As a whole part of psychological education it needs to be remembered that a neurosis can be valuable; also that adjustment to a sick and insane environment is of itself not health but sickness and insanity. - James Agee

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Sat. Feb 11

We departed Calgary and made our way to Miami with no seat back entertainment the entire way. First world problems.

Waited an hour for the airport shuttle, and checked into our mediocre (at best) La Quinta. We watched Irno Chef Spinach Battle and stayed up until 3AM to discover that Bobby Flay won.

Sun. Feb 12
Woke up the next morning, and took the shuttle back to the airport and stood in an annnoyingly long security line at MIA. One security line for the entire concourse in economy, yet 2 for the first class passengers.

Arrived in Belize, jumped in a taxi (narrowly missing out on a chance to ride in a sweet station wagon). Took a water taxi over to Caye Caulker. Made our way to OASI and met Luciano and her 2 dogs, 2 cats. She recommended some restaurants and a local 'fish whisperer'.

Went for lunch at pizza caulker, and had 2 for 1 panty removers, and found out the owner was a Canadian who had found a woman in Belize, and had a kid on the way.

Then we rode our backs down to the 'split' where the island is split into two. Went to the grocery store and came back to our room, had a drink, Then we stepped out for dinner and stopped at Juni's (the fish whisperer) along the way. He told us to come back tomorrow for snorkel fitting.

For dinner we chose Habanero's, which we expected by the name to be Mexican and spicy, but it was neither. It was pretty good, but our most expensive meal by far, and didn't really seem worth the extra cost.

Came back to our room and played 'no thanks'. The cat, which we've named Caulker, came and joined us.

Mon. Feb 13

Woke up, and I made coffee for the first time in my entire life. I figured out where to put the water, the filter, and the coffee beans, but it still didn't turn out great. It did give me a great caffeine buzz though.

Took our bikes to grab some cinnamon rolls from Glenda's. Chris dropped her's in the sand, so I consoled her by giving her half of mine.

Then we went on a search to find some kayaks. Ended up renting some from the local rastafarians. We paddled out into the ocean and headed towards the split. The color of the water ranged from dark blue to aqua green, and it was a beautiful day.

At one point we kayaked over to an old dock in the middle of the water, tied up the kayaks and snorkled around. Chris practiced with her new snorkel gear and tried to get over her fear of fish.

We paddled along some more and into an inlet, with dark, murky water, where we learned later might be host to some crocodiles. The only wildlife we saw though was a large pelican diving for fish.

We tried to make it to the end of Caye Caulker, but it just kept going, so we eventually turned around. Paddling on the way home proved to be a bit more difficult, with stronger wind and currents.

Bicycled back to OASI, lazed around in the hammock, and went to get ingredients for chips and salsa. Also stopped at the bakery and bought some cinnamon bread. Made some drinks, some salsa, and played cards.

Then we went for dinner at Little Kitchen, a small local place with good food and reasonable prices. Chicken for me, and garlic shrimp for Chris.

After dinner we headed to Juni's again, to fit our snorkel gear. Then we went back to Pizza Caulker and had our 2 for 1 panty removers again.

Then we went to the I&I reggae bar for a drink. Tried to find a table with a swing, but there were none left. Offered drugs by a local who goes by Frosty.

Tues Feb 14

Headed off to meet Juni to go on our snorkling tour - while we were waiting for him, a passerby enquired - "are you going snorkling with Juni?" When we told him we were, he replied, "this is going to be the best snorkling tour of your life!" So needless to say we had some pretty high expectations!. We walked to Juni's sailboat (handbuilt by him alone), there were 7 of us all together. We climbed on board and Juni gave us strict instructions on where to sit. we headed out and it took just over an hour to arrive at our first snorkel location in Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

He achored the boat, pointed out a shark in the water and then told us to jump in! We got into the water and took a closer look at the shark along with a couple skates (basically look the same as stingrays, but without stingers) and a few jackfish - apparently had a "connection" with one of them and the others follow along out of curiousity - they sayed right with him the whole time we were in the water. He told us to follow him and off we went.

We saw a lot of different kinds of fish, some coral and at the end of it we came upon 3 more skates. Apparently,one of them has been coming to visit him for 30 years now to play! The skate came right up to us and at one point I laid on my back and it passed right over my body, including my face! Another girl in the water claimed that a fish tried to take off her bikini which caused some excitement.

We then jumped back on the boat again and we weren't even on it for 5 minutes and he told us jump back into the water. We saw 2 loggerhead turtles and a swarm of huge skates, there must have been at least a dozen of them!! We got to pet the turtles. We then climbed back on the boat, had a quick snack and made our way to the next location, Shark Ray alley. Here when we got into the water, we saw a big green eel, a turtle missing a leg (Juni named her Eileen, as in 'I lean', get it?), a couple of nurse sharks and lots of different kinds of fish - grouper, barracuda, jackfish. At one point it looked like the green eel was going to attack Chris but Juni rushed into save him.

There was some very neat looking coral including some that looked like giant brains, as well as fluorescent blue fish.

Came back to the hotel and picked up some salsa ingredients and made salsa for a snack again (this time with a habanero pepper). Went out to try and find Sandro's (an Italian restaurant for dinner). Along the way I crashed my bike into a cement barrier and did a bit of damage to it.

For Valentine's dinner we each had pasta. Rick and Jana met up with us and Jana ordered lobster, on the last day it would be available for the season. For dessert we had heart shaped watermelon and tiara misu.

Came back to the hotel and played some 31 and rested in the hammock for a bit, for our last night in island paradise.

Wed, Feb 15

Woke up and rode our bikes down to the Caye Caulker split to try and recreate our photos from the first day that I had accidentally deleted. Unfortunately this time the sign on the boat was obstructed by garbage and Chris was wearing the wrong dress.

Then we rode our bikes south of the hotel, towards the air field, and we checked out the south part of the island.

Back at the hotel I explained to Luciana that the handle bar on my bike had broken. She thanked me for letting her know.

Headed to the water taxi which took us back to Belize City. At the terminal, I looked for Eddie from the car rental agency but couldn't find him. It turned that was because his wife was there to pick us up instead, and she had been driving around to the 3 different water taxis in town. She drove us back to the airport, where we met Eddie, and picked up our vehicle. It was actually roomier than expected, with space for our luggage.

Jumped on to the highway, and made our way towards the Belize Zoo. Encountered a variety of different speed bumps along the way. At the zoo we saw spider and howler monkeys, a cougar, an ocelot, 2 jaguarundis, parrots, owls, hawks, eagles, tapirs, crocodiles, storks, vultures, coutamundis, and grisin.

Stopped in Belmopan for a bite to eat at the market (tacos, burritos) and also stopped at the grocery store to stock up on supplies for the jungle.

Headed towards M.E.T. which involved an 8 mile adventure up a dirt road with various potholes. Arrived at M.E.T. and checked in to our jungle hut. Our room had no electricity, the only light was from kerosene lamps. We met Brad, his wife Amy, and Aaron, and his mom Margarete.

Right off the bat we saw some great nature, including colorful toucans with yellow beaks. They made us a snack of chips and ceviche.

Meanwhile we played Memory, which consisted of 78 cards, and Chris won.

The chef in training, a local Belizean boy (Miner), made us dinner, which consisted of coconut rice, chicken, conch, and salad. Delicious. We had a fruit smoothie with some rum in it for dessert.

Went outside after dinner to look at the stars (so many!) as well as lightning bugs. Went to bed and found some more jungle nature right in our room, including a large spider. Blew out our candles and went to bed, with the sounds of the jungle seemingly right in our room.

Thu, Feb 16

Woke up and had fry jacks for breakfast, mmmmmm, with scrambled eggs, beans, and fresh canteloupe. The fruit in Belize is delicious.

Met Rigo and his son Alex, the local horse guides. They paired us up with our horses, Che (Chris), Lily (Chris), Fuego (Jana) and Buen Amigo (Rick).

The trail took us through the jungle and Rigo explained all sorts of things about the jungle along the way. There was the tourist tree (because it turns red and starts peeling), the poisonous tree (5 leaves) and the tree that always grows right across from it that cures the poison. The all spice tree, the incense tree, one that both makes soap and cures diarrhea, and the strangler tree.

At one point we came across a wide open field where we could all canter, and the second time we even hit gallop speed. It was painful for me at first, but once I learned to lean forward and put the pressure on my feet, it helped a lot. Chris's horse tried to kick Jana's horse.

We crossed some streams and at the halfway point we took a break by the river. Alex caught a crab. Then we headed home, and went for one more canter on the way back.

Had lunch back at the cantina, which consisted of chicken, rice, and beans. Chris had plantains.

After lunch we headed to Big Rock Falls. We had a crudely drawn map but it did the trick. Hiked down the hill, crossing the slippery rocks, and jumped into the water. Swam against the current up towards the falls. Had to make our way over some more slippery rocks to get into the pool where the falls cascaded into. Tried to swim up close to the falls but it proved impossible and very tiring with the strong current.

Took some pictures of ourselves modeling and jumping in front of the falls and then headed back. Along the way we stopped at Francis Ford Coppola's hotel,'Blancaneux Lodge'. Had a cocktail (sorrel daquiri) on the nice patio and continued on our way.

Came back and had dinner (Thai food) prepared by someone who had just immigrated from Thailand. She brought her dog Ka-pow. Played 'No Thanks' and 'Tribond'. Watched Dal the turtle try to escape from his cardboard box.

Called it night, and back in our room attempted to get the spider out of the inside of our mosquito netting.

Fri Feb 17

Woke up, had coffee for the 5th day in a row, and listened to nature. Had huevos rancheros for breakfast and then headed to the Green Hills Butterfly Farm. Inside the butterfly sanctuary we took pictures of all sorts of indigenous butterfly species, such as the owl eyed butterfly, the blue morpho, and ones with see-through wings (glass butterflies). Chris was a little afraid of the butterflies, and didn't like the large ones who's wings you could hear flapping as they flew towards her.

Then we came back and picked up Rick and Alex and dropped off Rick in San Ignacio. The rest of us continued on to Chechem-Ha.

Chechem-Ha is a cave filled with Mayan artifacts that a man named William discovered in 1989 by accident while trying to catch a giant rat-like animal for dinner. His dogs had chased it into a hole, so he tried to dig it out, and that eventually lead to the amazing discovery which he now occasionally leads tours of today.

The great part about it is that William is very passionate about the cave, and maintains it himself. He is also a great story teller and you really feel involved with the history while touring the cave with him. The cave is believed to have been used by the Mayans approximately 2300 years ago as part of religious ceremonies. There were 9 levels to the cave. At the final level, William turned off all our flashlights so we could experience the dark. He then joked that the first person to turn on their flashlight would be sacrificed. None of us were willing to 'cave' so he eventually sacrificed himself.

The hike back was exhausting, and we were starving on our return. William's wife had prepared lunch for us, and we ate our chicken, rice, and pasta while taking in the gorgeous views of the jungle valley.

We dropped Alex off in San Ignacio, where his girlfriend lived, and met up with Rick at Martha's Guesthouse. We went for dinner at Mr. Greedy's for $1 rum drinks and pizza, which were both tasty. Went back to the car, which was blocking a local trinket stand, and headed home. Along the way we drove through a town which was having some sort of festival, and completely blocking the only way through the town. We eventually had to off-road it over a parking barricade and just barely underneath the electric cord powering their music stage.

Came home and had a nightcap of wine while playing some cards and hanging out with Tigre, the property dog.

Sat Feb 18

Had papussas (stuffed with beans and cheese) for breakfast and then headed to San Ignacio to pick up Jana and Rick. Made our way to Xunantanech. Chris spotted a giant tarantula crossing the highway, you know it's a big spider when you can spot one crossing the road. We took the ferry across which is hand-cranked manually God knows how many times a day by one guy. Saw the ruins and climbed to the top of some.

Hiding behind one of the ruins we found some howler monkeys hanging out in the trees, including some baby ones. Climbed to the top of the El Castillo ruin, the tallest one at the site. It was peaceful and awe-inspiring for a short while, until the typical annoying, loud mouthed tourists found their way, complete with a child throwing rocks from the top.

Went for lunch back in San Ignacio at Ko-Ox Han-nah's, where the portions were large, tasty, and organic. Chris has never seen me get a doggy bag before, but she did on this day.

Headed to Hot Mama's to buy some hot sauce, and to the Orange gift shop. Then we tried to go to Barton Creek cave, and nearly made it only to chicken out at the river crossing. We reversed course and Jana asked a Mennonite if it was safe to take a vehicle across the river, and the Mennonite told her it surely was, as many made such a journey all the time. But we decided not to chance it with the rental vehicle and we likely wouldn't have made it in time for a canoe trip anyways.

Back to San Ignacio and picked up some beers, and more rum to take home. Went and sat by the river, a popular past-time for the locals. A ganja-smoking local (Francisco) came up and entertained us for a while with his stories of the area, his 'business plan', his work with local youths, and his blue-eyed son who he blasted with curses when he took to climbing a good 20 feet up the tree beside us. Jana thought it might all be a ruse for a donation, or a father-son pick-pocket attempt but that turned out to be unfounded.

Went for dinner at Flayva's, the #2 rated restaurant on TripAdvisor. We felt the gap between #1 (Hannah's) and #2 was pretty large. Or it might have just been the atmosphere, outdoors in the backyard at a picnic bench under fluorescent lighting with two loud guard dogs. Added a Belikin beer mug to my collection of mugs.

Headed back to MET and this time we weren't blocked by a street festival in San Antonio.

Sun Feb 19

Had scrambled eggs, beans and toast for breakfast. Continued with my coffee addiction for the week with another cup of coffee. Went for an early walk to try and find the toucans but could only find the parrots.

Started our 40 mile journey to Caracol. We weren't exactly looking forward to it, as 12 miles in on the rocky, bouldery, bouncy, dirt roads had felt like our limit. Our goal was to make it to Douglas de Silva ranger station by 9:30 AM to take part in the daily 'convoy to Caracol' (which is allegedly now just for break-down issues, instead of protection from Guatemalan banditos). But on this day there was to be no convoy, as their military truck was having maintenance issues. So instead it was a convoy of 2, ourselves and a couple from St. Louis.

Caracol is the largest Mayan site in Belize, and we learned that up to 35,000 structures are estimated to be buried there, in a city that used to contain 150,000 residents (nearly half the current population of the entire country). We climbed the tallest structure in Belize. The day was excruciatingly hot. Looked similar to Xunanetech, just more structures. Probably enough Mayan ruins for us for a while.

Drove back, checked out at the ranger station, and headed to the Rio Frio cave. Had a picnic lunch in front of it, and were very impressived by how massive the cave was. You could fly a 747 through it. The cave had a similarly large opening at the other end, and in the middle were some really neat rock formations and small waterfalls. Definitely a spectacular natural sight.

Next we went to Rio on Pools, a beautiful swimming area with a bunch of different pools, all of which have their own little waterfall in front of it. We swam from pool to pool, many of which had shallow areas you had to be careful of, or strong currents that tried to push you down into the next pool. At one point a gay German couple asked me to take some pics of them frolicing and posing in front of the falls.

Made it back home to MET, but our rental car seemed to be starting to have issues, the check oil light was coming on frequently. So we topped it up with some oil, and the problem was seemingly solved, but alas, it was only temporary.

Played some cards, made our own rum drinks, and a new guest (and his young daughter) arrived at MET, the first new arrivals in our entire time there. Chatted with the psychologist from upstate New York, had dinner (rice and curry). Tried to take some pictures of our bedroom to capture the low-lighting ambiance, but failed.

Mon Feb 20

Got up early again, to try and find the elusive toucans. I saw two fly in front of me, but that would be our only sighting. The 3 we saw the first day turned out to be a rare sighting.

Didn't have breakfast, but I got in my coffee fix, being a true addict now. Drove to Hopkins. The engine didn't seem to be running overly smoothly, but we did make it. Checked in, and our modest room had a beautiful view of the ocean and came with a local black & white cat, which we named Hopkin.

Rode our bikes into town and stopped by the wind-surfing school to see if we could take a lesson. Were told we could try, but the water was fairly choppy, and were told to perhaps try again in the morning. Went for lunch at Iris's Sunnyside-Up. And then went to the bakery, which turned out to be a woman baking out of a tiny little shack, not sure how she could stand the heat. A little girl beside the shack was playing with her new puppy, 'Sunshine'. In the shade we ate our fruit smoothies and muffins.

Came back to our room and relaxed, while enjoying the ocean view. Tried to coax Hopkin into our room, but he was still a little shy. Had a game of crib on our deck, with some more rum drinks. Adjusted to the slow pace of the place we were in.

Went for dinner at Driftwood Inn, which had some pretty good pizza, and rum drinks (panty rippers). Noted how unbusy the restaurant seemed to be, like everywhere else we went. Went back home and polished off the last of the 1 litre bottle of rum. Went to bed, and this time Hopkin was more than happy to come into our room, she had finally warmed up to us, and she sat at the foot of our bed all night.

Tue Feb 21

Woke up to a windy morning and even rougher seas, meaning windsurfing was not to be in the cards for us. Had breakfast at Jungle Jeanie's and went and sat on the beach. Read our books and packed up our bags. Added more oil to our car, and headed towards the airport.

Stopped for gas, and picked up more oil, as our vehicle seemed to be glugging it down quite quickly. Drove along, vehicle operating but something didn't seem quite right. It started making a bad noise, and 34 miles from the airport it stalled and died on us. We were able to coast into a driveway off the side of the road. Tried and tried to restart the vehicle without any luck.

Called the rental car company, and Eddie left to come get us. Doing the math, it seemed like by the time he got there, and got us back to the airport, we would be missing our flight home. Started to picture another night in Belize, but all of a sudden a vehicle stopped and asked if we needed any help. It turned out to be a couple that had been staying at the same hotel as us, and recognized my Canada shirt as I was standing beside our stranded vehicle. They offered us a ride to the airport and we gladly accepted. Met Eddie along the way and gave him the key. The couple turned out to be from Edmonton.

Caught our flight to Dallas, picked up our rental car and checked in at the Crowne Plaza hotel. It was late to go for dinner, so we Yelped out a place called City Tavern just a few blocks away from us. They turned out to have good food, good beers, and our bill came to an astonishngly cheap price of $22.

Wed Feb 22

Got up and went to the Mad Hatter for breakfast. Chris had a fritatta, and I had an omelette. This time our bill, with 2 drinks, came to $14. Started to wonder if Dallas was cheaper to live in than Central America.

Made our way to North Centre mall, so Chris could shop at Anthropologie and Nordstrom's where she bought a few things. I wandered around aimlessly like a zombie, as I usually do in malls.

Went to Whole Foods to buy some picnic supplies (bread, jalapeno-cilantro-pecan-pesto goat cheese, apples, cookies) and then headed to the Dallas Arboretum to walk around and have a picnic. The rest of Dallas was a blur of concrete and chain restaurants.

Went to the Central Market to buy our dinner for the plane.