Time moves really slowly in the jungle. If you sit down to breakfast at 10am (far too late by any adventurous standards, far too early by freelance writer standards), and you're done by 10:30am, you still have a good 10+ hours to kill before it's time to sleep again. So yeah, according to some, I may not have made "the most" of my time in Belize but my idea of a vacation is sitting in one spot in possibly nice weather and reading my book. Or several books.
According to Al, the owner/chef/designer/HBIC of our eco resort Macaw Jungle Lodge, (voted #1 by TripAdvisor people in 2012!), we needed to get out and do things. "See Belize!" I'd seen enough. I do things all the time. Vacation is not about doing things. Somehow my parents were persuaded to "do things".
After a nausea-inducing 2+ hour drive on the unpaved roads, we spent an afternoon at Xunantanich, a Mayan ruin I'd never heard of, so it was kind of cool to discover some undiscovered territory (Just like the Spanish!). That, and on the ferry (read: hand-cranked steel contraption) to cross the river into the ruin, I met neighbors from my block in Manhattan, so I felt slightly less out of my element.
The museum at Xunantanich (which actually kind of sounds like a lost part of Soviet Russia "zoo-naan-tan-eech", so yeah, I had an accent for about an hour there) hadn't been updated since 1996 (the year we climbed Chichén Itzá, and also the year Rent debuted on Broadway -- my kindergarten self didn't care), which pretty much summed up Belize. But who doesn't want to relive the 90s?
We climbed the various temples, took pictures of monkeys, and eventually headed back for a healthy lunch of Pringles, plantain chips, and other grocery store items (fun fact: most Belizean grocery stores are run by Chinese immigrants who were granted instant residency to run businesses here), which we ate in the comfort of a grocery store parking lot before trying to beat the sunset back to our jungle cabana.
After reading by flashlight for over an hour, there was still time to kill before dinner, and without Twitter or you know, technology, I was not happy. Dinner came and went, and after a few rounds of creaming my family at Bananagrams (Creative writing is a practical major!), 8pm marked looming hours of darkness with nothing to see or do. We couldn't leave if we wanted to. We couldn't order Seamless. There was a frog staring at me in the bathroom.
Yet another day (January 2) arrived with looming possibilities of adventure ahead of us.
While I was really content sitting on a bench reading my book all day, somehow we were pushed to leave the "lodge" and venture out to Río Frio (Cold River), which was an unthrilling proposition for me. Not only did all jungle drives take 2+ hours to travel a short distance, they were sickeningly bumpy, and no radio signal is available in the middle of nowhere. Also, dogs run across the street, somehow dodging cars but ugh, scary.
After ninety minutes of trudging through the mud, we decided to kill our plans to visit a place called Cold River (and also not risk our lives in a particularly soggy part of road), we turned around to visit director Francis Coppolla's jungle lodge, Blancaneaux.
Not "lodge" here people, this was a real resort! Pulling past the landing strip for private planes and helicopters into the property, which boasted an impressive organic vegetable garden for the hotel's restaurant, this was vacation. We explored the gorgeous property (a pull! huts with electricity! chairs with pads!) and sat down in the open-air dining room under the breeze of a fan from Apocalypse Now.
Lunch featured wood-oven pizza with imported Italian ingredients, and fresh salad and pasta dishes prepared with produce grown on site. Easily the best meal we had in Belize, rivaling many New York Italian restaurants. But alas, the run was setting in 2.5 hours, and we had to return to our "lodge" before dark.
On the way back, we stopped at Green Hills Butterfly Ranch, which is another one of those things I don't like, because bugs come flying at you and you're supposed to enjoy it because they're colorful.
Al prepared a coconut curry black snapper for dinner, no complaints, and we had coconut pie baked by Mennonite missionaries for dessert (there are so many of them in all of Belize!).
The next morning, we (read: not me) fixed the flat on our car, packed our bags, stopped at the Belize zoo, and headed for the tiny plane that took us to Ambergris Caye, where we enjoyed the beautiful week on the beach in San Pedro, which I won't write about, because polar vortex.