Category Archives: Belize

Guest Post: Victoria & Jason – One Year On the Road

Today marks one year on the road! We thought the whole trip was going to be six months, and now it looks like it’ll be more like a year and a half. You can plan for almost everything, but you never really know how long things will take, where the road will lead you, or how much you’ll love the adventure. To mark the occasion, we thought we’d take over Neli’s blog for a day and share some of the details with you.

Here’s a quick and dirty number breakdown: 365 days, 7 countries (with two visits to 5 of them so far), almost 10,000 miles, spending an average of $75 a day (which includes absolutely everything, from import permits to doctor’s visits to ferries, dog food to gasoline to souvenirs). That’s about $2,280 a month, which is basically what we were paying in rent back home. We spent one night sleeping on the deck of a cargo ferry, 30 nights in hotel rooms, 1 night in an 8-bed dorm room, 60 nights housesitting in Costa Rica and 38 nights in a rented house on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The rest of the time was spent sleeping in Bliss Island, our trusty camper.

It’s worth mentioning that we never made it to Panama. That was obviously not the plan. The trip was supposed to end in Panama City, but after we spent two months housesitting in Costa Rica, we ran into a snag in the rules regarding temporary vehicle import permits. Basically, we ran out of time, and were wary of getting stuck in Panama for three months. We’re disappointed we never made our final destination, but you know what they say about the journey…

It’s really hard to explain what this year has meant to us, with more new experiences, new friends and beautiful beaches than we could ever count. We’ve had ups and downs, but far more ups, and we can easily say this is one of the most amazing things either of us have ever done. We do have some standouts though, so here’s a quick look at some of our favorite people, places and things from our year on the road.

Food: If you know us, you know any recap HAS to start with food. We’ve loved trying the local fare in each country, stretching our palates while always hunting for cheap, delicious street carts. The fresh fruits and vegetables, while sometimes limited in selection, are always cheap and tasty. We had a ton of fun shopping in local markets at every stop.

Cooking on your own is one thing, but cooking together with friends makes everything taste that much better. We’re pretty sure that our friends Marcia and Andre thought we timed our ‘accidental meetings’ to coincide with lunch or dinner. Marcia also taught us how to make real deal Brazilian rice, our go-to at least once a week. Kenny and Jenn‘s carnitas could win an award, and inspired us to attempt recreating it. Sam and Erica made us curry, and now that we know how to do it it’s become our go-to for cleaning out the veggie box. We were also lucky enough to share Christmas dinner at Overlander Oasis with Calvin, Leanne, and a bunch of new friends. We’ve had fantastic homemade sushi with Sarah and Hani, and a sliders party with Chloe and Toby. In general, we try to prepare two of our own meals a day, but here are some of our favorites we’ve found along the way.

Mexico:

  • Random ceviche stand in Baja: the owner kept feeding us (free!) dishes we couldn’t recognize, but loved all the same

  • Roadside fish soup: we stopped to gas up and Victoria braved a roadside stand where the flies seriously outnumbered the people. Jason chickened out and ate a bag of chips, but the fish soup was outstanding, and Jason was seriously jealous.

  • Cracked crab at Ceilito Lindo Motel and RV Park: we slept in a dirty parking lot just so we could try this legendary cracked crab. It was worth every sleepless minute that night.

  • Il Vizietto in Sayulita: we returned several times to eat the homemade pasta and sauces, and to sit at the swing bar

  • Buffalo wings in San Miguel: The Beer Stop had killer chicken wings, offering a welcome taste of home

  • Taco stands: we ate at countless roadside taco stands in Mexico, and were never disappointed. Especially if it involved Tacos al Pastor.

Belize:

  • Pizza from Pizza Caulker: Caye Caulker has tons of restaurants, but this pizza was the real deal. You also have the option of cooking the country’s favorite hot sauce right into the pie.

  • Hot Mama’s: Speaking of hot sauce, we all love Marie Sharpe’s, but after stopping for barbecue in the middle of the country we discovered Hot Mama’s, which is now our all-time favorite.

Guatemala:

  • Barbecue night at El Retiro: We stayed in the town of Lanquin before heading up to Semuc Champey. They offer a killer barbecue once a week.

  • Mucho’s Gastropub in Antiqua: We stumbled upon this place on Valentine’s Day, and it has become one of our top dining experiences ever. Mucho’s would be at home in any major city, the food and drinks were ridiculous and beautiful.

  • Cactus Tacos: Also in Antigua, Cactus has an inventive and imaginative taco selection, including wasabi tempura shrimp tacos. Say no more.

  • Pappi’s BBQ: Yep, in Antigua as well. Pappi’s had a bbq sandwich that’s as long as your arm, and worth the struggle to eat every last bite.

  • Croissants at Idea Connection: The best cafe on Lake Atitlan, their croissants are the real deal.

  • Pop-up Indian: There’s a pop-up Indian restaurant at the cultural center near the Santiago dock in San Pedro. We’ll be making this our last meal in San Pedro.

  • Smokey Joe’s BBQ: Yep, we love barbecue. And Smokey Joe’s is the best we’ve found in Central America. Every Sunday at the pool in San Pedro, it’s everything you could want and then some. We never walked away without leftovers.

El Salvador:

  • Pupusas! Ranging anywhere in price from twenty-five to seventy-five cents a pupusa, we could (and sometimes did) eat these for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  • Tunco Veloz: This pizza restaurant in El Tunco was incredible, with a staff to match. Try every pizza on the menu, but especially the PPP.

  • Rancho Clemente: We spent one night at this restaurant/campsite close to the Honduran border. There’s no menu, it’s just what they caught that day, and what’s left by the time you get there. We had shrimp and a whole fried fish, and left full and blown away.

Nicaragua:

  • Street meat in Leon: It sounds weird, but it was incredible. Right outside the main market every sundown, the vendors cook delicious meats of all shapes and sizes, and you can pile your plate high.

  • Dessert at Imagine: We had mango bread, with chocolate fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream at this tiny, artistic spot in Granada. Sounds simple enough, but it was mind-blowingly good.

  • Cha Cha Cha: This San Juan del Sur restaurant offered great ambience and live music, but the Korean steak tacos won the night.

Costa Rica:

  • Campground cookies in Monte Verde: We spent a few nights at a beautiful farm called La Colina Lodge. The cookies they sell at reception are spectacular.

  • Pizza Cahuita: This unassuming pizza place on the Caribbean was maybe the best pizza we’ve ever had, not just on this trip.

  • Bamboo Taco: A taco truck outside of our vet’s office in Uvita. Two Americans cooking killer tacos.

  • Fresh mangos: Jason pulled fresh mangos out of the trees at our campsite near Uvita, with a bamboo pole that must have been fifty feet long. For whatever reason, they tasted extra delicious.

Drinks: Chances are if we’re eating, we’re probably drinking as well. Nothing beats an ice cold beer at our campsite after a long, dusty, bumpy, stressful driving day or a homemade sundowner on the beach while wild camping. There have been some amazing finds, however. Here are our standout drinks.

  • Mexico: Baja Beans Coffee served espresso drinks that made us feel like we were back on Abbot Kinney, with prices to match. Prior to visiting San Miguel, we thought Mexican beer consisted of Tecate, Corona and other flavorless, semi-alcoholic brews. We were happy to discover there’s actually 40+ amazing Mexican brews, and we tasted several of them at the Beer Stop. The corn-based Atole is the perfect warm drink on a cold night, though Victoria didn’t like the strawberry one. Mezcal is made in Oaxaca, and is so much tastier than tequila.

  • Belize: Even though the bottle is small, Belikin Beer was our favorite Central American brew. Try both the ‘beer’ and the ‘stout’ for the full experience.

  • Guatemala: The spicy margaritas at Cactus Taco are the best we’ve found so far. Coffee-wise, it’s a battle between Coffee Loco in Panajachel and Idea Connection in San Pedro, so you might as well try both, and more than once. Our new friend Oliver learned to make Super Splits while bar-tending in Peru, and brought them to Mr. Mullet’s in San Pedro, where they quickly became everyone’s favorite. We’ve duplicated the recipe many times at home. Thanks Oli!

  • Nicaragua: Flor de Cana, Flor de Cana, Flor de Cana. Enough said.

  • Costa Rica: Lake Arenal Brewing Company is the real deal. Try an IPA and let the awesome owner bend your ear for a night. We also loved playing mixologist with our friends at the Big Jungle House in Costa Rica. Two of our favorites were Lydia’s ‘Everything’s Coming Up Wellner’ and Heather’s ‘It Looks Nice At the Beach’!

Places We Loved: This is a really tough one, as we found something to love in almost every place we stopped. There are some standouts, however, places we thought we could potentially never leave.

  • Mexico: The entire Baja Peninsula is incredible. We can’t believe we lived three hours away from here and never visited. Can’t wait to go back! We were also surprised by how much we loved the interior, as we thought we’d spend all of our time in Mexico by the beach. We couldn’t get enough of the mountain towns, however, especially San Miguel de Allende. We’re going back this November!

  • Belize: It’s not a standout, because we would never want to go back, but Belize City is the sketchiest place we’ve ever been. It’s the one place we felt concerned, even just driving on the road. We loved our time on Caye Caulker, but it was very short (and not particularly dog friendly). Would be a great place to go back for a fly-in holiday.

  • Guatemala: Semuc Champey is one of the most stunning and magical places we’ve ever been, especially as we had the park to ourselves. We also loved San Pedro la Laguna on Lake Atitlan. The laid back vibe, great Mayan culture and incredible food make this the hardest place to leave in Central America.

  • Nicaragua: Laguna de Apoyo is a gorgeous crater lake with the best weather and water temperature we found anywhere. The kind of place you go for a night and end up leaving a week later. Playa Maderas is a little beach community north of San Juan del Sur. We could have spent months had the internet been better. Between here and Playa Gigante, we saw the most incredible sunsets of our trip.

  • Costa Rica: The entire Nicoya Peninsula is stunningly beautiful. We wished we had a ton more time to spend here. The mountain town of Monteverde is gorgeous, with a great ex-pat community to match. It’s one of the places we would consider living longer term. We spent two months in the Big Jungle House, up a mountain south of Uvita. We felt like we were living in a dream, in a 3,000 square foot home with an infinity pool overlooking the ocean, and it gave us the opportunity to spend time with friends we hadn’t seen in a year (or hadn’t met in person yet).

Relationships: You would think spending 24 hours a day together, living in the square footage of the bed of a pickup truck that our relationship would have been sorely tested. We don’t know if it’s because we lived in such a tiny house before or if we’ve just had a blessed trip, but we really never argue. The trip has brought us closer together, both literally and figuratively, and beside a couple of grumpy, long driving days it’s been smooth sailing.

We’ve also found that our definitions have changed drastically. Our definition of ‘clean’, for example, is much more relative now. Both concerning ourselves and our environment. Bathrooms that would turn your stomach back home have become an oasis down here. We’ve gone from showering daily in the US to questioning whether or not we smell after the third day on the road. Cheap vs. expensive has been totally redefined: if a beer costs more than $1.25, that’s expensive. Sleeping in late means getting up after the sun has risen. 7:30 is super late. Staying up past RV Midnight (9:30) is often a challenge.

Our lives have become much simpler. We sold 90% of what we owned, and still feel like we have too much stuff. When we were leaving home, Victoria sold or donated over 75 pairs of shoes, most of which had only been worn once, if at all. Running water is a luxury. Hot water is an even bigger luxury. Toilet seats are miraculous, though we still don’t understand why they seem to be optional in many places. Gas, electricity and internet are not basic human rights, and often take some hunting to track down. Jason has spent many frantic mornings riding in the back of pickup trucks trying to find WiFi that can handle a Skype call.

Money Matters: We thought we had budgeted six months, but at this point we’ve stretched it to over a year. The fact that Jason works while we travel, something we hadn’t counted on, really helps. It changes the trip significantly, but having money coming in definitely takes some of the stress out of the picture. Victoria also got a job at a hostel while we were in San Pedro. She made a whopping $1.50 an hour, but that often paid for a special meal or two out on the town each week, and the bar tab and free laundry were major bonuses.

Friends: Obviously we miss our friends and family from home dearly. We were lucky enough to have several visitors while on the road, including Victoria’s parents (twice!), Heather and Karyn (Venice peeps), and Lydia (one of our favorite NYC gals). We hope to have several other visitors as we make our way north, and always look forward to sharing the trip with the people we love. In addition, we’ve made a ton of new friends on the trip. There’s a unique, basic connection with other travelers that turns relative strangers into BFF’s almost immediately. It’s a shared experience and set of values that unites people from different backgrounds and cultures, creating the backdrop for some incredible nights and lasting memories.

Would We Do It Again? Absolutely!¬†Look, it hasn’t all been legendary adventures, the ‘living the dream’ ideal that many people might think it is when we tell them what we’re doing. There’s a great deal of stress, of making do without things you used to take for granted, of dealing with sick dogs, sick people, dangerous roads, unmet expectations, car trouble and scam artists. Yet we wouldn’t trade this last year for anything in the world. Traveling always expands your perspective, and traveling slowly by car gives you the opportunity to see a country through the eyes of the locals. It’s not always about the major tourist destinations as much as the unexpected detours through tiny villages you never planned on seeing. Thriving in the unexpected is a skill, and there’s no better way to learn it than by traveling slowly. There are a ton of sacrifices inherent in a journey like this, but what you gain along the way is both hard to describe, and absolutely priceless.

We head back to Mexico in a couple of days, where we plan to use all 180 days of our visa, exploring parts of the country we missed on our way south as well as returning to some of our favorite spots. We hope you’ll all continue to follow along with us, and maybe squeeze in a visit!

01
Oct 2014
POSTED BY Neli
DISCUSSION 5 Comments
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One Year in the Life of an Adventure Dog

Napping on the beach is one of my favorite things to do!

Napping on the beach is one of my favorite things to do!

Today is the 364th day since we packed up the Big Truck and left the Wee Blue House behind. That means tomorrow will be one whole year away from home, exploring Mexico and Central America on my Big Adventure. Humans like to count things. They’re always marking time, noting dates and celebrating anniversaries. Since my blog is probably read by humans for the most part, it seemed like a good idea to note the occasion. After all, a year is an awfully long time. That’s like 20% of my life so far! Although I probably would have been content to spend the last year with our friends in Venice, laying in the sun and snuggling up in my favorite home ever, it’s certainly been an amazing experience. We’ve had ups and downs, but overall I couldn’t have asked for a better human family and a more interesting life.

Instead of going on and on about all the cool stuff we’ve done, it seemed like a good idea to let the pictures do the talking. We’ve spent the past year exploring California, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, and we’ve got thousands of pictures that tell a better story than I ever could. I hope you enjoy reliving our adventures as much as I have!

 90291, baby! This is me right before we left the Wee Blue house and our life in Venice.

90291, baby! This is me right before we left the Wee Blue house and our life in Venice.

Before we crossed the border into Mexico, we did a quick 2-week tour of California. This is me and Jason taking a break on one our hikes in the Sequoia National Forest.

Before we crossed the border into Mexico, we did a quick 2-week tour of California. This is me and Jason taking a break on one our hikes in the Sequoia National Forest.

Turns out not all of California is as warm as Venice. Here I am snuggled up in bed in my favorite American Apparel hoodie. You know what they say, you can take the dog out of LA but you can't take the LA out of the dog...

Turns out not all of California is as warm as Venice. Here I am snuggled up in bed in my favorite American Apparel hoodie. You know what they say, you can take the dog out of LA but you can’t take the LA out of the dog…

One of my favorite things about the Big Adventure is all the empty beaches we camp on. Even better than an empty beach? I don't need to be on-leash! Here I am stretching my legs on the Baja.

One of my favorite things about the Big Adventure is all the empty beaches we camp on. Even better than an empty beach? I don’t need to be on-leash! Here I am stretching my legs on the Baja.

Another awesome thing about the Big Adventure? All the new friends we have made along the way! This is me getting some love from our Canadian surfer buddies.

Another awesome thing about the Big Adventure? All the new friends we have made along the way! This is me getting some love from our Canadian surfer buddies.

Me running on the beach in Baja.  Life really doesn't get better than this!

Me running on the beach in Baja. Life really doesn’t get better than this!

My friend Olivia and me playing in the water on the Baja. I miss you Olivia!

My friend Olivia and me playing in the water on the Baja. I miss you Olivia!

I get so many tastes of human-food on this trip! This is me and Vic shopping for croissants in Sayulita, Mexico. Yum!

I get so many tastes of human-food on this trip! This is me and Vic shopping for croissants in Sayulita, Mexico. Yum!

I don't especially love the time we spend in cities but even I can admit this is a pretty cool view of Guanajuato!

I don’t especially love the time we spend in cities but even I can admit this is a pretty cool view of Guanajuato!

Family holiday of snap of us in San Miguel de Allende.

Family holiday snap of us in San Miguel de Allende.

I get left in the truck. A LOT. I spend most of the time waiting for My Family to come home...

I get left in the truck. A LOT. I spend most of the time waiting for My Family to come home…

Leanne and Calvin, the owners of Overlander Oasis near Oaxaca, got me my own special Christmas present just in case Santa couldn't find me. I loved aardvark so much but My Family left him on an island in Nicaragua :(

Leanne and Calvin, the owners of Overlander Oasis near Oaxaca, got me my own special Christmas present just in case Santa couldn’t find me. I loved aardvark so much but My Family left him on an island in Nicaragua :(

Here I am waiting while Jason gets his boots shined in Oaxaca. It took forever but Jason was very happy with the results!

Here I am waiting while Jason gets his boots shined in Oaxaca. It took forever but Jason was very happy with the results!

Me and Jason hanging out in the (frigid) pools at Hierve del Agua.

Me and Jason hanging out in the (frigid) pools at Hierve del Agua.

Vic and I out for a bike ride on Caye Caulker, Belize. It was just like when we used to go for rides back in Venice!

Vic and I out for a bike ride on Caye Caulker, Belize. It was just like when we used to go for rides back in Venice!

This is me the first time I heard Howler Monkeys, near Tikal in Guatemala. Don't like.

This is me the first time I heard Howler Monkeys, near Tikal in Guatemala. Don’t like.

Victoria' parents, Lorna and David, came to see me in Antigua, Guatemala. I love them so so SO much!

Victoria’ parents, Lorna and David, came to see me in Antigua, Guatemala. I love them so so SO much!

Me and David sharing a beer on Lake Atitlan.  He's not a very good sharer but I managed to sneak in a lick or two!

Me and David sharing a beer on Lake Atitlan. He’s not a very good sharer but I managed to sneak in a lick or two!

The first time we went on a water taxi on Lake Atitlan I thought I was going to be sick. Not cool at all.

The first time we went on a water taxi on Lake Atitlan I thought I was going to be sick. Not cool at all.

This is me snuggled up with one of the Christmas presents Lorna and David got me. Thanks guys!

This is me snuggled up with one of the Christmas presents Lorna and David got me. Thanks guys!

Victoria and Jason took Spanish classes in San Pedro, Guatemala. I went to class with them most days, but I didn't learn that much.

Victoria and Jason took Spanish classes in San Pedro, Guatemala. I went to class with them most days, but I didn’t learn that much.

Oh yeah, the puppy. You can tell how excited I was to learn she was staying with us forever...

Oh yeah, the puppy. You can tell how excited I was to learn she was staying with us forever…

Another day, another beach run. This is me shaking off after a run along the beach in El Tunco, el Salvador.

Another day, another beach run. This is me shaking off after a run along the beach in El Tunco, el Salvador.

Here we all are sitting on the wall in El Tunco. Look how tiny Maya is!

Here we all are sitting on the wall in El Tunco. Look how tiny Maya is!

Me running on the beach in Nicaragua. I really do love an empty, seemingly endless beach!

Me running on the beach in Nicaragua. I really do love an empty, seemingly endless beach!

Me and Vic on our friend Andrews island in Lake Nicaragua. Yup, we're friends with people who own their own islands!!

Me and Vic on our friend Andrew’s island in Lake Nicaragua. Yup, we’re friends with people who own their own islands!!

Maya finally got big enough to join me on beach run in Playa Gigante, Nicaragua. Here we are tearing it up together.

Maya finally got big enough to join me on a beach run in Playa Gigante, Nicaragua. Here we are tearing it up together.

Our first (of many) stops in Costa Rica. This place was full of monkeys and sloths, none of whom really wanted to play with me.

Our first (of many) stops in Costa Rica. This place was full of monkeys and sloths, none of whom really wanted to play with me.

This is me relaxing on Vic's lap on Lake Arenal, Costa Rica. I love relaxing.

This is me relaxing on Vic’s lap on Lake Arenal, Costa Rica. I love relaxing.

We spent 90 days in Costa Rica.  N I N E T Y  D A Y S !

We spent 90 days in Costa Rica. N I N E T Y D A Y S !

Me running on the black sand beach in Cahuita, Costa Rica.  Note to self:  Black Sand gets way hotter than white sand.  Ouch!

Me running on the black sand beach in Cahuita, Costa Rica. Note to self: Black Sand gets way hotter than white sand. Ouch!

Reunited and it feels so good! We ran into our German friends Doris and Torsten in a Walmart parking lot in the middle of Costa Rica, what fun!

Reunited and it feels so good! We ran into our German friends Doris and Torsten in a Walmart parking lot in the middle of Costa Rica, what fun!

Me and my friend Heather hanging out by the pool in the Big Jungle House.

Me and my friend Heather hanging out by the pool in the Big Jungle House.

Heather came to see us all the way from Venice. Here we are again sharing a glass of wine at the BJH.

Heather came to see us all the way from Venice. Here we are again sharing a glass of wine at the BJH.

One of the great things about living in a house again was the couch! Occasionally, I let Maya share it with me.

One of the great things about living in a house again was the couch! Occasionally, I let Maya share it with me.

My friend Lydia also came to see us in Costa Rica. I was her good luck charm when we played UNO.

My friend Lydia also came to see us in Costa Rica. I was her good luck charm when we played UNO.

Oh yeah, I had almost forgotten about this. Victoria made me swim in the pool every single day. Not cool Vic!

Oh yeah, I had almost forgotten about this. Victoria made me swim in the pool every single day. Not cool Vic!

On our way out of Costa Rica, we spent a little more than a week going from beach to beach on the Nicoya Peninsula. Here I am running on the beach with Victoria right before the sun went down.

On our way out of Costa Rica, we spent a little more than a week going from beach to beach on the Nicoya Peninsula. Here I am running on the beach with Victoria right before the sun went down.

Me and Jason playing on the beach in Playa Maderas in Nicaragua.

Me and Jason playing on the beach in Playa Maderas in Nicaragua.

Every night on Playa Maderas, we would all go down to the beach and wait for the sunset. My Family would drink sundowners and then we'd all run around. It was one of my favorite places in Nicaragua.

Every night on Playa Maderas, we would all go down to the beach and wait for the sunset. My Family would drink sundowners and then we’d all run around. It was one of my favorite places in Nicaragua.

Me and Victoria after we were dancing on the street in Leon, Nicaragua. What fun!

Me and Victoria after we were dancing on the street in Leon, Nicaragua. What fun!

Our second trip through El Tunco, we went to a pizza place almost every night. This is me and Maya with Carlos, one of the waiters who liked us so much he bought us treats!

Our second trip through El Tunco, we went to a pizza place almost every night. This is me and Maya with Carlos, one of the waiters who liked us so much he bought us treats!

Lorna and David came back to see us in San Pedro, Guatemala. I heard they are going to visit us again in Mexico, I can't wait!

Lorna and David came back to see us in San Pedro, Guatemala. I heard they are going to visit us again in Mexico, I can’t wait!

Whenever Lorna and David come to visit us, they bring tons of treats for My Family AND me. This time they brought me this weird chicken pirate toy that Maya and I love to fight over, even though they brought one for each of us!

Whenever Lorna and David come to visit us, they bring tons of treats for My Family AND me. This time they brought me this weird chicken pirate toy that Maya and I love to fight over, even though they brought one for each of us!

Here I am hanging out in the Little Jungle House we rented on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. It's got tons of room for running around and a great deck overlooking the lake that always has a sunny spot for me to lay on.

Here I am hanging out in the Little Jungle House we rented on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. It’s got tons of room for running around and a great deck overlooking the lake that always has a sunny spot for me to lay on.

It was super hard to pick just a few pictures that tell the story of our amazing life on the road. So I might have overdone it a little bit in this post! I can’t believe it’s been a year already. My Family says that we’ve still got a little bit more time before we have to go back home, and I intend on enjoying every minute of it. Well, except for the times when Maya won’t leave me alone. She’s awful chewy. Can’t wait to get back to our adventures, and to share them all with you!

30
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Neli
DISCUSSION 2 Comments

Belize It Or Not: Rainy Days and Changing Plans

I can't really see out the front window but I like watching the trees fly by.

I can’t really see out the front window but I like watching the trees fly by.

Hey everybody! Sorry it’s taken me a while to update my blog. This has been a decidedly strange time for the Big Adventure. After spending what felt like forever in Mexico, my favorite new place in the world, we were on a whirlwind through Belize. My family was super excited about starting the next part of our trip, but as I’ve come to see during my new traveling life, things don’t always go according to plan.

First off, there was the day we left Mexico for Belize. My Family had planned on getting up first thing in the morning, as early as the sun. Instead, we stayed up super late the night before with some new friends, and ended up getting a slow start on our border crossing day. This caused the smell of stress to fill the big truck, leaving me shifting around nervously on Victoria’s lap. The trip to the border of Belize and Mexico was super quick, and we got out of the country exactly as My Family thought we would. The interesting part started once we got to the Belize side of things. I knew there might be trouble, because all My Family had been talking about for the past two days was the fact that we didn’t exactly have my papers in order. I guess Belize doesn’t like new dogs so much, or they’re nervous about making sure everyone is healthy. Given all of the lonely, sick dogs I saw wandering around, I didn’t understand what sort of harm I could do. But they required My Family to ‘import me’, with all sorts of applications. We hadn’t received a peep back that our application was ready, and as Victoria had feared, the nice health officer had no paperwork on me.

I tried to look well-behaved and bug-free in his office, but it felt and smelled too much like the doctor for me to relax. I dragged as hard as I could towards the door, while Victoria smiled a lot and chatted constantly in her happiest voice. We had all of the rest of the border crossing handled quickly, but ended up waiting three whole hours for the paperwork to go through! Finally we could all breathe a sigh of relief. I was going to be allowed into Belize, and so we continued on our Big Adventure.

Of course, with our late start and delay at the border, the drive to our first camp spot started WAY later than we had hoped. Once we saw the road that would lead us to Sarteneja, a tiny village out in the northeast corner of Belize, Jason started seriously worrying about time. I had to agree. I’ve been on all sorts of roads on the Adventure so far, and the paved ones are my favorite. The bumpier the road, the less comfy Victoria’s lap starts to feel. And her lap is usually the best place to be. This road was like one, long, continuous bump. There was some beautiful stuff to see, though. Bright green jungles, a free ride across a river on a boat pulled along on a rope, huge farms with people wearing suspenders and bonnets (Victoria said they’re called Mennonites, and they certainly didn’t look like anyone else we had seen since leaving California!), and lots of horses, cows, goats, chickens and other dogs. The drive was actually a lot of fun, until the sun started going down.

My Family debated for a while about what to do, but there weren’t many options. We were literally in the middle of the jungle. It was too late to go back, and there was nowhere to stop and wait for morning. The only choice was to keep going, and break one of the few rules My Family had set up for this trip. We were going to drive at night. Soon it was pitch black, and Jason steadily and slowly wove in between huge potholes and across muddy ditches to get us to Sarteneja. There were some nervous moments to be sure, but I managed to curl up and catch a little sleep. When I woke up we were at Backpacker’s Oasis, our first stop in Belize!

Some guy named Bob. His picture is all over the place in Belize, even on the bathrooms at Backpackers Oasis.  He was a musician.

Some guy named Bob. His picture is all over the place in Belize, even on the bathrooms at Backpackers Oasis. He was a musician.

Even at night I knew I would love this place. It’s a working farm, and it smelled amazing. There was a nice, jungly spot with soft grass for us to park, and a common room for hanging out with the other dogs and campers. It was the first time I had seen local dogs with their own comfy chairs, so I knew immediately that we’d get along. The girl dog was a little bit mean at first, but once she saw that My Family was cool and I wasn’t going to try and take over we got along just fine. And the other campers were super nice as well. We were all there from all over the world, somehow finding each other in this tiny spot in the middle of nowhere. We spent two awesome days here, and on one of them we walked into town. There were lots of dogs there, and not many of them liked me. But the people were super nice, and the food I got to try at the restaurant was really really yummy.

Both nights at Backpackers, me and My Family stayed up late hanging out with the other travelers.  It was fun until I got tired.

Both nights at Backpackers, me and My Family stayed up late hanging out with the other travelers. It was fun until I got tired.

We left on a nice day, just before everyone was expecting a big rainstorm. I guess My Family didn’t want to attempt those roads when they were even more muddy, and I was happy to go along with that plan. We started early, but took some extra time before we left so Jason could take some of the air out of the tires. This ended up being a really good idea. The trip away from Sarteneja was way less bumpy and bruising than the way there. Especially considering we passed some spots where huge trucks were literally plowing the dirt road back into shape as we drove by! We finally found some pavement, and soon reached a place called Belize City.

We passed through Belize City super quick, which suited me just fine. The place smelled strange, desperate and scary in a way I had never experienced in Mexico. The people’s houses were in bad shape, and no one looked particularly happy. I didn’t really understand this that well. Jason and Victoria were talking about their surprise. I guess Belize is expensive? That means food and treats cost too much money. And yet the people didn’t seem like they could afford any treats at all. Sounds pretty unfair to me. Jason drove the Big Truck out of Belize City to a place called Old Belize. I could smell the ocean and the fish long before we saw the Marina where we’d be parking.

This place was super neat. Very pretty, with big boats rolling along on the water. Now, I am not a fan of the water. It’s cold, it’s deep, and you can’t run in it. My Family had tried to get me to swim a couple of times in Mexico, and I was pretty sure I had made it crystal clear that I wasn’t interested. I took one look at that huge ocean with its rumbling waves and dug my feet in. I wasn’t getting anywhere near that, thank you very much!

Luckily, My Family wasn’t planning on that either. We parked well away from the water and settled in for the night. They left me inside while they went to eat dinner, but I wasn’t too disappointed this time. It was windy and cold outside, and I was more than content to curl up under my blanket and wait for them to get back. They returned soon enough, and we settled in for the night.

I don't really mind being left in the camper, even though it happens All The Time, as long as I can peak out the window to see if Victoria and Jason are on their way home.

I don’t really mind being left in the camper, even though it happens All The Time, as long as I can peak out the window to see if Victoria and Jason are on their way home.

I dreamed about a relaxing day, digging in the mud, running towards the water and then quickly away, and maybe strutting by the other dogs to show off my designer collar and fine, Venice Beach grooming. Instead, the alarm blared way too early, and unlike on most mornings Jason and Victoria actually got up and turned it off. We were packing up the camper, but differently this time. Backpacks were coming out. Did that mean another trip to a hotel? I got pretty excited, because that probably included a super comfy couch somewhere. I soon found that there was going to be a bit of an adventure before I’d find myself on that comfy couch.

We got up early enough to see the sun coming up.  Who knew getting up so early could be so pretty?

We got up early enough to see the sun coming up. Who knew getting up so early could be so pretty?

We waited for a taxi that didn’t show up. My Family was getting nervous, so they accepted the offer of a nice man at the Marina who said he would drive us into Belize City. I saw his two-seater pickup truck and quickly realized there wouldn’t be room for all of us and our stuff. Would they leave me behind?! Instead, Victoria and I climbed into the truck while Jason and the bags went back in the truck bed. We bounced and jostled our way into the city with Jason out in the open air, holding his hat to make sure it didn’t blow away. It didn’t look particularly safe to me, but Jason was smiling big so I stopped worrying.

Our next destination was a ferry terminal. This is when I started to get nervous. Wait, My Family expected me to get on a boat? I don’t do boats. They go way out into the water, and there’s no escape. I’d rather be forced to swim in the waves all day than get on a boat. But it appeared I wasn’t going to be given a choice. Jason hoisted me up, and I gripped him just as hard as I could as we got onto the boat. I tried my best to sleep through the next forty-five minutes of noisy, rolling chaos, but I just could not get comfortable. I couldn’t smell land at all, and was completely surrounded by water smells. In espanol, I would say this was absolutely, no bueno. Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore we arrived on Caye Caulker, a beautiful island.

See ya later, Belize City!

See ya later, Belize City!

I was immediately in a better mood. There was sand all around, and I got to pounce and prance through it while My Family lugged all of our stuff behind me. I have to admit, it’s not a bad life. We walked and walked, and finally showed up at a series of strange cabins with bars on the windows. I wasn’t getting a good feeling here, and sure enough, my nose was proved correct. The owner of the place wouldn’t allow me to stay here, even though he had said he would! Jason smelled desperate and sweaty, while Victoria was super angry. We trudged off, and soon I realized we had no place to stay! We stopped for lunch at a restaurant where My Family could use the internet, and with just a little bit of work they found a solution. Boy, was I happy about this! As soon as we got to the Hummingbird Cottage, I knew I’d be totally content if we never left.

In Mexico AND Belize, dogs get to hang out on the roof. I'm never allowed to do anything as fun as that...

In Mexico AND Belize, dogs get to hang out on the roof. I’m never allowed to do anything as fun as that…

This place reminded me so much of our Wee Blue House back in Venice that I almost thought it had been built just for us. There were comfy couches, a big porch I could wander off leash, and even a comfy chair with a pillow that was just like the one we had outside back at home! The only downside was being left in the bedroom while My Family went out for dinner. But the Cottage was far away from town, and they didn’t think the restaurant would allow dogs. What is with the dog prejudice in Belize?! I hope some really good writer who works for a bigger blog reads this, because there should be an expose or something.

Just like the Wee Blue House.  Except purple.  And on something called stilts.

Just like the Wee Blue House. Except purple. And on something called stilts.

The next day I was allowed to join in the adventure across Caye Caulker. Victoria set me up a comfy seat on the front of her bicycle, and we rode up into town as a Family. The roads were just dirt, which were mostly mud now from all the rain, so there was a lot of zigging and zagging going on. We eventually stopped at a place to have breakfast, where I didn’t get to taste very much at all. At least I had a good view and a great breeze on the front of the bicycle. We rode on from there to a place called The Split, which is the small bit of beach where people go swimming on the island. It was a pretty spot, and I was enjoying myself nicely until Jason made me go in the water. I don’t know why he laughs every time I doggy paddle; I sure don’t think it’s that funny. Now wet and shivering, Jason and Victoria started studying the sky. It was getting dark; rain was on the way.

At The Split just minutes before the rain came.  Don't. Like.

At The Split just minutes before the rain came. Don’t. Like.

We weren’t on the bikes for more than two minutes before the downpour came. At first My Family tried to ride through it, but I was happy to see them heading under an overhang for some shelter pretty quickly. It was freezing in the rain! We waited until the rain slowed down a bit, and then rode carefully around the huge puddles to get back home. It rained in bunches that day, but cleared up enough for My Family to ride out to dinner that night. I was left home, again! But at least I was warm and cozy in the cabin. Victoria and Jason got home super late, covered in mud and laughing about basically everything, so I guess it was a pretty good person night.

We got up the next morning very early again, to head back to Belize City. My Family had debated staying on Caye Caulker longer, as our initial plan was to spend four nights on the island. There is a cat sanctuary there that Victoria had hope to volunteer with. But the cottage wasn’t available any more and we didn’t have any other options. Not that I’m all that crazy about cats, but I saw that Victoria and Jason were pretty sad that they were going to miss out on another opportunity to help out the animals. I wanted to tell them they could help me out tremendously by getting me back to dry land any way but on a boat, but it’s clear my communication skills need some work. We took the same boat back, and this time in the pouring rain. Seriously, I am not a fan.

We spent a very rainy day back at the Marina, and a long night filled with noisy dogs and noisier people. Everything felt wet and cold, and I would have been happy to never get out from under the covers. But we had to dry out and pack up, so we could make it to the next destination.

San Ignacio was to be our next campsite, a town on the border of Belize and Guatemala. Yep, you read that right. We were already heading to our next country! I was pretty shocked to hear that. I mean, we had spent three months in Mexico, but only one week in Belize? I took a peek at the map before we started the drive, and even I could tell Belize was a lot smaller than Mexico. But I could also tell we were missing a lot of it. Thankfully, the drive to San Ignacio was super pretty. The rain held off a little bit, and the countryside was incredible. I noticed that the signs were all in English, and realized I hadn’t heard almost any Spanish since we crossed into Belize. Apparently, Belize people speak English as their main language. They’re the only country in Central America that writes in English, and uses measurements like miles, pounds and dollars when dealing with people things. They also listen to a lot of reggae music, which made Jason super happy.

Tons of room to run around at The Trek Stop! Woo!

Tons of room to run around at The Trek Stop! Woo!

Our final campsite in Belize was a place called The Trek Stop. It was really pretty here, in the jungle with all sorts of birds and butterflies to look at, plus tons of delicious bugs to chase down. My only complaint was their camp dogs. Boy, were they pushy! They certainly wouldn’t get by in Los Angeles with those sorts of manners. Because of those bullies I ended up staying in the camper most of the time, which isn’t much fun. But I didn’t mind after a little while, because it got really cold outside! My Family stayed at the restaurant pretty late, using the internet to post photos, and they were both shivering when they got back to the camper. Thankfully, no matter how rainy and wet it was, My Family and I were always warm and cozy under the covers.

As I was drifting off to sleep, I tried to collect my thoughts about our time in Belize. It felt pretty hectic. Nothing seemed to go exactly to plan, and the rainy days that followed us from Mexico definitely threw a wrench in things. But I still met all sorts of nice people and dogs, had some delicious food, and enjoyed two great days in a cottage that reminded me of home. Maybe it wasn’t a perfect leg of My Big Adventure, but it sure left me with a lot to blog about. Thanks for reading!

PS: To see some of the photos My Family took while we were in Belize, head over to Facebook!

25
Jan 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Belize

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