Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy Anniversary in Belize!

This morning we woke up super early again and were greeted by this

What a wonderful anniversary present, huh?  By the time I got my camera it was fading a little, but it was a beautiful double rainbow.  Today we were in Belize and we were going to tour the Lamanai Ruins.  I didn't feel quite myself this day, and apparently had an allergic reaction to something because my face was swollen to twice it's size.  I took some benedryl at breakfast, and we were off to explore.  This day we didn't actually dock at the port.  We anchored out and got a tender boat to shore.  I think there were 3 ships there that day, so the earliest one docked and the other 2 anchored.  We got to shore and found our tour guide "Captain Chino".  We took an hour long bus ride through Belize City.  They had a lot of flags up and he said that the night before they had celebrated their Independence Day.  They celebrated from September 1st until the 21st.  He said there were somewhere around 75,000 people that come out to celebrate.  This was by far THE HOTTEST place we went. 

Our ship (and another) anchored off the coast of Belize

After the bus ride we rode down the Belizean River for the next hour, stopping to spot lots of wildlife along the way.  We saw iguanas, monkeys, birds, and even a baby crocodile. We felt kind of like Swamp People.  Jeremy suppressed the urge to yell "Choot 'em!"  (If you watch this show, you know what I mean). 

We had been warned well in advance to bring our bug spray, and we were glad we did.  Once we got into the jungle they were everywhere!  Even after coating ourselves with repellent, I still managed to get quite a few bites.  Along the path to the ruins we saw all kinds of critters.  Right before we went into the canopy we saw a huge black tarantula.  Capt. Chino told us that even the hairs on this one are poisonous.  If he brushed by you the hairs would stick into whatever they touch, kind of like porcupine quills, and begin to deliver the venom.  Lovely.  Needless to say I was on spider watch the entire day.  We also saw a line of army ants.  The kind that can devour an entire horse in 24 hours. We came out of the jungle into a huge opening, and there loomed a gigantic pyramid.  It is amazing to me how accurate they could be with the primitive tools they must have used.  This was the smaller of the 2 we saw, but it was massive.  The Mayans had carved jaguar faces into the front, to ward off evil. 

Captain Chino pointing out the jaguar

We spent a few minutes here, then continued on to the next one.  This one was 3 times the size of the first.  Capt. Chino told everyone to "climb at your own risk", so Jeremy took off.  I did manage to go up to the first level, but after that it was all Jeremy.  There was a rope to help you climb because it was sooo steep.  Jeremy made it up to the top and took some pictures.  Heights are not my friend, and for that matter neither are stairs, so I took some pics from my level also.  This is the dreaded point where my camera started to malfunction.  At first I couldn't use the screen, only the view finder.  Then it wouldn't let me review what was on my memory card.  From then on, we used the smaller camera and prayed my pictures would turn out.  Which they did, but I think my camera is a lost cause.  After our mile and a half jungle trek we got back on the boat.  It was so nice to have the breeze from the river after the heat from the jungle!  We ate lunch at the little hut where the bus and boats meet to transfer passengers.  It was good, but it was almost to hot to eat anything.

That's Jeremy standing at the top

Jeremy's view from the top

After lunch, we boarded our bus once again for our hour long ride back to the dock.  Capt. Chino announced this was the time on the tour for a siesta, and most people took advantage of it (Jeremy included).  We must have pulled back into the city about the same time their schools dismissed because there were children in uniforms all over the streets.  We passed one school that was just girls, and their uniforms were pink and purple.  How Mia would love that!  I tried to take some pictures from the bus as we rode along, but most didn't turn out too well. 

     We got back to the ship and got ready for our anniversary dinner.  We had made reservations at Cagney's Steak House.  It was the best meal we had all week.  We ate dinner and reminisced about what our dinner was like on our wedding night 10 years ago.  After a long drive we ended up ordering room service that night.  We had snacked on our reception basket that our caterer had packed us for the drive, so we weren't all that hungry.  We ended up sharing a cheeseburger and fries!  At dinner I still wasn't feeling extremely well, and hiking through the jungle didn't help either, so we went back to the room.  We did ask the waiter to take our picture, but my face was so swollen I will not be sharing that little gem here.  I am so glad we booked a room with a balcony.  It was nice to have fresh air in my pj's instead of going up on deck with 2000 other cruisers.  I think we were both getting a little homesick by this point.  Even with me not feeling well and both of us missing home, we had a wonderful anniversary.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Island of Roatan, Honduras

     This is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.  It is also the saddest, most desolate place I have ever seen.  When we walked out on our balcony we saw a huge reef right at the dock.  Then and there Jeremy vowed he would be snorkeling yet again.  There were also dancers at this port.  The men played the music while the women took turns doing native dances.  We woke up around 5:30 on this morning and were actually the very first people off the ship!  So much for sleeping late every day! 

Most of the homes we could see from port belonged to tourists

     We had hired a driver for the day to show us the sites,  so once again we made our way past all the little shops and back to where the taxis would be.  We were introduced to our driver, Anthony, and told him to show us everything. 

     This island is 3 1/2 miles at it's widest point and 36 miles long.  We asked him about the mainland and he said it was so corrupt that none of the islanders go there, and they have taken drastic measures to keep the mainlanders off of the island.  He said they use to let them come and go freely, but they were bringing so much crime to the island that they are trying to stop it.  On our tour we went through a police check point.  He said most of their police force is ok, but there are a few that will take a bribe.  I guess that happens everywhere.  Around one side of the island there were piles of trash in the water.  Anthony told us that it comes from the mainland.  They know that the tide carries it toward the island, so they just dump it in the water.  Lots of the peoples houses were here and the children were swimming and playing in the ocean amidst all that filth.  It was very sad to see.  Most peoples houses were built on stilts, like we see on our beaches.  The only thing they did inside the house was sleep.  Everything else took place under the house, in the open air.  They cooked their meals, did their laundry, etc. under the house.  Anthony showed us his mother's house, but said that he was raised by his grandparents.  He is one of 8 children, but told us he had a brother that passed away just a few months ago.  He said this was a very typical family size for Roatan.  We told him we had 4 children, and people at home thought that that was a lot, and he just laughed.   He also showed us the hotel where 2 of his sisters worked.  He said any of the hotels that were run by Americans (which this one was) were good places to work.  I don't think I ever saw a street sign on the island.  There was lots of construction and Anthony told us it was all for Americans or other foreigners. 

That's our ship in the background

 These boys are brothers and they were selling metal and plastic jewelry.

 Another tourist spot

 This little girl was playing behind the t shirt stand her mother owned.

This woman was selling bracelets and using them to teach her son to count.

     There was an abundance of vegetation here, but he said they consume it all.  They very rarely export anything.  We saw banana trees, several types of coconut trees, cashew trees, almond trees, guava and papaya plants. 

     We also took a tour of  a small farm that had monkeys and lots of birds.  We got to walk in each cage and hold whatever we wanted.  The monkeys were just like kids.  Just as soon as you'd put one down, it would wrap it's tail around you and climb right back in your arms.  The birds were all beautiful.  They had a Toucan there, and he was huge.

     After we had seen the island, we went to a beach resort called the Mayan Princess so Jeremy could catch a snorkel tour.  Walking into this place you would never imagine what the rest of the island lived like.  It was complete paradise.  I guess this is what most tourists want to see on an island in the Caribbean, but I'm glad we got to see both sides.  Delta and Continental both have flights that come straight to the island.  We were very surprised since it's such a small place, but I can see why since it's so gorgeous there.  Jeremy said the snorkeling here was awesome.  He got to get closer to the reef than he expected.  He said if we had been in America they would have had it all roped off and not let anyone near it, but here they pretty much let you do what you wanted.  After his snorkel we ate lunch at the resort then Anthony took us back to the port.  We shopped around a little and went back to the ship.  Of all the places we saw, this is the one I would like to visit again.