After all the perfect weather we'd had so far on this trip, it seemed like a cruel joke to wake up early this morning to dark,  threatening skies and high wind.  I guess it had to happen, right?  I awoke when the engines cranked up before 5 am, and I believe we pulled away from the dock at Abelle's boat yard a little before 5:30, a bit later than Simon had planned for.  (I figured that late night the night before was going to have some fallout!)

Surprisingly, even with the loud drone of the engine, we were so tired that we managed to doze off and on until around 6 am, I guess it was, before going out on deck and surveying what Mother Nature had in store for us on this last, long day on the water, as we made our way back from Rio Dulce to Placencia, Belize.  Captain Simon was not a happy camper, as the winds had been gusting up to 30 knots (on our nose again as the winds had shifted around to the northeast), and he was concerned that conditions would deteriorate further once we got out of the calm river and into the sea.
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Angry clouds
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Dramatic sunrise
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Coffee time! (L to R) Clive, Chunky, Bruce, Simon (at helm), and me
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I'm sleepy but happy to be on the boat and having a hot cuppa joe
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We got a little rain, but not as much as the clouds seemed to threaten
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As we motored on, the low sun was peeping through and highlighting these houses along the Rio Dulce
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Low-lying wisps of clouds seemed caught in the trees
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Lush rainforest along the river banks
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These local men didn't let a little wind stop their morning paddle
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Waterfall along river bank
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Love these quaint little resorts or grouping of houses nestling into the river bank
The closer we got to Livingston and open water, the rougher it became.  The wind continued to blow hard, and s/v Hope began hobby-horsing and rolling around in the building surf.  We knew we were in for a real doozy of a day at sea.
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You can see how rough the river was starting to get as we got closer to Livingston
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Birds cluster around fishing boat on rough waters near Livingston
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Rough conditions near Livingston, Guatemala
As we drew closer to the dock at Livingston where we needed to check out of Guatemala with Customs and Immigration, Simon realized that it was chock-a-block full of boats that didn't dare venture out in the rough conditions.  We'd have to anchor out and send in the dinghy to check out, since there was no room for another boat, particularly one of Hope's size, at the dock.  Needless to say, he wasn't happy about this.  If the anchor didn't set properly, the stiff winds could easily blow s/v Hope into other boats on the dock.  This was one of the many times on this cruise I was relieved to be on someone else's boat.  These kinds of situations are nerve-racking enough even for those of us not ultimately responsible for the boat, but for a captain, they are really stressful, since it is his responsibility to keep the boat and its crew safe from harm.

The anchor didn't set the first time Clive tried, but the second time, it did.  Big relief!  Barry volunteered to go with Clive in the dinghy to shore with everyone's passports to check all of us out of the country.
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It was starting to rain again right as they took off
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Rough conditions for a small boat
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Barry and Clive head up the hill into town for a bit of last-minute shopping while our passports are processed
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By the time they got back, the sun was peeking out. They are talking to the immigration guy here.
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Barry enjoying the adventure
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Clive and Barry returning
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Hooking the dinghy to the lines on the davits in preparation for hauling it up
Barry had a bag with him that I was curious about since we hadn't discussed buying anything more on land.  Turns out the little sneak had bought Guatamala t-shirts for Bruce, Chunky, Ruthie, me, and himself!  Whatta guy!  
Our work in Livingston done, it was time to haul up the anchor and make our way to the sea.  The wind had not relented much at all.  Several of us took some preventative less-drowsy Dramamine just in case.  Although I rarely get seasick, I could already tell that my tummy was feeling just a little "off" for the first time on this trip.  The "motion of the ocean" made everything more difficult today -- from walking around the salon and cockpit, to using the head, to getting food or filling a water bottle.  Even reading, for most of us, was out of the question.  Ruthie, the lucky gal, was the only one who seemed to be able to read and do pretty much everything else with nary an issue.  Simon forbade anyone from going forward to the bow due to conditions.
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Photos never do a good job at capturing sea state -- it was rocking and rolling out there with numerous whitecaps
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Splash! Every now and then a wave would wash over the decks
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Ruthie attempting to pour water - not an easy task today
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Wind gauge shows 23.3 knot winds at this point. Simon said they ranged from 20-30 knots with waves from 6' to 10'. Wow!
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Both Captains Simon and Clive were busy at the helm today
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Mainsail and reefed genoa -- and the sky was now beautifully blue, but still the wind and waves roared
Even with the medicine, I was feeling a bit queasy and kept eating saltine crackers in an attempt to keep my stomach calm.  A couple of times I thought I was going to be sick, but I just kept staring at the horizon, and the feeling would pass. I had to stop moving around, though, and just sit very still.  

This was the only day we didn't pull a bunch of food out of the fridge and have lunch together.  It was every man and woman for him or herself, as it was tough to move around the boat, and everyone's stomach had a different tolerance level for the motion of the ocean.  Ruthie actually spent most of the afternoon in their cabin reading, and I went to our cabin a couple of times to nap briefly.  Keeping my eyes closed and lying down seemed to help a lot with the queasies. 

Barry started feeling bad and was standing out on the side deck watching the horizon diligently, hoping to keep from being sick.  He had not joined the rest of us in taking the motion-sickness medication in the morning, a big mistake.  He did take some at this point, but it was too little, too late.  I was passed him a few crackers to eat in hopes that that would help, but when Simon had to turn s/v Hope into the wind to take the sails down, the boat motion slowed dramatically, and that was enough to put Barry over the rail.  Good thing he only had crackers and water on his tummy!  After the fact, he was able to lie down and rest.  The waves and wind were easing off by this point, and I started feeling much better myself as the afternoon wore on.
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One man down
By the time we finally made our way to the Placencia fuel dock, the wind had died down quite a bit, and the sea state was much more comfortable.  We were treated to a gorgeous sunset as we motored down the lagoon.  We were about 1.5 hours behind schedule, Simon said.  
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Ruthie and Chunky at Placencia fuel dock
Since we were running behind schedule, Simon told us he would only anchor for about an hour in Placencia to make it easier to eat dinner.  Then we would continue motoring through the night to San Pedro.  We pulled out most of what was left in the fridge and had a large buffet so that we could eat up as much of the food as possible, since this would be our last dinner on board.  We still had a lot of Ruthie's delicious Italian Sunday Gravy pasta dish and various cheeses. Unfortunately we were very low on bread as much of it had molded along the way.  But there were plenty of Ruthie's high-test brownies, so no one went hungry.
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These were indescribably delicious -- and dangerous!
Simon asked for three of us to serve a four-hour night watch each so that he and Clive could rotate resting and captaining the boat all night long on the way back to San Pedro.  The night watch person's duties were to keep the captain awake and help in any other way requested.  We headstrong crew members (I guess we were now official crew since we were going to do night watches!) decided amongst ourselves that four of us would serve a three-hour watch each instead and let Barry sit (sleep) this one out since he had been sick.  It was easier to divide twelve hours by four than by five anyway.  

Bruce took the first evening shift, Chunky and Ruthie generously volunteered for the "o-dark-thirty" shifts, and I took the 4:30 am to 7:30 am slot.  I figured this way I could hit the hay early and also catch the morning sunrise as we sailed up the Belize coast.  Barry and I were in bed by 9 pm, if not earlier.  It's hard to even remember after a day like this!

Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 5:  Return to San Pedro
 
When you last left our intrepid crew, we had just left our morning tour of the Castillo de San Felipe.  After that, it was time to venture into town for more exploring.  Simon had advised us to catch one of the vans that rides through the area picking up passengers to go to town.  This area is not populated enough to support full-size buses, I guess, so the vans stood in, and it was amazing how many people they managed to pack into these utilitarian vehicles.  

We were able to catch one fairly quickly and hop aboard along with several locals.  More stops were made to pick up additional locals along the way as well.  The ride to town was approximately 10 minutes and cost 35 Quetzales for the five of us (just under $5 total).
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Ruthie, Bruce, and Chunky in the van in front of us
The town of Rio Dulce (aka Fronteras) was bustling and definitely a new experience for us.  This was not a tourist town, so it was populated with locals going about their daily marketing and business.  All the signs were in Spanish.  There were fruit markets, clothing markets, hardware stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, and street vendors.  And traffic.  Although I sometimes complain about the traffic in San Pedro, there was much more here, and as pedestrians, we really had to watch our step to avoid all the motor bikes and vehicles zipping along, not to mention the large trucks.    It seemed that the town was just this one long road, so all the traffic had to share this road with the vendors and pedestrians.

Right as we got out of the van, we ran into Clive, who had come to town on an earlier van to buy a few items.  We immediately grabbed him and appointed him our guide, since he'd been here before and spoke Spanish, an excellent and handy combination.
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Clive leads the motley crew down the busy street
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Emily and Clive, with Bruce, Ruthie, and Chunky not far behind
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I would love to see fruit stands like these in San Pedro -- they had it all!
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MANGOES! Can't buy them in Belize this time of year, so we were happy to find this fruit market and planned to return
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Street food vendors
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The vendor in the pink apron did not look like she was having a very good day
Clive suggested we walk over the big bridge that we'd seen from the boat, and that sounded like a good plan to us.  It was a warm day, but we badly needed to take advantage of the opportunity to get some exercise after so much time onboard s/v Hope.  And we knew the views would be fantastic.
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Clive leading the way
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Flamboyant tree
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Views of valleys and mountains...
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...and the river below
We noticed that the unmistakable smell of cows (and cow manure) in the air as we began walking up the bridge sidewalk.  We soon figured out that this smell came from cow trucks that drove over the bridge loaded down with their bovine cargo.  The trucks had slats on the side through which the cows frequently "let the shit fly", and it was deposited on the road.  This was a truck you would not want to get too close to! 
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Cow truck
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Going back the other way - for some reason the sidewalk on this side was only half the width of the other side
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More views from the bridge
After finishing walking over the bridge and back, our crew was getting pretty peckish for a bite of lunch.  Clive thought he knew a good place to take us, so we trekked back down the road to get there.
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Though the town was interesting, I couldn't live with this much traffic on a day-to-day basis.
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We did like these little cabs that zipped around
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Bulk food market -- love it!
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Another interesting store, especially if you needed rope
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The colors of Rio Dulce -- I love the plants along the shelf of the apartment on the third floor!
To get to the restaurant on the waterfront we had to walk right past this large supermercado (supermarket), so we stopped in to have a look at prices.  We decided we'd stop in again on the way out so we wouldn't have to carry any packages with us.  When we did return, Barry and I bought a bottle of 12-year old aged rum at the stunning price of $10 US and some sensitivity toothpaste.  Ruthie and Chunky bought a couple of bottles of the rum and some more eggs for the boat.  Belize allows bringing in one liter of spirits per person duty-free, so we figured we'd take advantage.
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Supermercado
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Onward to the restaurant
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Guatemalan currency: Quetzales
We were the only customers in the restaurant, but we were still a little early for lunch (i.e., before noon).  We sat down and ordered beverages and were a bit surprised to see the young waitress leave the restaurant to go purchase them.  At the time, we didn't really think too much of it, since this was a different country, and we weren't really sure what was "normal".  We enjoyed the great view and good conversation while she was gone.
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(L to R): Ruthie, Chunky, Clive, Bruce, and Barry
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Lovely view from our table
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Boats and water hyacinths
Before too long, she came back with our beverages, and we asked her about a couple of items on the menu.  One Mexican choice sounded really good, so most of us ordered it.  She left the restaurant again, and we joked that she was off buying the ingredients.  At some point not long after this, someone noticed that she was back, and I believe that Clive went over to talk to her.  It turned out that she really wasn't prepared to serve lunch and the owners weren't there.  I am not sure why she even took our order, but since it was now apparent we were not going to be eating there, we paid for our drinks and left. Fortunately, this entire process didn't take too long, and Clive knew of another waterfront place we could eat.  We laughed off our Guatemalan "lunch" experience and proceeded on our way.
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No, we didn't break down and take one of these...we continued on foot
Our next stop, just a few blocks down, was Bruno's Hotel & Marina.  Bruno's had a restaurant, bar, and swimming pool, and was a pretty cool spot.
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They had this cool canoe sink to wash up before or after eating
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(L to R): Clive, Bruce, Chunky, Ruthie, and me -- hoping to get fed this time!
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Another beautiful view from our table

We first ordered drinks from their extensive menu.  Barry and several others ordered mojitos, but I saw a Caipirinha on the menu and remembered that it had been recommended by Rebecca on her SanPedroScoop blog, so I had to try one (and it was so good, I ended up having another!)  This is now my new favorite drink, but since it requires a special kind of rum that is not widely available in Belize, who knows when I will find one again.  Since it's the national drink of Brazil, I guess we'll just have to visit there one day -- hopefully when our Spanish is a bit better!

We had Mexican food on the brain since our first attempt at lunch was foiled, so Barry and I both ordered the chicken quesadillas with black beans and fresh salsa.  By this time, it was getting close to 1pm, and considering that we had eaten breakfast before 7, we were starved.  The food couldn't have been more tasty.
After lunch, we bought some fruit, which was amazingly cheap.  Barry and I got two small mangoes, two bananas, and a lime for 2 Q (approximately 27 cents -- are you kidding me?!?!)  Chunky also bought some mangoes.
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An embarrassment of mangoes
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Clive helping Chunky buy fruit

The sundress incident.

Our group decided we'd had enough sun, fun, and walking, but the next van back to Abelle's was not leaving town for about 30 minutes, so Ruthie and I decided to do a little "window" shopping while we waited.  I happened to see a cute gauzy Indian sundress (used, certainly, but I'm an ebay shopper, so that kind of thing doesn't bother me) hanging at one of the open-air shops and was wondering if it would fit and how much it was (no prices are marked in these little shops).

Ruthie encouraged me to ask how much it was, saying that it would look great on me, so I finally asked the lady how much it was.  "Veinticinco quetzales" (25 Q) was her reply.  I knew this was a really low price, under $4, so I ran back over to where Barry was standing to get some money from him.  When I got back to the shop, I immediately handed the lady the 25 Q, before Ruthie could say "Wait!"  Turns out, she had already given 20 Q to the young man also working there, and was looking for the other 5 Q in her wallet.  Now we had a problem.  We'd overpaid, and they would not return Ruthie's money!  Of course, the language barrier was a bit of an issue, but we knew that they knew that we'd overpaid.  They kept pointing at the other clothing hanging up, indicating, I suppose, that Ruthie could pick another item.  But our money had disappeared into their pockets, and they just smiled when we tried to explain (in English) that she should be given her money back since I had paid in full.  
Turns out that Ruthie was trying to buy me the dress as a gift, which was super sweet of her, but because we didn't communicate, we got burned.  The amount lost was less than $3 US, truly insignificant in the big picture, and Ruthie was quick to forget it, but I was angry because of the principle of the thing.  But there you have it: a lesson learned; fortunately, not an expensive one.  It would have been much worse if the little boy hadn't brought Ruthie her forgotten camera that morning, so putting it into perspective, it really wasn't a big deal, it just offended my sense of fairness.  
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Yelling about how the little shop behind me ripped us off!
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Back at home, I do like the dress
Ruthie had a bit of fun at my expense on the van ride back to the boat, talking about how I was about to punch the guy for taking her money, but of course I wasn't really.  Really I wasn't!  I might have a sharp tongue at times, but violence is not in my repertoire.  :-)

Back at the boat yard, s/v Hope was at anchor.  The transducer had already been repaired on the hard, and she'd been put back into the water.  After picking us up in the dinghy, Simon told us he'd had a problem with one of the engines after they splashed the boat, but they were able to find the appropriate part and get it fixed quickly, so we were still on schedule for a Tuesday morning departure.  I am sure he and Clive were really relieved, but the rest of us probably wouldn't have minded another day aboard.  We were having fun!
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s/v Hope at anchor, and Simon speeding over to us in the dinghy
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Local ladies doing laundry in the river
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Simon picking up Clive and the motley crew...er...tagalongs
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Nice view of the fort we'd visited that morning from s/v Hope at anchor
Once the engine repair was complete, Simon informed us that we'd be pulling up to the other dock for the night, since the dock we'd stayed the previous night was now full.  
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Clive weighing the anchor -- it had a remote control!
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Bruce assisting with docking
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Bruce swabbing the decks to clean up after the workers left
After everyone relaxed for awhile and had showers, we got ready to head out to dinner at Rosita's at a nearby marina to meet Lori and Peter, who were friends of Simon, Chunky, and Ruthie.  I guess they used to live in San Pedro but were now cruising on their boat in the area.  We got to ride in the dinghy to the restaurant.
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Simon, Emily, and Chunky on the dinghy ride
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Bar at Restaurante Rosita's
In addition to Lori and Peter, Captain Roberto from the Winnie Estelle came and joined us. He had some really great stories.
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(L to R): Lori, Peter, Simon, Bruce, Clive, Roberto, Barry, Chunky
We were having our usual difficult time with the Spanish menu, and Clive was trying to help our end of the table, while Lori helped the other end.  Barry wanted what he thought was baked fish with salsa, but ended up with what looked like pan-fried fish with no salsa.  When Clive reminded the waitress of the salsa, he ended up with a big bowl of tartar sauce, which was perhaps correct, but not the type of "salsa" we had imagined.  Also, one of the side dishes that could be substituted for French fries was rice and beans, which Barry thought Clive ordered for him, but he ended up with fries anyway.  Barry really never eats fried food, so this was not the meal he was hoping for at all.  After the chicken soup fiasco the night before, I felt so bad that he was having yet another dinner disaster.  He did say it tasted good, but just wasn't what he expected.
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Barry's dinner
My meal, on the other hand, was perfect.  I had the shrimp and conch platter.  Yum!
In retrospect, Barry and I really wished we'd just stayed onboard s/v Hope, made our own dinner, and let the others go hang out with their friends.  As introverts, we need more recharge time than we had been getting, and we were over tired from our long and busy day.  This made the dinner seem to go on forever. Then trying to deal with dividing the check and the currency exchange rate took much longer and became far more complicated than it should have.  We just wanted to get out of there and get some much-needed shut-eye.  Simon wanted to leave the dock by 4:30 am, and by the time we got ready for bed, it was already 11 o'clock, when we would have liked to be in bed by 9-ish.  If we'd known what the next day had in store for us, we might all have done things a bit differently.

Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 4:  The sea was angry that day, my friends
 
Due to the large number of photos, this day is divided into two parts.  Part 1 includes up through our morning trip to the Castillo de San Felipe, and Part 2 will cover our trip to town, lunch, and dinner.
We got up early(ish) on this beautiful, bright Monday morning so that we could have breakfast, wash dishes, and be off the boat by 7 am as Simon had requested.  It turned out that our space on the dock was a great place to watch the local boats come and go in the morning at the complex of buildings and boat ramp next door to the boat yard.
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View from s/v Hope
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Boats coming...
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...and going
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Morning men's club, Guatemala style
Our spot was also a good place to do some birding.  There was a lot of action in a bank of trees across the water, though we wish it had been just a bit closer so we could have identified more, but our binoculars did help a lot. Bruce and Chunky joined Barry and me in the bird watching while Ruthie prepared the daily eggs and sausage for the crew. (Barry and I made our usual oatmeal.)  

We were particularly impressed with this "oriole morning meeting" we witnessed.  The one male with orange breast was glowing so brightly it looked like neon through the binoculars.  I suspect he's "top bird" in this flock.
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Orioles and friends
We were excited to add a new bird to our life list, the Montezuma Oropendola.   We got a better photo of one later, at the park.
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Montezuma Oropendola
Promptly at 7 am, the boatyard workers splashed the Moorings catamaran, as promised, so that s/v Hope could take its place on the hard.
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Worker under the Moorings cat
After everyone had eaten and the dishes were washed (a rotating duty among the crew, although Captain Clive often beat us to it and did it so fast we hardly realized he'd already done it), we debarked s/v Hope to begin our day of sightseeing in Rio Dulce.
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Cap't Simon bidding (L) bidding farewell to the motley crew
We happened to see this boat with bleating cargo nearby as we were leaving.  Somehow I don't think these cuties were destined to be someone's pets, but perhaps at least "mama" will be kept for wool and milk.  
Barry and I led Bruce, Chunky, and Ruthie to the park we had found the previous day.   Here are some of the sights we saw on our walk along the way.
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Chickens alongside the road
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Cute Guatemalan making tortillas for sale
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The pool hall from the night before, in the light of day

Castillo de San Felipe

The park that Barry and I had discovered by chance on the walk the day before turned out to be a national park, much to our surprise.  It was the site of the Castillo de San Felipe de Lara, a Spanish colonial fort located at the entrance to Lake Izabal, just beyond where s/v Hope was docked.  According to WikipediaKing Philip II of Spain ordered the fort to be erected in an attempt to reduce pirate activity in the area. 

The park proved to be a super interesting and beautiful spot, whether your tastes ran to history or flora and fauna.  The entry fee of 20 Quetzales per person, or a little less than $3, was a ridiculous bargain (for a national park?!)  We had a brief conversation in our very best "Spanglish" with the two friendly government workers who took our fee.  Since were the only tourists there at that time, I am sure they were glad to see us.

The park was surrounded by water on three sides, and there were beautiful trees, foliage, and greenery on the walk to the fort, which lay at the end of the road.  
There were a ton of leafcutter ants in the park.  I'd never seen these interesting creatures before and found them fascinating. 
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Leafcutter ants bringing leaf pieces down tree trunk
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Lovely road to fort through the lush, tropical foliage
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Ruthie and Bruce
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There was a graveyard in the park
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We thought the lace drapings on the graves were interesting
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Huge tree with snake cacti and orchids growing all over the branches
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Park gift shop
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Orchids were even growing on the wires
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Approaching the fort -- these cannons meant business in their day
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Castillo de San Felipe looks small from this shot, but inside, it's HUGE
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The first tower of the fort was built in 1595
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The fort was rebuilt for the second time in 1651
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Moat around fort
After signing in, we were free to roam at will all over the fort.  I only saw one guard on the second level.  We had tons of fun exploring it at our own pace.  We were the only people in it the entire time!  When we left, we finally saw some other folks signing in.
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Emily signing in
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There were many rooms and passageways all over the fort. Easy to get lost in!
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This room had a large, old wood dining table in it
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Artifacts
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Courtyard
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Chunky on the stairs
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Bruce and me
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The view was stunning!
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Chunky and Ruthie on the "rooftop terrace"
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Barry got this view from a high tower
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Barry is a bit too tall for this doorway
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Chunky, Bruce, Ruthie, and Emily
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The drawbridge over the moat
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These are the cranks and chains used to raise and lower the drawbridge
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Barry bravely ventured down into some dark, dungeon-like rooms that he lit up with only his camera's flash
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Emily up in the tower
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Boom!
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Steep steps to the tower with no hand rail -- this would certainly be roped off in the US, but no one stopped us from climbing them here!
On our way back through the park after thoroughly scoping out the fort, we heard the most interesting bird song.  We finally found the singer up high in a tree above us -- the same species as we'd seen in the morning from the boat:  the Montezuma Oropendola.  What an exotic bird!
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Montezuma Oropendola
We spent even more time watching the leafcutter ants on the way out.  We were amazed to see the trails they had created in the forest, like miniature hiking trails.  And the mound they were going to and from was absolutely huge!  I could have watched these industrious little guys all day long.  One thing I wondered about is all the ants going along with the ones carrying leaves that weren't appearing to do any work themselves.  Are those the "manager ants", barking orders to the workers?!  Some things are universal, I guess....
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Army of leafcutters
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Leafcutter ant mound
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A leafcutter ant trail -- just imagine the thousands of trips back and forth it must have taken to create this path.
After leaving the park, Ruthie wanted a cold drink, so she stopped at a little shop on the roadside.  She was also trying to explain that she wanted some ice to put in her water bottle, but found it hard to do with hand gestures, since the woman running the shop spoke only Spanish.  Fortunately, Barry and I had brought along our Spanish for Cruisers book, so we were able to come up with the term hielo (ice).  The woman immediately understood and went over to chip her off some ice from a block -- not cubes, as we would have expected.  
After leaving the little shop, we were all standing around discussing what to do next, when a young boy (likely the son of the woman running the shop) came running over to us. Ruthie had left her camera on the counter, and he was returning it.  What a wonderful thing, and not something we'd necessarily have expected in a third-world country.  Ruthie went over to thank him again and took him a US dollar as a reward, which I am sure made his day.  His simple act of honesty brought a smile to us all.

Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 3, Part 2:  A Long Day in Rio Dulce
 
When we left off last time, we were just about to arrive at Abelle's boatyard on the Rio Dulce (and near the town of Fronteras, also known as Rio Dulce), Guatemala.  And whaddaya know?  Here it is, our ultimate destination straight ahead!  We arrived there just a little after noon.
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Abelle's
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We tied up to the dock since all three of the "big boat" spaces were already in use
We docked right next to some buildings and homes (top of photo above), and locals were bathing and washing dishes in the water very close to our boat.
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The shore power connection was a bit primitive, but it gave us the current we needed
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Looking back towards the bridge, we got lucky and caught the sight of a sailboat flying its spinnaker
Barry and I decided to take a walk to check out the boatyard and local area.  Before we'd even gotten off the dock, we met a friendly couple cruising on s/v Mistral, the large catamaran on the far left in the photo below, and had a nice chat with them before they took off in their dinghy for a late lunch.  They had been stuck at Abelle's waiting for a part for longer than they expected and were more than ready to continue their cruise up to Belize as soon as possible.  

We also noted that the well-known buyboat Winnie Estelle was at the yard having repairs.  We had no idea of this boat's illustrious history until we got home and did some googling, but it is quite fascinating.  We later got to meet her owner, Captain Robert(o), who told us that he has sold her and will be delivering her to Key West later in the season.  Sounds like she will eventually be taken back home to Annapolis, where she was built in 1920, as these folks were hoping.  What a great story!
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(L to R): Mistral, Winnie Estelle, and a Moorings catamaran whose spot we'd be taking the next morning
It was interesting to see how this Guatemalan boatyard compared to Sailcraft in Oriental, NC.  When we'd purchased our Catalina 30, Logos, in 2007, we'd taken delivery of her at Sailcraft.  In 2009, we had her hauled out there and did our own bottom painting.  Abelle's was a bit different: hillier, muddier, smaller, and the unisex bathroom wasn't nearly as nice as the large bath house with separate facilities for men and women at Sailcraft.  But Abelle's did have wi-fi, so Simon and Ruthie were happy as they could play with their gadgets.  
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Monohulls in the boatyard
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This car was dead in the boat yard. I didn't happen to notice if the license plates had changed since 2004 when we walked around the local roads.
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Local road in this rural area -- quiet with little traffic
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Pig in someone's yard -- yep, I mentioned it was rural!
We discovered a beautiful park on our walk, but since there was an entry fee, we decided to wait and tell the others about it so that we could all go the next day, since we'd have a day of freedom while the work was being done on s/v Hope.  We also tried to find some paper plates at a couple of local stores, both to save water and dish-washing labor on the boat, but all they had were huge stacks of styrofoam plates for sale, so we passed.

After our walk, I elected to take a shower in the boatyard restroom to save water on s/v Hope.  When I got into the stall, I realized there was only one handle and immediately knew what that meant:  no hot water.  Fortunately,  it was a warm afternoon with temperature around 86F and heat index of 93.  Not much breeze once you got off the water, either.  So, a cold shower, while a bit brisk for my usual taste, was actually tolerable and very refreshing.   
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Sign on bathroom: "Only customers please"
After the shower, we hung out on the boat for awhile before leaving for dinner.  Bruce, Barry, and I did some bird watching in nearby trees with our binoculars, and a few adult beverages may have been consumed.  
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Cap't Simon telling Chunky, Ruthie, and me something important, I'm sure. Barry was showering so missed whatever it was.
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Clive, Bruce, and Barry all showered and relaxing
Simon suggested we walk over to a nearby hotel and restaurant for dinner.  It was a nice walk over and great setting, save for the mosquitoes, who came after us with a vengeance once we sat down.
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Where we ate
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Nice outdoor setting, but the mozzies found us
The menu was entirely in Spanish.  Fortunately we had Clive to help, plus our rudimentary skills, but Barry gave up and ordered chicken soup (sopa de pollo) since he could tell what it was, and he claimed not to be very hungry.  I ordered curried chicken.
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Example menu page in Spanish and currency in Quetzales
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My curried chicken

The parmesan cheese incident.

Barry started eating his chicken soup and proclaimed it delicious.  He noticed a small plate next to his soup bowl, and exclaiming "hey, cheese!", proceeded to scrape most of the contents into his soup.  At the same moment, Chunky was looking around for the salt he'd ordered for his burger.  You can definitely see where this one is going.  Apparently, they serve salt on plates in this restaurant since humidity that would cause it to be sticky in a shaker.  Chunky was sitting right next to Barry, and when the waiter delivered his salt, Barry mistook it for parmesan.  An honest mistake, especially considering the yellow lighting over our table.  This incident, while unfortunate, provided a lot of fodder for jokes and laughs for the remainder of our trip, but I am not sure it was worth it for Barry.  Fortunately the chicken and veggies in the soup were still edible, but the lovely broth was a no go after the dousing with el sal.
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Barry's chicken soup and Chunky's plate close by to the right, which caused the salty confusion.
Since Barry didn't have much to eat, he was able to snap this photo of the rest of us.
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(L to R): Emily, Clive, Simon, Bruce, Ruthie, Chunky
After dinner, we were pretty tired and ready to head back to the boat to get some sleep, but Simon (aka party animal) was hankering for a bit of pool and a couple more beers, so we walked over to the local pool hall.  It was closed, probably because it was Sunday, but there was a young woman bartender inside.  Simon called to her through the windows, and asked her if she would open up if we'd drink a bunch of beers.  She called her manager and agreed to open up.   

Simon suggested a tournament, and since most of the folks hadn't played since high school, we all figured he was a shoe-in to win.  Since we had an odd number of people, and since I have deep-seated grade school anxiety involving any game involving a ball, I sat out of the fun, which meant that I could snap a few photos.  

Much to his surprise, Barry came in second only to Simon, due to a few lucky breaks (and a few good shots).  I think he was as surprised as I was because he was one of the ones who hadn't played in decades.
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Barry had better luck with pool than with soup!
After the tournament, we walked back to the boat to crash.  Simon told us that we needed to have our breakfast and be ready to get off the boat at 7 am the next morning, as the Moorings catamaran would be splashing then, and s/v Hope going up onto the hard in her place.  

Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 3:  A long day in Rio Dulce 
 
Because of the length of this day and the large number of photos, it is split it into two parts.  Part 1 documents our midnight departure from Placencia and cruise down the Rio Dulce, prior to arriving at Abelle's boatyard in Guatemala, near Fronteras on the map below (near the bottom).  Part 2 will document the afternoon and evening hours spent on land after arriving at the dock.
Hope's engines roared to life again just a couple of hours after we'd hit the hay for a little fitful sleep (for me at least) prior to our midnight launch from the anchorage in Placencia.  I'd jokingly suggested to Simon that we just stay the night in this calm and beautiful spot, but he had a schedule to keep so of course would hear nothing of it. Clive weighed the anchor at midnight, and we were on the move again.

Although I stayed in our berth, I can't recall now if I slept any at all between the time we departed and about 1:30 am; but I do remember that I was hot and sweaty as there was very little breeze, and it was humid, of course.  Chunky and Ruthie had decided to sleep out on the trampoline, so around 1:30 I thought I might join them for awhile and see what it was like out there.  I snuck out onto the bow and laid down on on my damp beach towel.  It was definitely cooler and very damp.  The stars were absolutely breathtaking out in the middle of the sea with no light pollution.    

Deciding I needed a bit more than shorts and a t-shirt on, I lowered myself back down into our cabin through the top hatch (surprisingly, this awkward gyration did not wake Barry up), changed into long pants, threw on my wind breaker, then tried going out to the bow again.  It was good at first, and quieter than being right on top of the engine in the berth, but soon I got too chilly even in that outfit and had to bail on sleeping under the stars.  

Chunky and Ruthie had the right idea, bringing the most unlikely of garments for the tropics along with them, the cult phenomon Snuggie, basically a blanket with sleeves.  With those, they managed to stay warm enough to sleep out on the bow all night, while I had to retreat back to our cabin to sweat.  I actually had even warmer clothes in my duffel, including a fleece jacket, but it was way at the bottom, and I didn't want to risk waking Barry or others up with all my comings and goings, so I just stuck it out and managed to grab a few hours of sleep after all.  

In the morning, we were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise as the motley crew started cracking open our eyes.  In contrast to the completely clear, starry sky of earlier, the sky was now thick with clouds, but at least it wasn't raining.
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Sunrise...somewhere!
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Snuggies -- silly but effective
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Bruce, Chunky, and Simon
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Cap't Simon swabbing the decks
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Yes, I look and was sleepy!
Since we had entered Guatemalan waters, our captains had raised the Guatemala courtesy flag (blue and white vertical stripes) and a yellow Quarantine flag. The 'Q' flag would be in place until we checked in with immigration authorities in Livingston.
The crew hung out and watched for signs of Livingston in the distance.  When Simon requested it, we helped him look for markers that would lead us safely into the mouth of the Rio Dulce and away from shoals.  The markers in Central America aren't up to US standards so were often very hard to see.  Some were sticks and some were bottles or floats of various types.  Good thing there were plenty of pairs of binoculars and (bleary) eyes aboard s/v Hope!
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A Guatemalan marker
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Not hard to see was this huge Chiquita banana barge
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Bruce and me looking for markers in our nearly identical uniforms
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Land Ho!

Livingston, Guatemala

We soon arrived in Livingston, where we'd check in so as to be in Guatemala legally.  Our passports would be stamped, and off we'd go on the rest of our journey.
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The colors of Livingston
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Approaching the dock to check in -- and the sky is now blue!
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local fisherman
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Clive awaits as Simon guides s/v Hope to the dock
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Barry helped by throwing a dock line to a dockhand.
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s/v Hope on the docks of the colorful town of Livingston
After s/v Hope was safely docked, the customs and immigration officers arrived.  They greeted us all with a Buenos Dias (good morning), then sat around the cockpit table with Simon to go over the paperwork and stamp our passports.  There was also a doctor and a fourth officer of some sort who came aboard.  It was all fairly formal, but they were friendly.  The officers asked Simon if there were weapons, drugs, or pets onboard, or if anyone was sick.  No, no, no, and no.  A few stamps and signatures later, and we were able to get out and walk around and sightsee for awhile.  Livingston was quite hilly, very different from what we have become accustomed to in San Pedro.  And it was warm, very warm.
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Welcome to Livingston
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Emily, Bruce, and Chunky climbing the hill
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Barry
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Fruit stand
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Emily (far left)
Everything was in Spanish, so we wished we'd gotten a little farther with our lessons, but calculating the exchange rate from the local currency, Quetzales, to US dollars (approximately 7.5 Q per $1 USD) was probably our biggest challenge.  Fortunately, shops accepted our US money as we'd read they would, so we were able to make some very important purchases -- adult beverages.  Since Belize tightly regulates beer imports, you drink Belikin unless you want to pay a mint, and bringing in or selling beers from many countries, including Mexico and Guatemala, is strictly illegal in Belize.  So, we felt a bit like kids in a candy store grabbing local and Mexican brews.  Simon had placed his order for local Gallo beer, not to be confused with the California wine of the same name, so Chunky and Bruce picked that up for him as well. 

While available, wine is very expensive in Belize, so I was happy to get a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc for just $11 USD -- it would have been at least double in San Pedro (which is why I almost never drink wine in Belize).  Barry and my total came to $35 USD for 10 single beers (there's no such thing as a "sixer" in Central America) and the bottle of wine.  Not as inexpensive as I'd expected in Guatemala, but worth every penny for the chance to drink something besides Belikin!
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Bruce and me in store where we bought beer and wine
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Chunky with his "loot" in bag
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Heading back to s/v Hope
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Barry was happy to get some of his favorite beer, Corona. The others are local brews we wanted to try.

Rio Dulce ("Sweet River") cruising

The next part of our trip was quite different than the ocean sailing we'd done so far and involved motoring down the Rio Dulce.  We had checked some web sites about this in advance so were prepared for it to be beautiful, and we were not disappointed.  The foliage and bird life were fantastic, and the occasional hut or rustic resort along the river's banks perfectly suited the environment.  This would be an absolutely wonderful place to kayak or canoe.  If you ever get a chance to visit this beautiful area, do not hesitate!  We were still pinching ourselves at our good fortune.
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The river narrowed here and got even more beautiful
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The water turned emerald green to match the trees
Barry was right in his element watching for birds and other interesting sights off the bow.  Couldn't wipe that smile off his face!
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High rocky cliffs along the banks
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Wouldn't you love to stay here on vacation?
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A beauty of a boat and a blood pressure lowering scene
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The mountains were gorgeous
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This pair of Mangrove Swallows hitched a ride on our lifelines for awhile
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Pelicans on stilts
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Emily and Ruthie having a bite of lunch

At this point, we were getting very close to the boatyard where s/v Hope would have her transducer repaired.  We were just about to go under the bridge in the town of Fronteras, also known simply as Rio Dulce, same as the river.
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That's what I'm talking about!
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Rio Dulce is a popular cruising destination with quite a few marinas along the way
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The bird trees
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Local paddler
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Going under the bridge in Fronteras - Hope's mast came within a foot of the power lines on one side of the bridge. A hold your breath moment for sure!
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Bridge with Esso fuel dock below
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Cruising boats at nearby marinas
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Ruthie striking a pretty pose, and Bruce anxious to arrive at the boatyard
Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 2, Part 2:  Rio Dulce, Guatemala 
 
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On Day 1, we departed from San Pedro on Ambergris Caye in northern Belize, and sailed down to Placencia in southern Belize

The twin engines roared into life promptly at 4:30 (also known as o-dark-thirty) for our scheduled 5 am departure from the TMM dock in San Pedro.  We had one of the two aft (rearward) cabins, situated on the port side of s/v Hope, and our bed pretty much sat right over (or beside) one of the 55 hp diesels.  An alarm clock unlike any other! Struggling out of our comfy berth in total darkness, our excitement over what was to come quickly overtook thoughts of sleep.  There would be plenty of time to nap later.
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Our berth

Captains Simon and Clive guided Hope away from the TMM dock, and we were off on our adventure!
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Yes, that's me, making a rare 4:46 am appearance, with the lights of San Pedro behind me.
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By golly, even Barry was up!
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Our head with shower -- very luxurious!
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Bruce assisting with raising the mainsail
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Pre-sunrise glow with the moon in view...beautiful
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The crew slowly comes to life, with the help of a little caffeine. L to R: Me, Clive (at helm), Chunky, Bruce, Ruthie
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Even Barry drank coffee on this trip
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Chunky enjoying a comfortable spot with his coffee
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Captain Simon makes an appearance as we watched for the sunrise
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I like this photo of Barry in quiet contemplation of the sunrise
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El Sol!
With sunrise behind us, Ruthie sprang into action in the kitchen.  Barry and I ate oatmeal (with dried fruit, walnuts, whey protein, and cinnamon) every morning, while Ruthie cooked eggs and sausage for the rest of the crew.  She is a wonderful person to have aboard a boat, cheerful and energetic -- at least at mealtimes!  :)  S/v Hope had a really nice and spacious kitchen (by boat standards) and nice-sized fridge and freezer compartments (again, by boat standards).
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Galley Gal Ruthie
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Since the wind was light and coming from the southeast, and since we were on a tight schedule, our captains had to keep the diesel engines on most of the time, even while the sails were up, to make good time.  They did turn the engines off from time to time and ran under sailpower alone.  Wish we could have done more of that, but conditions just wouldn't allow for it. 

After breakfast, we non-captain types got to spend most of the day just chillin' on the boat.  With the light winds and calm waters, quite a few naps were taken by the motley crew members.   This day reminded me why I loved sailing.  When it's good, it's very, very good.  Kinda like that little girl with the one curl in the middle of her forehead, from the old nursery rhyme...but you might remember the rest of it too: "when she was bad, she was horrid".  Oh yes, stay tuned!

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This is the life!
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We passed Belize City
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The helm
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The dinghy
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Chunky, Ruthie, and me chillin' on the trampoline -- good place for a nap!
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Passing the town of Dangriga -- it's hazy, but you can see the outline of mountains in the distance
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One minute I'm awake...
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...and the next, I'm down.
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Bruce and Cap'n Clive at the helm
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Are we there yet?
The Captains' plans were to refuel, then put down the anchor in Placencia.  Simon and Clive would eat dinner and nap for awhile, then fire up the engines and we'd take off again at midnight and sail all night. Although they didn't need us to stay up with them, I knew that sleeping would be a challenge with the engine so close to our berth.  I could already tell my body was going to get very confused by this schedule!
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We're here!
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Placencia anchorage
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Placencia
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Heading for the fuel dock
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Lagoon side of Placencia - lots of boats
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Simon filling the port diesel tank at the fuel dock
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Clive putting down the anchor, while Ruthie gazes longingly at the yacht in the photo below...
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This incredible 164-foot Westport "Vango" was at anchor near us. Had its own helicopter and garage for a smaller boat. They didn't even invite us over for drinks!
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Anchoring out and having a cold beer at the end of a long day is my very favorite part of sailing
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Chunky, Bruce, and Simon chillin' in the cockpit
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A beautiful sunset at anchor
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Sunset is my favorite time of the day...
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Beautiful afterglow
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A few appetizers before dinner
Ruthie had brought a delicious spaghetti meal for all of us called "Italian Sunday Gravy".  There's homemade sauce, sausage, meatballs, and short ribs; and it's been cooked nice and long so the flavors are rich and hearty.  We normally don't eat a lot of meat, but we could definitely make an exception tonight.  She'd also brought garlic bread and the most amazing frosted brownies.  I could almost feel my clothes getting tighter just looking at all the gorgeous food!  I had thought we'd be eating dinner in Placencia, so I really didn't bring any dinner food, but Ruthie came through with enough for two crews.  Thank you, Ruthie -- you are a gem, and Chunky is a lucky man!
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Da feast
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Barry stepping up to the trough
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And yes, I DID get a drop of spaghetti sauce on that white cami, of course. What was I thinking?
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Soups on!
Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 1:  Placencia to Rio Dulce, Guatemala
 
Years ago, we both read a book of this name by Phil Keoghan, best known in the US as the host of the television show The Amazing Race.  As Phil summarizes the gist of the book:  "No Opportunity Wasted is about learning how to live while you still have the chance, about letting go of the handrails, taking off your tie (and maybe taking off a lot more, while you're at it), and swerving off that predictable road you've been following for years--onto a strange and bumpy path that just might, with a bit of luck, get you lost. It is about taking the time to enjoy experiences you've denied yourself. It's also about sharing experiences with other people you know and connecting with people you don't know - beginning with yourself."

Kinda powerful, right?  Needless to say, this book made an impact on us, and since reading it, we've tried to keep its principles in our minds when making life decisions over the past years -- from learning to sail and buying a sailboat -- to retiring in Belize.  Both of these choices have introduced us to entirely new worlds of different people, cultures, and experiences from our former workaday lives in North Carolina.  Our recent trip to Placencia, where we chose to travel with the locals on ferries and buses rather than to catch a quick (but more expensive) flight, was another example of pushing ourselves just a bit out of our comfort zones and thereby reaping the rewards of more interesting, scenic, and less expensive travel.

We were offered yet another chance to travel off the beaten path recently, and embracing it was as easy a decision as we've ever had to make.  We still can't believe our amazingly good luck.  We were riding our bikes down to Maria's fruit stand and chose to take the back, unpaved road rather than the main cobblestone road on this particular day.  We just happened to run into friends Chunky and Ruthie riding their bikes in the opposite direction.  We were in town later than normal because Barry got into a long poolside conversation with a tourist staying in our building that morning; otherwise, we would have been long gone by the time they were riding on that particular one block of road!  So we figure our chance meeting with them was meant to be.

Seeing us triggered Ruthie to recall that we enjoyed sailing, and she filled us in on an opportunity to jump aboard a large charter catamaran for a run down to Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  The boat needed to be hauled out to replace the transducer (depth sounder), and this was the boatyard that the charter company (TMM) used.  TMM had offered up the extra berths to people who would like to join them for the ride down and back, with the only costs being immigration fees and food for the trip.  Chunky and Ruthie had already committed to the trip, along with one other person, but there was one double cabin left.  Once we determined that the offer was legit, we were quick to jump right in.  Barry had heard about the beauty of the Rio Dulce ("Sweet River") and had added it to our list of destinations to visit in Central America.  Not to mention that the trip would give us the opportunity to visit another new country.  The boat we would be traveling on was s/v (sailing vessel) Hope, a 46-foot Leopard catamaran, and the most expensive boat in TMM's fleet to charter.  Say what???  Did I mention how lucky we felt!?

We had to be on the boat by 8pm Friday night to sleep aboard, since we'd be taking off Saturday morning at 5 am.  So, the next few days were a whirlwind of packing and organizing our stuff for the trip, buying our food, and taking care of whatever business we needed to take care of.  We knew Ruthie had been cooking up a storm (and would probably have enough to feed an army -- she's pretty well known for that!), so we went with simpler stuff that was easy to fix and eat: oatmeal, fruit, sandwich stuff, cheese, snack bars, peanut butter, crackers, and so forth.  We figured we'd be eating dinners in town most nights, so didn't think we'd need a whole lot of dinner food.  Also, boat refrigerators have only so much space, so we didn't want to bring too much that required refrigeration.  Thanks to Ruthie, no one ever would go hungry on this boat!

Our first trip to town on Friday was to take Paisley to Pampered Paws for boarding.  We had originally planned to take her with us on the water taxi, but Barry came up with a plan to bungee her airline travel case to his bike rack, and it actually did work!  I carried her bedding and toys in my front basket and rode behind him to make sure she was okay.  She looks pretty uncomfortable in this photo but later relaxed and did just fine.  This was her first-ever transport by bike, and she was a trooper as usual!
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Paisley on rear rack in travel bag
In the afternoon, we rode back to town again.  Everyone going on the trip had to attend a meeting with the two TMM captains, Simon and Clive, so we could all go to immigration together to check out of Belize.  You actually have some time (48 hours, I believe) to leave the country after getting your passports stamped and paying the exit fee -- only $3.75 US when leaving by sea, as opposed to $39.25 by air. Nice!  We met the last passenger, Bruce, at this time.  His wife had decided that she couldn't handle five days on a boat, which is the only reason there was a double berth available; otherwise, Barry and I would not have been able to go.
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Chunky, Ruthie, and me
We had brought our food for the trip down on our bikes, so got to load it onto s/v Hope after the meeting.  This was our first time seeing the boat up close, and she was a real beaut!
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s/v Hope
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Two very lucky people
We had planned to bring our duffel bags down with us on the water taxi in time for dinner with Chunky and Ruthie, but Barry thought it would be easier not to have to do that, as the boat is often very full even for people, much less their luggage.  So, in his second display of MacGuyverism of the day, he bungeed our duffels to his rack and ran them down to the boat, a 6.5 mile round trip.  My butt was too sore ride into town a third time, so I sent him solo this time.
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Off he goes!
Since Barry was able to take our luggage down, we only had our day packs to carry when we left our condo for the trip.  As luck would have it, we actually got a water taxi all to ourselves, as they must have been running extra boats that day in between the regularly scheduled taxis -- it is high season here, after all.  So, there would have been room for our luggage after all, but we still would have had to schlep it down the beach to dinner and have it with us in the restaurant, so it was nice not to have to bother with all that. 

We met Chunky and Ruthie at Hurricane's over the water for dinner.  We had plenty of laughs and a great meal.  The food was a bit pricier than I expected since it's such a casual-appearing place (and we'd gotten spoiled by lower restaurant prices in Placencia), but it was delicious and nicely presented.  One pet peeve:  the menu prices did not include GST (Belize's 12.5% sales tax that is normally included in posted prices), but at least we got happy hour pricing on drinks!
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View from Hurricane's restaurant
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Ruthie, Emily, and Chunky - excited for the adventure lying ahead
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Delicious dinner -- chicken, potato, and veg
Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 1:  San Pedro to Placencia
 
We normally don't go out for Valentine's Day, but for our first one in Belize, we decided to treat ourselves to a dinner out at the Funky Monkey, just a mile or so south.  Actually, it was my idea, as most meals out are.  Dale had posted about their Valentine's special meal on Facebook, and it sounded tasty -- and reasonable at only $40 BZD per person, including dessert, so it was a date.  Of course we'd be riding our bikes.  We left early while it was still plenty light.
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Leaving our condo
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The Funky Monkey at the Cloisters
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Locking up the bikes at the restaurant
We arrived early enough to catch the tail end of Happy Hour, so we started at the bar with a couple of two-for-one rum & pineapple juices from bartender Javier, then moved over to a table.  Right before the end of Happy Hour, Barry ordered us another round of half-price drinks to see us through our meal.
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My Valentine for the past 27 years!
While we were waiting on our dinners, we noticed a paperback swap bookshelf right near our table.  Barry suggested I go over and check to see if they had the next book in the James Patterson series I've been reading.  Since it's a newer book, I couldn't find it at the San Pedro Public Library or the Aquarius used book shop in town.  Of course I never expected to find it on a small bookshelf -- I mean; what are the odds?
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What a serendipitous find!
Much to my delight and amazement, what should I spy but the very book I'd been looking for?  Although I didn't bring a book to swap, of course, Dale was kind enough to let me take it home -- I'll just bring it right back when I am done.  
Our dinners arrived, and they were lovely.  Grilled shrimp, garlic mashed potatoes, and sweet glazed carrots, and a pretty hibiscus flower to top it off.  
As we started eating, all of a sudden we started feeling bites.  And seeing mosquitoes around and on us.  Before we knew it, they were practically swarming.  We were slapping right and left, and it was taking all the joy out of eating our meal.  Thankfully, about this time, Javier came by and asked us how our meals were, so we were able to let him know about the evil mozzies.  He quickly brought insect repellent, and Dale also came by and lit a coil under our table.  Instantly, the little devils were gone, just as fast as they appeared.  This is seriously good stuff -- nice scent and DEET-free!
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Avon Skin-So-Soft with Picaridin
Now we could really enjoy our dinners!  They also served us a Valentine's Day dessert -- red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  Scrumptious!
On the way home, we used Barry's headlamp to guide our way.  Mine, unfortunately, has crapped out since its last use.  The case was already cracking, but tonight, only the lowest light power worked, and that's not nearly enough light for biking in the dark.  Looks like it's time for a replacement.
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Funky Monkey at night
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Barry lighting the way for our return trip
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Sign in the Funky Monkey...says it all!
 
I happened to notice a pile of new mystery fruits today at Maria's fruit & vegetable stand, so I asked her about them.  "Apple", she said.  "Belizean apple."  She said they were sweet with just a little sour taste, and that the skin was edible.  What did I have to lose?  She picked out a nice one for us, and we added it to our pile of baby bananas and limes.  

The "apple" must have been reasonably priced as we got it, along with four small limes, and a nice-sized bunch of bananas, for just $8 BZD ($4 US).  And of course Maria threw in a few other veggies for good measure, since we're frequent customers.

When I got home, I started my usual googling to determine exactly what this lovely burgundy pear-shaped fruit actually was.  Turns out, it is a Rose Apple, named because it tastes like rosewater.  Cool!  Rose Apples are very low in calories but high in Vitamins A and C, calcium, and niacin.  What's not to love?  At this point, I gave it a sniff, and it does have the aroma of old-fashioned roses -- you know, roses that actually have a fragrance.  My mother loves all things rose and frequently sprinkles rose water over fruit for a simple Greek dessert, so I wish she could try this interesting new fruit along with us.
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Next to a small lime to show the size
But the proof would be in the tasting.  The flesh inside is fine and very white.  It has a large seed and some "fuzz" around it that I scooped out with a spoon, then I sliced the fruit.  The skin is edible and soft, so there's no need to peel it.
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Interior of Rose Apple
The taste and texture resembled a pear doused in rosewater, with slightly finer flesh, not grainy the way a pear can sometimes be.  It's nice, but like some of the other new tropical fruits we've tried since moving here, I am not sure I'd go out of my way to eat it plain.  I think it would be nice in a fruit salad with brighter colored fruits or chopped up in yogurt. It would also be a good addition to a fruit smoothie.

But it can't beat my favorite "new" fruit since moving here.  That honor still goes to the pitaya (dragonfruit).  Love the seeds, texture, and flavor of that one, but it's out of season at the moment.  I blogged about it in this long post (scroll down to July 5 for info and photos).  But I'm always up for trying yet another tropical treat!

And on a different subject entirely...

Have our adventures given you the itch to come visit Belize yourself?  We usually keep this blog completely non-commercial, but are making a small exception this time since this involves a friend and neighbor of ours....

Ambergris Caye, Belize vacation special - 50% off!

Just in case anyone reading this has a flexible schedule and wants to come stay in a beautiful beachfront condo SOON, our neighbor Mike's unit is available from Feb. 18 through 28 due to a cancellation. He's offering 50% off the usual rate with a four night minimum. This is a one bedroom luxury condo with a sofa bed in the living room as well.  It's a gorgeous unit, just completed last summer. The view of the Caribbean Sea from the large veranda is unbeatable! The special price is $224/night (+ hotel tax/fees of 15%) for those days.  Please see Mike's VRBO link for full details and photos, and tell him Barry and Emily sent you!
 
_Here are some of the birds we had the pleasure of seeing on our trip to Placencia and side excursion to Red Bank.  We saw others, of course, but these were the ones we could identify from our photos.  Most of these were new on our life lists!
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Acorn Woodpecker -- spotted on our bike ride back from Maya Beach to Placencia
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Black-Cowled Oriole -- in Red Bank
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Blue-Gray Tanager -- in Placencia
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Cinnamon Hummingbird -- in Placencia
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Cinnamon Hummingbird -- in Placencia
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Magnolia Warbler -- in Placencia
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Magnolia Warbler (second view)
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Olive-Throated Parakeet -- in Placencia
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Olive-Throated Parakeet -- in Placencia
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Orchard Oriole (male) -- in Placencia
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Orchard Oriole (male) -- in Placencia
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Female (l) and male (r) Orchard Orioles
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Squirrel Cuckoo under dense cover -- in Red Bank
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Variable Seed-Eater -- in Red Bank
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White-Collared Seedeater (female) -- in Placencia
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White-Collared Seedeaters (pair) -- in Placencia
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Yellow-Headed and Red-Lored Parrots in captivity (unfortunately) -- in Placencia