December 5, 2010

Belize by Land.

Hello again,
We spent a restfull night unwinding aboard Downtime. Three days at sea wears you out being on watch three hours and off for six. A good nights sleep felt so good.

On the morning of Nov 30th we went ashore in San Pedro, Ambergris Cay to clear in. Well, the first trip to the Customs office was a bust. Come to find out Daria would need a visa, not the kind you use a Macy's either! We needed to figure this one out! Originally we were going to stop in Cancun which has a Belize embassy and get her visa there, but with all the crazy stuff going on in Mexico we canceled that idea. Back to the Customs office, thinking I would just clear in Dave and I along with Downtime and in the morning take a ferry ( the boat kind) to Chatumal,MX. Go to the embassy get a visa and then clear her in. The customs guy looked at me like I was on crack or something? Never good! He asked again "why" I did not have a visa for Daria? Hmm time to get creative..... New story...I told him we originally were going to Cancun but had mechanical problems and had to come in for repairs. This is a international "Free" stop card that you can play. Well, it worked! He took about 20 minutes it seemed acting all official saying we usually don't do this.....but.... we can get you a visa here. Wheww!!! What a relief!
Back to the boat to get Daria! In another hour we were officially cleared in.

The next morning Dave took a water taxi to the airport after spending 30 days aboard Downtime. Thanks for all the help Dave!!

After weeks of warm sunny weather winter finally showed it self. It rained two days strait, a cool steady rain in the low 70's. It felt like the winters in So. California. A lazy day on the boat watching movies and reading. The anchorage in San Pedro is anything but calm. Most the people get around on water taxi and they fly by every 15 minutes it seems. Thank goodness we are on a catamaran which is allot smoother at anchor. Thursday we headed south to Cay Caulker to anchored for the night. No sooner had we pulled anchor, here comes Port Authority and Customs along with a few guys with REALLY big guns! The same guy that cleared us in the day before hopped aboard and asked if we cleared in? This must have been a show for his colleagues? We showed them the paperwork we filled out the day before and gave them a copy and were back on our way.

Cay caulker is a small island with a few restaurants and shops. Not too much else going on unless you want peace and quiet. We pulled anchor and headed to Belize City.

Along the way we passed Cay Chapel a two mile by 1/2 mile island owned by a Kentucky coal miner. This island has it's own airstrip, 18 hole golf course and every thing else you can think of! Some people go all out in life!! Needless to say you can only visit if you rent a villa.

Belize City is the biggest city in Belize, some 80,000 people. It, like New Orleans sits at or below sea level. We saw the impact of a Category 1 hurricane they just had 6 weeks ago. It completely destroyed Ft. Georges marina and lots of trees in the area.The rest of town looks really old! Along the water front are 100 to 150 year old colonial homes in various states of repair. Some in really good shape. The rest of town is clean considering how poor the country is. Keeping the trash picked up is something they do really good here! Cucumber Beach Marina is south of town a few miles. They had a slip available for the weekend so we pulled in there. The last time I was in this marina was 5 years ago on a charter with my sister Kelley and my Bro Todd and his Sister and Brother-in-law. We pulled up to the dock and who of all people was there to tie us off? Cliff the Captain of the boat we chartered! He did not recognize me at first with the long hair, but then the memories came back. We spent some time catching up with he and his wife Sherry over dinner. The friends you meet sailing are for a life time!!

On Saturday we hired Mason a local driver to show us some sites. First we we to Xunantunich which sounds like sooantuich. This was a our and a half drive down fairly good roads. you start the tour by getting on a hand crank ferry across the river. Then a mile up the road are the ruins. Mayan ruins are amazing to say the least. Most were build 5 to 7 hundred A.D.. These particular ones were inhabited until 900 A.D. The structures took thousands of man hours to complete and are very impressive. Allot of work for a few small rooms!!
This one is 130 feet tall!! The steps are at least 16" Quite big considering the Mayan were only four and a half feet tall. In about 900A.D. the civilization disappeared from here some say from Yellow Fever. The Mayans had the stars figured out and even knew about the wheel, but did not use it. They all lived next to rivers which was the easiest way through the jungles.

After the Tour we went back to town which was market day on Saturday. We walked through the local vendors and sampled local lunch specials. Lunch was mostly based on BBQ chicken,pork, tortillas, stuffed corn cakes. Much like Mexico. It all was very good and cost only a few dollars.

Back in the car with our driver Mason we headed to the cave tubing site. Belize geology has mostly limestone mountains. The rivers over time erode the lime stone and actually go under the mountains instead of around them!! We arived, found our guide and tubes and went for a two mile hike to the entrance of the cave. Wow the water was a bit cool after all the rains they been having!! The day before the caves were closed due to the river being to high! Our guide tied us together and off we went. Within minutes we enterd the first cave and it bacame very dark!! Halfway through we came upon a sinkhole wich let in natural sunlight and a view to the jungle 100 feet above. Continuing on back into total darkness, You heard waterfalls and the story of a big drop ahead. Caves echo and small streams apparently make big noises!! The "big drop" was a 6 inch river coming in from the side!

It was nice to do these tours when there were no cruise ships in town. We were the only ones touring either palce!! After exiting the last cave we floated through the jungle for a while before coming back to where we started. Very refreshing and exciting!

On the way back to the marina we stoped at a roadside resurant and had the local's Saturday favorite BBQ pork!! Wow what a day!!

Driving around the country on a Saturday letsyou feel the life of the small towns. It seems everyone is out at the the markets and spending time with their families and friends. In their hand is a local meal and a soda pop. The laundry is is out on the clothes lines, kids are on their bikes or waiting at the bus stops. The country just feels alive. Most peole do not have much but seem perfectly fine with that, they still have a warm hello and a smile. It seems like a much simpler life than we are used to in the States. We deffinately spend allot of time managing all our stuff in life!!

Well tomorrow we are off to the next stop in Placencia!!

Peace until then, The Captain