Volcanogirl Goes to Belize

Jun 13th, 2014, 04:12 PM
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Volcanogirl Goes to Belize

Thanks to everyone who encouraged us to go to Belize and to give Lamanai a try. We're back from our trip and had a fantastic time. We loved the Lamanai Outpost Lodge and paired it with island time at Victoria House. Both were wonderful, and we had an amazing time.

Belize is a direct two hour flight for us, so very easy to get to. We had prearranged with Lamanai Outpost Lodge to pick us up at the airport. After spending 45 minutes going through immigration and getting our luggage, we emerged from the airport to find Calvin standing there holding a sign with our names written on it. He was very friendly. The heat and humidity were pretty intense so we were really happy to get into his air conditioned van. He even had cold bottled water for us - awesome. He drove us to the LOL office which was a short distance away and said we would wait there for a bit until it was time to leave. We decided to change into cooler clothes for the boat ride in. Outside temp was 88 degrees and sunny. I was thrilled to have good weather and hoped we would see some good wildlife along the river. When it was time to go, Calvin drove us for about 45 minutes to get to the boat docking area.
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Jun 13th, 2014, 04:23 PM
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When we arrived at the dock, George was there waiting for us in a small little 2 seater boat. The boat didn't have any kind of cover on it, so I was really happy that we still had sunny weather. I found the boat ride in to be a lot of fun, and we saw a lot wildlife along the way, mostly water birds. George would point out any animals he saw including some proboscis bats clinging to the side of a tree, an osprey flying overhead, all types of kingfishers, a great blue heron, a tiger heron, a melodious blackbird, and another beautiful little bird he called a Northern Jacana. That one was really colorful with a bright yellow bill and long stilty legs. To our surprise, it was walking right across the surface of the water! George said, "We call that one Jesus Christ bird" - very appropriately named. There were also a lot of cormorants along the way, and they would duck their little heads under the water as the boat came zooming down the river.
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Jun 13th, 2014, 05:14 PM
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After about an hour of traveling down the New River, we came upon the beautiful lagoon where LOL is located. It was lush, green, pretty, and George pointed out the ruins directly next door. "Look at the tops of the trees and you can see people climbing on top of the temples." I can already tell I'm going to like it here.

We pull up to the dock, and there are people there to greet us. Someone whisks our luggage away, and we're each offered a yummy juice drink and taken up some steps to the dining area. The property is built up the side of a hill with some lagoon front rooms at the bottom and then a column of cabins going up the hill one behind the next. We've arrived after the lunch hour, but they offer us lunch anyway; there's an illuminated menu board that lists what each meal of the day will be, and today's lunch is beef stew with coleslaw and rice and beans and bread pudding for dessert. As we settle in to eat, Raul comes over and asks us what tours we would like to do. Our package includes six different tours, and luckily I've done a little Fodor's research and know which ones I think we'll like. We decide to do the Jungle Dawn tour, Lamanai Maya Ruins, Maya Medicine Trail, Spotlight Nature Safari, Nature Walk, and Sunset Cocktail Cruise. Raul says we can do the Spotlight Nature Safari that night - Yea, I'm hoping we get the chance to see some crocs! Lunch is good, hearty; I'm kind of surprised they have bread pudding for dessert. It seems like Costa Ricans always serve rice pudding, so this is a yummy change. The portions are really generous, more than we can eat.

After lunch they take us to our room, and our luggage is already there waiting for us. We have room 10, a lagoon front room, but only for one night. They had told me when I reserved that a big group was arriving the next day, so I could have this room for the first night and then move to a lagoon view cabin. That worked for us, and I was curious to see how the two rooms would compare.

My husband decided to take a shower, and I decided to wander around the property and take some photos. As I'm standing in front of the cabin taking some pictures of the lagoon, I hear that sound I love, the breaking of a branch directly over my head. I know what that's going to be, there's no mistaking it - monkeys!
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Jun 13th, 2014, 05:43 PM
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We're off to a great start!
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Jun 13th, 2014, 06:22 PM
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Thanks, Femi - we heard from so many Fodorites that loved and recommended this lodge. I was pretty excited to get to see it for ourselves.

We ended up seeing howler monkeys every single day of the trip. There were right there around the cabins several times a day, every day. It was really cool! But this was not one of those times. I looked up expecting to see my first monkey sighting, and instead I saw a big green pile of writhing vines plunging toward me. OMG, it was a big snake! We've done so many trips where we've asked a guide to find snakes for us, and they can't because they're so elusive, and here's this one pretty much swooshing right by my face and landing at my feet. Being the jungle girl that I am I start reaching for my camera and trying to get a photo, but the snake seems even more startled than I am, and it lunges into the bushes before I can take the pic. I know my husband is going to think I made this up. We have a running joke that he misses all the good animal sightings - ha! And here we are at the cabin a couple of minutes, and he's already missing all the action. When I go inside the cabin and tell him what happened, he tells me that he would have loved to have seen that little incident and asks me how loud I screamed - lol. Our trip is off to an exciting start!
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Jun 13th, 2014, 09:05 PM
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Jun 14th, 2014, 04:03 AM
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I am riveted! More, more!
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Jun 14th, 2014, 04:41 AM
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Hi hopeful and Cat!

This is really the first chance I get to explore the cabin. It's a lot nicer than I expected it to be, made of a pretty red wood. Somehow I thought we would be roughing it, and while it's rustic, it's very comfortable. Mr. vg says there's plenty of hot water which is awesome. There's also a big bed, a desk and chair, and bonus - a refrigerator! Somehow that didn't turn up in my research. To me there's nothing better than being able to keep drinks cold or grab a cold bottle of water before you head our for hiking. There's also some shelving with extra pillows and a big heavy blanket that appears to be hermetically sealed in plastic packaging. I can't imagine any circumstance - EVER - where someone would feel the need to open that package!

There's a small bathroom with a sink, toilet and shower. The toilet paper is called "Roses" and promises to take good care of me. There's also a small gecko clinging to our shower curtain, so a bit of the jungle did sneak in after all.

The windows aren't glass; they're screened to let in the air and have louvers to control the privacy. It's a little dark, but when you open the louvers, the light comes pouring in. We have cabin 10, a lagoon front, and it's on the end so I imagine it has more light than some of the others. I had imagined that we would be dangling our toes in the water, but the lagoon front cabins are set fairly far back from the lagoon with some greenery and a gravel pathway in front of them. The front deck is nice and has a colorful hammock. We're part of a quad of rooms that all sort of share a deck. There are two little wooden chairs in front of our cabin. We relax out front for a while, taking turns in the hammock. The grounds are very pretty, sort of a mixture between wild and landscaped. Clouds start gathering, and it begins to look a little dark, maybe some rain is in our future, and I wonder how it will affect our spotlight jungle tour.

Before I know it, it's time to eat again. We troop up to the dining area that's at the top of the steps. There are a lot of steps, and they're pretty steep. No big deal, but older people or people with mobility issues would probably want to stay closer to the dining area. People of Mayan descent tend to not be very tall; I wonder why their steps are so huge!

When we get to the dining area, it's been transformed. There are dark linens on the tables and hurricane lamps with glowing candles inside. Really pretty. Just like at lunch we have the entire place to ourselves. It's almost like having our own little jungle lodge. I guess this is a bonus to coming in the off season. I know that a big group is arriving tomorrow, and I wonder what they will be - maybe a big family, a wedding, birders? I know that Lamanai is a really popular destination for birders. We shall see.

Dinner is pretty swanky, a multi-course meal. I had read that the food was kind of basic here, but the first thing they come out with is lobster fritters. They're really tasty. Next up is a yummy pork dish with cilantro and lime. Also beets (yuck), squash, and mashed potatoes. Dessert is Key lime pie, or I suppose Caye lime pie considering where we are. I'm not a beet person, but everything else is really delicious. The food here seems to be much more varied and a little bit better than what we usually get in Costa Rica. They also tell us that we can both get one free welcome drink; we're so stuffed that we decide to save it for another night. Then it happens, rain, lots of it. A huge downpour with rolling thunder. It's actually very cool. I love a good jungle thunderstorm, but it doesn't bode well for our nighttime tour.
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Jun 14th, 2014, 05:20 AM
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Looking forward to more!
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Jun 14th, 2014, 06:28 AM
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Hey, Patty! Thanks for all your help planning. Now we just have to make it to Chan Chich someday. I'm just going to follow you around and go wherever you go!
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Jun 14th, 2014, 07:57 AM
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We're not sure what to do. Having made a few jungle trips, it seems like life usually goes on, and they'll proceed with tours in the rain, but I'm pretty sure we wouldn't see much in the way of wildlife. Raul says it's totally up to us, but he thinks it's going to keep raining and it would probably be best for another night. One thing about Raul - he never smiles. He reminds me of some kind of Mayan warrior. Very nice, but not so smiley. If I were in a war with the Spaniards, I'd want him on my side.

Remembering that the boat doesn't have any kind of cover, we make the call to just do it another night and head back to our cabin. I decide to take a shower, just me and the gecko - it's funny to watch it. It wants to stay in the shower but not get hit with the water! I guess it lives in here. At home that would freak me out, but here a gecko in the shower just seems like a natural part of things. The cabin has actually cooled off quite a bit due to the rain, and it's pretty fun to just cuddle up in the comfy bed, relax, and watch the rain fall. There's no one in any of the cabins next to us, so we have the place all to ourselves. I have a little clock that tells the temperature, and it's reading 72 degrees, very comfy, and we don't miss having air conditioning at all. We're both looking forward to the morning tour - the Medicine Walk with George, and it includes a cooking lesson in the village.
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Jun 14th, 2014, 08:10 AM
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I'm reading and following, Thanks for posting
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Jun 14th, 2014, 08:19 AM
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At 5:00 a.m. on the dot the howler monkeys start roaring. They sound fierce, like a herd of T Rexes are right outside our room. I consult the little preprinted tour card that we were given, and it says that the Medicine Walk tour doesn't start until 9:00. This gives us time to relax and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Mr. vg says he's going to take a shower before we go, and I head off to explore. The howlers are so loud that they're easy to track. They're just a few cabins away and high in the trees. I try to get photos of them, but it's hard. Have you ever tried to take pictures of a howler monkey?! They're so dark with no contrast and dark features, and they move all the time. Most of my pics look like a black blob or a black bob with a tail. As I'm watching them, they start to make their way down the trees. There are six of them, including a little baby. It looks like it's just starting to venture out on its own. It runs to the end of a branch and then runs back to momma. So cute! To my amazement they come all the way down to the lowest branches and pretty much pose for me. They're dangling by their tails, swinging on vines, it's so cool. One even drops to the ground right in front of me. I've never seen them do that before. It's just standing there, and I'm just standing there. It was so amazing. After a few seconds, it runs across the path and climbs up another tree. I'm so excited that the howlers come this close to the cabins and hope that at least a couple of my pics come out. Once again, Mr. vg and his magic shower have produced some pretty good wildlife sightings, but at least now I have the pics to prove it.
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Jun 14th, 2014, 08:22 AM
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Hi, Percy - it's good to see you! We're finally venturing away from CR a little bit.
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Jun 14th, 2014, 10:58 AM
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Around 8:00 we head up for breakfast. We check out the menu board and see that we'll be having scrambled eggs, bacon, beans, corn tortillas and fresh fruit. The tortillas are fantastic and taste homemade. They serve a really nice juice with our meal. Portions are once again ginormous. George finds us at our table and says that we'll be doing a walk around the property before heading into the town of Indian Church. He leads us all over the place pointing out various trees and plants. He takes a knife and slices into a tree. Liquid comes oozing out, and he asks us to guess what it is. We feel it, and as it starts to dry we figure out that it's a rubber tree; the oozy liquid as turned into a springy little bit of stretchy rubber. He goes to another one and makes a small slice. He rubs the liquid that comes out on the back of our hands and allows it to dry. When we peel it off, he says, "This is the Elmer's glue tree." There are some long brown pods on the ground, so I ask the name of those, and he says, "Stinking toe" because they smell so bad. He cuts one open and lets us sniff it. It lives up to its reputation. Then he tells us to eat it! Uh, no way - it smells really bad. After some more prodding, we finally give in, and the inside tastes like chocolate. It really tastes good.

He shows us several other plants - ones that are good for parasites, intestinal problems, iron deficiency, pretty much any ailment you can name and explains that when you grow up so far from a hospital you really learn what plants can do for you and how to use them. The last tree is called the Tourist tree - we ask why, and he says because the skin peels off, and it's all red inside like a sunburned tourist! He's funny, but just like Raul he's not a big smiler. I think maybe it's cultural. When you go to CR, the guides are always cracking jokes and laughing. Americans too seem to smile a lot. Belizeans seem to be a little more serious, but you know when they smile they're sincere about it. As we start our walk to town we see some beautiful black cowled orioles and a huge wood stork flies over head. Lots of neat little things to see along the way.
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Jun 15th, 2014, 07:21 AM
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Good for you volcanogirl.

I am enjoying the Trip Report.

I did the Belgium- Netherlands River Boat Cruise for 2 weeks ,2 months ago.
I wanted to see those famous flower gardens in the Netherlands.

Waiting to read more !!
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Jun 15th, 2014, 07:33 AM
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Hey, Percy! I've been there, but not since I was a kid - I remember it being beautiful. Do you have a trip report yet?
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Jun 15th, 2014, 07:52 AM
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Sounds like the food is pretty good there, vg.

I will be following along too.

We used to also have "stinking toe" tree when I lived in Kingston as a kid.
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Jun 15th, 2014, 08:22 AM
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George leads us to the town of Indian Church. The roads are dusty and filled with gravel. It's fun to see the town itself and get away from the lodge to see how people live in this area. There are a lot of tidy little houses with people sitting on the front porches. Everyone is really friendly and waves as we go by. George has us stop by a small little store, and we buy a Belikin beer and a cold Coke in a bottle. I don't usually drink a lot of sodas, but a cold Coke in a bottle on a hot day was pretty tasty, and this one is so cold that it's actually sort of frozen and slushy. Everywhere we go we hear people speaking Spanish. Although English is the official language of Belize, a lot of people in Indian Church speak Spanish because its location is so close to Mexico.

We walk by a huge tree that's covered in mangoes, and he tells us that there are parrots in there. Curious how he knows that since we can't see any, we peek inside the tree and there are cages with parrots inside - people are keeping them as pets. We see the local elementary school which is out for a holiday, but there's a beautiful mural on the side of the building that the kids have painted. The mural says "Always striving for success and excellence" and shows a map with all the countries of the world painted on it. Education once you get older isn't as easy to come by. One of our guides tells us that the closest high school was 40 miles away so he had to live with a host family during the week and only see his family on weekends while he attended. Everywhere we go there seems to be a very strong work ethic.

Eventually we come to a house with a vicious looking dog on a chain outside. George keeps walking toward it and the dog is growling at us. Suddenly it starts wriggling and jumping up and down, and I realize that George is taking us to his own house! He has a great yard full of edible plants - he gives us some fresh basil, chives, oregano, and other herbs, shows us his rooster and chickens, and even opens a coconut with a machete so we can drink the water inside. As we're drinking it, a sweet little girl comes out of the house carrying a baby - the cutest baby I've ever seen with huge, beautiful brown eyes. The little boy reaches for George, and that elicits a huge smile from him. He tells us it's time to go to Las Orquideas for our cooking lesson so we say goodbye to the cuties and head off to learn how to make some Belizean specialties.

When we get to the restaurant, we're introduced to a bunch of ladies from the local co-op; they run the only restaurant in town. One of the ladies gets out corn and shows us how to grind it on a big stone slab. We get to take turns doing it; she's much better at it than we are, but it's fun to learn. We each make a tortilla by combining the corn paste with with a little water, and she has us place them on a comal in the fireplace to get them to cook. Ours both look like crap, but they turn out to taste really good; she puts a bright red sauce made with annatto over the top of them. We eat them while they're still warm. We have a yummy orange juice with them. I mention to George that we keep having these fantastic juices everywhere we go, and he responds, "Oh yes, that's called Tang." Seriously, we've been drinking Tang and loving it. Somehow it tastes exotic and tropical when you drink it in Belize!

After we finish eating, the woman teaches us to make tamales; we put our dough into bananas leaves, add cooked chicken on top along with more of the bright red sauce, and she shows us how to roll them up. They say that they'll steam them for us, but since it takes several hours, we can have them for dinner that night. I loved doing the cooking lesson. Highly recommend. George even takes photos while we do it and says they'll give us a c.d. when we check out so we can remember our experience.

After our snack, we get an awesome lunch made by the ladies of the co-op. We have a chicken and onion soup, salbutes - amazing!, and garnaches, and empanadas - love all of it, and we get to eat in the little open air restaurant.
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Jun 15th, 2014, 09:16 AM
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Hi, m - yes, the food was very good. The man that served our food told us that they really wanted us to feel at home, and they definitely made us feel that way.
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