Greetings from Belize!

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Hello From Belize!

Sorry the delay, the internet on our remote island 40 miles off the coast in the Caribbean has not been working until this evening.  Let’s get right to it:

Last time we checked in, we were transfering to beautiful Nosara in the Nicoya Peninsula to begin our service work and surf lessons.  After a relaxing 6 hour bus ride, we grabbed some lunch and fresh smoothies at the Beach Dog Cafe.  Once we had refueled our tanks, we headed over to the local grocery store for our first shopping experience.  The two cook crews, one being Will, Victoria and Grace, and the other Harold, Kai and Kiki, enthusiastically shopped for the meals they had planned out for the next three days.  Kiki was relentless in her pursuit for the perfect blend of spices for her crew, while Victoria raided the fruit aisle, making sure we were all eating well.  

Upon our completion, we got our first look at the amazing beach house at which we were staying.  It is named Casa Playa (beach house) and was within 100 yards of the ocean!  Once we were settled in, Gerardo, the leader of our service project, came to our house and introduced to us how we would be helping out over the next few days.  Our goal was to protect the newly planted seedlings from the Halloween Crabs that loved to feast on their trunks.  We protected their stalks by surrounding them with a plastic barrier we made from recycled water bottles.  Harold really took charge out in the field, making sure everyone had bottles to carry and protect the plants.

That evening, our surf instructors also came by the house, introducing themselves and making sure we were all stoked for our upcoming lessons!  After they left, Will, Victoria and Grace whipped up a delicious batch of enchiladas filled with chicken, cheese, and cilantro.  Following dinner, we fell asleep in our air conditioned rooms, preparing our bodies for the waves and our minds for the challenge.

The next morning, we woke up at 7:30 to begin our service project.  We stuffed ourselves with hash browns and eggs made by Harold, Kai and Kiki, and then headed out to the beach to begin protecting the seedlings.  After placing over 100 barriers around the plants, we returned to the Casa and changed into our suits for surfing.  

Our first lesson was focused on the basics.  Where to lay on the board, how to paddle, and how to stand up on the board.  Our guides Andrew and Oscar were great with all the kids.  Once we got the basics down, we headed for the ocean and boy was it fun!  Kai and Grace were real naturals, catching wave after wave.  After an hour and a half on lessons, we took a quick break for lunch, where the cook crew prepared grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.  After lunch, we went straight back to the water and continued with our lessons.  After the morning session, we could already see so much improvement from everyone.  Will and Victoria really got the hang of it, while Grace and Harold began to show off their own natural skills on the waves.

After a quick break at home, we returned to the beaches with Gerardo and covered up another 100 plants.  Exhausted from our long day, we returned to the beach house and feasted on homemade pizza!  It was fantastic, and everyone had more than enough.  Evening circle was a rousing game of psychiatrist, lead by Kiki.  Everyone took a turn being the “psychiatrist,” and was successful at diagnosing the groups “disorder.”  Everyone headed to bed after another long and fulfilling day.

The next morning we woke up at 5:30 to continue cutting up the plastic bottles for our morning service project.  We enjoyed a few stacks of pancakes and headed out with Gerardo at 7:00.  Once we ran out of bottles, we came back to the beach house and again prepared for our surf lessons.  This day we learned how to turn our boards and take on some bigger waves.  We again saw much improvement from the group as a whole, which was fun to watch.  We broke for a lunch of tacos in a bag, one of Will’s creations, and continued with our lessons and our final portion of service.  In total, we placed more than 600 barriers around the seedlings! Great work team!  That night, Diego, the photographer for the surf company, came by and delivered CDs to the kids of all the pictures he had taken of them.  He even got a bowl of fried rice cooked up by Grace, Victoria and Will; it seemed our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and had plenty to spare.

The following morning, we were on the bus by 9:00, headed to Rincon de Vieja.  Along the way, we stopped to do a little souvenir shopping and eat some PB&Js.  Upon our arrival at Hacienda Gauchipelia, we jumped right into an awesome zip line tour, which even included a little rock climbing!  Everyone was floored by the buffet provided to us for dinner, definitely a highlight for everyone after a few days of cooking for ourselves.  We even got to eat with our wonderful bus driver, Leo.  Evening circle consisted of scar stories, which was a hit.  The stories ranged from falling off logs to severed toes.

The next morning we got to sleep in until 8:00 and enjoyed another amazing spread laid out by the Hacienda staff.  After thoroughly stuffing ourselves, we rested until 11:00 when we headed down to the river for our tubing adventure.  Harold lead the pack down the river and everyone had a blast.  It was unlike anything most of us had experienced.  

Following our lunch, we drove to the magnificent hot springs, where we dipped into pools of varying temperatures and even plunged into some hot mud pools!  This was extremely soothing and relaxing.  Kai and Harold could have stayed for hours, it seemed, but after ample time in the pools we headed back to the Hacienda for dinner.  Dinner that night was a sit down, menu style dinner, featuring fish soup or salads for appetizers, steak, chicken or pasta for entrées, and caramel flan for dessert.  We followed dinner with a fun round of charades and called it an early night for our upcoming 4:30 wake up call.

The following morning, we rose before the sun and headed over to the cattle barn to watch some Costa Rican cowboys milk the cows, and to milk some ourselves! Will and Grace were the first to jump at the opportunity to learn how to milk the cows, followed by the rest of the group.  We then headed to another amazing breakfast before embarking on our journey around the volcano in the national park.  Lead by our tour guide, Steven, we saw two different types of boiling thermal pools and a bubbling mud pot.  We also took a quick hike to a pristine waterfall where Kiki and Kai couldn’t wait to jump in.  We headed back to the Hacienda to clean ourselves up before hopping back on  the bus and heading back to our home away from home, Casa Colon.  

The next day was a travel day for the group, as we headed off to Belize.  We awoke at 2:30 in order to be at the airport with plenty of time to spare for all eight of us to check our bags and get through security.  All plane flights went as planned, and we arrived in Belize at 11:30.  One of our guides for the next couple of days, Arran, was at the airport awaiting our arrival.  We hopped in his van and headed for the Mountain Equestrian Trail, Arran’s beautiful home where he lives with his wife and two daughters, and a boy on the way.  We dined on a lunch of rice and beans before our Mayan cave tour in canoes.  Giovani, our other guide, lead the canoes into the cave and taught the group about the ancient practices of the Mayans.  Following the cave tour, we all jumped off the rocks into the pools below.  Victoria and Kai were especially jazzed with this aspect of the tour.  We returned to M.E.T. and ate a hardy meal of Louisiana style gumbo.  We then settled into our rooms with amazing mattresses and bug nets, and immediately conked out.

The following morning, we headed out for more zip lining!  We took a hike to the start of the zip line, lead by Giovani, and learned about many different plants that the Mayans and current locals use for medicinal purposes, such as malaria medicine.  The zip lining was amazing, as we soared from one platform to the next.  After completing the tour, we feasted on burritos at M.E.T. and headed to town to observe ancient Mayan Temples and other ruins.  Giovani was extremely knowledgable regarding the Mayans and their practices, and was able to answer all of our questions.  We then headed into town and did a little shopping, visited the post office, and bought all the kids ice cream to celebrate the 4th of July!  Once we were all satisfied with our purchases, we headed back once again to M.E.T. and ate a filling dinner of lasagna.  For dessert, we were blown away by the pineapple flambé, and headed to bed to prepare for our upcoming cave kayaking expedition.

In the morning, we enjoyed one final breakfast at M.E.T., said goodbye to Arran’s family, and headed to the Hummingbird Haven where we would be staying that night.  We unloaded our things and hopped back in the van to the river where our inflatable kayaks were awaiting us.  Kiki and Harold, Kai and Grace, and Will and Victoria were all partners in their kayaks.  Lead by Giovani and Junior, we kayaked through seven miles of caves, stopping along the way for a delicious lunch of burritos followed by a little sun tanning and swimming.  We continued on the river for another two hours and, upon completion of the tour, were picked up by Arran and headed back to the Hummingbird Haven.  We all showered and changed into clean clothes and headed to Armenia, a small town in Belize where our guide, Giovani, grew up.  We ate at a local restaurant and played some soccer with a few of the local children.  We snuggled into our bunk house and shared scary stories, then talked about how excited we all were for heading out to Glover’s Atoll.  

The next morning, we ate a classic breakfast of beans and rice with bananas and papaya.  We vanned to the Golver’s dock and waited for the boat to arrive.  Upon it’s arrival, we loaded up and headed out 40 miles into the Caribbean to our island where we are currently situated, Glover’s Atoll.  We ate a dinner of fresh fish and rice and got a quick tour of the island from our dive instructor, Alison.  We situated ourselves in our cabanas hanging over the ocean and fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves.

Today, we awoke at 7:30 for breakfast at 8:00.  Kai, Kiki and Grace, as well as Mari, are already certified divers, so while Victoria, Will, Harold and Geoff were learning the do’s and don’t’s of SCUBA, the others snorkeled, sunbathed and SCUBA’d.

That’s all for now! Sorry again for the delay! Hard to believe the trip is coming to end, time sure flies! 

Your Leaders,

Mari and Geoff