the beach for their guests. It has a brand new Weber grill that appears to not be broken in yet. Jeff said he’d fix that. We’re born and raised Texans, if there is a grill around it will get used!
Not sure where we are going to dive today. I’m sure Genie has a great plan for us. He has done a wonderful job all week with keeping us amazed and fascinated. We have had a private dive master and first mate for an entire week! Only those who dive will understand the difference between private diving and cattle boats.
M&M Canyons dive site –
Well today was another wonderful day of diving. The weather was a little iffy. We never got rained on, but we could see rain way off in the distance. Genie picked our dive sites based on the weather and made sure we were out of it. He’s good!!! We went North today for our dives. This is the area where Genie lives now. While we were mooring up at our dive site we saw a small boat in the distance and Genie told is this was his friends who do the lobster free diving and they were the ones getting our lobster for today. So, our dinner tonight is swimming in the ocean right now!!! The dive this morning was really cool. Several swim throughs. These are too cool. This was another deep dive. During one of the swim throughs we were at 105 feet. Got several good pics of Jeff coming through the swim throughs. Dove in medium current during this dive. This was interesting and a little challenging. Jeff and Genie saw a small barracuda. I was still equalizing my ears so I was not down there yet.
We had our hour break at Mata Grande Resort. This is where Genie has his dive shop right now. The new owner was in town today. Genie will be meeting with him to see if he still wants Genie’s dive shop on his property. Genie said if he does not, then he already has a back up plan. But, he hopes he will get to stay there. The North end of the island is sure different. All water is cistern water. If they do not have rain for a while, they ration water. There is no road there. All is dirt and we are told, very rough. We were just on the beach side. We also hear that the electricity goes out quite frequently at this end of the island. There are many very upscale resorts here though…..kind of hard to imagine actually. But, they are putting in new resorts everywhere and they are large and do not have the island “look” about them. We are not so impressed with this end of the island. Since we almost stayed here……we’re really glad to be where we are (Xanadu). We enjoyed more fresh fruit and water while hanging out on the pier at Mata Grande.
Sandy Point dive site –
Our second dive today. Genie called it Sandy Point, not sure if that is the real name. This is a local favorite he said. Lots of small sea life, beautiful canyons with sandy bottoms. We did get to see a pretty good-sized sea turtle. They are so graceful, wonderful to watch swimming. We followed him for a bit. Jeff got a good picture of him. We also saw several large lobsters. (mmmm looking good for dinner). Genie pointed out the area had been “marked” by stacking shells for harvesting later. There was a great deal of current for this dive. This is the first time I have dove in such strong current. It is different. A little more tiring. But, Genie had us headed in the right direction where we made it back to the boat and the boat did not have to come get us. The waves were pretty good sized when we were trying to get back in the boat as well. A small challenge, but added to our skills for future diving. All in all, 2 more great dives!!!
We headed back toward San Pedro and stopped off to pay for our Hol Chan visit the day before. The reserve rangers had come out to our boat, but Genie told them he would stop in later since they can’t take cash anymore. We returned some tanks and hung out while Genie went to see his lobster friend. We got back to the Xanadu pier and settled up with Genie. He gave us each a t-shirt so we can do some advertising for him. We got his card so we can list him on the board at our local dive shops. We did 9 dives in 5 days with no one but us and Genie and he made us a very good deal since it was low season and he had no work lined up. We promised not to tell anyone what he charged since it was a great deal!!! Jeff tipped him very generously since he went above what most dive masters do. We know there are many very qualified dive operators on AC, but feel we lucked out getting Genie of Coral Divers all to ourselves. In fact, we had planned to switch to Elbert Greer after Tues, because he was closed until Oct 1st, but Genie was so wonderful we just didn’t want to leave him. Sorry Elbert.
After we were dropped off on our pier we went to town by bicycle to take the camera back to Rudy. While he was uploading our pictures onto our disc we went shopping. We went to a vegetable market in town. I do not remember the name of it, but it was on Front street behind Mayan Princess Hotel (or somewhere around that). We were able to find all the vegetables and other things we needed for tonight’s lobster feast and it was VERY inexpensive. Great place! We walked over to the beach side and rested a bit at Cholo’s bar and had a cocktail before we went back to see Rudy, get our pictures and settle up with him. We had forgotten how nice it is to be in such a relaxed, layed-back place. We always seem to adjust to island time very quickly, which is why is has gotten to be at least two of our destinations each year. We rode our bikes back to Xanadu to begin preparing Lobster Feast 2008. On the way back, we saw Joe & Consuelo at Road Kill Bar. They said it was happy hour and we should stop, but our grill time was reserved and we needed to get back. Too bad. They are a nice couple.
The lobster. We paid $25 BZ per pound for 2 pounds. YIKES. That is a lot of lobster. This is going to be great!!! We have the grill reserved for 5 – 6 tonight. We have six tails (2 lbs) of lobster for US $25. Last Sun. Jeff paid US $24 at Fidos for 1 tail and some taters. We love fresh lobster and never get it at home.
Jeff cut a split down the tails and melted a stick of butter (he could feel his arteries closing slightly). Jeff said it’s for times like this that he eats all the Molly Butter and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter at home. That way he can indulge in the real stuff while enjoying really good food. We started some margarita-baked potatoes in the loft and headed down to the beach with lobster and butter. Margarita baked potatoes are punctured, rubbed with fresh lime, and rolled in margarita salt and then baked.
Orlando had the grill all ready for us. We got some great pics of Jeff cooking those gigantic lobster tails. We each had rum cocktails and Jeff lit a cigar. What a great ending to a perfect week of diving. The breeze was just enough to keep mosquitoes away and the temp was very pleasant. Jeff pulled a little lobster off as it was cooking and we had a little taste right there on the beach. The grill at Xanadu is great. We headed up to the loft, lobster tails and butter on a platter to the envy of other guest as we past. We suddenly had many more new friends willing to help us with our load of tails.
We had lobster and baked potato with a side of drawn butter. That’s all we needed. We had LOTS of tails to eat. We had plans for lobster for the next 2 days so it would not be wasted. Growing up in the country we both were raised to never waste food.
10-4-08 Saturday – In the true AGGIE spirit on game days – we brought our small A&M flag and Jeff hung it from our veranda railing with one of his shoestrings. At home it is a game day tradition we started many, many years ago. Today we awakened and it looked like it was going to rain. Possibly it did rain during the night but it is hard to tell. Every morning it looks like it could rain but then it burns off. Today, not so sure, we think it is going to rain.
Sure enough it is coming a pretty good squall boss! (We love the Captain Ron movie and even have it with us now) There’s a good bit of rain this morning and some wind to go with it. Jeff cleaned the remaining meat from the lobster tails. He made ceviche with lobster, avocado, lettuce, tomato, fresh cilantro and limejuice. He served it in a bowl surrounded by a plate of slightly warmed local chips. OMG – some of the best we have ever had.
It did clear up a little after noon. Never got sunny, but it was much cooler and very pleasant. Jeff and I walked to Hariri’s while it was still raining a bit. We love to walk in the rain. No one seems to walk in the rain anymore, except the locals of course. After the rain passed we rode bikes to town for some shopping. Found several things. Still looking for the man with the wooden bowls, but he was not there. We ended up at Cholo’s again for a cocktail. On the way there we bought a table runner from a man on the beach. Once we got there, Alex my jewelry salesman dropped by. He is such a cute kid. He recognized us and came up and sat right down. The guy at the bar started to say something and Jeff told him we were friends. I ended up buying a necklace from him. We talked to him about school and told him to pay attention because the teacher was smart and would teach him good things. Jeff gave him his Texas bandana he had tied to our backpack. Alex immediately put it around his head. He was grinning from ear to ear. What a sweet kid! We took a picture of he and I and then one of just him. I gave him a big hug and he shook Jeff’s hand again. We had mentioned out loud we were looking for a large carved wooden bowl. Alex told us we might find one on the street by the park where the vendors were. We said our good-byes and he headed on down the beach with his new Texas bandana on.
The wood carving man tracked us down again. We have seen this guy all week it seems and each time we brushed him off and said later. He was never too pushy. Earlier today he saw us and we stopped to look. He was showing us dolphins and whales and Jeff told him he only would look at something we had seen like a ray, shark or eel and the man did not have one. He had gone back to wherever he stored his goods and by golly he had one! An Eagle Ray about 9 inches across. Jeff bought it after some rather difficult communication haggling.
We headed over to the park in search of “The Bowl” I wanted. We walked the street vendors but could not find anything of the size and shape I wanted. I was looking for a nice oblong bowl to use as a centerpiece on occasion. It was not to be found this search. Alex popped by and said he had not seen any bowls. We thanked him and got on our bikes. As we were walking south on Front Street he politely said we were going the wrong way. We assured him we were walking the bikes to the first side street to take over to Center Street. He was ok with that. We returned to Xanadu and freshened up our drinks for a stroll out on the pier.
We hung out until after dark and decided to go back into town for a little nightlife. We had some lobster first and a few other things we had left in the fridge. We started walking and hailed a cab to the center of San Pedro by the church. We walked by the vendors and looked at the wares. We found nothing we wanted and headed over to the beach for a drink. We stopped at a little bar, Blue Moon or Big Daddy’s, not sure which. It was open air and we ran into our neighbors and a group they were with. We all had drinks and listened to recorded music. A guy came over and asked for a light and Jeff did not have his. He informed us he was the one to come to for any Cannabis needs we might have, but Jeff informed him we were good. Such nice people, always making sure visitors are happy! Jeff did partake in a little smoke out by the rail since it was offered. He said it would be rude to refuse. Something about customs and “when in Rome…”
We hung out drinking and decided to head back for one last stroll on the beach ending in a sit on the pier. It was almost like the sea knew we were leaving, as it gently blew an unseasonably cool breeze in. What a life we have. To think, so many people never get to experience this. As with most trips, the evening before is a sort of wake up call to get prepared for reality. But we’re not done yet!
10-5-08 Sunday – Our last day. We know we have to be ready by high noon. Jeff heads down to the pier for one last early morning stroll and to watch the sun rise. When he gets back we start the morning with breakfast burrito’s made with leftover sausage, egg, hot sauce, and jerk chicken. Jeff fixed it all up in a skillet. We also had some lobster. We started our staging for packing and decided we had plenty of time. A couple of rum drinks and we were set to head to the pool for some last minute sun. Jeff went back to the room and fixed more drinks and we laid around for an hour or so. Back to the room for the dreaded final packing in time for the departure. Our packing really isn’t bad since we are seasoned tropical travelers. We have learned if you don’t pack it you don’t need it. No more getting home with unworn clothes. We have learned to only take what we have to have and everything else we can buy if it is a must. We traveled pretty light this trip. We had one bag for clothes, sandals, toiletries, etc. We had one dive bag with all our gear and we each had a backpack carry on for electronics, cameras, laptop, snacks and one swimsuit each in case our luggage arrived late. We each had a few new t-shirts and a few token souvenirs to take back. We planned on buying hot sauces in Belize City airport. Thought we’d look at duty free alcohol too.
We were ready to go straight up noon and headed to the front desk. Shirley was there and had everything in order. We just signed and they had us a taxi waiting. Holiday Inn Express has nothing on Xanadu! Sadly, we hugged necks and said our good-byes. We love Xanadu and the staff is as good as the reviews. The taxi ride was uneventful, and we both stared out the windows in silence, trying to take in as much as our minds could store for later. We are too young to even think about retiring and moving to a paradise like this, but it does cross our minds every time we leave somewhere we love. Belize is one of those places. After a short wait we are boarded and headed down the airstrip. As we fly over to Belize City Jeff sees a large long line of debris in the water below us. It appears it was a cruise ship dumping their hold on the way out of Belize City. How sad. The cruise industry needs to police itself more responsibly if they want to maintain the beauty of the stops. The reef is fragile and should be treated better.
We go through all the gates and checks getting into the airport and stop for Marie’s Hot sauce and a last minute t-shirt grab. From there it was straight to what would have been an hour and thirty minute wait. Soon this short gentleman came walking up and offered a place to go have the best rum punch in Belize. It was Jet and we went down to his bar for, you guessed it, a hot dog and drinks. Jet was a super nice guy and had quite the crowd. He entertained the ladies and was quite relentless in getting you to take a sip of your drink immediately when he set it down. He signed an autograph for me and we made our way to our gate. A quick stop at a couple of duty free liquor stores is always in order and again we saved on the high priced liquor. We purchased 4 bottles, used up the last of our Belizean money and off we went.
Our flight home was also less than 2/3 booked and Jeff was able to lie down on a row and sleep a little since he would be driving the 2 hours home. We arrived uneventfully and even got off the plane right next to our car. All bags made it safely and we were off on our final leg of yet another trip of cherished memories of remarkable scenery, fabulous people, pristine water and 8 days we will reflect back on for many years to come.
Belize – thank you for your wonderful people and welcoming smiles. You are a heaven on earth and you are inhabited by angels.
Guess our karma was good!
Jeff & Sandy – San Pedro, Belize Sept 27 – Oct 5 2008.