Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Western Caribbean Cruise - Belize


This sunset picture has nothing to do with the text,
but isn't it pretty? It's from Wednesday.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We turned in at a decent hour last night, because we had to be ready to board the tender at 7:30 a.m. We were taking an “all day” tour to the jungles of Belize, so we had to get off the ship without delay. It was still dark when I got up. I had kind of a hard time sleeping, because I was nervous about not hearing the alarm. And then I was nervous that our room service wouldn't be delivered in time. And then I was nervous because...well, fill in the blank. It was going to be a big day, and I didn't want to wake up with a start at 9 a.m. But, no worries. The room service tray was outside our door at the designated time, and we had no problems getting off the ship, and we arrived on shore in plenty of time to dash to our tour bus without looking to the left or the right. Shopping would have to wait until we got back.

The bus was an air-conditioned coach, which was a pleasant surprise. I was kind of expecting one of those used school-bus-things with open windows and chicken crates on top or something. After all, it was my first cruise, and also my first excursion. The one thing I had asked for was a visit to some Mayan ruins, if possible, and so we were on our way. So excited!

We passed lots of children in school uniforms, on their way to classes, and the town itself (Belize City) looked quite nice and civilized. Especially compared to what we'd seen the day before. As we left the city, the sky clouded up more and more the farther inland we went. And the homes grew farther and farther apart and also more spartan. I suppose the same can be said of a drive from one of our urban areas to more rural surroundings. Or not. Anyway, it was a pleasant enough drive, and comfortable, too. The fog on the windows told me there was a difference between the inside and outside temperatures, and also the humidity levels. This was confirmed when we got off the bus! Steamy jungle heat. And wetness. As the guide said to one of the folks who complained that it was raining, “Well, this is the jungle. It rains in the jungle. That's why it's the jungle.” Hilarious.

River cruise to Lamanai
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
From the bus, we walked to the dock, put on our Deep Woods Off (Don't forget your bug repellant when venturing off on an adventure like this one. The mosquitoes carry interesting diseases that keep on giving), and boarded an open boat for the jungle river boat ride to the ruins. Have you been to Disneyland? There's a “jungle cruise” there, and this reminded me very much of that. Crocodiles, tucans, monkeys, all manner of flora and fauna. We stopped here and there to examine termite abodes, birds, medicinal plants, floating logs that turned out to be crocodiles, and so forth. I kept hearing, “Oh, wow! Oh, wow! WHAT an adventure!” in my thoughts, which made me laugh to myself. Our “jungle cruise guide” at Disneyland the last time we were there was so entertaining, and he kept saying that at every turn, with a very dead-pan expression.

Gum. Yes, we made some. No, we didn't chew it.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We disembarked at Lamanai, where we were treated to a most delicious meal prior to hiking off into the jungle to the ruins. It was pouring buckets off and on, but we were actually quite comfortable. Off we went to the ruins, walking under the canopy of the jungle. It's a lovely walk, really, with lots of exotic plants and animals to see and hear. The howler monkeys were very loud and very high up in the trees. But nothing “extra” rained down on us, happily. Naturally, we were all wearing our hats and ball caps. You can't be too careful, you know.

Climbing up. Don't look down! See the tiny people at the bottom?
Photo by Harry (cute knees!). All rights reserved.
At this point in time, tourists were still allowed to climb one of the pyramids, which we did. I'm not sure if this is still the case. It's way, way steeper than it seems like it would be. Don't look down! There was a rope to hang onto, to keep your balance, and that's how we hoped to keep from meeting our end. If you slip and fall, well, you keep on going. And you're pretty broken when you reach the bottom. Happily, everyone survived the experience just fine.

At the top, we were rewarded with the most spectacular view. It's just above the canopy of the jungle. To the west, you see the cloud-covered mountains in the distance. To the east, you see the Caribbean. It's sunny there. But not here, where we were. It's interesting to see the micro-climates at work all around you. Apparently, for those who went snorkeling today, it was a perfect day. It was a perfect day for us, too.

Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We made our way past each pyramid, feeling somewhat like Indiana Jones or something. It was all very beautiful, in an abandoned, eerie sort of way. At night, when the wind blows through there, it must give the same shivers up the spine as you get at Hovenweep (cliff dwelling ruins in the southeast corner of Utah, near Monument Valley, near Mesa Verde National Park). The guide pointed out the Temple of the Jaguar, which he said has been featured in many Hollywood films.

The boat ride back go us all fully soaked, as it was pouring buckets. It's surprising how cold you can get, huddled together against the wind and rain in the tropics. It's also remarkable how an air-conditioned bus feels downright frigid when you're wet. Just a few observations. Once our clothing started to dry, the a/c felt good again.

On the last tender, pulling away from the dock.
Notice the beautiful sunshine!
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Back at the waterfront, in the beautiful sunshine and hot weather, we rushed through the souvenir stands and managed to catch the last tender back to the ship. Whew! You don't want to be left behind, because then it's up to you to make it to the next port on your own. And the next port? Houston, the day after tomorrow! Yikes!

Chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
It was Thursday night, which means Chocolate Buffet night on this particular ship. Amazing ice sculptures. Stupendous chocolate creations. Incredible stomach aches, just to look at the tons of chocolate items on the tables. There's kind of an “open house” before the orgy begins. You can take pictures, but you can't eat any of the chocolate. What kind of torture is this? But it was well worth it to see the artistry of the wonderful chefs on this ship. And, yes, we did get to sample a few chocolate-covered strawberries and petit fours and other treats later on. 

I took some back to the room to share with my husband. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

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