Cayes, Caves, and Crackers

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We weren’t able to leave for Belize as planned via ferry, due to rough seas, so we hung out with a group of fellow stranded travelers, discussed alternate plans, and ended up staying as a small group in the nearby town of Omoa. The five of us took what I felt to be a semi-arduous hike, through ankle-deep mud (in flip-flops no less!) in an attempt to reach a waterfall, which turned out to be more like a small babbling brook. We must have taken a wrong turn, but it was a fantastic hike and we were in good company.

The next morning we got on the ferry and made it to our respective destinations in Belize, where we parted ways (if you guys are reading this, hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip!). We spent one night in Placencia, a small, very quiet, beach town with seemingly not much more to do than snorkel, swim, and lie around. Luckily a couple of local girls befriended us, giving us the local lowdown, and we had a fun evening at happy hour (with free nachos!) at the new Rumfish bar in town. Spent the night at Deb and Dave’s Last Resort, cabin-style lodging, and my first shared bathroom experience. But shared baths are really only such if you actually have to share them, and in our case, it was always open and vacant when needed (yay!).

The next morning we caught a water taxi (getting used to these now) to take us across the lake to catch a chicken bus from the town of Independence to Belize City. Four and a half hours later, of which half the ride was spent sitting three persons to a seat, we arrived in Belize City, taxied to the ferry building and took another ferry to Caye Caulker. Apparently, if you go to Belize you either go to Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye, as they are pretty much set up for tourists. That being said, we did pretty well staying on our limited budget, found a guesthouse cabin for $10 a night per person, complete with private bathroom and porch with hammock. Aside from Jeff experiencing backspasms towards the end of our stay, which rendered him bed-bound, we had a great time. We completed our first scuba dive (technically second, but really the first dive done without the security blanket of our instructors in Roatan, upon whom I had developed an incredible amount of faith in). Needless to say, the dive was spectacular. Within seconds of descending, we saw several nurse sharks swim by, followed later on in the dive by giant green eels (I’m sure there is a more scientific term), lobster, stingrays, and varieties of colorful fish that I have never seen.

We had been planning to go back to Placencia to experience the whale shark migration with our two new friends, however after doing an indepth cost analysis, and with Jeff’s back going out, we had to make the decision to keep heading in our original direction. After another ferry-taxi-bus combo, we made our way to San Ignacio, where we found very spare and semi-clean lodgings at a hostel. By the sheer coincidence that sometimes occurs during travel, we spotted a couple whom we had met as stranded ferry companions back in Honduras. We arranged to take the much talked about ATM tour together the next day. I have to say I was a little wary, given that everyone had said it was “the coolest tour ever” and all the guidebooks herald it as “the one must-do experience in Belize”. All I could hear was a little voice in the back of my head saying “overrated”. Luckily, I was wrong. Splashing, slipping, swimming, crawling, and climbing through ancient caves, seeped in Mayan culture, shadows, shining stalagtites, and rock formations, through clear cool waters was, I cringe to hear myself say it, magical. Totally NOT overrated. Definitely one of those moments I had hoped to have during our travels.

We are currently in Flores, Guatemala, a beautiful island town with views of the water, shops, restaurants, hotels, tour companies, and not much else. It feels almost like a ghost town during the day, as most visitors take day trips out with the various tours to places like Tikal. We did just that a couple of days ago. Instead of going with a tour company, we took the advice of our friends and tried it on our own. We arrived at mid-day, stayed at one of the only three hotels in Tikal, and bought a park ticket that was good for the late afternoon as well as the full next day. Our afternoon at the ruins was awesome. For some reason, we ran into only a handful of people during our entire stroll, sat atop Templo IV as the sun went down (but not set, as that would have cost us 50 more quetzals), gazed in awe at the well preserved ruins in the Gran Plaza at dusk, then raced out of the jungle as night fell.

We had planned to enter the park again at six a.m., but a debilitating case of traveler’s diarrhea and food poisoning prevented that from happening. Instead, after some time spent on and above the toilet, I attempted to shuffle my way out of the room and through the park (I should also mention that I had somehow managed to strain a leg muscle the day before), armed with a roll of toilet paper. We saw some cool wildlife, but I was feeling too crappy to learn their names. As expected, I did not enjoy much of the day. We took off soon after, somehow managing to survive the one and a half hour ride back to Flores, where I now appear on my way to recovery while Jeff gets his turn to experience the full wrath of Montezuma’s revenge.  This has been only to the benefit of our budget, as we have subsisted on Gatorade and crackers for the last two days.

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