Having packed our gear and luggage the night before, Travis and I were ready to go when Grandma rang the doorbell at a quarter to six on the morning. Our Belize adventure was to begin. We loaded our bags into the car and took one last look around in wonder of what we had forgotten. I spotted a can of insect repellent, but set it back down as vision of the pressurized can exploding in the cargo bay of the plane wandered around in my brain.
We arrived at the airport in plenty of time and checked our four bags, watched security ruffle through our carry-ons as they checked our regulators for explosive powders, ate a quick McDonalds breakfast and boarded our little jet (I could touch the windows on both sides of the plane at the same time) for our ride to Houston. Between the 8-month old baby making faces at us from the seat across the isle and the Flubber movie, the trip to Texas went quite fast and before we knew it we were wandering around another airport eating Texas BBQ and taking bets on who would be the first to hear someone say "Y'all come back now ya hear?" (that bet is still pending). Another two hour flight (this time on a 737) and we were touching down in a new country (new to us anyway).
Travis stepped off the plane right behind me and I heard him exclaim in surprise. I couldn't help but chuckle a little knowing that his shock was due to the hot humidity that hits you like a smothering blanket as soon as you take your first breath. I turned to catch more of his reaction but as it turned out, it wasn't the humidity that caught him by surprise... it was my backpack hitting him in the head as I swung it over my shoulder. Oops... Once he got over that though, the humidity was the second thing that caught him by surprise.
We got through customs (after switching lines three times to find the quickest one (which never works)) picked up our bags and headed around the corner to the departure desk. Thirty minutes later, we were on a Cessna Caravan for the short hop to Ambergris Caye (pronounced "key", as in island). Other passengers on the little plane must have been just a little nervous as they asked if we nervous. Travis said he loved the little planes. I myself was feeling a little "jumpy" as I had never landed in a Caravan before even though I've had many takeoffs in one.
The flight to San Pedro, the big city on Ambergris, is short but you get a nice perspective of the layout of the islands, and see the clear waters behind the barrier reef. As we approached the Caye we could see (out the front window) the runway stretched out diagonally across the island with San Pedro wrapped around it like a corndog on a stick. Once the plane was parked, we walked to the terminal, which was just an outside bench, and they brought our luggage to us on a cart. We got our luggage and walked a few dozen feet to our cab that was waiting for us (the island airline had called ahead). A short, and informative ride in a taxi brought us to our hotel and we were at our new home.
We walked along the beach to the center of town (about a mile north). The beach combing was a blast... we even smashed open a cocoanut with a rock and tasted the fresh meat (don't know what Tom Hank's problem was). I still don't care much for cocoanut though. When we got to town we rented some bikes for the week and explored the island for a few hours. The mosquitoes are wicked in spots and after asking at no less than six stores, we finally found some repellant. Make that surprise number one. Somehow insect repellant doesn't seem to be that hot of a commodity around here. We road back along the beach and spent the rest of the day by the pool.
It stormed and rained all day today. We canceled our dive trip because most boats weren't going out anyway and we didn't want Trav's first dive to involve fighting a lot of wave action on top of all the other new stuff that we'd experience. Instead we put on our swimming suits and headed down to embrace the water. We tried snorkeling around the dock but the vis was more like the Puget Sound on a bad day so we moved into the pool and played there. Later we hopped on our bikes and road into town again, but this time we followed the road. All but a few roads here are dirt, or rather crushed coral, which when drenched with rain, looks more like wet cement. We rode through puddles that were to the axles or our bikes (13+ inches). The bikes were actually better at getting around than all the golf carts that we shared the road with. The only normal vehicles on the road are the few taxi vans that run the island.
We had dinner at Dino's restaurant which is right on the beach and has live music in the evening (although we didn't stay long enough to listen to). It day ends early here so by the time we left (around 8:30 or so) it was already dark. As we unlocked our bikes, a local kid asked if we wanted some weed. I pretended that I couldn't hear him and asked him to speak up. He didn't of course and we rode off.
The Rain stopped and everything was set for our first dive.
We were to meet the dive boat on the dock in front of our hotel and found other divers already there waiting for their own dive boat to pick them up. We didn't wait long before a small water taxi came by and asked where we were going.
This wasn't a boat from Amigo's del Mar (the dive shop that was taking us out), but he said he was there to pick us up anyway. We boarded and a quick trip north put us right at the dive shop.
We boarded the larger dive boat and shot the gap in the barrier reef. The waves were large enough that the bow of the boat would submerge into the next wave as we darted through the trough. I'm afraid Travis and I showed our western origins as we whooped it up like cowboys as we bounced across the largest waves. Once outside the reef the wave action was a little less and we geared up and took our first plunge.
This dive would be to 80 feet. The deepest Travis had gone before this was to 58 feet in Blue Lake. The water was so clear though, that there wasn't much difference between 60 feet and 80 feet as far as visibility goes, so when we reached the bottom, Trav was surprised when he looked at his depth gauge and saw that we were already at our deepest point.
The reef is cut with deep canyons that make you feel like you're in a Star Wars movie as you swim through them. As we swam through the deeper canyons, the tops of them actually came together forming short caves through the reef.
Travis was feeling right at home.
Everyone ran their air down at about the same time so we all drifted to the surface, made our 3-minute safety stop and boarded the boat.
We made a quick run back inside the reef to the dive shop for some surface time. Trav didn't want to quit diving so we grabbed our snorkels and explored under the docks. We were both surprised to see the number of fish that were hanging out there.
Our second dive was just as good as our first, but the batteries in the camera gave up the ghost just before we hit the water so we don't have any pictures of it. The highlight of that dive was a large shark that swam by. I think it was a nurse shark but we didn't get close enough to get a really good look.
To say the least... I think Travis is hooked!
After diving Travis spent most of the afternoon pushing other kids around on life rafts in the pool. There are a lot more guests in the hotel than you would have guessed looking around here yesterday. The sun brings 'em out I guess.
I finally dragged the kid out of the pool in time to pedal down to Jerry's Crab Shack for dinner before it got dark. On the way back, we passed our hotel and went a few hundred more yards to the place where the lagoon meets the road. This is where the locals told us to go to watch the crocodiles feed. We got there a little late but we still saw three crocs. A taxi driver and his family were down there trying to coax the lizards in with a string of chicken wings. They never came very close, but it was interesting talking to the guy as he told us all about where to get fishing tackle and how to get the restaurants to cook up our catch for us.