After writing my last post: A Word Stronger Than ‘Love’, I know it’s time. See, what I said before… that I refused to blog about our honeymoon until I wrote our wedding post… well, I changed my mind. The thing is I learned it could take up to a year for our wedding pictures and story to be published in a magazine… which means I’m to wait that long because if I write about our wedding here, the magazine more than likely won’t accept it (they see it as our story has technically been told). Well, a year’s a long time to wait to blog again… and being that I gushed about my love for my husband, this is for him. And you. …Anyway, I had already pretty much written the daggon thing so, without further ado, our honeymoon…
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Getting married and going on a honeymoon with your newbie husband is one of the most meaningful, private, exciting moments in life. I’ve been mulling this post over for a while now, thinking does anyone really care where we went, what we did? Does anyone truly want to hear my silly stories about events that happened to us there? Do they? Then I realized, my blog seems to be turning into more of a journal or diary… and that’s when I remembered my very first post: I blog for myself. I’m creating my own rules here. I can elaborate on what I choose to elaborate on. And right then, my mind was made up to share our adventure.
Thinking more about this post, I was surprised to find this is the first time I’ve blogged about traveling. Here’s the deal: I’m a-d-d-i-c-t-e-d to traveling. We’re only on this earth a short period of time, and I want to do, breathe, see and feel everything this world has to offer. That may be because growing up, my family didn’t really travel. Sure, we went on the one-week a year summer vacation to North or South Carolina, but beyond that, all I’ve known is Virginia… and I desperately want to experience something new. Yes, I want a life of adventure, spontaneity. Enter James.
I remember him and I sitting on his downtown Richmond apartment porch, swaying back and forth in adjacent wooden rocking chairs… an easy conversation flowing — always — with him. We were talking about life, as cliché as that sounds, and what we wanted to do in our future. “I want to travel,” I proclaimed… but there’s a problem. I told him I’m terrified to do that alone. I am clumsy and unlucky so it doesn’t seem smart to thrust me into the world to discover unfamiliar territory by myself. Not to mention traveling with someone makes the experience magical, timeless. By yourself it’s only you remembering colors, sounds and sights… and memories can fade quickly that way.
“I love to travel too,” he said nonchalantly. “Really?” I quizzed while thinking, ‘Here we go again.’ It wasn’t that I didn’t trust James’ words, it was just that I’d had this conversation so many times before with my friends and boyfriends. They promise we’ll start traveling together… and we never do. “Definitely. …Why don’t weee… go somewhere together?” he prompted. I may have rolled my eyes and squeezed together the left corner of my lips, an expression of disbelief. “Seriously. Let’s plan a trip somewhere. Where do you want to go?” While the sentences were all the same… I’d yet to hear this from someone during the first time we’d hung out. This was intriguing… and I like being intrigued.
See, at this time, James and I were friends… honestly, maybe even the ‘friends’ word established too much of a relationship. We had just started responding back to the brief word “Hi” at work as we passed each other in the halls… and just started building a conversation: “So, your Red Sox are playing tonight…” And my reply: “Oh I know. I hope they do better than your O’s did last night.” As all know, the Baltimore Orioles’ don’t have a shining record, but after I said my punchline, the conversation would end abruptly. I thought it was because he took personal offense to my joking comment. Little did I know, he was just too shy to talk further…
So back to the story: Here we are – months after the above, almost non-existent work conversations — and I’m sitting on his porch, in a rocking chair. We had just finished watching my Red Sox spank whoever it was they played. (Probably Baltimore.) “Seriously. Let’s go somewhere. Where do you want to go?” James questioned. “What about… Hummm… What if… What if we go… to see a baseball game in Boston? You said you’ve never seen the Red Sox play the Yankees, right?” “Are you serious? No — No, I’ve never seen that. I told you — I’ve never seen any baseball game in person. But seriously, getting tickets last minute to see two of the most popular teams in baseball play each other… in Boston…??? Impossible. …Plus, it would cost too much.” I threw the idea out of the window quickly… but he kept going… which I now know, was very un-Jay-like… and which I find so adorable today. “It would cost a lot… but why not? Why not… just go? Take a chance.” Okay, I mused, silently. You want to test me? I’ll test you. “Okay.” “Okay…?!” He seemed shocked. “Sure. Okay. Let’s go.” “Well, when do you want to go? …Wait. We have to see when the Sox play the Yankees first… Then we’ll have to see when you want to go” and with that, he ran inside to get his computer to begin researching.
In the end, a date was picked: September 27, 2008. Baseball game tickets were purchased, a hotel booked. Me. James. Friends from then on. After spending a few hours together one day on his porch. We were headed to Boston in a matter of weeks… and I didn’t even know if he was a secret ax-murder, rapist, con man. I guess we’ll see where this goes, I thought at the time.
And seeing where our relationship went is exactly what I did. I hadn’t blogged much about our past, but we’ve explored so many different spots together. In the four years I’ve known him, we have travelled to about ten different places, all but two being way out of state. However, we had never once travelled out of the country together. This, we’d saved for our honeymoon.
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After months of deliberating and searching, James found the most amazing honeymoon destination — Belize.
We wanted something off-the-beaten track… meaning when we first experienced our honeymoon site, we didn’t want to say or think, “Ohhh, that’s what this looks like! I saw this picture in ‘so and so’s’ honeymoon album!” No, we wanted to blaze our own trail… and while we no doubt would not be the first to go to Belize, the amount of people we’ve run into that have gone there… it’s maybe been two. I should mention though (as luck would have it), The ABC show “The Bachelor” did film one of their final episodes for last year’s season at… yep, you guessed it… Belize. At first I was angry. The show would attract unneeded visitors… but then I got over myself and realized how incredible it was to get a sneak peak of where we would be… before we got there. We’re not talking some Facebook-album-picture sneak peak; oh no. This was HD-cameras-TV-episodes here’s-what’s-cool-about-Belize peak. I couldn’t think of a more exciting treat. I mean hell, if we weren’t counting down the days to go to Belize before, those calendars were completely marked up during “The Bachelor.”
So to Belize… beautiful, beautiful Belize. The location we were looking at (and ended up going to) was a little island called Coco Plum Caye which held the all-inclusive private resort called Coco Plum. The second James showed me the website, it was a done deal. We were in love… with one another and the honeymoon spot. From being an adults-only island to having a whopping total of ten ocean-front cabanas to finding a honeymoon package which offered three snorkel trips and two inland tours, we knew this was it.
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Day One, Sunday: Our trip began with a 4:30 a.m. wake up call from the clerk at the hotel’s front desk. “Hello…?” I said groggily into the phone. “This is your 4:30 a.m. wake up call!” the man yelled. *Humph* I thought. I was positive James’ paid this grand luxury hotel big bucks not to deliver a bottle of champagne, chocolate covered cherries and other sweet our wedding night… but to simply identify me by new last name when I answered the phone. “James, can you believe they did not say my new last name?! I thought they were supposed to do that?!” “Oh, love… Believe me, by the time this honeymoon is over, you’ll probably be tired of hearing it.” That wasn’t necessarily the answer I was looking for, but he was right — No need to get my panties in a bunch. I had a week of hearing my new ID… which PS-Everyone there ended up calling us by our first names only. *Double humph*
Our flights from Richmond to Charlotte and from Charlotte to Belize were anti-climactic…
but from then on out, we had so many climaxes I cannot even count. (I don’t like how you’re turning my sweet innocent sentence into some dirty one. *Clearing throat*) We waited in the tiny Belizean airport for over an hour for our flight. This freaked me out. Where was the plane? A plane cannot just vanish for an hour. Did we miss our flight? There was no one to ask. It was as if all airport staff, travellers, everyone had left — except James and me… and two other couples… who, after an hour in an airport alone, you get to know one another… and in the end, all six of us were to go on the same no-show flight. We sat… and sat… stood… sat… and sat some more… in the airport which PS-did not have AC. Welcome to Belize, was all I could think… and that’s when an airport staffer showed up… finally. She was bombarded by three honeymoon-ready couples. “It’s coming…” Coming when? No clue. Coming soon? No idea. This, we later learned, was the first of “Belizean time”… and later “Island time”… which pretty much means there is no time at all. …Well, unless you’re late to their time — which is no time… then there is suddenly time… and you’re suddenly late. Confused? Imagine how we felt for a week.
As the minute upon minute ticked by, our plane finally landed in Belize… and got fueled up to head out of the airport. Feeling hopeful, we walked to our plane… only to find we were to fly in a sardine can.
There was no time to hesitate… we had to enter. Hunched and bent forward to access our seats on the terrifyingly small seven-seater plane, I thought for sure this would be the day we would fall from the sky. The truth is while I love nothing more than traveling, I do not like flying. In fact, I loathe flying. I’ve gotten better over the years (thanks to my amazing travel-partner-husband), but I still have to dope up on Dramamine before I even step foot in an airport. And at this moment, despite the fact that Dramamine takes at least an hour to set in and our flight was to last only 20 minutes, I downed another pill. Without anything to drink too… and I always need something to drink to swish it down.
So the plane. Here’s the deal: Each seat had two seat belts. One hooked over your lap and one came across your shoulder, hooking onto the first. The problem? The belts were not nearly as easy as I explained. They were twisted, stuffed in the seat, not reaching, not clipping… the list goes on. Turns out, Belizean rules — like their time — are non-existent. The pilot – who was literally a half-arm’s reach from us — started flicking buttons, the engine was roaring, plane jumping, propellers zipping in circles… and no one on the plane was buckled… except the pilot.
I began to lose my mind then. Really lose it. All I recall was me yelling something about us all dying. …Okay, maybe it actually went like this, “JAMES! I’M GOING TO DIE! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! I CANNOT GET MY SEAT BELT HOOKED! WE’REGOINGTODIEWE’REGOINGTODIEWE’REGOINGTODIEEEE!” Please note, I never said I was proud of my actions; I am simply relaying the situation. James – poor thing – is not the most handy and was still confused about the first part of his belt. At least I was in the process of hooking that one… that is before I decided to scream instead of help myself or him. In truth, I am blushing at my ridiculousness at this moment… but it was a serious situation. There was no stewardess to ensure you were buckled and comfortable. There was no care that people were still walking to their seat as the engine started or that the plane door was still open. And there was no concern that I was yelling at the top of my lungs as the plane leapt off the runway. I’m just sayin’… There should have been a warning.
At seeing my distress (and probably having her own distress rise because of me), an angel came to my aid. A literal angel. The honeymooner-wife behind me stopped her own attempt at buckling and screamed — over my screams, “I’LL HELP YOU! I’M A TEACHER SO I WOULD GLADLY SAVE YOUR LIFE OVER MY OWN!” and with that, she thrust herself over our seat while we’re taking off, fiddled with my buckle until I was secure and then attached her own. A teacher. A sweetheart. And I don’t even know her name…
With the belt buckled, I was able to calm down (slightly) as we flew from Belize to Dangriga, the airport closest to our island…
and after an extremely short 15 minute flight, we made it in one piece to Dangriga. Thank you, God.
Once off the plane, we were greeted by a Coco Plum Resort employee. While he didn’t carry signs that said “Laura and James,” it still fulfilled a secret desire of mine to have someone in a different country lead us to where we were staying. VIP service at its finest! Not only was this impressive, but we were the only ones to head towards the next part of our trip: the boat.
Ohhh, this boat was almost the death of James and me. Truly. Let me explain: After about a 30 minute van ride, we were at the shore where a boat was waiting for us. A very small boat. I repeat: A very, VERY small boat.
This said blue and white boat seated James and I, the “captain,” two of our island’s cooks (who were doing their daily round of picking up fresh fruit and veggies from the main island), and the man pictured above (who I call the captain’s helper). All “seats” (or the one bench) were full. As we remove ourselves from the dock, the captain explains to us the boats are the only way to get back and forth from our island to Belize… and that they make this trip multiple times throughout the day — whether to pick up food, transport guests, or simply to use so the staff can go home. No problem. He further explains, the boat ride takes about 15 minutes, but if the waters are choppy due to impending bad weather, the ride is much longer… say about 30 to 45 minutes. Then he adds — in an off-handed, by-the-way type of manner — the waters are a little choppy today… and off we went. Turns out, when you’re told the water will be “a little choppy” by a captain, it means hunker down and pray you survive.
Unfortunately, I do not have pictures of this boat ride… and that’s because if I did attempt to take a single picture, my camera would have been soaked and therefore, destroyed. More importantly, I would have been thrown overboard. Honest to goodness. So the story: The trek started. Sure, the waters were choppy, but I had nothing to compare it to. I’d never been in a small motor boat in the ocean before. Sure, we hit waves. Many waves. Waves that were shrieking, “I’ll smash your dinky boat in half.” And they almost did. Throughout the ride, we were literally going up in the air, then pounding back down to the sea… flying into the air… dropping hard into the sea. My butt started to get numb. It was as if my ass was being rubbed raw… and (for your full information) I would still swear my ass bone was bruised. I looked to James for support; he seemed equally uncomfortable. We made eye contact and smiled though. We wanted an adventure after all, something off-the-beaten track; this was an exciting tale.
It continued this way for 30 minutes… 35 minutes… and longer. Us, smiling, more out of politeness now to the crew to let them know, “It’s okay; we’re still able to have fun in these choppy waters!”… but then it got scary. On one upwards flight over a wave, our boat easily went 70 degrees in the air… only to rapidly decent into the sea so fast and hard the bow went underwater. A wave was gushing towards us and in about 5 seconds, James, me and the crew were covered in salt water. Hands were flying everywhere, scrambling to grab items off the boat floor… luggage, food… but it was too late. My passport was in a bag that got drenched… leaving that crucial document forever bent at an awkward angle, mimicing the position inside my tote’s pocket. Keepsake papers drenched, the typing vanished. But most daggon importantly — the two boxes of our favorite candy, dissolving with little Mike and Ike’s colors bleeding through my canvas bag which now looks tie-dye. We carefully saved those Mike and Ike’s. *Huff*
I wish I could say that was the end to our scary boat ride… but that’s hardly the case. Water from the ocean now rested at the bottom of our boat, resembling one of those cruise ships with a glass bottom… except this one was a teeny motor boat that was not supposed to have a peak into the ocean. So there we sat. Ocean water above our ankles… in a boat… in the middle of the ocean. No view of our island or the land we had come from in sight. And then the rain started. Heavy, thick raindrops pelting our face, chest, arms, legs… so much so that my skin began to sting from the contact. James wrapped his arms around me, protecting me. I’m not going to compare our experience to the Titanic tragedy… well, okay… I am quiet frankly because it sure as hell felt like it at the time.
I think that’s when the crew realized we all were in danger. The captain and his assistant began rapid-fire talking in their Belizean language. The captain, who was behind the wheel and concentrating hard… on… well, I have no idea because there was no island or anything in front of us began screaming in a language we didn’t understand. “WIEJOSIDFJLAISDUFOLSDIJALGJ!SLIKJFO!SDKGMOAISDJF!LSKDJGOAISDJG!!!!!!” (Yes, that’s my interpretation of his orders to his assistant. And believe me, it sounded much more terrifying.) Then he pointed rapidly to the bow… and next, the boat’s floor behind us. That’s when we got a clear view of what the commotion was about. There was about an inch — a single inch — between the water we had in our boat and the water in the ocean. And did I forget to mention, the Belizeans don’t believe in life vests? Holy shit, I thought. We are going to drown. Or get eaten by sharks… and so I began furiously scanning the ocean for the devils. We are going to die. My new husband and I — We are going to die. I looked at him. He looked at me. This time, we did not smile. The shouting and quick finger pointing remained in the background, similar to the movies… where before death, everything goes silent, slow motion. It was just James. James and me. Sitting in a sinking boat. Pelted with rain. At least we had a beautiful wedding.
Suddenly, I was jolted out of my thoughts about how much I love James… and how I was looking forward to the honeymoon we’ll never have… and the life we’ll never lead together… when the captain orders his assistant again. “SKDFLAKSDJFAIOSDJ!!!!SKLDFJAL!!!ADKLFJA!!!LKFJASDLKFJALSDKFJASDLKFJ!!!” As we were turning to see what was happening, we were suddenly pushed aside by this massive black barrel. It plumped to the boat’s bottom as it was shoved over our bench… then rolled back and forth with the mini waves in our boat. What.the.hell, kept repeating in my head. The assistant rushed to grab the three-and-a-half-foot tall barrel and slide it to the bow. “DFKDLMFKJS!!!LKDML!!!LKJLKJ!!!FJALSDKFJALDFJLIIMC!!!” More orders apparently meant more barrels. Two… three… four… Unbelieveable; where they there the entire time?! Five. It seemed never ending. Black barrel after black barrel shoved over the seat next to me, onto the floor, skidded to the bow. Finally, the assistant had accumulated about six equally massive barrels. From there, he sat on the floor, feet up — attempting to hold the large monsters in place so they would not slide back and crush our legs. It was a feat to say the least. This guy’s muscles were bulging… and believe me, I say that in no I’m-enjoying-my-view sense. At this point, it was life and death. These plastic barrels seemed to be the only way we may survive, adding more weight to the front of our boat so it wouldn’t be so lightweight there.
It helped some, but was not the end all be all. We continued to fly up… plummet down. Hard. Every time. I’m not much of a prayer, but no joke, I grabbed James whole arm and gave it a death-grip squeeze, whispering aloud, “Please God, let us make it. Please God, let the waters calm down. Please God, let the rain stop. Please God, let us make it. Please God, let us get there alive” and so forth and so forth. It seemed to be my semi-comforting chant. And again, I don’t pray chant.
Finally, the good news: The clouds parted about 10 minutes later, angels played on their harps… and in front of us loomed our magic little island. Surrounded by a light grey sky and sea, it was at least in view. We made it. We were alive.
The funny thing about our experience is we learned another couple was supposed to arrive a couple hours after us; however, because bad weather was heading our way (hint the hell waters), they were not allowed to travel. Instead, that couple had to spend the night in one of their partnering resorts located in Dangriga. I’m telling you — It it was a dangerous ride. And scary. *Whew*
After that bleepity-bleep-bleep boat ride, we pulled up to Coco Plum’s dock where James and I were helped out (which thank God, because my butt and legs and feet were non-functional at this point) and ushered into a cabana attached to the dock.
It was here we were seated at a table for two… with a couple of frozen drinks awaiting our arrival.
Slurping our infamous Mosquito Bites, we were able to breathe. In fact, we sat across from each other for several minutes not saying a single word. Just breathing. Because I was still so shaken about the ride, I realized I hadn’t even looked at where we were — What color was the sand? What was inside this cabana? Was there anyone around us? Were they staring? We started pointing, peering at every detail. Our cute dining cabana had a high teepee-like ceiling, complete with palm tree leaves, bamboo poles and ceiling fans.
Next to this cabana was another — The bar.
This one was more open, still held together with the same palm-bamboo-style thatched roof, but inside hundreds of T-shirts dotted the triangle-shaped ceiling. All had handwritten messages.
The colors, combined with the writings and items were fascinating. There was a pair of orange boxers, white dress — which was used as a wedding dress for a bride’s big day at Coco Plum — shorts, pants and more splayed across the palm leaves.
Most were bought from those around the United States, but there were messages from Canada, Europe and more.
As I read each not-so-secret thought, James whispered in my ear that he brought a T-shirt for us to decorate on our last day and leave behind. I kissed him. I love when men think ahead.
Within minutes, a Coco Plum server brought us lunch. I had no idea. I hadn’t order anything… and I didn’t think I was even hungry (again, my stomach was just now beginning to relax). Pizza and fresh fruit were plated before us, and it’s then I realized I was famished. Both were quickly scarfed down… so fast that our server giggled and jokingly asking if were still hungry.
Next, it was time to be lead on a grand tour around the island which was beautiful, an image from a dream. There were only ten cabanas on the entire island which means there could be about 25 guests maximum staying there at the same time. Each cabana was tucked between palm trees, providing exclusiveness. But what I loved most about them were the colors. No two were alike. Bright, summer color paint — turquoise, salmon pink, periwinkle-blue, shining gold, teal and more — soaked the homes.
All cabanas rested on white sand, feet in front of the lapping ocean… except for one. This one was larger than the rest and was held up by stilts over the sea.
That wasn’t ours though… and I’m not sad about that. Our home-for-a-week was this precious, warm and welcoming guy… everything I could desire in a honeymoon cabana.
Meet Stingray. See, I told ya he was adorable. Equipped with a soft cotton hammock and matching red chairs on the porch…
and a beautiful bed…
with the prettiest swan-shapped towels.
After touring our new digs, James wanted to immediately test out our home. (And know what? I’m not even going to address where your mind is at this point.)
While he made himself comfortable, I took pictures…
Here’s the view from behind our cabana. In the distance, you can make out the ocean — just behind the trees. Our island was literally yards wide!
And here’s the pretty view from our porch. There’s a story I want to tell that goes along with this picture, which was taken the day we arrived.
Nice little mangroves on the sand. The ocean, a pleasant distance from our home. Well, below is what we woke up to the following morning.
By no means ‘bad,’ but a difference in the shoreline. And this wasn’t even high tide. Remember that impending storm I told you about? Well, it hit our first night. Normally, I love storms — mainly when I’m nestled in bed… but this one was a massive terrifying one that huddled over of little Coco Plum. James and I were sleeping when I woke to loud claps of thunder, large lightning strikes and the sound of the heaviest rain I’ve ever heard. I was so scared, I woke my newbie husband up. “James,” I whispered, inches from his ear. “There’s a really bad storm outside…” Stating the obvious seemed the best way to wake him out of his sleep. “Huh? …Uh-huh” and then his deep breathing continued, a clue that he was no longer awake. “…Jaaaames.” Something told me to keep whispering. “It’s storming. …I’m… I’m scared.” I felt like I was six years old again saying that. He rolled over, eyes closed. “So… What can I do?” He didn’t mean it rudely or in an off-handed type of way; he simply meant, “Tell me what you want so I can do it and go back to sleep.” “Well… um… nothing. I’m just… just scared.” There was an awkward pause… then more deep breathing. The thunder and lightning continued, in tandem. Again, a picture from a horror movie where during a pause in conversation, the storm picks up and noisily screams outside. “James. Love? I’m scared because… because… What if it’s a hurricane? How will they save us?! Would they get us by boat?! WOULD they even rescue US?! How do WE KNOW when we NEED TO EVACUATE?! JAMES?! I-REALLY-FEEL-LIKE-WE-WON’T-HAVE-AN-ISLAND-IN-THE-MORNING!!! I mean, it’s so SMALL!!! WHAT-IF-THE-OCEAN-EATS-IT-UP?!?! JAMES!!! JAMES!!! I’M REALLY SCARED!!! I-THINK-I’M-STARTING-TO-FREAK-OUT!!!” Yes, ladies and gentlemen. This is what my poor husband had to put up with the first night of our honeymoon. …I’m sure it wasn’t what he was envisioning either. His response to my escalating scenes… mumbles in his pillow of: “Go back to sleep. It will be okay in the morning.” I don’t think he ever opened his eyes. “Thanks, love,” I puffed as I tried to curl up next to him, jumping with each clap of thunder until I fell asleep. Welcome to married life.
Truth be told, I was too scared to look out our window that night. I honest-to-God thought our cabana would be above water… and if it was above water, that meant our island was underwater… and if that was the case, I pictured those damn sharks swimming from cabana to cabana, waiting for someone to leave. (Can you tell I have issues with sharks? Love the beach and ocean, but terrified of them. Actually, it’s ridiculous what I think about sharks so we’ll move on. That tale can wait for another day… so end of storm-story.)
So we were just showed our cabana and now it was time to explore.
The base of palm trees were painted in the same sunny colors as the cabanas… and every few feet, cotton hammocks were slung haphazardlessly around trees. It was simply a carefree type of gorgeous.
Colorful conch shells circled the base of the palm trees.
There were so many new palm trees growing. We learned if you place a coconut in the sand — not deep, just halfway covered — it develops into a new palm!
As we started to make our way to the pier cabana…
we noticed little crabs scurrying across the sand.
At first I was excited to see so many of these little critters… but then they started to freak me out. That’s because at night, they came out in packs. I was convinced I could hear them poking at the sand as they slipped away when we walked by. Gross. Regardless, I had to get James to pick one up.
We learned they have hermit crab races at the resort. How neat is that? As we were walking, we asked our ‘tour guide’ about these races. I had a sudden urge to find the best crab, but how? He suddenly began peeling the bark off trees… until… the most massive hermit crabs I have ever seen were highlighted, hiding in a bark-hole. Crazy, right? Who knew hermit crabs live in trees?! Then he told us a secret (don’t say I told you)… If you’re ever to take part in a hermit crab race, do not go for the largest crab. The tinier ones are fastest. Good thing we scored this ity-bity bugger… which we actually brought back to our cabana until the race. We even made him a sweet little hermit crab home because he had to wait.
Oh and PPS-(James is going to kill me because I’m sharing this story buuut…) because of the coming storms that first night, the hermit crab races we cancelled… and we forgot to let our new buddy loose! After I had woken James that night to discuss my fears about the storm… I had to re-awaken him because I was going bat-shit crazy knowing we left our hermit crab in a bucket which — due to the ferocious ran — was filling with water. I was convinced he had drowned… all due to me and my desire to race him. I can’t remember now, but I’m pretty sure James ended up getting out of bed… to check on our pet… which was motionless at the bottom of the bucket… filled full with water. We promptly released him. And he survived. *Whew* That would not have looked good on my PETA resume.
We passed a little hut that held several different kayaks. We learned you can kayak around the island… which we did a few times and it was honestly the highlight of our trip.
Our neighboring island. You can actually walk across the ocean to get to it. We visited it via kayaks, but I admit, it wasn’t nearly as pretty as Coco Plum. This island was much more rugged… and there was no one in sight.
Here’s another view from the pier cabana. This is what’s known as ‘Bird Island’ at the Man-O-War Caye. It’s home to several upon several birds… which is why it’s seen as a bird sanctuary. We visited it before one of our snorkel trips so you’ll see closer pictures soon!
Here are some of the pretty island flowers…
After our pictures were taken and the island was explored, we relaxed on the beach and at the bar until night descended.
Goodnight, Belize and my new husband. See you in the morning.
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I sadly didn’t take pictures on Day Two. Don’t know why… except maybe because we were just living. While I love capturing moments, sometimes it’s better just to live them. I will say we went on our first snorkeling trip… and it was incredible! We saw gigantic hermit crabs in over a foot-long shells! And the lobster were even more incredible! They were about three-feet long! Three-feet! James asked if they ever catch and serve them, and we were told they do, but not during the time we were there because there is a ban in place for catching lobster, crabs and conchs. Apparently, if they catch them during this period, it will dramatically reduce the amount the following year. Speaking of the conchs, we saw massive ones too that were carrying about foot-wide shells. Oh, and the colorful, bright fish! I’ll admit, I was hell-bent and determined to go scuba diving with James here. While I’ve been once, he’s never been and because Belize is one of the top spots to dive, I figured this would be a perfect time. …But after we went snorkeling, we were floored at how much we saw. It truly was like diving… which is why we decided to save some cash and cancel the diving.
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Day Three: We were up early in time for breakfast and our first tour — Zip lining and cave tubing. James and I had never done these activities, and were beyond excited to start our day of adventure.
Talking more about the cuisine, the meals were a variation of Belizean and American dishes. Unlike a restaurant, breakfast, lunch and dinner could not be ordered; what they serve that day is what you get. As you probably know by now, I’m a picky eater so I was extremely nervous about the no-variety-offered meals… but it turned out to be okay. For breakfast, they served us fresh fruit daily with either pancakes, ham, sausage, eggs, cinnamon rolls, toast and more. Lunches were anything from pizza or spaghetti to sandwiches or soup. Dinners (as always) were my favorite. They were three courses (love that) and were anything from a Belizean pot roast to snapper to pasta. Oh! And for each dinner, they folded the napkins in different adorable ways. I should have taken more pictures of them, but these are the ones I captured. My favorite was the ever-so appropriate heart-shape.
There were two downfalls though with the meals. Nothing major, but here they are: First, I got hungry. I may be thin, but that doesn’t mean I don’t eat. A-l-l the t-i-m-e. So hearing I couldn’t snack freely on food and that I had to wait for meals was like dieting. In fact, when we went on our tours, I stocked up on whatever snack items I could find. Don’t get me wrong — If you went to the bar, they offered some snacks… but again, it was only one type offered and if you happened to miss that one time the snacks were brought out, well, you were without a snack. The other problem was the lack of seafood. We had two seafood dishes — the whole week. We’re talking a total of 28 different meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) where we could have eaten seafood-something… and yet those sea creatures were on our plate two total times. I actually had a big problem with this. True, I’m not in love with seafood… but come on! If you’re on an island, it is natural to expect you’ll get seafood for at least five meals. I was so seafood deprived that we signed up for a fishing trip! Me! I hate fishing! I join PETA in the stand that it is animal cruelty… well, mainly when fishermen have a grocery store (that has fish) a short distance from them. Turns out though, we didn’t go on the fishing trip. It cost a lot of money — which we were willing to foot because of my lack-of-seafood complaints — but the night before we went, they served us our first fish. We just wanted to taste the fresh fish there so with that, I didn’t feel a need to go and James was more than happy to save. Plus, my new friend Robert liked being the only one on the fishing boat because he caught a whopping total of 25 different fish! All of which he could put back or eat right then and there. Robert, if you read this, I’m glad our semi-misfortune turned out to be your fortune!
Back to our adventure!… which started when James simply walked to the dock… and fell into — what seemed like — quicksand! Except it sucked him up much much faster. That’s because the sand collapsed and he fell into a deep hole! As proof, I photographed the aftermath.
From knee down, he had wet sand and mud coating not only his leg, but his sock and shoe… which doesn’t make for the best ‘foot forward’ for our hiking trip.
After James got cleaned up (thank goodness he fell before we left), the staff explained they sometimes pack sand near the dock. They also warned us to “be careful.” Good heads up, don’t you agree?
Lucky for us, this part of our adventure was the only unscripted one. After we and the two other honeymoon couples piled into a boat, zipped across the ocean to Dangriga (which took about 15 minutes… on a perfect, clear day), we loaded ourselves into a van and were off!
Belize is known for their fruit. They have 25 different mangos, for instance. Here in the States, we only have about two. They also have tooons of orange trees. On the drive to the rainforest, we were behind this massive orange truck… and notice, none of the oranges were in crates. Instead, they were literally placed in the truck bed.
Because the ride was about two hours long, we busied ourselves by taking pictures.
On the way to the zip lines, we stopped at a nearby shop to do some souvenier shopping, stretch our legs and use the restroom. This little buddy was caged outside.
According to a sign, he is Belize’s take on a raccoon. The sign said he was found lost and confused in a rainforest — where he does not naturally live. Those that found him brought him here to care for and feed him. I despise seeing caged animals, and it broke my heart. He was the cutest thing… plus, the sign said he loved children and to be petted. Who wouldn’t love him more, right?
I told James I wanted to take him home. Truth be told, I completely would have… if the TSA crazies would let me. But fearing how that they would steal my new baby racoon-pet, I didn’t want to risk it. I will say though, I made James more than aware of how sad I was to leave him behind.
Miles later, we arrived at ‘Ziprides of the Howling Hills.’ Crazy name, right?
As we were walking, we came across this — a black orchid!
Once there, it was time to get suited up!
Time to zip!
I thought I would be more scared to go zip lining, but it was extremely relaxing — even the first zip!
There were a total of ten zip lines, each lasting about 15 seconds. This picture was taken from the highest zip line ‘perch’…
…and if you’re at the highest point, the only way to go is down!
While getting hooked in for our last zip, the crew suddenly called us over to the trees and pointed to ground. That’s when we saw this big unpleasant fellow. I mean, I know we were in the middle of the rainforest, but seeing him made the open-wildnerness feeling more real.
With the threat of protective tarantulas, we didn’t hang around long.
Sorry folks, no pictures of our cavetubing excursion which was sooo much fun. Because we were hot and sweaty from our climb through the rainforest, cavetubing was planned after our zips. Located close to the ziplines, we had to hike about a mile through a the forest… all the while dragging our large hoola-hoop shaped tubes. Our tour girl talked about the different trees, animals and culture in Belize… which took my mind off the fact that I was heeving this massive tube up a mountain. PS-Speaking of animals she talked about… We were walking when she stepped off the path and pointed to a huge termite nest hanging onto a tree. Next, she casually placed her hand on the nest, talking, talking, took her hand off then walked towards us… to show the many termites dancing on her hand. Without further notice, she plucked a translucent one off her skin and ATE IT! I’m pretty sure my face wrinkled in digust… which I had to quickly replace with an over-the-top smile because I wanted to show her I appreciated her culture and whatever the hell she was trying to prove. She explained termites have a certain taste, and “No — It’s the one thing that does not taste like chicken.” We began guessing what it tasted like… without success and that’s when she offered her hand to us, termites wriggling and ready to be eaten. I think all of us looked stunned… stunned and digested because no one moved… until one of our honeymoon friends, Alex, stepped forward. She heroically pinched a termite between her fingers and placed it in her mouth. The girl warned through chuckles, “Bite it before it bites you!” After chewing a few seconds, Alex proclaimed it tasted minty. Mint?! A terminte?! I had to try… well, I didn’t have to try, but someone I trusted did… which left James. I could live vicariously through him. He began hesitating… which made me throw out my winning card, “Don’t you always tell me you’ll try something new at least once?” and with that, a third termite was crunched between teeth. His answer for the tasting by the way: Carrot… then mint. Fascinating.
Since I don’t have pictures of the cavetubing, I’ll just tell you quickly about it. We all swam into the clear river and through our tubes… then hooked our legs onto one another by forming two lines. Then, we placed our feet under the armpits of the person in front of us. After that, it was coasting along with the rapids. We went through a super long ancient limestone cave… which was eerie because it was completely dark for an extended amount of time. Don’t worry — We had helmets with fancy little lights on them so we could make out some shadowy-form of a way. Throughout the trip, our guide pointed out stalagtites and stalagmites, prompting us to “use our imagination” for what they resembled. My favorite was this large, thick oval-like shape hanging off a rock. Normally the end of a stalagtite forms a sharp point, except this one swelled at the end, similar to a mushroom. Turns out that one was known as the Fertility stalagtight because it resembled… well, you know. For some juvenile reason, I thought this was hilarious that they would point it out… and I could not stop laughing for several minutes.
After a long van ride back to the shore… and a quick boat ride to our island, we relaxed around the ocean and at the bar. When we went back to our cabana, this little guy was waiting for us. We soon found he often made appearances on our porch.
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Day Four was both James’ and my favorite day in Belize. While we loved our tours, this day was for solely about us; no one else was involved. We lounged around a-l-l day. Lounged in the ocean… on the sand… in hammocks… at the bar. This was the most relaxing day we both ever had since… well, since we could remember. It was fabulous.
We started by exploring our island again… namely the waters which are so remarkably clear, it looks like we weren’t even in the sea.
That’s when we began finding sea animals. The first being a live conch!
This guy was slowly but surely crawling father out to sea… that is, until I got ahold of him.
After we let him go, we slipped further into the ocean… and that’s when we found this girl — a trumpet fish!
The water was so clear we could find the finest of animals…
My favorite though were the starfish… such large, full, bright starfish.
Suddenly, a new sea animal swam our way. He was a frightening sight at first.
The group in the over-the-ocean cabana named him Barry. I thought barracudas were ferocious, violent creatures. These were the complete opposite… almost shy because whenever we walked their way, they would quickly swim deeper into the ocean. They did however swim our way the second we turned our backs, maintaining the same few-feet distance.
Time to relax in and by the ocean…
After a swim in the ocean, we relaxed under the pier cabana.
Later that afternoon, James went to play volleyball with the staff and other honeymoon couples. They tried to get me to play, but here’s the deal: My sister played volleyball in high school… which means I was pressured into playing one too many games with her when she wanted to practice. I never enjoyed volleyball then and I still don’t to this day. Anyway, I wanted to include a few pictures of their game… mainly to show off James’ amazingly awkward moves.
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Day Five: A visit to the so-nicknamed Bird Island and our last snorkel outing. As you saw earlier, Bird Island is very close to Coco Plum Resort. Actually, it’s about a half a mile away. So close in fact that one of the men vacationing there swam back and forth one day!
While this island was not purposely created to be a bird sanctuary, that is what everyone recognizes it as due to the large amount of birds that nest there. According to those at Coco Plum, it homes several species including pelicans, brown booby birds (no idea what they look like, but that was fun to type), and the frigate birds which can be seen flying in flocks over the island.
Next stop: The Belize Barrier Reef for some snorkeling.
This snorkel spot along their barrier reef was gorgeous! We spent more time in this location than where we snorkeled before… maybe because of the sea animals. Many were the same as our first dip — huge hermit crabs, brightly colored fish, conchs… but others were different. My favorite find was two ‘puff’ fish — one was the largest guy I’d seen… about the size of two of my fists together! Then I spotted the most ity-bity ‘puff’ fish in the world… He truly was about the size of my thumbnail!
We spent over an hour snorkeling this day. Afterwards, we had a busy night ahead. As the sun was setting, James surprised me with a private massage for us on the pier cabana.
That night, we had a private candlelight dinner in the same spot.
Here’s the most incredible story to come: As we were waiting for our food, we slung out legs over the pier to talk… and that’s when we suddenly saw a sting ray swim straight at us. He dipped his head close to the top of the water, seriously looked us right in the eyes, then swam away.
We thought that one experience was a keepsake moment… until he came back…
What’s more incredible than this? I’ll tell ya: He left… and then brought friends! Many, many friends…
They continued to do this. Leave… come back with more friends… leave… come back, swimming inches under our feet each time… each time raising towards the surface and looking at us before moving back away. Then, as suddenly as they came, they headed back out to sea…
I felt like I was watching some National Geographic episode where we were witnessing this monumental, rare animal action. In fact, I ran to our server, hyperventilating with excitement and explained what we saw. Turns out, the rays sometimes do this. He told us at night, they are attracted to light (we were sitting next to a gigantic pier light) because they can more easily see and catch little fish to eat. Regardless of how often this happens though, it was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. (PS-James, see! Standing there and taking all those pictures payed off! Look at how beautiful they are on my blog! [James was avidly against waiting for the animals. …Okay, I confess… I did kinda make him stay with me for half an hour… *embarrassing look* maybe an hour… to get these shots, but com’on! Are these not super duper amazing?! …The answer is yes, PS.])
So that ended our fifth day. After that our ray sightings, we carried alcoholic beverages to our porch, listening to the waves lap at the sand as we stared at the bright white stars that seemed to be hugging us.
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Day Six: Our last full day. Also, our last outing. This trip was to the Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich, meaning “Maiden of the Rock.” James and I were pretty excited about this tour. It was supposed to be all honeymoon couples, but one of the couples left the day before and the other opted not to go so the trip ended up being a private one, just the hubs and me (well, and our private tour guide).
On the drive there, which was about two hours long, we snapped pictures of Dangriga and the surrounding cities. As before, the drives were eye-opening. Belize is a very poor country. The houses there resemble more of what we’d picture as huts — small shacks, some more tiny than tool sheds here, with no air conditioning or running water. Walking is the most common form of transportation and even so, most of the people we passed had no shoes on their feet. Dogs roam wild, following people in hopes of food, all their ribs showing… but you cannot feel too sorry for the animals because many of the people appeared to be just as hungry. The good news is that many Americans often travel to Belize on mission trips. There, they work to improve the country by building “low-maintenance, sustainable technologies for drinking water treatment and distribution, wastewater management, and storm water control.” (In case you want more information because it’s a very incredible and noteworthy cause, here are two great websites I found: Water Missions in Belize and Belize Water Projects.)
Finally, we arrived. The ruins are located in the western part of Belize. This contraption is the only way you can get across the Mopan River:
This is the ferry that takes one car and a few people at a time over the river to the ruins. This ferry is hand-cranked by a man who just so happened to let me crank the devise back across the river when we finished our tour.
As we were walking to the ruins, we bumped into this massive black orchid!
Howler monkeys live in the trees surrounding the ruins. They honestly sounded like the long-neck dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, chanting their anger at the people who come to the ruins. However, the monkeys don’t want to leave because they have this:
Once you get past the very creepy and loud monkeys, you’ll see the first ruin of Xunantunich. Many people actually walk right past this one though because the more noteworthy ones are on top a very steep hill. (This ruin is located at the base of that hill.)
However, this little guy was designed to be at the bottom of all ruins. He serves as a ‘welcome,’ greeting those before they head higher. In total, Xunantunich covers about one square mile and has a series of six plazas which are surrounded by more than 25 temples and palaces.
First, before we climb the 130 foot El Castillo, we’re going to visit the other ruins. On the opposite side of this one in the middle of the picture is this guy:
So I could have this wrong, but James I remember them saying the Mayans divided the area — The elite social class stayed and met closer to the tall El Castillo ruin. Those in the lower class stayed in the ruin above, which was spaced away from the top structure. Below is a picture of — what was — one of the bedrooms.
I am unfortunately a horrible tour guide… I cannot remember if the ruin below was the structure where they made sacrifices, but we learned several animal bones were found on a ruin… however, no human bones were located (even though humans sacrificed themselves because being with the Gods was the highest achievement.)
El Castillo is the second tallest structure in Belize (after the temple at Caracol… which PS-we did not see). It may not look menacing here, but given that the a single step came up to my knees, it was a hike… to say the least. The interesting thing to note is the steps were purposely designed to be this steep. The Mayans were actually shorter people than we are today so when they walked up the steps, they were forced to bow low to their Gods with each step.
The view from El Castillo was breathtaking. This is looking onto Cayo…
and this is of neighboring Guatemala. The white road you can barely see towards the middle of this picture is actually the border separating Belize and Guatemala.
When we left, the rain began to pour. I had never seen or heard rain this hard… okay, well maybe I had… and that was the first night we were on the island. But my point is this rain was insane… and with no end in sight. It continued to gush from the clouds for hours.
And this is when I got to hand-crank that ferry back to the other side of the river…
After our ruin tour, we stopped at a local restaurant for lunch then made our long… very long journey back. Once nestled again on our island, we watched the sunset.
When darkness snuck in, we filled our bellies with dinner and dessert. To celebrate our last night, as promised James pulled out the white T-shirt he brought for us to decorate. Because we were highly interested in where the other articles of clothing came from and who their owners were, we chose to write things that were more about us… and then fill in spaces with memories we would take home.
Day Seven: Farewell thee well Belize.
As we said goodbyes to our new friends, we were able to catch a final glance at the bar where our shirt was being nailed onto the bamboo poles.
I never thought twice about it before, but Virginia is for lovers, and James and I are happy to represent just that in the hall-of-fame bar roof.
We pulled out of Coco Plum in the afternoon on that dreaded motorboat, waving goodbye until our friends became tiny specks on the dream-like island. You know, what they say is true: Getting married and going on a honeymoon with your newbie husband is one of the most meaningful, private, exciting moments in life. …Or maybe that’s just what I learned.