Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Belize!! Ambergris Caye and Blue Creek

Well, after our whirlwind travel day we had a chance to take a deep breath and get used to our new surroundings. Ambergris Caye (pronounced "key") is 40km long by 1km wide at its widest point. About a mile off shore lies the second longest barrier reef in the world next to Australia's Barrier Reef. It didn't take us long to discover some of the "locals" in San Pedro town - there were many iguanas and geckos lurking about. Logan was in his glory!

The vegetation was awesome and these tiny creatures had plenty of places to hide.

Beachfront at our resort were a couple of hammocks. I didn't think I would be able to fall asleep in one of these - I learned later that I was wrong!

There's something about salt water and palm trees swaying in the breeze that relaxes me (go figure). Here's Logan hitching a ride on me- it was not difficult to carry him in the buoyant salt water. We played tag in the water on a sand bar with some local kids. Belize is predominantly english-speaking and the people are really friendly.

Logan decided he wanted to "pose' for some pictures. Perhaps it's his inner male-model coming out but it ended up being quite entertaining.

Can't forget to get a pose with dinosaurs!

The other big thing about San Pedro is that probably 90% of transportation is bike or golf cart. We rented one for the day and explored both ends of the Caye. There are really no specific rules of the road but it seems to work out somehow with regular slowdowns for huge speedbumps which keeps traffic controlled.

We really enjoyed the open air restaurants. Here's Sara and Logan (and spinosaurus) at Sunset Grill. The neat thing with this place is that, at sunset for many years, they have been feeding tarpon fish sardines right off the dock. The fish have become so conditioned that they return every evening looking for food. These tarpon are 4 feet long and I counted at least 30 of them. They will also jump out of the water for anyone holding a sardine at least a foot above the water. I got to do this a few times - Logan thought it was pretty cool.

A typical sunrise - you better "Belize" it was beautiful!

We went on a snorkeling tour of the barrier reef, namely Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. The water was a little choppy but fine once underwater. We managed to get Logan in for a bit where he swam amongst Jackfish, a Grouper, and others. Unfortunately he wouldn't have the strength even with our assistance to make it further against the current. Sara decided to stay on the boat with Logan (she went on another tour to a spot called Mexico Rocks and the water was much calmer - she had a great time!). While snorkeling at Hol Chan I got a foot away from a sea turtle as it ate sea grass. The turtle knew I was there and was not bothered - Sara would say that's because the turtle and I are related based on how slow we are! In fact, I get called "Honu" by Sara and Logan occasionally which is Hawaiian for turtle. I also got close to a manta ray - they look like they're flying in the water, pretty cool. Our guide, Alfonse, dove down and grabbed the ray by the barb and it scurried away (the barb is what killed Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter as Alfonse reported when he surfaced). Alfonse also coaxed out a moray eel - I find these creatures a little menacing! From Hol Chan we went to Shark Ray Alley. As the name suggests, the alley is an area where sharks gather. The sharks that roam this area are nurse and bull sharks. The nurse sharks are harmless to humans - they have no teeth and eat mostly shrimp. Alfonse, who's been at this over 20 years, dove down and grabbed a 7 foot nurse shark and basically had a headlock around it. He had so much control that we were able to touch the shark and he brought it to the boat so Logan could feel it (the skin was quite rough - almost like sandpaper). I had an underwater camera and I decided to take a picture of Alfonse holding the shark. He decided that I was to hold the shark and he would take a picture of me! He instructed me on how to hold it and I got the positioning right but what I didn't anticipate was how powerful these sharks are! I held on for only a few seconds as the shark thrashed its tail and got away. I'm hoping the disposable underwater camera has a picture on it for evidence! Finally, Alfonse took a stingray (whose mouth is on the bottom) and stuck it on his head like a hat - the stingray's mouth just suctioned onto his head! This was an incredible day and I highly recommend it. Sara's day at Mexico Rocks had no sharks, which she liked, but many beautiful fish and coral.
Here's Alfonse holding the nurse shark.

The amazing thing with sharks is that once they are positioned upside down they go into a sleep state and will remain like that until uprighted. Here's Alfonse demonstrating it.

Here's the stingray Alfonse late plopped on his head.

One of the staff at the Banana Beach Resort caught an iguana for the "dinosaur kid" as Logan was referred to - he loved it!

One of our many nightly beach walks -we walked the mile to town to eat and it was nice especially on the way back with all the stars that we don't normally see at home.

Here I am testing out the hammock!
Here's our resort from the water taxi as we were heading back to Belize City for the second half of our trip.

Sara and I on the water taxi - Logan takes a good picture.

Once back on the mainland, Sara's sister Annie who lives in Belize, picked us up and took us to the Belize Zoo. The Zoo was awesome but I didn't appreciate Sara throwing this snake around my neck - what was she thinking?!

As Sara would say "there's another relative of yours."

Here's an ocelot dropping a deuce - how natural is that!

The zoo had some cool vegetation including this natural canopy.

Hey, isn't that Peter Ames?! Or is that the Beast?!

A jaguar - a beautiful animal.

Here I am contemplating if I will have another Belikin beer or work out (I think the beer won out).

After a 2 hour drive from the Belize Zoo we arrived in Blue Creek. Blue Creek is in the northwest corner of mainland Belize near the village of Pine Ridge where Sara grew up. For those of you that don't know, Sara was born in Belize and came to Canada at age 10. This was the first time back for her since leaving 25 years ago! It was pretty cool for Logan and I to trace back her roots - it was really surreal for Sara! Pictured above is my first "bike" workout of the trip.

Sara and Logan opted for the quad - there are lots of these here. In fact, my nephrew drives this to school each day.

Here I am tooling around on my nephrew's bike. Annie and her husband John have 3 kids - Justin, Stephanie and Derrick. They have a big property with a mini motocross course, 9 heads of cattle and fruit trees - very cool. They're in the agricultural biz as part of an operation that has 9000 acres where they grow rice and papayas.
Beautiful flowers throughout.


The kids here are very responsible and are expected to be productive. Here's my 12 year old nephrew driving us to the swimming hole. Justin was a better driver than some adults I know!

We went to a Mayan ruin called Lamanai. On the way in I saw this huge vine and I couldn't resist. Sara was mocking me as I was having difficulty climbing it - lack of strength definitely apparent (hello P90X).

Here's the main temple at Lamani. These ruins are amazing. The construction was superb as evidenced by its construction and its age - 3000 years old. This temple is steep and was used by the Mayans for observing the stars and occasional sacrifices.

View from the top of the temple.

From the top of the temple you can really see how steep it is!

My angel as she preps for heading down the steep steps and avoiding the sacrifice ideas I started having!

Any resemblance?!

Cool looking tree.

The other thing about the Blue Creek area is that most people drive around in pickups. As we did throughout the week we sat in back of the pickup on a bench seat from a van. Since it was also 85 degrees out we just "had" to stop and pick up a couple of Belikin to quench our thirsts!

There is a huge hill leading into Blue Creek - most of Blue Creek is elevated. This is the last third of the hill where it gets pretty steep. The hill is probably 2/3s the size of Sydenham. Sara and I managed to "run" up it during our 28k long run - pretty epic!

Here's the "border" crossing between Blue Creek and La Union Mexico. We check in with a guard and then get in the boat and get a ride over about 20 metres into Mexico where they have a couple of grocery stores. It was pretty low key and relaxed as most people know each other here.

Here's another pic of the big hill. I rode down this on a cruiser bike and I totally rocked it in an aero tuck! The Beast would not be pleased to know I didn't ride up it - no hammer to the anvil on this trip (I feel shame).

Here's the clinic in Blue Creek where Sara was born - pretty big eh?! It's quite amazing to me Sara's history and how she came to Canada.

Here I am rocking the cruiser I borrowed to ride to the "swimming hole". It had one gear - I was kicking it old school! (and embarassing Sara every chance I got).

Here's the "swimming hole". The locals built this in the middle of ranch land where they found a natural spring. On the perimeter is a shallow area and the middle is 6 feet deep. I managed to swim for a half hour going back and forth one time and the rest was reserved for cooling off with the kids. It was probably the cleanest, most clear water I've ever swam in.

Here was our "ride" for the week - did the trick. We also stayed the week at the local retirement home that was built a couple of years ago but has yet to have an occupant. We had the whole thing to ourselves, except for the couple of small tarantulas that came to visit! They squish good!

Here's Sara at the site of her first school. The area has changed dramatically in 25 years and is now mostly converted to ranch land. The school is now used for housing farm stuff and only the frame and roof remain. Here Sara is holding some grass in her hand to signify her return to her roots.

Sara and Logan in another picture of the school.

Here's the exact area where the house Sara grew up in was located. She was amazed what she envisioned the place would look like based on her childhood memories.

This hill was a lot smaller than what she remembered - things are always larger than life when you're a kid.

Here's a view of the road from Pine Ridge where Sara and her family lived heading back to Blue Creek.

We had a blast in Belize. This view was from the plane ride home overlooking a massive sand bar oasis near the barrier reef - the picture doesn't do it justice.

Here we are all tanned and excited to be heading back home.

Thanks for reading - Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Your trip sounds awesome. Glad you had a good time and that Logan was able to enjoy it too.