Sunday, May 25, 2008

Trip To Belize: Day 2

May 14, 2008

Well, we made it to the airport OK and flew into Miami. While waiting there we had another scare as my credit card/debit card/ID holder fell out of my pocket and onto the floor. Thankfully a kind American saw it and pointed it out to me. Miami was otherwise uneventful and by mid morning we were on our way to Belize City, Belize. Now if you don't know anything about Belize allow me to give you a brief lesson:

Belize is about the size of New Hampshire and is located on the border of Mexico on the Caribbean. Belize used to be called British Honduras and was a British Colony until 1981 when it was given its independence. It has a population of under 350,000 people and falls squarely into the category of "developing" country. English is the official language, but many speak Spanish, Creole, and various Mayan tongues and dialects. Almost half the country has been set aside as Reserve and its varied ecosystem is cherished and protected. Belize has tropical rain forests, the second longest barrier reef in the world, Mayan ruins, pristine rivers, beautiful beaches, and lots of mountains. Needless to say tourism is the main industry.

After a two hour flight, we arrived in Belize City. The airport was relatively small and "quaint" for being an international airport. Stepping off the plane onto the runway we were hit by a wall of intense heat. Such heat! We were immediately perspiring. The terminal (which we couldn't take pictures in for security reasons) was very basic and marginally air conditioned. After a few minutes there we definitely felt like we were in country where old ideas of how things should work and old expectations were definitely not going to apply. Here is a picture of the airport building which includes the tower and entire terminal!

This is a picture that shows our plane loading up with passengers heading back to the States:

We checked our baggage into Tropic Air and waited for our flight to Punta Gorda, the capital "city" of the Toledo District Belize. After an introduction to Belize Time, we finally boarded our flight for PG. Jobina was a little hesitant about getting into such a small plane (I was excited) but she plucked up her courage and jumped in. Here's a pic of the 12 passenger plane:

We sat directly behind the pilot which was both comforting and scary at the same time as he kept scratching himself, looking down at the floor (even on landings), and appeared to be even hotter then we were. He began the flight by saying something completely unintelligible into his intercom to us that mentioned something about "life jackets" and "seat." Here's our view of our valiant pilot:

The views from the plane were stunning as flew along the coast and stopped briefly in Dangriga and Placencia airports, two villages on the way to PG. These airports were notable as the runways were the smallest I have ever seen and the "terminals" were about the size of the bottom floor of my townhouse! We were quite alarmed as we would take off from the airport stops as some of the runways ended with a short drop into the ocean. Below is a picture of us approaching a small runway airport for another short landing:

Although thrilling, it was a good thing when we finally got to the PG airport as Jobina was feeling pretty bad (a combination of the short choppy flights and heatstroke). We were met at the airport by Vincent, our driver from Cotton Tree whom we would get to know quite well during the week. Vincent's ride was a Toyota Hiace Van which was blessed with something that was astoundingly beautiful: air conditioning. The half hour ride to Cotton Tree with the AC on full blast was just the thing to restore Jobina to her usual self. Driving through PG and then into the countryside was like a dream. The natural beauty (ocean, forests, mountains) mixed with third world conditions (many of the homes were shacks, right next door to villas) was mesmerizing. Everything was interesting.

Finally we made it to Cotton Tree Lodge. The place was amazing! As an outdoor person I was astounded at what they done here, melding the tropical outdoors with eco-resort charm (and even luxury) seamlessly. Although extremely hot in the mid afternoon sun, we checked in and were shown to the Honeymoon Cabana. It was just so perfect and I fell in love with it immediately. I'll post pictures of it tomorrow as this post is way too long already. We wandered around the core of the 100 acre property reveling in all the beauty we saw. At 5:30 at Cotton Tree we went to the main lodge building for appetizers, part of our all inclusive package and checked out the bar which was also located there (yay, Orange Fanta in glass bottles - I felt like we had gone back in time). We met another young couple named Jeremy and Dagny who had already been there for two days as well as some of the 20 students who were doing some sort of research there. The students (from some school in the US called Transylvania - seriously) were very nice but filled us with fear about all the visitors we could expect in our cabana - like wolf spiders, tarantulas, and scorpions (one girl told us what it was like when she was stung by one: "first my hand went numb, then my arm, and then my face . . . but it wasn't that bad!). Needless to say that when we excused ourselves later from dinner we faced going to sleep in our cabana with some amount of trepidation! After an evening shower (I have never showered so much in my life), we snuck under our mosquito net (standard on every bed at the lodge) and after much prayers and inspecting our bed carefully for scorpions we went to sleep early.


Anonymous said...

Wow! There's an adventure for ya! My heart is up in my throat just reading about your trip so far! Incredible pictures though! I can't wait to hear more!

Love you!

Jay Boaz said...

I have no problem flying in big planes, but a little one like that would probably freak me out too. Keep up the vacation posts, I'm enjoying them immensely!

(And Belize sounds way too hot for me, doubt I'd ever go)


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