Bucket List ~ June 2015 ~ Central America ~ Little Planes

All of my flights inside Belize were through an awesome little airline called Tropic Air. ¬†I’ll be perfectly honest here, for several years I had such an intense fear of flying that my ex-husband and I would drive everywhere instead of fly. ¬†Through some online courses and such I was able to slowly work through it – not saying I’m not a tense flyer in some circumstances but overall enjoy the experience now. ¬†The smallest plane I had been on to date was a 40+ seat commercial commuter so I can be frank and tell you that this looming experience scared the hell out of me.

This post might be tedious to some, but the real reason I’m writing is to maybe help someone who is Googling “fear of tiny planes” at 2 am like I was. ¬†I can tell you in complete honesty that these flights were SO much fun and even though (as you’ll see) the weather sucked on all three of them the trip was still enjoyable. ¬†On two of the flights I was only the passenger which was pretty cool and I took a million pics, as you can see from the clouds it wasn’t the best of days for flying.

My first flight was from Belize City airport to San Ignacio…only 2-3 flights a day go into San Ignacio and it consists of a single small runway and “airport”. ¬†Let me tell you now that the guys who work that location ROCK, I was early (both times) so ended up spending some time there and it was really entertaining, but first…my initial freak out that I had the smallest possible plane on my first trip. ¬†On the tarmac in Belize City…

baggage guyIt was…SMALL. ¬†Like my backpack would have been the only other passenger.

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Just in case…

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The day was cloudy, no rain but honestly I was so distracted by the fact the windows were open before take-off and the size I paid no attention. ūüėČ

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Some scenery on the way to San Ignacio…

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By the way…that white house? ¬†He’s a toilet paper mogul.

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I wasn’t kidding about visibility on some of the flight…

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Arrival into San Ignacio!

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My next flight was from Placencia to Belize Municipal and it was an UGLY day to fly. ¬†I admit, I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to the scenery on that leg flying along the coast and seeing the Cayes. ¬†The plane was bigger on this trip but there was still only two of us…OH…and here’s the landing strip there…

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Super nice crew at this location too…they met each of us at the plane door with our own umbrella.

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Bit bigger plane…
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A few shots over a very stormy coast…

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So from Belize Municipal I headed back to San Ignacio (see previous post of just do whatever whenever)…it was SUPER cloudy and we flew at an elevation of 700′ which was both disconcerting but cool for a better view.

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A few things…just my opinion. ¬†If you usually drug yourself to fly…don’t. ¬†The flights aren’t long enough to warrant it and honestly even with the weather these were the least bumpy flights I had been on. ¬†Ask the pilot/co-pilot what you’re looking at, they were great at pointing out landmarks. The planes are loud, no doubt about it so don’t freak out. ¬†ūüôā ¬†I have some video I’ll post later of take-off and landing to give you an idea. ¬†Most of all…DON’T let the worry about flying in one of these stop your adventure…I considered the flights a big part of the fun that week and wouldn’t hesitate to hop on one again.

Bucket List ~ June 2015 ~ Central America ~ Single Girl Travel

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SOOOO…on my initial itinerary post I was pretty sure of the plan and had just a little “unknown” in there. ¬†Well, as of Thursday morning this was my Facebook post and I have to say one of THE best reasons to travel alone! ¬†I wasn’t happy with what I had planned so I just decided to grab two flights, get back to where I wanted and finish out the trip with a bang. ¬†What the hell, right?!?! ¬†Nobody to consult or compromise with, ass on plane and there I went!

I’ve got several posts coming with 5.2 million pictures but since I did change plans I want to say that nothing was BAD, it’s just that when I finally get the freedom to do whatever whenever I want to take full advantage of it which I didn’t feel like I was doing. ¬†I was amazed and enthralled with Guatemala and this trip just deepened my love and sense of “home” in Belize, especially the western Cayo District where I spent most of my time. ¬†(and am really, really wanting to buy real estate there…but that’s another post)

Essentially I criss-crossed and ended up all over as the map shows and I’m trying to organize pics for posts. ¬†From Belize City to San Ignacio to Flores, Guatemala, Tikal (OMG), a very odd night at Municipio De Melchor De Mencos, Guatemala…then back to San Ignacio to Mountain Pine Forest Reserve (AMAZING), a Belizian farm visit, through the capital of Belmopan, the beach town of Placencia (screeeech…change of plans)…um, a flight back to Belize City connecting to San Ignacio and a killer day & night there before a drive back across country for my international flight. ¬†Scattered throughout many awesome new friends, drinking partners and deep ponderings over coffee with the locals.

I have been very, very fortunate in finding two special people in my life during my first Belize trip in April. ¬†Neri and Luis went above and beyond to make my entire trip simply AWESOME and there’s nothing I can do or say to thank them enough. I only wish we didn’t live so far apart but it’s only a flight away, right?! ¬†Life is hard sometimes, people are difficult and REAL connections can be few and far between. I hit the jackpot with these guys in my life…even though Luis (right) is the definition of trouble and I cursed him mentally multiple times as I struggled at times. ūüôā ¬†No matter the scenery, the history, the food, the resorts….they were the best part of this trip and I can’t wait until next time both in the US and Central America.

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It’s funny how life works. ¬†You find your happiness and peace where you least expect it sometimes. #begrateful

Bucket List ~ June 2015 ~ Central America ~ The Itinerary

Once I got home from my April¬†Island¬†trip with Slickrock I decided that instead of wasting any extra money on doing mindless shopping and eating out I’d find something else to do this Summer on my Bucket List quest. ¬†Since I fell in love with Belize but didn’t see nearly enough I decided this was the direction to head. ¬†I am SUPER fortunate to have made good friends with a couple of the locals during my trip and this is allowing me to venture more off the beaten path than I probably would have normally since I’m going solo. ¬†So here’s the visual plan:

Bucket List Summer 2015 Map

To be honest I had NO plans to visit Guatemala especially with the recent negative media coverage, none. ¬†That said, a phone call with my buddy later, it was thrown on the table to go for a few days and after about 3¬†hours of deliberation I said what the hell and changed plans. ¬†The opportunity and benefits of traveling into the country with a local was just something if I passed up I’d¬†regret it later.¬† It’s really a big part of this whole Bucket List thing, to get out of my little bubble of a world. ¬†This meant changing my plans from a simple flight to Placencia to spend the week to catching a flight to San Ignacio to meet up with Neri and here’s where I need to give a big thanks to Tropic Air because no way would you get this help around here. ¬†My flight arrives into Belize City too close to the time of their last flight to San Ignacio, I wrote to them asking what my other options were to get across the country that afternoon and while it would have been really easy to tell me to get on a chicken bus instead I received this back:

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So while I’m still a bit (lot) nervous about the whole tiny single engine prop plane thing, I’m thrilled that they would do this for me. ¬†So by 5:15 that afternoon I will have gone from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Belize City to the far west of Belize where we’ll start the land portion of the trip.

We’re driving into Guatemala and going to the Flores, El Peten area which is supposed to be beautiful¬†and very charming, I’m excited. ¬†A few days there hiking, lake fun, exploring and adventuring who knows what then we’ll start the drive to Placencia. ¬†Although my line looks straight across on the map above, it’s not so easy a drive and we end up going North to go back South so I’m not sure how long the actual trip is. ¬†I’ll be solo after that part of the trip.

This was my first time using¬†airbnb.com and I was SO impressed. I was able to find¬†accommodations in Placencia for a fraction of what it would have been booking a place through a major travel site, it’s a much more personal interaction with the property owners and I ended up with a place that no way would I have been able to swing¬†for the rest of the stay (and a perk¬†it has a kitchen area so that’s a money saver too). ¬†As a bonus the owner Laura has been a HUGE source of information on local food, tours, you name it. ¬†If you haven’t checked out the site definitely do so. ¬†I’ll have a separate post for my stay there with all the 956 pictures I’m sure.

So I’ll have the rest of¬†my time¬†there and one of my main goals is to get out to Silk Cayes Marine Reserve among a few other locations that are known for their heavy Ray, Shark and Turtle populations for snorkeling. ¬†Unfortunately I’m at the end of Whale Shark season so I’m going to have to hope for that another time. I’m very interested in spending a few days in the small village of far less than 1k permanent residents and exploring more of everyday life in Belize. ¬†There are a couple other snorkeling trips I’m looking at but I haven’t decided yet, I’m trying to do that whole laid back not plan EVERY single thing in advance thing…but not sure if I’ll be able to hold out. ¬†I’m already twitching at the fact that we’re not making reservations in Guatemala and just “finding places as we go”. ¬†It’s a hard pill for a hard core Google researcher to swallow.

The day I fly back home I’ll first catch another itty bitty plane from Placencia back to Belize City that morning then head to Texas. ¬†I was very excited about my April trip, but it was very structured and scheduled. ¬†This, however, is more of an unknown adventure and while I’m excited I’m also a little nervous. ¬†I guess that’s the point though and I need to embrace it.

***As much as I don’t want to add this part I’m going to. ¬†I’ve had no less than three people make snarky remarks to my face and online about my “wonderful lifestyle”, my being ungrateful for my life and how good I have it. ¬†I do not deny I have a good life, never have. ¬†Do I complain about shit? Sure. Who doesn’t? ¬†That doesn’t mean I’m ungrateful or don’t grasp that I AM very lucky. ¬†I do have to say in my defense though that although there’s a highlight reel to everyone’s life that you see online and that’s presented to you, nobody but you really knows what happens in your life on a daily basis and what struggles you have. ¬†Yes, I “get” to take this trip especially so soon after my last but it’s not just cut and dry. ¬†My last trip was funded (and is still being paid for) by freelance travel blogging & writing. ¬†I don’t have kids so I do not have kid related expenses, but I also don’t have a significant other which means I’m single income. As anyone who knows me personally knows I have the Brats who have substantial needs that are met before I do anything for myself.

I used to be a “collector” of things…I spent my extra money purchasing THINGS and have recently adopted a different perspective on my life. ¬†Those things are great and all, but I’d rather put forth my energy and available funds for experiences. ¬†So yes, I have parted with some memorabilia to make things happen and I’m perfectly ok with that. ¬†I keep what is close to me and make available the rest. ¬†Where my bank account statement was once long with $10, $20 purchases of essentially crap and eating out there are very few deductions on it besides necessary bills anymore. ¬†I rarely go out at night or on the weekends, I’ve cut out 90% of the luxuries I used to do without blinking an eye with my free money. ¬†I made changes in order to do something else with my life. ¬†I don’t make a ton of money and I have no backup from a spouse, I bargain shop everything and I have chosen travel to be what I spend my money on. ¬†I’m sorry if this makes anyone feel that I am ungrateful, “too lucky”, spoiled, whatever but we all make choices and that’s all I’ll say about it. ¬†d830b5f3948e3ec788daf9c9cf0c69d3 (1)

Belize Journal Entry ~ The Island ~ Part 3

Towards the western end of the island starts a nature trail that runs to what ended up being one of my favorites spots on the island, especially for sunset. ¬†It’s a beautiful walk (or run, if you’re into that kinda thing) with a ton to see along the way. ¬†The birding book comes in helpful as you’ll hear many different calling on your way.

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Neri, Daniel and I after snorkeling at the West End…

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The Dining Hall area is the hub of everything…from a cooler full of always cold Belikin beer & sodas to the awesome three meals a day served by the staff. ¬†There are always leftover treats to grab between meals too.

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Nighttime brought all kinds of fun from games, dominoes, hermit crab races, you name it…

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I’m the last morning person in the world, but found myself up before sunrise almost every day (except after the ill-fated Fireball/Tequila night) and found it to be one of the best times of the day with a cup of coffee.

Watching Neri & Luis tear it up….

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Next…some videos and more underwater adventures…

Belize Journal Entry ~ The Island ~ Part 2

Last post was the start of a tour of the island, continued here… (lots of pics)

Long Caye is really in the ideal location, on one side of the island you have the calm lagoon leading out to the most unbelievable snorkeling spots, on the other (where the cabanas are located) you have the crashing surf & water of amazing colors. ¬†From the cabana….

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By the lagoon…

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Best of both worlds. ¬†While I posted about my cabana, Grotto, there are a multitude of different sized cabins to choose from including duplex types connected for large parties wanting to stay together. ¬†Every single one are right on the water with unbelievable views, just a few…

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One of the popular places to find people (especially between afternoon activities & happy hour) is the Hammock Palapa. ¬†I could have possibly been found there multiple days…

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Speaking of, Happy Hour is every night at 5 and awesome appetizers are served. This is also when the ritual volleyball games start and believe me, you don’t have to be good to play. ¬†I always ended up on the dining hall steps hanging out with others & talking while critiquing the game…

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There are a couple bikes around the island you can pick up and use to get somewhere quick…good for bathroom breaks after 5. ūüėČ

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One of the big draws to the island is about every water sport imaginable…and boy do they have toys. ¬†It’s great because with such a variety you can find what fits your skill and body type then use it for the rest of the week. ¬†(I went through multiple kayaks before ending up with mine) ¬†Kayaks, SUP, Kite Surfing, Windsurfing, Sea Kayaking, fishing kayaks, you pretty much name it (non-motorized) and it’s there at your whim. ¬†Before you can cluelessly go about using everything there’s a quick but thorough orientation on safety, use, etc. ¬†I cringe now when I think about the kayak rentals at home where they stick you in whatever, give you a paddle and send you on your way. ¬†The guides here taught me proper technique in choosing a kayak/paddle, how to properly paddle and rescue techniques…as well as the whole entering the kayak from deep water (which I am determined to be in better shape for next time, I was sucking wind)

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Apparently I have more island info than I thought…will have a Part 3 up shortly. ūüôā ¬†Dining hall, nature trail, scenery and more…

Belize Journal Entry ~ The Island ~ Part 1

Before I booked my trip and even more so after I scoured the web for more information on the island itself. ¬†First off, it’s about a three hour boat trip from Belize City and you’re literally in the middle of nowhere. ¬†(pic compliments of Google)

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To get to Long Caye you walk from the Biltmore over to the dock, just a few minutes down the¬†very chaotic road where the luggage gets loaded, don your very sexy lifejacket and hop on the Batfish. ūüėČ

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I was worried about the trip out, but it ended up being so much fun and three hours of gorgeous scenery. ¬†The colors were unbelievable and the different depths of water made it an interesting ride…granted, I slept the entire three hours BACK but that’s besides the point. ¬†On the way we spent most of the time hanging out the front predicting which wave would be the next big bounce. (This is why children like me)

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Finally we could see our paradise coming up (I think the three hours might have felt like ten to some) and it was like arriving in a surreal postcard scene.

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We hop off Batfish and head down the dock to start the island tour with Neri while the boat is unloaded.  This part is somewhat of a blur, I was listening but also staring at everything in awe. I could also feel my skin starting to singe in the sun which should have been a warning for the week ahead.  (FYI, no SPF was high enough, I came home a different shade)

The first big question (and yes, I had Googled this topic relentlessly)….the bathroom situation which did not include plumbing. ¬†New situation for me but come to find out not an issue at all and a very cool concept. This week really made me think about all the water I waste, but that’s another post. ¬†#1 and #2 became our topic of conversation as it made a difference where you went, if you wanted to make it easy you went to these up the stairs where both options were available. There is also a little cabana type building with three stalls for the ladies for #1 only.

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Here’s Neri explaining bathroom procedures on what I’m sure is his favorite part of the tour.

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To be blunt…you tinkle in one and poop in the other. ¬†#1 has a metal strainer looking thing, you do your thing, there is a bucket of water next to you and a mug on a nail, follow your going with one scoop of water, tissue in the trash can. ¬†#2 you move to the other seat, follow it up with a scoop of woodchips and be on your way. ¬†Simple, easy and eco-friendly.

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Next to the bathrooms is a very nice (and always super clean) ¬†line up of sinks… (when my junk wasn’t piled up, that is)

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I know technically you’re washing salt and sand off with salt water but let me tell you that shower time quickly became a highlight. ¬†It felt so good right before happy hour or to grab a quick shower late night, open air and while the water is somewhat solar heated (translation every once in a while it would get warm) it was refreshing. ¬†Like everything else the showers were never short of spotless.
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Island tour to be continued in the next post, this is getting photo heavy with a ton to follow…