Back in Belize
Date: 28 October 2003
Well, Hello, everyone! It has been a while, eh? Looks like our monthly newsletter is becoming a quarterly. ;-) Where shall I begin? After 95 days on the road in our bus, we finally made it full circle back to balmy Belize. The children were a month late for school, and any catching up has been done by now -- we arrived October 4th. Our house was fine -- other than a blown hot water pipe that our neighbor, Officer Mike Ciego, managed to hear explode one night. He turned off the water supply, and I have since replaced the pipe.
Many of you have asked me about our car -- it is a story in itself. Click here for the Tale of a Pathfinder in Belize.
Our journey started slowly on July 1st. Instead of heading North, however, we went South to Belmopan, Belize's capital. We submitted our paperwork to Belize Immigration for our residency. Since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to visit the Belize Zoo and later treated ourselves to a night at Jaguar Paw Resort. The zoo is made up entirely of rescued animals and looks more like a jungle than a zoo. Animals live in large cages filled with trees, streams, and brush -- it is often hard to even see the animals because they can hide so easily. Tapirs, jaguars (even a black one), crocodiles, baboons -- all from Belize -- make it one of the best zoos I have ever visited.
Jaguar Paw is a resort at the end of a long bumpy road leading deep into the jungle. Certainly, it is one of the nicest resorts in the country -- and quite pricey for the middle of nowhere. But it has great food, pools, and accommodations. The main draw here is the Caves Branch River which flows underground through at least 5 caves. The caves are managed by the government of Belize, and official guides are required for visiting the caves. After we negotiated a price with one of the local guides, we carried our inner tubes through the jungle up hill for about an hour. Then we came to the river which was as clear blue as could be -- chilly, too! We put on our head lights, sat in our tubes, and floated down into the caves. It is completely dark in some of these caves -- some of them were well over 1000 feet long with cool streams flowing down crystallized falls. Awesome.
The day we crossed into Mexico on our way to Cancun, a tropical storm (potentially a hurricane) was headed our way. We ended up going as far as Mahajual, a beach front town with nothing more than a huge pier recently built for cruise ships. We stayed at a little 'resort' at El Placer where I had been requested to help fix a satellite internet system. El Placer is in the middle of nowhere -- generator power only, no phone, and an hour and half from civilization. But it's right on the sea, and it is beautiful -- one day this place will be the next Playa del Carmen. It took a while, but I got the system going again, and we were hailed as local heroes (they had been down for a month). The storm passed over Merida, did a little damage, then headed for Texas.
We carried on north to Cancun. The road was fabulous! Compared to most of the roads I had driven in Mexico, this was like driving in the States (almost). We stayed at an RV campground and visited Cancun by taxi. Everything is there -- good food, deep blue sea, fancy hotels -- and high prices. It was nice, but we continued on to Merida.
We hopped from campground to campground as we made our way around the Yucatan peninsula hugging the Gulf coast all the way to Veracruz. There are many military checkpoints in Mexico, but they were nice enough to us. We stayed a few extra days at Playa Esmeralda where there are a dozen campgrounds on the beach. Here were the biggest and loudest crashing waves!
We crossed into Texas at one of the bridges to Brownsville -- don't ask me which one, I have no idea -- we got lost in Matamoros and were directed there by the locals. Relatively painlessly, we checked out of Mexico and headed to Texas. At the US border we were greeted by drug-sniffing K-9's, pulled over for further inspection, and made to get out of the bus while 3 Customs guys searched it. Finally, we were permitted into Texas.
The next week was spent travelling through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. We camped at many parks and saw parts of the country we had never visited before. We lost the air compressor belt along the way and were stranded for a weekend while we waited for a replacement. Other than that, we had no mechanical problems the entire journey.
Finally we made it to the family reunion! We spent 5 days laughing and exchanging stories with everyone who came for the event. We were stuffed to the gills everyday with food. All the children were ecstatic running around, playing, swimming, and organizing a talent show. Too much to tell here -- I am putting together a little site with pictures and family chat room soon. We look forward to the next reunion in 3 years!
Our adventure continued as we headed north to Sault Saint Marie where we crossed into Canada. Ah, Canada. All we had to do was have our passports stamped, and we were in. It was SO good to be back -- even though we still had many more days travel to our old home in Ottawa, just being here was a relief. Not sure what it is about being in the States these days -- seems like a police state more and more -- we're just happy to be out (for now).
We travelled through Sudbury, but avoided Toronto. We arrived in Aylmer (where we used to live) and surprised most of our old friends and neighbors. We visited for several days before we continued to Montreal and ultimately Quebec City. There we stayed a week visiting Lila's family. We got our car out of 'storage' (thanks Martine) so we now had something a little more convenient to drive. I eventually took our bus back to Ottawa to do some work with some clients at Health Canada and Justice Canada. But as soon as I arrived, there was the now historic blackout which knocked out power in Ontario, and most of the Northeastern US. Of course, Quebec was unaffected -- they have lots of power! But Ottawa was a ghost town. People were told to stay home -- offices were closed for the week and longer. So much for working! Instead I spent the week partying with friends who suddenly had a vacation with no plans and no where to go. Just what we all needed.
After a week of that, Lila and the children drove to Aylmer, and we were all together again. We had been shopping like crazy getting all the things we couldn't while in Belize. The height of spending was the addition of a mobile satellite internet dish. The dish has a robotic arm that folds during travel and automatically positions itself when stopped. Now we are connected wherever we go! I have since become a dealer for the internet satellite dishes and hope to pick up where I left off last time in Belize.
Well, it was starting to get cool in Canada -- we made one more trip to Montreal and Quebec City before we said our 'Good-byes' and pointed ourselves back to Belize. On September 18th, we crossed into the States again at the 1000 Islands border crossing. US border officials see a lot of RV's here so there was little delay in passing through. We headed to Rochester where we visited college friends of mine and later my aunt and uncle. Then it was to Elmira for a stop at another aunt and uncle's place. Then to Indianapolis where there was another family contingent waiting to see us.
As a treat, we decided to go to New Orleans, where Lila was under the impression that people there spoke French. We stayed at a nice RV place and took the trolley to the French Quarter. It was an interesting experience -- music and food was nice, but too many people (and a lot of places you would not want to bring children -- or adults, for that matter). Lila did manage to speak to a few people in French though in Lafayette (pronounced 'laugh-yet').
From there we stuck as close to the Gulf as we could along the bayou, and visited my 83-year old Aunt Sally near Galveston. Then we drove along the water from Galveston to Padre Island -- very beautiful and not very populated at all. Eventually we made it to Pharr, TX where we crossed into Mexico -- this is a very nice border crossing -- I highly recommend it instead of Brownsville or the Free Trade Bridge.
We picked up the pace in Mexico and drove as direct a route as we could. No site-seeing, no RV parks, just driving and driving -- often in pouring rain. We finally made it back to Belize on Saturday, October 4th. Belize Customs were kind and didn't give us a hard time with our stuff. The house was fine -- thanks to all our friends here who have been watching over it for us. The children started school that Monday and were very excited to be back.
Whew! We won't be doing that again anytime soon. ;-) Thank God we all made it alright. We have come full circle.
I am now in the process of working on several projects in an effort to generate some income. We'll keep you posted -- I'll try to keep it shorter next time.
All our best to you and your family,
Eric, Lila, Cheyenne and Lakota