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Trip Report Belize Trip 6/27-7/4

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Well we are back! What a wonderful trip. We flew in sat june 27th to belize international and then caught a puddle jumper over to Ambergris Caye. The views were spectacular as the aircraft only got to 2000 feet. My husband; that lucky duck; got to sit in the co-pilot's seat - while I; being smaller; got regulated to the back of the aircraft. I guess it's a weight distribution thing. :) anyway once we landed, we set off to find a hotel. We were kind of doing the seat of the pants traveling thing. We had our guide book and started off. Rubys was booked so we took the advice of the nice airport staffer who mentioned the Conch Shell Hotel.

It isn't mentioned in any of the guide books we saw, but we were pleasantly suprised when we got there. Right on the beach, the rooms are immaculate and even though the rooms don't include AC (they have a portable ones for extra $$/night) they were really nice. The upstairs rooms have small kitchenettes (i think) we stayed downstairs and with the windows open and the ocean breeze blowing through, we didn't need the AC. All rooms have a private bathroom, mini fridge, and satellite TV. We got local news from atlanta, houston, and denver! How crazy is that? The hotel manager Alex lives onsite so if you have any questions, problems, or whatever he's right there to help you out. For $US50/night it was a steal of a deal for beachfront accomodations.

It's right in San Pedro Town so you can walk to any restaurants or bars. The dive shop Amigos Del Mar is right there at the beach and they were who we used for all our scubadiving and snorkeling activites. Lillys, Mickeys, Pirates Pizza, and Waragumas are great places to eat. Waragumas had the best papusas and it's only a 8 foot wide place so you grab and go eat on the beach somewhere. Wonderful food at Waragumas on middle street.

On wednesday 7-1, we moved inland. We took the caye caulker water taxi over to belize city (1.5 hours). We then took a taxi over to the local bus terminal. I wouldn't recommend walking especially if you have lots of luggage. We only had one suitcase and a backpack each, and i wouldn't have wanted to lug it that far. The bus ride was an... experience... the bus is basically an old US school bus (complete with flashing lights) that stops every 5 minutes to either pick someone up or drop someone off.. The ride to the zoo was enjoyable... I think it took like an hour to get there.

And the zoo itself was really neat. BRING MOSQUITO REPELLANT!!!!! when we got off the bus we were attacked by those little buggers... Seeing all the animals was really neat and the birds there were just beautiful... They had monkeys and pumas, and jaguars and all sorts of things indeginous to belize. We spent about 2.5 hours there. We got there right around lunch and it was really hot, i'd try to get there earlier before the heat gets too bad. But it was neat just the same.

We then went back out to the main road to catch another bus the rest of the way to san ignacio (about 15 minutes from the western boarder of belize). We had a hard time distinguishing between the express bus (one that doesn't stop in between) and chartered busses (ones that won't stop at all for people on the side of the road) and the bus we were looking for, but we finally got one to stop and we got on. The trip from the zoo to san ignacio ended up taking about 2.5 hours and by the time we got there we were hot and tired. I think the entire trip from belize city to san ignacio cost us $US10 ($5pp). A steal given that for a private shuttle they wanted $40 pp. Time versus money...

When we got to san ignacio, we once again did the seat of the pants traveling and had to find a hotel. Everyone wanted to give us a taxi ride to somewhere so it took some time to get out of the main "square". I guess backpacks and suitcases scream tourist, but we finally found the casablanca hotel, and of course the were booked. So we walked next door to the Hotel Mallorica. Rooms have AC and private bathrooms, but they were very dark. Comfortable just dark. Yolanda was really nice and given that she's lived in the US, she understands where us tourists are comming from. There is a common kitchen including a refigerator that we took advantage of.. They also have a purified water cooler so you don't have to buy as much bottled water.

The next day we took a day trip over to Tikal in Guatemala through Mayawalk. It was very neat and nicely organized. Edgar was our tour gide and he got us through the border with no problems. We then met our guatemalan driver walter and he drove us the 2 hours over to tikal. I totally didn't know that tikal was in star wars... So i can say i've offically been to a movie set! HA! :) but we climbed every temple they'd let us climb and 10 minutes after we got to the main plaza the rain started! I mean RAIN! but we got to a snack hut and everybody let us get under so we didn't get too wet. After the rain passed (20 minutes or so) the sun came out and we walked around a little more. But the rain makes the rocks VERY slippery so we mainly just took in the sights and didn't climb much anymore. Afterwards, we went and had lunch at a restraunt right out of the park (we were never given the name) but it was good. The standard red beans and rice with stewed chicken.

Friday we did the ATM. We had a little mishap this day, but aside from that the trip was good. We got on the bus and took the 1.5 hour VERY bumpy ride over to the ATM cave. Our guide said to take our small backpack to cary our things with us on the hike (like our lunch and water and snacks and such) and to leave our dry clothes on the bus. My husband took his wallet thinking it would be safer with us than on the bus. After our 1.5 mile walk to the cave entrance we stopped and had lunch and cave our guide said to leave our packs outside as we wouldn't need them in the cave. I don't know what we were thinking but we left the wallet in the bag. and yup, you guessed it, when we got out the entire bag was gone. Another tour group guide had his boots stolen and another person in our group had some things missing from his bag. So if you do the ATM, leave EVERYTHING in the bus or better yet, don't take anything important at all. Our bus driver stayed with the bus, so i think our things would have been fine, but i think the best thing would be to leave things in your hotel room. There isn't a souvenir shop or anything so you won't need a wallet... just a camera and dry clothes. I'd just take a waterbottle and hand carry your lunch in.

The cave was really cool, and seeing all the myan artifacts was really neat. You may want to bring an additional flashlight as this can help with picture taking. We spent about 3 hours in the cave and the formations were wonderful. Mayawalk comped us our ride to the airport and our departure tax was taken care of in our airfare price.

As SCUBA divers, we enjoyed Ambergris Caye more than the inland adventures, and when we go back we'll probably stay out on the islands. A good trip in all.