Today we had the pleasure of attending a very special celebration for Jana and CJ, who are visiting San Pedro from Texas for a month of vacation.  They both recently celebrated a milestone birthday (we won't say which one!) and invited a group of folks to join them for a day on the Lady Leslie catamaran to snorkel and sail to Caye Caulker.  We were lucky enough to be included, and we had a blast!  

After all the rain we've been getting lately on the island, it was touch-and-go up until the last minute, and Jana had warned us they might have to postpone the trip.  When I woke up just before 6 am to a heavy downpour, I feared the worst, but it passed over quickly, and Jana informed us on Facebook that the sail was on.  Fortunately, no more rain fell, and the day turned out to be just right -- mostly sunny but with enough shade to keep us from getting completely fried.

Since there was no water taxi at the appropriate time this morning, Barry and I loaded up our backpacks with towels, sunscreen, and other necessary items, and hiked into town after our breakfast.  We'd worked up a good sweat by the time we made it to the dock near Wet Willy's, but with all the food we ended up eating during the day, we were very glad we'd gotten our exercise in early.
Picture
Lady Leslie
Picture
Captain Martin
Barry and I had taken this same trip on the Lady Leslie on our first visit to San Pedro in May 2010, and we had great memories of it.  In addition to Captain Martin and his son Jody, another crew member, Ricky, was aboard today.  These guys are the best and really know their stuff.  We have recommended them to a lot of people.  Jody's sister Jessie also cuts my hair at Leslie's Salon in town.  They're just a super nice local family.
Picture
Jody Leslie
Picture
Barry on board
Picture
Jody briefing the whole gang on where we'd be going and the rules onboard
Picture
A perfect day for a sail after so much rain
Picture
This is the life
After leaving San Pedro, our first stop was Hol Chan Marine Reserve.  Snorkeling was optional, but I wouldn't have missed it.  There were a ton of fish of all sizes, a couple of sea turtles, a moray eel, and much beautiful coral.  It was the best snorkeling experience I've ever had, in part because my mask stayed on and didn't keep filling with water as I've had problems with in the past.  It was a nice long snorkel as well, with Ricky as the guide for our part of the group, and we got to see so much.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite a few foot cramps and turning into a prune by the end!  Barry is not as crazy about snorkeling as I am so stayed behind along with some of the others to take some photos and just enjoy hanging out on the deck of the Lady Leslie.  I do wish he'd joined me, but he has problems with foot cramps as well, so he might not have enjoyed himself too much.
Picture
The water looked like a swimming pool today
Picture
Our group with Ricky before heading out
Picture
Lots of other groups were in the reserve as well
Picture
Here we are snorkeling close to the reef
When we got back to the boat, we were swimming among a school of large horse-eye jacks, and a couple of HUGE groupers were right in there too.  You can see the dark gray forms of the fish in this photo.  It was surreal!
Picture
Huge grouper to the right and forward of me
I wish I had taken my waterproof camera along for some underwater shots, but I was too afraid of dropping it.  I am hoping that Debra (Taking Belize blog) got some good shots of the many sights we saw as she was snapping away under water.

After drying off, we enjoyed fresh pineapple slices Jody brought around.  Nothing like snorkeling to help you work up an appetite.  A bit more sunscreen was in order as well.
Picture
Very refreshing!


Our next stop, much briefer, was Shark Ray Alley.  I didn't get in this time, but we enjoyed watching the nurse sharks come eat the chum behind the stern of the boat.  I never get tired of watching them go after it.  Ricky also held a sting ray up for a few brave folks to touch.  
Picture
Nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley
Finally it was full-steam ahead to Caye Caulker.
Picture
Caye Caulker
Picture
Debra, me, Laurie, Bill, and Tim on the dock at Caye Caulker
A few of us misunderstood and thought our lunch was at the Lazy Lizard at the Split, so we headed down there. 
Picture
The sandy streets of Caye Caulker
Picture
A Caye Caulker character with a very creative headdress
Picture
But where is the rest of our party?
Picture
A few lost souls...
About this time, Laurie got a text that we were supposed to be at Wish Willy's!  Not sure how we got confused, but perhaps it was the rum punches and panty rippas we had after snorkeling....  Fortunately, it was only a short walk back down the road.
It was right across the way from the Humane Society, where this sweet pooch took a liking to Barry.  Wish we could have played with him and his bone!
Picture
Our table at Wish Willy's
Picture
Veggies fresh off the grill
Our meal was wonderful -- a lobster tail (my first of the newly opened season), shrimp skewer, chicken, veggies, rice and beans.  Yum!
Picture
Our hosts with the most...CJ and Jana flashing some serious Belize dinero
After the fine lunch, we had a bit of extra time before we had to be back on the boat, so we wandered around, and I bought a beaded ankle bracelet from a lady Debra liked.  Debra had one on one ankle already but bought another for her second ankle!
Picture
This one seems to fit just right...sold!
Picture
Laurie and me
Picture
Laurie took this funny photo of Barry and me
At last we had to board the boat again and make our way back to Ambergris Caye.  But not without a bit more food.  The crew made us fresh sushi, which was absolutely delicious, and we had melt-in-your-mouth orange cake (aka "crack cake" said Jana) made by Casa Pan Dulce.  Could we possible eat any more today!?  
Picture
Birthday cake
Picture
Like I really need this...but did I eat it? But of course!
Picture
Barry took so many photos of me I felt bad and took this one of him
Picture
Girls gone wild
Picture
Chillin' on the Lady Leslie on the way back to San Pedro
Picture
An attractive ketch at anchor - the color of the sea
Sadly, all too soon we were pulling into the dock and saying goodbye to everyone.  What a wonderful day it was, though. Many thanks to Jana and CJ for their generosity in arranging such a memorable event and for inviting us along!
Picture
What a great day
Picture
Thanks Jana and CJ -- you guys rock!
 
Around 9:15 this morning, I was in my bike shorts and just about to head out on our usual Sunday morning bike ride to the north, when Mike stopped by to see if we wanted to go out on his boat again to Caye Caulker at 10:00.  At first I regretfully declined the invitation because I was supposed to meet Barry for the second loop of his long ride, and he was not back yet. (Normally he does the first 12 miles on his own while I'm eating breakfast and drinking coffee, then I join him for the second 12 mile loop).  Mike went on his way, and just a few minutes later, Barry got back.  Normally we would have just head out to ride from here, but as if by magic, Mike happened to be walking by again, so I told Barry about his invitation.  Only pausing to consider it for a few seconds, Barry said that we should definitely go to Caye Caulker, as we could ride our bikes any day.  

I couldn't argue with his perfect logic, and as I've said before, I HEART CAYE CAULKER, so I quickly changed out of my bike clothes and got ready for another boat ride.  Barry had to eat a bowl of oatmeal and drink his tea quickly as he had only had a quick snack before the ride, but we were ready to go at 10:00.  On the dock, we met another Grand Caribe owner couple who would also be joining Mike and Myra, Warren and Donna from Canada.  I bet they were happy to be here instead of there on such a gorgeous, warm day!

We had an absolutely beautiful day for a boat ride, with sunny skies turning the sea bright turquoise, and just the right amount of breeze.  I guess Mike and Myra must be a good luck charm for us as I've mentioned that we normally have overcast or rainy weather when we go to Caye Caulker or stop there on the way to/from Belize City on the ferry.
Picture
Myra, Warren, Cap't Mike, Barry, Donna
Picture
"The Split" was created in 1961 by Hurricane Hattie and divided Caye Caulker in two.
Picture
Caye Caulker boat dock
Picture
Rainbow Bar and Grill, where we ate lunch
Picture
Caye Caulker waterfront
Picture
The crew
We walked around town, went into a couple of shops, and I even bought another of Debbie Cooper's cute prints from Cooper's Art Gallery.  The frame is still in process of being painted, so it will be shipped over via Tropic Air sometime next week.  We had a nice lunch at Rainbow Grill and Bar over the water.  I had a grilled fish sandwich on wheat bread and filled with veggies (yummy), and Barry splurged with a lobster burrito. Go Barry! I snuck a bite, and it was delicious! We looked for the pie lady after lunch, who wheels a cart of delicious desserts around the sandy town streets, but sadly it appears that she doesn't sell her wares on Sunday, so we hopped back into the boat for the trip back to San Pedro.  
Picture
Myra and Emily in Caye Caulker
Picture
Looking towards the Split and the Lazy Lizard bar
Picture
The Split and anchorage beyond. Gorgeous!
Picture
Close up of sailboat in anchorage - this one's for you, Sabrina!
Picture
Interesting pimped-out beached boat. Don't know the story behind this one!
Picture
Barry
Picture
Flags
Picture
Emily & Mike
Picture
I didn't buy anything here, but it was a nice shop of Guatamalan woven items.
Picture
Warren, Emily, and Myra coming out of Cooper's Art Gallery
Picture
A back street on Caye Caulker. Gotta love that traffic!
Picture
Caye Caulker local houses
Picture
Back side of Caye Caulker - note wrecked boat far out
Picture
Closeup of wrecked boat -- looks like someone salvaged the mast, sails, and other parts!
Picture
Donna, Myra, and Warren
Picture
Lunchtime!
Picture
Nice view from restaurant
Picture
Time to dig in!
Picture
Barry's lobster burrito, slaw, and beans and rice
Picture
Sponge Bob? In Caye Caulker? Guess he needed a vacation too!
Picture
Awww, Donna and Warren are so cute holding hands!
Picture
The Split again
Picture
Gorgeous water today
Picture
Bye-bye Caye Caulker!
Picture
Back to San Pedro
It was a really fun trip!  I'm so glad we decided to be spontaneous (not our strong suit as we have half a century of being planners behind us!) and join in.  Thanks so much to Mike and Myra for another fantastic day!
 
Yesterday we took our second day trip off-island for some shopping and a change of pace.  On our hike into town to the ferry, we were offered a ride in a golf cart at Reef Village, which we gladly accepted since we were running a bit late (as usual), and were having to keep up a very brisk pace in order to make the 10am ferry.  The driver turned out to be Dale, who owns the Funky Monkey restaurant/bar at the Cloister's, along with his wife.  Since he is from Ohio, he and Barry had something in common (aside from living in San Pedro!) and were able to have a nice chat.  We were very appreciative for the ride, as it got us to the ferry dock 20 minutes early instead of barely on time.

This time, instead of the large ferry we were on on our first trip to Belize City, we were on a much smaller boat; I guess the 10am leaving time is not as popular as the 11:30 we took last time.  
Picture
Wished I'd remembered a book for our wait for the ferry!
Picture
The skies looked threatening, but we never got more than a brief sprinkle all day.
The trip over was uneventful, and soon we were in the city.  This time we knew exactly where to go, so we didn't look or feel as clueless as on our first trip over.  Some of you may remember my trepidation about our first visit to Belize City, but I felt more relaxed this time.  Yes, there were still a few beggars and the ubiquitous taxi drivers offering us their services, but there did seem to be more police presence and security guards around, so I never felt threatened.  I still had no desire to spend any extra time there than it took to buy groceries at Brodie's (10% off on Fridays!) and several items in Hop Sing bicycle shop for Barry as you don't dare dawdle anywhere because of the panhandlers.  As a result, we were back at the ferry terminal quite early to buy tickets for Caye Caulker (which is a stop right on the way back to San Pedro), and eat the snack bars we'd brought along.
Picture
Big boat, little boat. We took the little boat on each leg except from Caye Caulker back to San Pedro.
We caught the 1pm ferry over to Caye Caulker, and as usual, it looked like rain.  It always seems to be raining when we go to Caye Caulker or just make a quick stop on the ferry, but this time it did not rain on our parade.  Yay!  

We love Caye Caulker.  It is the way they tell us San Pedro used to be, with all sand steets, almost no vehicles, and very little traffic.  Sure, there were a couple of golf-cart taxis and the ubiquitous bottle truck (here all sodas and beers come in recyclable bottles that are returned for deposit, just like in the old days in the US), but most of the vehicles were bicycles, along with folks just walking in bare feet or sandals.
Picture
Ferry we took
Picture
Barry on the ferry...has a certain ring to it, no?
Picture
Caye Caulker. Not much traffic!
Our mission here was to visit Debbie Cooper's gallery for some artwork, as we had seen her work online and thought it would be perfect for our condo.  It's colorful, with tropical themes, and reasonably priced to boot.  We met Debbie there and picked out a few pieces.  We bought two of her framed prints, including our favorite bicycle by palm tree scene.  She told us that the frames, which are wooden and painted in bright colors, are made by local Mennonites, of which there is a relatively large population in Belize.  The larger print of two toucans will be shipped to us via Tropic Air next week as she did not have the appropriate-sized frame in stock.  We also chose a small canvas from another artist, showing sailboats and palm trees.  I just loved the soothing blue and green colors on that one.  We still need a few more things for the walls, but this is a good start.  It was a lot of fun to meet Debbie and see her cute shop.
Picture
Found it!
Picture
I bought the sailboat and palm trees canvas to the left of the credit card sign!
By the time we finished shopping, it was about 2:30, and we were starved, so we stopped in at a local restaurant called Bambooze for a bite of lunch.  I loved this place because it was open air, and the chairs were swings! Such a unique concept, and transported me back to my childhood love of swing sets.  We had delicious grilled fish sandwiches with mango-lime sauce and a couple of drinks.
Picture
Yes, I'm a kid at heart. This was FUN!
After lunch we walked around a bit before catching our 3:45 ferry back to San Pedro.  Unfortunately, we were lugging heavy backpacks full of groceries, so we weren't able to go as far as we would have liked.  We'll just have to go back!
Picture
The "Convenient Store" LOL!
Picture
Very different traffic scene from San Pedro
Picture
It would be fun to ride a bike on these roads. No potholes!
Picture
'Nuff said...
Picture
It's the bottle truck, but not much else on these roads....sweet!
Picture
Love the Caribbean colors!
The ferry from Caye Caulker was the bigger boat like we'd been on before and was packed with passengers who were coming from Belize City.  Poor Barry drew the short straw and was stuck sitting on the unpadded bench in the middle, as there were no more seats around the perimeter.  Thankfully this was the shorter leg of the trip. 
 
Since the ferry was 10 minutes late leaving Caye Caulker, we were cutting it very close to make the 4:30 pm northbound water taxi in San Pedro, and then the ticket clerk did not have change for a $50 BZD (equivalent to $25 US), so I had to charge the tickets.  We were the last people on the VERY crowded taxi boat (and the first off at the Grand Caribe dock), with full backpacks and our art work, so that was not very comfortable, and we were very happy to be back home.  Paisley was happy too, as she'd somehow gotten the door to her kennel closed behind her (and didn't realize she could just push it open, as it wasn't locked) so was "stuck" in there when we arrived after our day away.  Hopefully she hadn't been in there for too long without water, but she seemed no worse for the wear!
Picture
Waiting for the ferry back to San Pedro