Monday, March 30, 2015

The otherside worth mentioning

This is Mike...
   The Caribbean has a lot of beautiful places but also has it's share of spoiled places. Trash that washes out of storm drains in the US, Mexico, Cuba or where ever, floats until it hits a beach. We have been to several areas in the Caribbean prior to this trip and the scenario is always the same. The local shop owner's pay cleaning crews to bury the debris and sometimes, though rarely, haul it away. This too is the image of paradise, paradise lost, that is. The shear quantity of plastics floating in the ocean is unfathomably large. Worse yet, is the glass and yes broken glass, that can strewn a beautiful tropical beach. I cannot help but think about the LORAX and how he must be shaking his head in disbelief at us and our poor stewardship of this precious world. The girls and I try to clean up trash when we see it but it is like digging out of an avalanche with 4 spoons.
   The natural setting is also being hit by the cruise ships and boats opening their sewage tanks at sea and having the material set off algal blooms and that algae hurts the reefs and sometimes making people sick with open sores. I am writing this because we don't want anyone to think we only see half full glasses and roses everywhere. There is another side to all this but we don't choose to focus on it because we all need a little more beauty and happiness in our lives. Life is not easy, no matter where we are. Sometimes life can be a struggle but that is not what motivates us. A better tomorrow is what motivates us. We believe that if enough people see the other side of paradise maybe we can fix the wrongs. I just hope it does not take too long because the animals are literally choking to death on our junk.
   On a different note, things are getting tight from time to time. Each new accommodation presents new challenges like different noises, minimal lighting, bugs etc. We have had plumbing issues, rain coming in through the ceiling issues and bugs flying through torn screen issues. There is also Elise's favorite, lack of privacy in the bathroom issues. It can be hard from time to time but these are small on the grand scheme of things. Actually, truth be told, I am amazed how we are taking things in great stride. Also, for the record, we are not bottom fishing on places to stay, we are renting nice places at least from VRBO and Trip Adviser's perspective. The standards of construction are just different and as such these issues can arise.
   Elise and I were discussing the near term itinerary for this trip and keep coming up with no plans. We are now finally slipping into the travel zone and just looking at the next steps in bite sized chunks. We will be in Belize until April 9th and after that go on to Guatemala. We are hoping for cool sights and cultures in Guatemala. We are looking at enrolling ourselves in Spanish schools and do some charity work over there as well. Beyond that all we can say is AYE AYE AYE!      

Manatee boat ride and Tranquilo Bar

Manatee swimming in the lagoon

Tranquilo Bar, you need to catch a five minute boat ride to get to this place 

Nothing says cheers to the end of the day like a strawberry shake

the vagabonds

Taking the boat back to the harbor at night
This is how the other half lives (notice the helicopter up top, James Bond style)

Placid waters

Zoe reflecting on losing yet another tooth

Saturday, March 28, 2015


This is Elise.  As I am writing this Mike is dropping off two large suitcases full of stuff that we don't need to a charity.  One of the hard lessons we have had to learn on this trip is that just because it fits in the car doesn't mean we should be hauling it all over Central America.  Some of the stuff are things we use everyday at home (makeup), some of it are things we thought we needed in case of emergency (water purification and mylar blankets).  We had to accept that having too much stuff was making it hard to find the things and detracting from our trip instead of making us more comfortable.

     Belize is a hard country to define or put into a box.  The inland area is highly influenced by the surrounding Latin American countries.  Most people speak Spanish and many are from Guatemala or El Salvador. (Not counting the hordes of ex pat Canadians.)  It is jungle and mountain.  The coastal areas are more Afro-Carribean.  The people here often speak Creole.  Every where people are very friendly and helpful.  I haven't felt like I was in danger or about to get robbed at any point. (We haven't been and aren't going to Belize City which is the place rumored to be crime ridden.)  Placencia is a pleasant little town on a peninsula. We chose to stay here to avoid the hassle of getting to the more popular Ambergris Caye or Caulker Caye.  If those islands look anything like the small cayes we took a boat ride out to then we really missed out. So often though the reality doesn't measure up to the hype. 

Caye to fun

Zoe likes drawing on the beach and makin' easy mon

The neighboring caye

The girls floating in the shallows after lunch

Sierra chillin' island style, ya mon

The "Swamp Thing" is alive!
This is Mike... 
We went to Silk Caye (about 22 miles by boat from Placencia) yesterday for some snorkeling and lounging around. The abundance of fish and a healthy reef was quite a site to see, it felt as if we were flying with millions of fish just below us. We were gone all day so they served lunch on the caye so we wouldn't starve to death. After lunch we went out to a nearby sand bar, by boat, and that's where the excitement began. We saw a couple Loggerhead turtles, stingrays, and about a dozen or more nurse sharks. The girls enjoyed swimming with the animals very much and seemed to take it all in. On the way back from the sand bar we ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere. That was an interesting experience to punctuate a great day. After a distress call, a fellow boater dropped off some gas with us and we were off to town.     

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The lowest hammock I ever saw

Zoe kicking back on the hammock she has coined, "the lowest hammock I ever saw." The hammock is about 4 inches off the ground and she laughs at it a lot

The girls made fun of me for taking a hot shower on a hot day which made me sweat and I was already sweating to begin with. They did not think I would post this picture because I am holding a ladies fan to cool off. They are both laughing at me as I am typing this caption.
This is Zoe...(dictated by Zoe typed by Daddy)
It is funny but I am writing this about my dad holding the girl's fan, which was very funny. There is a creek where we are staying now. We went away from the place where my dad was holding the fan. The are lots of sea shells where we are now. We came over to the beach from the forest. We are still in Belize. There are lots of palm trees here and I saw two coconuts at the beach today. I feel like our home is connected to the beach because of the creek. I am not sure what this is, a creek, river, beach, I am not sure. The lowest hammock I ever saw is on the picture above. My butt was touching the ground on the hammock and that was today. I saw two love birds and one just flew away. I don't know where the other one went? They were about to kiss with their cute beaks. I slept on a futon for the first time last night. It was comfortable but Sierra took my doggy pillow and I had to go on the other side of the futon. My dad's eyes are blue and mine are brown, hahahahaha. Can I have a stretching break? Daddy did you really write that? Don't really write that!
The lagoon is really deep. My daddy just told me what it is called. Sierra got scared yesterday about swimming in the lagoon. We really did see something, it was a needle fish. I had a delicious lunch with eggs, milky icky cheese and cinnamon toast. I did not eat the cheese but took a bite of it and know it is yucky. There is a lady selling carrot bread in the front yard now. I gotta go. I like carrot bread a lot lot lot!   

Chance encounters

Canal boogie boarding

Canal view

Doing the sunset ritual

This is Mike...
   We arrived in Placencia yesterday evening after a 4 hour drive on the hummingbird highway, south to the ocean. Placencia is at the end of a long peninsula with a lagoon on one side and the ocean on the other. The peninsula is so skinny in a few parts, that it is barely a hundred feet wide. We are staying at a home with a couple condo units on the ground floor on the lagoon side of the peninsula. Placencia is a cute little village with a lot of young families similar to what we used to have in Austin. In fact, last night we got a deluxe tour of the boardwalk by a squad of little girls. Sierra and Zoe were amazed to see the other kids. The squad was made up of two Italian girls and two Norwegian girls and two north American girls also Zoe and Sierra. All the kids were of similar age and spoke perfect English and were very friendly. Also Across the canal from us is another house filled with kids from Colorado. Our hope is that our kids can relax and unwind a bit with the kids as they surely deserve it.
   To date, our kids have been superb travelers. They are flexible and understand that each day unfolds rather than us planning it. Don't postpone travels because of kids, rather start traveling because of them. Kids see the world in such different ways, as such can teach us old farts so much. They are not bogged down by politics, language, etc. they are just looking for the next cool experience. Also, their cool experiences are not necessarily expensive. They have created bouquets of wildflowers for a mock weddings, tried to draw the horizon with crayons, play pretend games without end, and so on.
   Two days ago I met someone that reminded me of Kyle Anderson. The guy was a Guatemalan and spoke perfect English. He spoke of his family and how he tries to spend the most time possible with them. He said, when he leaves the house in the morning he only thinks about how soon he can go home. It was so awesome because Kyle said almost the exact same thing to me six months ago. It is strange how a chance meeting can stir up memories. Maybe it is that easy! Maybe meeting other people and seeing the similarities between us is the point. Acknowledging that we are each unique but not special will be a challenge to both live and teach my kids.
   Here is to chance encounters and the wisdom they can provide                   

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fun on the farm

This is Sierra.  I can't believe that time has gone by so fast.  We are in Belize!  If you can Belize it! Ha, ha,ha. (Can you belize that they actually say that all the time?)  Today we worked on a farm and we got to hold a baby sheep.  It was a lot of fun.  When I went on to to feed the daddy sheep, I stopped and thought, "I am just feeding sheep and I am tired already."  All the other people, like Natalya, probably have a lot of work to do.  Then, one hour later, I was planting hibiscus and we ran out of water to let the baby hibiscus drink.  When we went back and forth to get the water the person who was driving me said, "Do you want to drive the golf cart?"  Who wouldn't say, "YES!"  When I was trying to turn I came within a millimeter of hitting a tree.  That was fun!
P.S. Ms. Wood, if you are reading this, thanks for putting up this link on the class blog

It's feeding time on the back forty

The girls have decided to become vegetarians again

We see this as affection the lamb probably just wants to move on to greener pastures

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chocolate the old school way

After grinding the cacao beans to a paste, the girls added hot water to make a gritty and very bitter 100% cacao drink. We did add honey and raw sugar later to make it sweeter and more enjoyable. The kids worked on their "drink of the gods" with incredible attention and detail.
Sierra is grinding the cacao beans with a traditional stone. The stone has a rough side which the Mayans carved grooves into for added grip to help pulverize the beans. The stone also has a smooth side which was used at the end stages when the cacao turns to a paste.

Zoe working on the cacao beans with much focus

Sierra is trying to keep the beans in the center so they don't fall off the grind stone

The Mayan lady explained how important the role off cacao was to the Native Americans and was used as currency in the post classic period. The Native Americans called the liquid chocolate "the drink of the gods" and was mainly used by the spiritual leaders and royal courts for various rituals. This chocolate did not have any milk in it, as such, did not melt as easily as our chocolates. Also, the chocolate was a bit gritty in addition to the bitterness. The biggest surprise was how this pure chocolate actually gave us he sensation of being full after just a little bit of it. Imagine not only being satisfied from the chocolate high but it also working as an appetite suppressant. There is a lot we think we know about food but a true gap remains regarding the benefits of pure super food.  There is more to chocolate than a Hershey bar, a lot more.


This is Elise. The neighbor just down the road here is plowing over 80 acres of rainforest to raise cattle. We can hear the crackle as the bulldozer pushs over the big trees. I think of all the animals and birds being displaced and killed as the forest is being destroyed.  How do we stop it?  We don't. We can't. It's his land to do what he wants with. If it was your land would you want someone telling you what you could do with it?  This property we are staying on has 5 acres that's mowed and landscaped. In all honesty it is more pleasant to stay here than in the middle of the jungle. I just ate some beef yesterday. Somebody had to cut down some forest to raise that cattle. Do I wish I could save even that 80 acres? Of course. I had a nightmare about the forest being bulldozed. I woke up screaming,"No! No! No! ".
There are conservation efforts here. The Belizeans are proud of their country and are trying to conserve it. There is much less trash here than in Mexico. I like the mix of cultures and the friendly easy going people. It reminds us a lot of Hawaii with the beautiful countryside and easy going people. We have to remind ourselves to be vigilant about our belongings because we know there is crime here. It's easy to become complacent when it's so pretty here and everyone is so nice.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pine Ridge and Thousand Foot Falls

A cool area at the top of the Pine Ridge Mountains. This is a spring fed region with lots of cascading pools to cool off in

Pine Ridge Mountains have a lot of fauna including big cats. The ranger at the observatory said not too long ago he saw a big jaguar in his yard. He also said you can hear the mountain lions every night all around his house. He said they roar all the time. Also, he believes there are black panthers as well but has never seen one. This was an awesome area.

The thousand foot fall is actually 1650 feet tall.

Farmer's market and some farmer Janes

A sunset view from the place we are staying at.

Zoe eating street food at an El Salvadoran vendor in the the farmer's market. For the record, the street food is simply awesome but you have t look the other way on the cleanliness of the prep stations.

The girls went shopping for all the veggies and fruits we needed for the next couple of days

The girls wanted to harvest coconuts to drink the water and our gracious host took them out for a  harvest

The girls are real troopers when it comes to yard work

A tooth and a skeleton

Zoe (AKA money bags) was happy to lose another tooth so she could get flush with cash again

We found a full skeleton on the gravel road to our place. For a science and nature lesson we had Zoe take a good look at the skeleton and asked her to try to identify the remains based on her knowledge of the surrounding fauna. We even went to great lengths to be scientific with the remains. When we asked her scientific opinion on what the remains could be, she said "it looked like a Rhinoceros." No joke, a friggen Rhino.   


The girls at the base of the ruins. We all really had a great time here

Climbing the steep ruins is not for the faint at heart. Elise and Sierra stopped half way up the structure.

Zoe and I, made it to the nose bleed section of the temple. Un-Belizable views from atop the ruins

Just imagine during the hay-day of this site you would not be able to see one stone as the whole place would have been covered in red plaster along with accented murals
These ruins are located just outside the town of San Ignacio, Belize. There is a small ferry boat ride you have to take to get to the ruins so that eliminates a lot of the traffic that would otherwise occur. Locals say there is a legend of a "White Maiden" that presents herself on occasion to try to entice unsuspecting men to follow her into the caverns of the temple. She glows like a ball of light with a flowing gown. OK, I get the legend but for the record, if a glowing, floating woman comes before me the last thing I would do is follow her into the bowels of an ancient temple. I would get "Ghostbuster" on her real quick. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

San Ignacio area western Belize

Avana Villa is a wonderful off the grid property we would highly recommend near San Ignacio

Blue Hole, A popular attraction that is probably way over rated

We are entering Barton Creek Cave by kayak at Mike's Place

The welcome area at Barton Creek Caves, Truly a low key easy feeling place
The view down toward the pool at Avana Villa. The hill in the background is Guatemala

Driving through an 80 foot wide river with a 4x4 is like cake walk, though slippery on the rocks

The girls are so eager to get on the kayak that they are telling daddy to hurry up with the Photos

Floating on the water in a cave with bats, stalactites, ancient clay pots and with human remains was too awesome to describe and is such a great family experience  

Perfectly said