Belizean Breezes – Impressions

Only three weeks have passed, but already I feel them fading.  Those Belizean breezes, gentle off the ocean, or roaring over the lagoon, or still as a statue.  Heat and humidity that should weigh a ton but instead brought a blanket of comfort.  People so friendly, they felt like friends from the first hello.  Food that makes my taste buds dance with memories alone.

How do we capture and hold on to travel memories?  The obvious answers are photos and videos as reminders, journaling our thoughts and what we learn, and – wait for it – storytelling.  Yes, of course I’d get a writing reference in here!  Here are a few stories from our adventure on Ambergris Caye, Belize.

The jet from stateside is not a jumbo.  It couldn’t be, because after landing at Belize International Airport and decelerating to the end of the runway, it must pivot and taxi back.  Yes, one short runway/taxiway in Belize City.  This is your first clue that you’re not in (name your state of choice) anymore.

The next?  The single engine turbo-prop with 8-12 seats you board to the island.  You rise to the amazing elevation of 1000 feet, the height of the average 10-story building.  The lagoon side of the island keeps your eyes drawn out the window, because the green-blue-turquoise water makes you wish you could paint – even if you’ve never held a brush.

Some people were terrified to enter the small plane, much less make the twenty-minute flight.  I, on the other hand, was grinning like an idiot.  I used to fly in two- and four-seaters with my dad, so to me, this was fun!  My camera rested in my lap, my laptop wedged between my feet.  I clicked off shots on my cell phone and camera and couldn’t stop smiling.  Even the return flight, a fast shot in a brief respite between violent thunderstorms, was a joy.

You drive rental golf carts, not rental cars.  If your back seat is empty and someone needs a ride, they call out to you and ask if you’re going by a certain spot.  If you are, the friendly thing to do is give them a lift.  We met the most interesting locals and had amazing conversations by being friendly.  If we were stateside, we would never pick up a hitchhiker, but here, we felt safe.

On our way to Not-So-Secret-Beach, on a coral gravel road that was more potholes than not, we came upon a secluded house.  It rose on stilts above the swamp around it (yes, they are filling in swamp land for housing, so they will sell you swampland).  Three girls, ages about 13 to 8, hailed us like a cab and asked if we were going to the beach.  (Why else would we be on this questionable road?)  They climbed aboard and directed us across the maze of ruts that held limited signs.  A couple in a golf cart behind us said when we hit some of the bumps (we tried not to, but…), the girls almost flew out!  Oops!

Someone will always stop and ask if you need help.  Sitting on the side of the road?  People stop.  Looking at a map?  What are you trying to find?  Need a food recommendation for the best place to buy pastries or the best tasting ceviche in town?  Prepare yourself for a list!

On our first night with a golf cart (delivered to the resort, where they also pick it up when you’re done) we drove to San Pedro Town about 3 ½ miles away.  The sole paved road has no street lights.  The town’s cross-streets have no signs.  We overshot our goal and sat by the airport, staring at the map with a flashlight.  A gentleman stopped to ask us what we were looking for, and once he heard the name of the restaurant, he waved over a friend who lived next door.  The headlights on our cart gave out on the way back, so our flashlights came in handy for illuminating the road.

The second largest barrier reef in the world protects Ambergris Caye.  Each morning, people line the island’s beach on the reef side, raking in sea grass.  A forest of it grows in the shallow protected waters.  Tips break off, washing up to blanket coral white sands.  This raking is a daily requirement, one my American mind immediately tried to mechanize.  Surely a machine could clean this up faster.  I missed the point.  This is the gym.  This is meditation.  This is job security.  This is social too.

The sun comes up early, about 5:45 am, and sets 12 hours later.  Each evening, we sat on our second story lanai, its palapa roof protecting us from any stray raindrops.  Mother Nature put on a light show out over the ocean.  Waves pound the reef.  Closer in, birds called before falling silent in sleep, and those breezes rustled the palms.  Skiffs race up and down the coast, the fastest taxi service on the island.  How they navigated shallower waters in the darkness was a mystery.  Hours later, we were still on our perch, pondering the many wonders of Ambergris Caye.

What stories stick out in your mind about a place you’ve visited?  Please inspire us to take a trip to one of your favorite places!

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