December 31, 2013

new year's eve

we woke up to rain, rain, rain and after breakfast at the bar i choose to skip yoga since there's no instructor in sight.  we flag down a taxi and head to the airport to pick up a golf cart.  i don't want to be reliant on a taxi to get us home after midnight.  also, we can avoid a taxi to the airport tomorrow by taking the golf cart.  we didn't make a cart reservation and the first couple of golf cart rentals we go to are out of carts.  i ask some random girls on the street where we might get a cart and they point across the corner.  sure enough, that rental agency has one left.  it's the crappiest golf cart i've ever seen but it'll work.  we cruise around checking out the island and i think the northern part is the nicest.  we stop in at Aji and make a dinner reservation.  i huddle with some other travelers to see what's exciting for the night.  seems like everyone is heading downtown which is where we eventually end up.

December 30, 2013

pure joy on a reef

day three waking up on the island.  again i roll out of bed, into yoga clothes and head over to the bar to sign in for yoga.  i run into one of my neighbors and ask if she's interested in kayaking out to the reef.  she's in and we agree to meet after yoga.  Kirsten's back but to accommodate the yoga retreat group we have class on a smaller platform that crowds everyone but it's yoga and we make it work.  a guy from duluth, mn mentions after yoga he might kayak out to the reef and i invite him to join us.  safety in numbers.  

the three of us set out to get some kayaks and head out to the reef.  Andy at Maya House just down from Akbol has the right equipment for a trip out to the reef.  he gets us geared up and we drag the kayaks down to the water.  there is no request to leave a cc deposit, sign a waiver and no suggestion that we take pfds.  at the same time there is a dark cloud and rain heading right for us.  we step under a tree and the storm sweeps past in five minutes.  we can see more rain clouds heading our way but we decide to go out anyway and head in if it gets too rough.  

the paddle to the reef is magical, the water is so clear we can see the bottom, the silence is broken only by the sound of the water crashing against the reef and we feel the wind and some spray as the storms pass to the south of us.  then as if on que when we reach a buoy to tie up to the sky clears and the sun sparkles in the water.

the reef here is unspoiled and close to the surface so as we snorkel we are a part of the reef and not just hovering above.  there is no one else around and we snorkel, pull ourselves onto the kayaks for a rest, jump in when we get hot and repeat.  we'd left without a thought to sunscreen as it was overcast and i get pink quickly in the hot sun.  we reluctantly head back and find out we'd been gone for four hours.  total cost for this priceless experience was $10US.  it was my favorite time on the island and if i went back i would do this every day.

back at Akbol i get ready to head into San Pedro for laundry pick up but it's getting late so we decide to have dinner in town.  we eat at Elvi's or Elvis, i never figured out which it was, then head back to Akbol via the water taxi.

December 29, 2013

mexico rocks

another beautiful day on the island.  i roll out of bed, into some yoga clothes and head over to the bar.  the regularly scheduled time for the yoga class comes and goes without anyone commenting on it.  we can see the yoga retreat is using the dock platform and there's no Kirsten and no one seems to know what is going on.  a few deep breaths later, or however many breaths you take in 30 minutes, a guy named Scott shows up and says he'll be leading the class.  it's immediately evident that he has a very different style.  his mechanics are good but there is no flow into or out of postures and it makes for an awkward class.  

we'd signed up for an afternoon snorkel to Mexico Rocks and that too was running late.  so late that i was reluctant to go, soon it would be dusk and the water would be too flat to see much, but i went.  the highlight on that short trip was seeing spotted eagle rays and a lionfish.  it reaffirms for me that i'm just not the guided tour type of person.  i hope tomorrow to find someone who would like to kayak out to the reef and snorkel freestyle.

back at our room i chat up another neighbor who i ask for some dining recommendations.  she sends us down the beach to Aji which ends up being our favorite dining spot on the island.  the tables are on sand and scattered over the property providing an intimate dining experience. twinkling lights are wound through the trees and tables are placed in natural looking nooks created by the trees. the food, the wine selection and the staff are the best we found on the island. also, we aren't consumed by flies that covered the bar and table at Akbol. sometimes it's just the little things.....  

there are also casitas on the property which are small one bedroom houses but have kitchen, bath, a/c and rates similar to Akbol.  this is where i would recommend staying for the best value on Ambergis Caye.

we walk back along the beach and pop over to the Palapa Bar which is a bar at the end of a dock just a few properties down from where we are staying.  it's impossible to miss the Palapa Bar as it has a large, garish sign on the roof.  the bar itself seemed skanky but it was here i saw my first shark of the trip.  it was circling the end of the dock in quick circles and it was big.  at least six feet.  i watched for five minutes until it moved away from the dock.

December 28, 2013

yoga bliss

it's up and over to the dock for yoga.  i've been really looking forward to this and the yoga class is great - the location perfect.  Kirsten is a wonderful yoga instructor and easily leads a class of varying levels.  

just breathing the clean air is bliss but watching the fish and rays off the edge of the dock make it a extraordinary class.  next up, breakfast, then snorkeling!  Akbol gets good reviews for the breakfast food but they are out of some of the basics like orange juice.  i drove through orange groves two hours away so it's surprising they
don't have oranges for juice.  they have 4 - 6 staff working the breakfast bar and preparing food but it can take up to an hour to get food.  the beach bar serves as restaurant, bar and office.  my impression this morning is that the owners and staff seem overwhelmed by having guests.

it feels so good to have my naked feet in the sand and i snorkel around the dock where there are plenty of fish and I spot two large starfish.  i could spend hours in the water but i need to get my laundry into town.  i usually have easy to wash clothes with me so rinsing out in a sink is doable but the jungle clothes have a thick layer of clay in them and it will take a proper washing to get them clean.  

off to San Pedro we go, it's a two mile walk but we hitch a ride from a passing golf cart.  i find the laundry spot and they are quite busy so it'll be two days before i can pick them up.  being in town in daylight gives me a chance to see how much has changed in the 16 years since i was last here.  it's built up quite a bit but the biggest change seems to be the road that runs tip to tip on the island.  the golf carts make zipping about easier but the town is less pedestrian friendly and i spend most of my energy avoiding golf carts.  we stop in at Fido's for a snack and it feels more like a sports bar in the US then a beach bar in the tropics.  the food is good and after a few more errands around town we head back to Akbol.  

we hang out at our room which is clean and comfortable with great ventilation and beautiful folding doors across the front and semi private front porch area.  although small it's very charming but the proximity to the road makes it very noisy and i never sleep really well.  the golf carts run on the road all day and into the night when the bars close.  when we get back, i notice our towels are gone, thinking that odd i ask a passing staff member for clean towels.  the towels never showed up.  it took me several days to figure out they probably didn't have enough towels for all the rooms so it was hit or miss if you got one. 

i chat up the travelers in the next room over and find them delightful.  they give me tons of information about what they've done and where they've been on the island.  there was a yoga retreat arriving so the entire resort was booked out and the staff was over stressed.  they commiserate about the towel situation and give one of their towels to me.  :)  one guest commented that she was disappointed to find out there wasn't a hammock garden as advertised on the website.  

another way the maintenance and management fails is in keeping the shared bath clean.  every time i went to take a shower the soap caked shelf grossed me out.  the space needed to be cleaned more than once a day as the trash bins including the ones in the toilet stalls with used toilet tissue were always overflowing with rubbish.  just grossed me out.

last night as i was sleeping i felt a bite on my foot which i ignored.  when i woke up today my foot was quite swollen although there wasn't a visible bite mark.  i'm covered with quite a few bites at this point so it's just another addition to the jungle bites.

December 27, 2013

no tapir

today we are driving back across the Guatemala border across Belize to Belize City to catch a ferry out to the island.  not really interested in another substandard meal at the Jungle Lodge we grab coffee and head out.  we see a coatamundi playing and a strange tiny deer as we drive out of the park.  this area is called the petite jungle because all of the animals are smaller than counterparts found in other jungles.  as for the mysterious tapir, well we didn't see one.  given the amount of time we spent in the jungle in the dark it seems possible that we might have seen a jaguar but we didn't see one of those magnificent animals either.

it's 141 miles from Tikal to Belize City and we leave at 8:30 AM.  with a border crossing a few store stops and lunch we arrive at the ferry after 4:30PM.  i stop for some flip flops because the clay hill destroyed the pair i had.  we also find a car wash because the car is covered up to the windows with mud and clay which would surely be a flag to the rental car company.  

the border doesn't take too long but there is a line getting into Belize and i chat up an Australian couple who are touring Central America.  we lament the fact that border crossings are so unpredictable and you have to be on highest alert as the children and other hawkers crowd you. i give them a lift into the next town over which is San Ignaciao and we stop for lunch.  i buy some spices in the farmer's market and we find some Guatemalan coffee at the grocery store.  then drive on to Belize City to drop the car.  i will not miss it.  that damn alarm went off every single time i unlocked the car.  i did the driving on the mainland and was comfortable doing it.  i was glad to have the flexibility to stop and go as we pleased. it is not however, for the less adventurous traveler and most people acted surprised when i said i rented a car.

Belize City is exactly as described in all the forums and guides.  it's another place where as i do a mental risk assessment i'm sure i don't want to be.  it's heartbreaking to see the poverty and conditions that exist so close to the US. my hope for Belize is they can develop ecotourism in a sustainable way since they don't seem to have any other viable economy. 

we're taking the ferry out to Ambergis Caye and it's dark so that's disappointing and as we arrive in San Pedro the water taxi we need out to the resort is just pulling away from the dock.   i'm tired and cranky even though i celebrated getting rid of the car with a rum/juice cocktail on the ferry.  we get a snack as we wait for the next water taxi which leaves at 8:30.  it turns out to be our last chance to eat as when we arrive at our resort everything is completely dark.  we wander around shouting and eventually find the owners who's welcome is to tell us what a tough day they've had.  seriously, i've been traveling for 12 hours, doing all the stuff you just read about and i'm tired and cranky and they want me to empathize about their day?

Kirsten shows us to our room which has a lizard on the wall.  hey, it's the tropics and i expect bugs and reptiles to show up, it was the half-hearted way she attempted to get him out that was ridiculous.  her dog came in and chased it around the room for a while then it disappeared into a crack.  we never saw it again but we kept our bags zippered so we didn't take any extra critters home.  i like to pack super light when i'm traveling and because the website said they had laundry service onsite i expected to be able to get my jungle clothes washed.  so i ask Kirsten where i could drop my clothes in the morning to be told that wasn't an option.  it's late, dark and our hosts had a bad day.  i'm hoping it's all sunshine and rainbows in the morning but this stay isn't starting great. 

December 26, 2013

the grandaddy of all mayan ruins

it seems like we hardly even slept before our tour guide Roxy was knocking on our door at 4:30am.  it was starting to rain so we pulled on the rain gear and hiked about an hour to the far side of the ruins. it was really a hassle to get a hotel inside the park, but the closest accommodations are about an hour away which means don't even bother going to sleep if you are going to do the sunrise tour.  Roxy was a great guide and kept us awake until we got to Temple IV which we climbed to watch the sunrise. most people were respectful and quiet which allowed for an introspective moment as i contemplated about the uses of the temple that Roxy had explained to us.

the tour continues through the amazingly well excavated and reconstructed temples, pyramids, homes and markets that once held the Maya civilization.  it's impossible to cover the site in 5 hours or touch more than briefly on Maya history even for Roxy who is a fast talker and keeps us moving.  Mid morning as the tour ends she suggests we take a break at the hotel since the tour buses will be pouring in and come back later to explore more and catch the sunset.  and that's what we decide to do.  we see toucans and spider monkeys around the temples and the 'dew' falling from the trees as we hiked in earlier was from the monkeys in the trees above us as they were waking up.  just saying, glad i had an umbrella.

we stayed at the Jungle Lodge and if you don't need a shower or electricity and don't mind walls covered with mold this place will do.  i hate arriving after dark because it's so much harder to assess the accommodations but with the shorter days and distances we were covering it was difficult.  once i've opened my bag i'm reluctant to hunt up a new room or hotel.  i woke up one night and got up using my flashlight and there was a huge spider on the wall.  it must have been six inches across but it wasn't hairy so i thought probably not dangerous.  

after nap and lunch, we talk a server in giving us a bottle of wine and two wine glasses and plan to hike back in for a few hours of exploring before sunset.  then both of us hit a wall and can barely even move our feet.  we drag ourselves over to the espresso bar and hope that will do the trick.  slowly, slowly we make our way back to the Gran Plaza which is the center of the excavated ruins.

it's misting and a light rain but that just helps clear our the tourists faster.  we are adventure girls and we improvise an umbrella/sarong tent on top of the goddess temple across from the Jaguar temple and have some snacks white we wait for the sun to set.  we hike out in complete darkness.

before i left i tried to read up a bit about the maya civilizations but found all the books available were quite academic and didn't really bring the culture to life for me.  the Maya were a sophisticated, intellectual people and i'm sorry i wasn't able to do a deeper dive into the history of these amazing people.

i have to give a shout out to Lauren, an intrepid traveler, who provided tons of first hand advice on exploring the jungle and ruins.

December 25, 2013

christmas in belize AND guatemala

christmas morning was warm and clear and without a ton of traditional pomp but there were still a few gifts to open. i took myself down to the meadow for some meditation and yoga and found myself distracted by the beautiful flora and birds flying around.  i saw several toucans here which were spectacular and even a large [seven foot large] iguana. i pack up slowly and i am sad to leave but we must get across the Guatemala border today and being Christmas i'm not sure if there will be delays. 

i say goodbye to Vicki and thank her for the experiences.  this resort was designed to use resources sustainably, was well staffed and managed. again since we paid the high season rate it seemed overpriced but at regular rates this is a must stay for anyone visiting the ATM Caves.  I chose Pooks Hill because of the proximity to the cave – they typically have the earliest tour but it was the staff that made it a memorable place. 

it's the jungle and there are bugs of all kinds around.  from here on out i cover myself morning and night with bug juice. i used a deet free citronella spray which worked great for me and it started the daily ritual i remember so well from visiting the tropics.... the check to see what new bug bites you have and discuss in detail what could have been the source and all the potential deadly repercussions.  this is an important ritual and can not be avoided in the tropics.

it takes about 1.5 hours to get to the border although it's only about 20 miles away. The border crossing is a tad bit more complicated because we are taking over a rental car [very few rental agencies allow this and it requires additional paperwork] but we make it through quickly because there are no lines and head for Tikal. 

the first 15 miles of road in Guatemala is excellent, painted lines, shoulders, fresh asphalt and i'm jubilant.  then the road transitions abruptly to dirt.  another abrupt transition is language.  in Belize, english, in Guatemala, spanish.

on the Belize side of the border i wanted to visit Xunantunich but it was closed because the water level was too high for the hand cranked ferry across the river.  it was highly recommended to me and i was disappointed to miss it.  it's not the rainy season but there's been enough rain that some roads remain impassable.

Yaxha was the next significant ruin site on my list so when we hit the turn off i pull in. at the checkpoint the men tell me, as best i can understand, that the road is quite bad because of the rains.  this comes as no surprise to me since i'd been driving through potholes, mud, rocks, clay and other crap over the last two days.   i back out to leave but am reluctant to miss out on another site and i flag down a tourist van leaving to ask them about the road conditions. they say there will be no problem with our SUV so that's all the assurance i need. i wave as we pass the guys warning us of carreteras muy malo.  its 11 kilometers to the site and i figure i'll turn around if the road gets really hairy. i'm used to driving off road so i don't worry too much except the roads are quite rocky and the possibility of a flat tire is high. i haven't changed a tire in 20 years so i'm hoping that doesn't happen.   

eventually the road deteriorates and i pull over to assess a hill mired in the muddy clay.  i'm sure i can make it down but not confident i can make it back up the hill.  we are 3 km out and i really want to go.  i park on the side of the road and step into my boots to hike in.  i'm hoping someone will come through and give us a lift but the only other van we see is some guys who get out assess the situation and turn around and leave.

what follows is a peak life experience for me and proof that getting off the well worn path and putting up with a little bit of discomfort will be rewarded exponentially. it's uphill for 3 km. the original Yaxha site covers 92 square miles.  because of the carreteras muy malo there is no one there.  we wander around in the stillness which is erie and make our way to the tallest pyramid.  as we climb the pyramid i feel the spirit of the people who have been there before and for the effort i am rewarded with the most magnificent view above the canopy of the entire Yaxha complex.  

i sit in amazement imagining what it must have been like to build and live in such a place. then we break out the snacks and cocktails and watch the sun setting across the clear sky and water that surrounds us.  from the silence of the jungle comes a harsh, guttural sound. we debate it's origin but whatever it is, it sounds fierce and i don't want to come across it on our way out.  we laze around the top of the pyramid enjoying the solitude and watching the monkeys in the trees.

a while later a single visitor shows up and we leave her to enjoy the magnificent view.  as we wander out she catches up and we ask how she came in.  she came via taxi so we talk her taxi driver into giving us a ride back to the car [going rate for stranded girls = $1US per KM].

as we stand in the clearing surrounded by pyramids in the dusk the howler monkeys start to call to each other. we stand in the center of multiple groups who are highly vocal and dancing in the trees. for 10 minutes we  witness an amazing jungle ritual of which i have nothing to compare to.  it was loud and fierce and the monkeys were hyperactive.  afterwards we learned the monkeys were calling to each other to gather for the night.  

fast forward to the mega hill covered in wet clay mud,  the taxi doesn't make it up the hill but i can see our car from where we are stuck.  i thank the taxi driver and hike quickly up the hill. it's starting to get dark and i do a rapid risk assessment in my mind about two women on a dark, remote road in Guatemala stuck in the mud or with a flat tire and decide that could end very badly.   boots caked in clay i jump into the SUV, gingerly turn it around, then leave as quickly as possible.  it's another hour plus of driving in the dark to Tikal where we will stay for the next two nights.

tacky santa on the Guatemala border

yep.  that santa's singing the yellow rose of texas.
merry christmas

December 24, 2013

on the trail of mayan ritual sacrifice

we arrived in the dark and left in the dark which ended up being a pattern on this trip. we were up way to early for me but i did not want to miss the early tour of the cave. there was no remote unlock button for the car so when i unlocked the car manually the alarm would sound until i put the key into the ignition. this happened the whole trip and it drove me crazy that i couldn't figure it out. the car alarm wakes up the security guard as well as a huge shepard that comes bounding toward me. i'd parked the car in the gated area of the hotel because crime is such an issue everywhere in Belize. on my second trip to the car it started to downpour so i started running and the shepard now thinking i'm stealing stuff is nipping roughly on my heels.  great way to start the day.

it takes an hour to drive to Pooks Hill in the dark on a rocky, muddy side road and it's hard to spot the signs because they aren't lighted. Pooks Hill was fully booked the night before so we weren't able to stay there but they accommodated my request to join them for their early tour of the cave. at Pooks Hill we meet up with the rest of the group going to the ATM Cave and meet Vickie who is our host while staying at Pooks Hill. Vickie is everything a resort owner/host should be – she stands about 5 feet tall and clearly enjoys talking with the guests – which I am sure involves answering the same questions over and over. we were greeted by name and hustled into the van for the last bit to the trail head. i slide into the front and Vickie jumps into the driver seat. for the next twenty minutes we chat nonstop about all things Pooks Hill and Belize as she expertly navigates the large van through puddles, rivers and muddy hills. she is absolutely delightful. 

at the forest entrance we meet our guide, cover ourselves in bug spray and start the trek into the cave. it takes about 45 minutes and we are moving slowly.  there are three river crossings, the first is chest high in slow moving water with a sandy bottom, the next two crossings are thigh high but faster moving with rocky bottoms. there's an eight year old with our group and she does as good or better than the adults. at the entrance to the cave there's open sided thatched hut where you can leave anything restricted from the cave.

the entrance is a spectacular lagoon with clear water and as i face the cave there's a tingling that's excitement and anticipation and foreboding that i will be walking where for hundreds of years the Maya went for their sacrificial rituals.

there's a very short swim [about 30 feet] through the entrance to reach a ledge inside the cave where we check lights and little one scrambles after the guide fearlessly. as i watch her i know if she can make it so will i.

from the entrance it's ¾ of a mile walking, swimming and spider crawling though all size caverns that are incredibly beautiful. we are the first ones into the cave and our guide, Patrick, takes time to acclimate us to the dark and talk about the Mayan history and geology of the cave. we scramble up one last set of boulders and are inside the main sacrificial chamber. the chamber is as big as a football field and filled with artifacts. 

what makes this an amazing experience is to see the artifacts in the context of which they were used rather than sitting on a shelf in a museum. Patrick, who has some Mayan blood, brings a solemnity to the chamber that respects the artifacts that remain here.  up a ladder and into the farthest part of the chamber is the crystal maiden which is so well preserved by the calcification that it is spooky. 

for me the chamber felt like a reverential and holy place and the journey in was amazing.  for hundreds of years this was a journey made by the maya for their rituals and to see it the way they left it is an exceptional experience.  for days afterwards i had dreams about the monkey pot.

on the way out we passed group after group of incoming tours that lit up the cave and were noisy. i was glad to have taken the advice and spent the time to find the early tour as it added another layer to the experience.

back at the trail head Vicki is waiting for us and instead of riding the long way back she points out a trail that is the back way to Pooks Hill. with directions that in their entirety included, cross the river – go left – walk up through the meadow, we were sure to get lost and we did. not actually lost but we wandered on multiple trails through the jungle until we located the meadow. Vicki had radioed the resort that we were walking so one of the staff met us in the meadow to show us the last trail in and make sure there was a cup of coffee for us.

when i loaded the car in the morning i didn't realize the top of the rum bottle was left unsecured so we ended up with an empty bottle of rum and reeking car. i opened the windows to air the car out, went to explore around the resort and ended up in main lodge where there are hammocks, hummingbird feeders and the bar.  
there is also an excavated archaeological site in the middle of the resort which was once the home for a Mayan family. it has a great lawn and Vicki has a croquet set put up for the guests to use the afternoon we are there but a big tropical rain plowed through and sent us all running for the main lodge.  it was only after the rain i remembered the open windows on the car. ooops

the evening was fantastic with a social hour, where we met loads of fantastic travelers and had a wonderful time swapping adventure stories. dinner was served buffet style in a dinning hall and the food was okay – just not spectacular. the cabana we stayed in was spectacular - a round, traditional thatched roof building with solid screens to keep the bugs out and plenty of windows for ventilation - absolutely delightful. 

this was our first full day in Belize and already i had an incredible experience. there's really no way to be fully prepared to visit this cave and for me the adventure was so much more intense because of the unknown.  this is not a shabbily run tour, the guides were capable, well trained and certified to take tours into the cave.  i left feeling the country of Belize has done an excellent job of immaculately preserving and maintaining the integrity of this holy site for generations of visitors to come.

December 23, 2013

belize - a proper adventure

mostly a travel day. i woke up at 3AM to standby for an earlier flight since my layover was less than an hour and I didn't want to miss the last flight of the day to Belize.  i checked in and popped over to the gate of the earlier flight. they had a digital sign with standbys listed and there was my name next to 1]. i love United Airlines. i got on which turned out to be fortuitous because my original flight arrived in Texas after my Belize connection was gone. i connected with my friend from London who I had not seen for years.

we celebrated the beginning of the adventure with a glass of wine while we waited for our Belize flight.  as i passed through customs the officer asked how many bags i had and how long i was staying.  i indicated i was in for 10 days and motioned to my one backpack i had with me.  she asked if i'd brought enough clothes for 10 days.  i thought i'd packed alot, a bikini, mask & snorkel.  we picked up the rental which was an two wheel drive SUV. a patriot circa 2011 – i was to develop a hate-hate relationship with that SUV.

immediately we leave for the cayo district with the last half of the drive in the dark. i stop at a supermarket and get a few basics to get us through a few days but there's nothing fresh so it's chips and such.  there are however, fresh limes being hawked outside by some men.  i ask how much and at 10/1$BZ it's hard to resit that's US five cents each.  the men insist i should buy more and start listing all the ways limes can be used including in Belize the women use the then on their lady parts.  i didn't ask  them to elaborate.

it's hard to explain the road conditions in Belize. the major roads are two lane with no center line and no shoulder and lots of potholes. they use speed bumps and roundabouts but no stoplights outside of Belize City. several locals advised that accidents are common and alcohol is usually involved. toss all that together and i'm driving on highest alert.

we find our 'room' for the night. the orange guesthouse which i choose because it was close to the location we needed to be at 6:30AM the next morning. it was also a lonely planet pick which was a surprise because the room was really dingy. it is known for it's food so we waited to eat when we arrived around 7:30. seems like a reasonable hour to eat and we were hungry so we found a table only to be told they were done cooking even though there were two large tables of Mennonites who had not yet been served. we begged and used every bit of charm to convince the server to feed us and finally got cheese quesadillas and some salad. 

we paid high season rates everywhere and so while this room at $50 would have been appropriate the $90 was just too high. we fix a rum cocktail in the room and get ready for the early start tomorrow. 

December 22, 2013

why bank of america sucks

tomorrow i'm off on the adventure and i'm packed and ready to go. with all the air traffic delays i try to get out a day earlier and call United Airlines. just as I have the agent talked into rebooking me a day earlier at no extra charge she sees the flight was booked via Bank of America's travel agency and she's locked out from making any changes. 

i have to rant a minute here about BOA.  i had a BOA credit card with some reward points that i wanted to use for this trip but it was really a nightmare, from trying to book a flight online to spending hours on the phone with their customer service and finally even United Airlines couldn't change the reservation because it was made through BOA.  i will never again use BOA for any financial service.  their customer service sucks.

on the other hand earlier this year i picked up Chase's United Explorer Card and could not be more happy with the coverage they offer and their customer service.  i called Chase because while booking a rental the Belizean car agency was pushing their insurance coverage which was pricey.  Chase assured me i was covered and should decline the rental car coverage and provided me a number to call collect if the rental car agency had questions.  in addition the rep reminded me that using my card or all or even part of my travel reservations protects me on any travel interruption.  plus no foreign exchange charges.  that's the kinda company i want to do business with.

meanwhile my friend from London is hanging out in Texas waiting for me to get in for the flight to belize so i decide to get up extra early and standby on the first flight out since my schedule flight leaves no time for delays.  

December 19, 2013

swimsuit shopping in december

i put off for too long shopping for a new swimsuit for the central america trip. so now it's -3 F and i'm looking for just the right suit when most stores have long since stopped stocking suits.  still i persist in changing from jeans, snowboots and several top layers into a swimsuit at several stores.  here my final pick....  this has been an easy trip to prepare for and everything fits into my day pack for ease of travel.  swimwear for the island and some heavier clothes for the jungle.  bug spray and sunscreen and i'm good to go!  

i've done a ton of research for this trip looking at places to go and what to do and got some advice from someone who had been recently.  i was in belize 16 years ago but it was a dive trip and only stayed on one of the islands. this time i plan to spend some time in the jungle visiting mayan ruins and even jumping over to Guatemala for a couple of days.