After abandoning the infamous French Guy at the border, we headed to our camp, Backpacker's Paradise, in Sarteneja. The fun of the day continued as we realized we are biggest idiots in the world and forgot to top off our gas on the Mexico side of the border, where there are reasonable prices. Instead, we paid 50$ USD for half a tank at over 5$/gal. Horrid. Fingers crossed we don't have have to put any more gas in the tank until Guatemala. Of course, in order to get to Sarteneja we had to take two different hand cranked ferries over small rivers that Mitch got to help crank. Why build a bridge?
Sarteneja was a beautiful introduction to Belize. Our camp was a great place to unwind and in the morning we woke up and took a bike ride along the coast and through town. Our ride was lined with endless scenic piers, white sand beaches, and the purest blue waters. We took a stop on one of the piers to see what a group of locals were fishing for off of the end. They had a simple set up of lines, hooks, and sardines that they were using to catch barracuda. Mitch was instantly handed a line and invited into the action. He didn't seem to have the magic touch, because in the half hour + that we were there the guy teaching Mitch caught 3, and Mitch none. It was great to hangout with some locals, talk to them about what to expect in Belize, and get their recommendations. After our ride, we hit the road and headed farther south, closer to where we would be picking up Shon (YAY).
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Our next campsite was at Jacana Inn, lagoon-side in the beautiful Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. This location is also dubbed "A Birdwatcher's Paradise." Conveniently enough, Auntie Honey hooked it up with a rad pair of b'nocs for graduation, so I went into full birdwatching nerd mode (as much as Mitch made fun of me he was stoked when I gave him a turn). That said, I'm not actually badass enough to be a legit birdwatcher, so I can't name any of the birds that I was able to see through my 'nocs in this paradise. There were some really pretty white stork-like ones that we spied from across the lake. Additionally, we saw the first fireflies of our lives flickering around the yard at night. I always thought that Disney took some liberty when it came to the majesty of firelies, but turns out they really are that magical. The only downside of this location was that the ground was infested with fire ants that completely destroyed our feet and left me imprisoned to be either perched in the back of the car or marching in place wherever I stood. Luckily, the owner of the property makes her own cashew wine and we were able to buy a bottle to try out, making the ant bites a bit less monumental.
SHON IN BELIZE
Big day for us. On 7/12/2016 one more member was added to our team, Shon Purdy, aka Shonith.
For those of you who don't know, Shon and I (Mitch) have been the best of friends since we met in 9th grade. Playing various sports together and hanging out, along with all of our other amazing buddies nearly perpetually. Shon and I even lived together for a summer. Shon is a very adventurous person, so one year ago when I presented the idea of coming with us for an extended period of time he jumped on the opportunity. He is just that kind of guy.
Our first day with Shon probably had him slightly worried for what he had gotten himself into. Upon picking him up at the Belize Airport, we promptly headed to the our beautiful campsite for his first night on the road, the Old Belize Marina. Essentially, the Old Belize Marina is exactly what it sounds like, so not exactly a five star resort. But hey, at least we could see the ocean.
Our plan for that night was simple: get there, make dinner, and go to sleep. Steps one and two went very smoothly, so naturally, we felt as though the pattern would continue and we were in for a very comfortable nights sleep. Nope. Thunderstorms, nearly all night long. The weather was so bad in fact, that at one point Shon came up into the Roof Top Tent with us and we all hung out together for a little while. Shon's problems continued when he went down into his tent on the ground for the night and was promptly laid on top of by the very friendly old marina dog.
It was a long night, but we made it to the morning, excited and tired for our upcoming stay in Caye Caulker.
Once Shon arrived, we left Rita in good hands and headed out to Caye Caulker on a water taxi for a vacation from our vacation. Now, because we are behind on our blog posts (nearly an entire country behind actually) I am going to merely highlight some of our favorite things/moments/activities from our time on this adorable little island.
1. Shon was there.
I know we've already touched on this, but it was really quite exciting to have the addition of another friend. And boy, has it made us grateful that we left one of our backseats.
2. Snorkeling Tour.
After shopping around the island, we decided to do our all day snorkeling tour with Caveman (so named because he was stuck in a cave once, but we never got the whole story there). We spent all day on the water with a cool group of people, and exuberant guides. We visited several different sites, including a shipwreck, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and Shark Ray Alley. We snorkeled with turtles, rays, barracuda, sharks, and honestly more sea life than even Marine Biologist Shon could ever name. It was one of those days that will stay high up on our list of favorites.
3. The people were...entertaining.
Pictured here is a man that goes by the name of "Miller High Life." He will tell you that this is his name about every 45 seconds, including his self-given title of "local pharmacist." We think he might be dipping into his own medications a bit too frequently, but he was cracking us up as he followed us around the island one evening for a good half hour. Our interactions with Miller High Life were a middle ground between the unpleasant experience of being threatened by the "Black Sniper" for not paying up for his tourist scam, and buying delicious treats from the "COCONUT BREAAADDDD" guy after three days of watching him ride around on his bike screaming with a joyous smile.
4. The Tricks of the Island.
Our favorite part of traveling has been getting to see, and intimately interact with, the way that the local people live. This afternoon, we were shown some great tricks by these adorable island kids. We picked up some fresh sardines from one of the neighboring docks, and had some fun with both the pictured seagull above, and the huge Tarpon right off the shore. Oh yeah, and after that they showed us where we could find seahorses in the nearby mangroves (the only downside was that there was also upside down jellyfish over there).
5. Meeting Other Overlanders.
The good hands that we left Rita in were at the Old Belize Marina. When we got there, we also found the rigs of "hereuntilthere" "thevagabroads" and Benjy Davenport, who had all also traveled over to Caye Caulker. We were able to meet up with them for dinner, talk overlanding stories, and be totally spoiled by them with a delicious meal of lobster tail and mashed potatoes. It's always a blast to meet other people on the same journey we are on. It's also to note that meeting the dogs of these other travelers sent me into a full blown tail spin about how we need to get a puppy. Then we returned to the Old Belize Marina, where the AMAZINGLY NICE manager there was getting rid of a puppy. It took everything we had not to bring it along. And the banter about getting a puppy hasn't stopped since (uh oh).
6. Life is Simple.
Beautiful beaches by day. Unimportant, yet frequent power outages by night. Life moves at an unprecedentedly slow place on this little island paradise.
7. Fry Jacks.
Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to take a photo of one of these amazing creations, but they became a big part of our life in our days on Belize. Honestly I don't even want to think about how many we each ate in our time on Caye Caulker. Coming in at $1.25 USD a piece, these fried bits of heaven were just about the only thing we could afford (Belize is expensive).
Thank you for the good time, Caye Caulker.
We visited the Belize Zoo...
Full of rescued animals and spacious exhibits, it's refreshing to visit a zoo that doesn't make you want to cry.
& by the end of Belize, it's safe to say that Shon had adjusted pretty well to the overlanding lifestyle. After a quick stop in San Ignacio, we were ready to cross Border #2.