Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Mexico & Central America (
-   -   Volcanogirl Goes to Belize (

Patty Jun 15th, 2014 11:50 AM

<i>Seriously, we've been drinking Tang and loving it.</i>

I admire your bravery for admitting that :D

I wish we'd taken that tour now.

volcanogirl Jun 15th, 2014 12:07 PM

Patty, geez, I know - it's so embarrassing. I guess it's popular there. The little store we went to had all different flavors of Tang - guava, strawberry, all kinds of varieties we had never seen before. Maybe I'll whip some up at home and pop a little umbrella in it, so we can relive our trip!

volcanogirl Jun 15th, 2014 12:29 PM

As we're finishing our meal, a group of men come strolling up the road - big Caucasian men in overalls and wearing straw hats. They look so out of place that I do a double take. George says that they're Mennonites, part of the Shipyard community that's located nearby. They shun technology and live simple lives as farmers, carpenters, etc. They're not allowed to drive, but can utilize a horse and buggy. A truck drives up, and I can see a Mennonite man sitting on the passenger side. Apparently they can ride in cars, but not actually drive them, so they hire local people to drive them around. Who knew Indian Church would have so much diversity?

George says that they will have moved our stuff to our new cabin by the time we get back. I tell him that we don't have a key, and he says not to worry about it, that the room will just be unlocked. Can you imagine that in the United States? Just leaving your room unlocked? But here they don't think twice about it, and it seems completely safe.

We get to our new room, #8 - this one is a lagoon view, rather than a lagoon front, but it's really nice. Honestly just as nice as the other one, and we can still see the water. Next time I wouldn't spend the extra money on lagoon front. My husband goes in first and says, "Babe, are you mad at me or something?" I peek around him and see that this room has two beds - funny! I had never thought to check on that!

We settle in and prepare for our 4:30 tour - a Nature Walk with Eduardo that sounds like it might lead to some good bird sightings. One of the guides had asked me how the guides in Costa Rica compare to those in Belize, and I told him that the Costa Rican guides always call you "my friend, my friend" and crack a lot of jokes. He says Eduardo is like a Costa Rican then. And it's true! The first thing he says when we meet him is, "What do you call 3 toucans in a tree? A six pack!" He's funny and eager. He went to college and studied computers but missed the jungle and all the wildlife so he moved back and became a guide.

We walk around the back of the property to a small airfield that's more open and have lots of good sightings - an aracari, roadside hawk, golden-fronted woodpecker, blue-crowned mot mot (beautiful!), an aplomado falcon, and some really loud red-lored parrots. Lots of howlers too; they seem to be everywhere. Before we know it, it starts getting dark, and it's time for us to head to dinner. After dinner we'll be heading out on our spotlight safari.

Patty Jun 15th, 2014 12:32 PM

I drink Fanta in Belize which I never drink at home. For some reason it tastes better there!

Percy Jun 15th, 2014 12:33 PM

No Trip Report Volcanogirl but I answer questions on the Europe Board.

Keep up the good work on the Belize Trip.!!

volcanogirl Jun 15th, 2014 03:07 PM

I totally agree, Patty - I had a red Fanta on a snorkeling trip, and it tasted really good. I think they use real sugar down there vs. corn syrup. Maybe that's it?

That's awesome, Percy - I hope you had a great time.

Before we head up to dinner I see that the big group has arrived, about a dozen of them dressed head to toe in khaki and wearing big hats, binoculars around every neck - birders!

mlgb Jun 15th, 2014 03:17 PM

Of course! Are you there now? Could you ask them which group they are touring with?

Femi Jun 15th, 2014 04:15 PM

Wish I could fly down to have lunch at that co-op right now!

volcanogirl Jun 15th, 2014 04:58 PM

m, I think the name was Legacy - they were the nicest people, all friends, several of them were professors. They made a huge effort to always come over and talk to us and tell us what they had seen. They even offered to take pictures for us. We had a Birds of Belize book with us, so they knew we would be interested in what they were seeing. The man leading their tour was really fun, and they all seemed like they were having a great time. I know that sometimes birders get obsessed with seeing one particular thing and checking it off their list, but this group was really go with the flow. They were headed off to Chan Chich after their time at L.O.L. One of the women recommended Hidden Valley to us as a great place to go, so I'm going to have to check that one out. They all seemed really enthusiastic. When they guy next to me went into his cabin for the first time I heard him yell, "I LOVE my cabin!!!" They even offered to let us tag along on their tours with them.

Femi, we almost didn't do the cooking lesson since it was optional but I'm so glad we did. I think it's nice that the lodge makes the effort to get people off the lodge property and get them more involved in the actual community. When I looked at my little tour card, it even said there was a Mennonite experience that you could do. I wonder what that would entail??!

volcanogirl Jun 15th, 2014 05:05 PM

Dinner that night consists of snapper with lemon and garlic, an enormous pile of fettucini alfredo, carrots, zucchini, and coconut cream pie. As we're eating, they bring out 2 tamales, the ones we had made at Las Orquideas - we had both forgotten about those. WAY too much food, but all really tasty. My husband is slim but feels compelled to eat everything on his plate and says he's having problems buttoning his pants! It was fun to eat the tamales we made. The coconut cream pie is nothing like ours back home. There's really no cream component to it, and it's more like cake and served warm. As we finish up, Raul comes by and says it's time to head down to the dock for out spotlight safari tour. Looks like we'll have good weather tonight.

volcanogirl Jun 15th, 2014 07:50 PM

When we get to the dock, Raul has us board the tiny two seater boat that we rode in on. There are no lights on the boat, but he has a spotlight that he uses to shine onto the shore and onto the trees. He casts the spotlight across the water and a pair of red eyes stare back at us - a croc. Very cool; we try to get closer, but as we do it slips under the water. He tells us that over 300 crocs have been tagged in the lagoon for research purposes. They even have a tour where you can go out and help capture, measure, and tag the crocs. I'm surprised to hear that there are that many because people swim in the lagoon. He tells me that these crocs are "shy" and in all the years the lodge has operated, they've never had a single incident because these crocs aren't very aggressive, and they have plenty to eat. The main component of their diet surprises me - he says its snails! BIG snails.

He shines the light over my head and casts it onto a tree and we see dozens of cormorants roosting on various branches. We also see the eyeshine from lots of little moths - they look like little jewels glowing in the darkness. We see a second croc nearby, and a black crowned night heron. Then a fairly big bird called a Limpkin which is a new one to us. The funny thing is every time he shines the light over my head, huge bugs start dive bombing me. They're attracted to the light and get entangled in my hair. I pretty much have a head full of beetley bugs! Bats start swarming over the water. Raul says that they're fishing bats, and they're actually swooping down into the water and catching fish. I had no idea that there was such a thing. Then Raul kind of freaks me out. He says that he thought he saw a shark. A shark? Bull sharks can live in fresh water. He says it was probably just a huge catfish because the catfish there can reach an enormous size. He turns off the spotlight, and we're sitting there in complete darkness for a long time. It's kind of creepy just sitting there in the dark. Very rarely are we ever in total darkness; there's usually the glow of a computer, an iPhone, a digital clock, a streetlight, but here there really is total darkness. I have that feeling you get in a haunted house at Halloween when you don't know what's going to pop out at you. I wish we were in a bigger boat. With some lights.

Then he guns the boat, and we start going full speed ahead across the lagoon and towards the river. We're just zooming across the water with no lights whatsoever in this tiny boat. I have to admit it freaked me out. I looked at my husband and said I was getting kind of nervous, and my brave husband said this isn't my favorite either! We can't see a thing, and I have no idea how he can see to drive. I have a tiny flashlight in my pocket, and I turn it on. I'm like a kid with my own little nightlight. I know Raul thinks we're wimps, but he's gracious about it. He tells us that the other night he took a single guy out on the safari tour and went full speed around a curve in the river in the dark, and the guy screamed like a little girl! "You're not alone," he says. He tells us that he's done this hundreds of times and knows every curve of the river. I make him promise not to tell anyone what a wimp I was, and he says he'll keep my secret. After seeing more bats, birds, and moths we make it back to shore in one piece, all our limbs intact. I'm ready for my free cocktail now!

We head back to our cabin and start getting ready for bed. I go into the bathroom and brush my hair, and there smack on the top of my head is a beetle that's been there the whole night - lol. I manage to disentangle him and toss him out the door. We turn off the lights and settle into our cozy cabin. The temps are nice - 72 degrees according to my little clock. The rain has brought a cool front that's really keeping things comfortable. I'm looking forward to the next day; we're going to visit the ruins, and that's the tour that I've been most excited about. We get a great night's sleep, and at 5:00 a.m. again the howler alarm clock starts going off.

Cattail Jun 16th, 2014 04:35 AM

vc, I thought I saw shark fins on the way to Tortuguero. Kind of freaked me out because it was so totally unexpected.

About the Tang, lol!

volcanogirl Jun 16th, 2014 08:49 AM

Cat, I know. I think I have to give back my jungle girl card for being such a wimp. I just kept thinking catfish, catfish in my head. The Tang thing was so hilarious. Another night at dinner we had a great juice and commented on it and the server said,"Oh, yes, we make that from a powder." I guess it's everywhere! My husband and I could not stop giggling about it.

Cattail Jun 16th, 2014 06:00 PM

Now I'm wondering what those delicious drinks my husband and I had in Costa Rica and Belize actually were ...Hmmm - at least the fruit is the fruit!

alisa23 Jun 17th, 2014 09:27 AM

Great report, can't wait to read more!

volcanogirl Jun 17th, 2014 10:48 AM

Hey, alisa - we had a great time!

We've signed up to do a 6:00 a.m. Jungle Dawn tour for this morning. Breakfast isn't being served yet, but they have muffins and coffee ready to go in the dining room. I'm not surprised to see the birders up and about, ready to get a start on their day. One of the men sees that we have the Birds of Belize book and offers to give us a little guide he's printed out that tells which birds are on what page so we don't have to waste time thumbing through the book - really sweet of him, and it comes in handy.

Levy is the one assigned to us this morning. He seems very wise and wants to teach us about Mayan history as we do our tour. We thought this was going to be strictly a wildlife tour, but he takes us the back way to the ruins via the road and within a couple of minutes we come upon the ruins of an old stone Catholic church, built around 1600. Very cool, and so close to the lodge. Levy tells us that the Spanish came to colonize the area and convert all the Mayans to Catholicism, but there was an uprising, and the Mayans burned the church to the ground, drove the Spanish out, and erected their own monument. There's a small stone stela placed in front of the church commemorating the event.

We walk a little further into the jungle and we see an abandoned sugar mill built by the British in the 1800s. It's really cool because a strangler fig has taken over the building and is enveloping the old brick structure. Levy tells that the British were much more successful here because they approached things from an economic standpoint rather than trying to change the culture and religious practices of the Mayan people. There's also big metal equipment from the 1800s abandoned throughout the jungle. It's so interesting to see all these different eras combined in one place. Lots of howler monkeys swing overhead. We also come upon a big brick dome; we peek inside, and it's a huge deep well used by the British to store rum and sugar cane. It's covered completely in moss and glows a bright green. In the man vs. nature category, it looks like nature is winning.

We see quite a bit of wildlife on this small hike. Agoutis dash across the pathways as we walk. We see a beautiful red legged honeycreeper, flycatchers, lots of squawking brown jays, a bi-colored hawk, an aracari, and red-lored parrots. It's interesting to hear all the history of the area from someone who is a direct descendent of the Mayans. I love it that Levy is so proud of where he comes from and his heritage.

xyz99 Jun 17th, 2014 07:13 PM

Hi vg,
Welcome back. Your trip report is bringing back great memories, glad you liked LOL. Pictures?

volcanogirl Jun 17th, 2014 07:29 PM

We head back to the lodge and enjoy a breakfast of fresh fruit, sausage, a frittata, and mango "juice" - all very tasty. At 9:00 a.m. we meet Levy down by the dock; we're going back to the ruins, but this time we're going via the lagoon. We board the boat and within minutes we're at the dock and heading into the jungle. Dozens of cormorants flock around the dock. Once there we're able to climb several temples - the Mask Temple, the Jaguar Temple, and the High Temple. The High Temple has steps that are so steep that they provide a rope to help you climb it. The steps themselves are short and hard to place your foot on; it's much easier to go up than it is to come back down. In the U.S., land of lawsuits, there would be handrails, yellow paint, and disclaimers to sign, but here you're free to just explore at your whim. There are some beautiful views; at the top of one of the temples we come eye to eye with more howler monkeys, and we spot a toucan. I've been wanting to see one, and this is the only one we see during our entire trip. We're here before all the cruise ships dock, so it's wonderful to have the place all to ourselves. The mosquitoes are fierce, and I'm glad we brought repellent with us. I offer some to Levy, but he says he never uses it.

We see an interesting ancient ball court where they played a sport similar to basketball with big stakes. Whether you won or lost would determine if you were sacrificed to the gods! A lot of the history is quite gory - beheadings, strange piercings, people having their hearts ripped out, even children being sacrificed. It's hard to imagine that all of that happened here where it now seems so peaceful. We also come upon an archaeological dig while we're there. They're excavating the royal palace and several small rooms have been uncovered. I love touring the ruins; this is a beautiful area - very lush, jungly, green, and the history is fascinating. Levy learned a lot of it from his grandfather and is now passing it on to his own family. I love hearing his perspective. He tells some great stories. As a kid, he and his father would head into the jungle and go hunting for a week to bring home meat for the family. I asked him where they would sleep, and he says either on the jungle floor or in a hammock. No wonder these people are so brave! Can you imagine just curling up on the jungle floor? Before we leave we see some red-lored parrots and a beautiful slaty tailed trogon. We stop in at the small museum before we head back to the dock; inside are several artifacts - the remains of bowls, statues, etc. There are also some carvings and big tablets. It's nothing like a museum at home with glass and armed guards. Some of the relics are just sitting out in the open on the floor with a note that says please don't touch. Levy tells us to take as much time as we want and when we're finished we board the boat and head back to the lodge.

Lunch consists of beef enchiladas, rice, corn, black beans, and a surprise for dessert - fudge brownies with ice cream. We enjoyed our time with Levy so much, and he's so good at spotting wildlife that we decide to book an early morning birding tour with him for the next day.

volcanogirl Jun 18th, 2014 05:54 AM

Hi, x - thanks again for all your help. I'm so glad you guys steered us toward going to L.O.L. Yes, I have lots of pics - still going through them. Lots of howler monkeys!

RAC Jun 18th, 2014 09:01 AM

Glad to read that you saw your toucan. You must be the only person I know who sees more quetzals than toucans.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:39 PM.