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DAY 2

Yes, yes it can.

Life is heinously busy right now, so unless you want to wait several weeks, you’re not actually going to get the daily version. Sorry, that’s what happens when fecal matter hits the rotary propeller.

MONDAY

We did managed to dive on Monday at Turneffe North. It was a great day–incredibly bumpy on the ride there and back, but good diving. We saw turtles, two spotted eagle rays, some moray eels, and tons of fish. I really like these cute little fish called fairy basslets. Their front half is bright purple and their back half is bright yellow. There were also tons of parrotfish, and my all-time favorite, the squirrelfish. Good name, good fish. John and I made up our own symbol for these way back. It consists of making fists with your hands, and holding them in front of your eyes–squirrel fish have huuuugggge eyes, so to us, this makes sense.

It was a great day, and we had dinner at a place called Elvie’s Kitchen, where I had the best ever Shrimp and Lobster Skewer in chipotle bbq sauce. Ohmygod! I would have licked my plate if we hadn’t been in public, and that almost didn’t stop me.

TUESDAY

We headed out to the Blue Hole. John and I did this dive three years ago, and actually weren’t that impressed. I’d been describing it to people as an “atmospheric dive”, one you do for the ambianace of being in the Blue Hole, not to actually see wildlife. However, I was much, much more impressed this time. We took our lights so we could look at stuff while swimming around in the stalactites. One of the DMs had a pony bottle that he used to fill a hole in the ceiling. He then let John and James M breathe from the air, which they said was pretty neat. I wasn’t all that interested.

Instead, I was watching the reef sharks circling above. I counted six at one time while we were underwater, and there were at least 10-15 that showed up when we chummed the water post-dive. Two were radio tagged, which was pretty neat.

The only neat part of the dive? Sally decided she didn’t want to swim in the stalactites since it was “dark” (murky, people, is not the same thing as dark), so she LEFT. THE. GROUP. At 133 feet. The DMs were soooo pissed at her when we got back to the boat and found her there. I’m sure they were imagining that they’d lost her at 133 feet and would be blamed for it all. I would have been scared out of my mind! I noticed she was gone, in my good little DM way of constantly counting people (why can’t you turn off that part of your brain while fun diving??), but figured she’d had equalization problems and had gone up. Ah well, I apologized on her behalf, they talked sternly with her for awhile, and she giggled her way through the thing without showing any sign of recognizing how serious the situation was. GAH! AND she thinks she’s DM material. We heard that and immediately planned to talk to Greg about NOT incorporating her into our group in any way, shape or form!

Anyways, the Blue Hole turned out to be an awesome dive, and once again, no nitrogen narcosis. Apparently I’m a really cheap date.

That was followed a dive at Half Moon Caye Wall, which was spectacular. The site is a marine reserve, so John and I couldn’t dive with gloves, and I spent a large part of the dive worrying about losing my ring if it fell off. Then we saw a baracuda, and John and I mimed attracting it with our rings, as they like silvery flash things. Then, suddenly, it appeared just under me, and it was no longer a joke. So I spent the rest of the dive covering my ring with my other hand in order not to lose it, and the finger, to a hungry fish. We did see some southern sting rays, and a huge blue parrotfish. Good dive.

Lunch was on Half Moon Caye. Lunch with AdM is always rice and beans, stew chicken, potato salad, and coconut cream pie. It’s tasty up to a point. Some of those guys have been eating it 3-4 times a week for 13 years, and I’d bring sandwhiches if I were them.

After lunch, we got to hike out to the red-footed bobby colony on the end of the island. Frigate birds and red-footed boobies have a big nesting ground there, and it’s a protected sanctuary for them. Apparently, these red-footed boobies are only found here, and the blue-footed ones are only found in the Galapagos. So there were lots of jokes about seeing half the boobies in the world, or going to the Galapagos so you could claim you’d seen all the boobies in the world. Divers are not necessarily always mature, but they’re fun people!

The third dive was the Aquarium, which has to be one of my favorite dive sites ever. There’s just a ton of fish. It really is like diving in an aquarium. We also saw another spotted eagle ray, which was cool.

Dinner that night was at Fido’s, only this time at their Italian steakhouse part of the restaurant. Let me tell you, this is the ONLY place I’ve been disappointed with the food at on the island. Don’t bother. Stay downstairs in the other part of the restaurant. MUUUUUCH tastier.

WEDNESDAY

While we thought it might be hard to top the Blue Hole, sharks, and boobies with local diving, we were wrong. Our first site of the day was Tacklebox Canyons, so named as it sits on the reef directly out from the Tacklebox Restaurant and Bar. It has a ton of swim-throughs, which were lots of fun. I also found an arrow crab, which are these tiny spidery crabs with bring purple pinchers. They’re adorable! Or at least as adorable as a crustacean can be. The dive was fabulous–good viz, fun swimming, neat fish. Plus, we got to see and hold a nurse shark!

But the next dive at Esmerelda…hoooweee! Our DM, Tony, brought down a large PVC pipe that was capped on each end and had holes drilled in it. And filled with fish. Suddenly there were nurse sharks everywhere! We probably had 20-30 nurse sharks. We sat really fairly close and just watched them filter feed on the fish bits for a long while. There was also a moray eel that was living in the area, and he was pretty spooked by our presence, but he did come out and swim around looking for some fish tidibts. He swam right across the back of my legs at one point, which was a little close for comfort given that another DM, Alex, had only that morning shown me his scars from a moray bite. Anyways, good stuff.

Tony caught some of the sharks but tugging on their tails. They’re really fairly docile as sharks go, and you’d pretty much have to insert your hand into their mouth and foce their jaws up and down to get them to bite you. He flipped them over on their backs and gave them to us to hold, cradled like a baby, and let us pet their tummies. It was adorable. There’s some good pictures out there of me doing this. I took off my gloves to better feel them, and they’re very sandpapery. There were also lots of groupers around, some fairly big.

We spent the afternoon wandering town, buying souveniers and some opal and diamond earrings that I liked, a early anniversary gift from John. Love that boy! Then we went to say a brief “hi” to my mother-in-law and some family friends who had arranged to be in Belize the same time as us, but had just arrived from the inland part of their trip. *sigh*

After that it was off for the night dive at Hol Chan Marine park. Again, no gloves, but fun. I spent a good part of the diving showing small fish to a grouper and a red snapper that followed us. When we shined our light on the fish, they went into hung mode, so I pretty much played god with fish for a good thirty minutes or so. I didn’t feed anyone any squirrelfish, though! We saw a bunch of eels out hunting, but none had any luck around us. I also found another arrowcrab, as well as lots of hermit crabs and conch out for midnight strolls. Additionally, we saw lots of sleeping parrotfish in their potective bubbles. And some of the those fish can get BIG! Big enough to rival groupers, which are huge!

John and I also spent time feeding bloodworms to brain coral. Bloodworms are these disgusting little things that are attracted to light, and brain coral feed on them, so if you hold your light close to the brain coral, the bloodworms swim by, get paralyzed, and then explode in a little puff of red. It was pretty much a night of death, actually. But in a good way. Just not if you were a little fish.

We also discovered, at the end of the dive, that if we held the lights still long enough, first the bloodworms appeared, and then these green string-like things, and then finally these little translucent eel-like creatures. They had a small amount of red at their tail, and I think they were hunting the bloodworms. They were cool, but having to sit still with the bloodworms long enough was just gross. Fun times, though.

After the dive, my mother-in-law was nowhere to be found, so we ate at the hotel restaurant and called it a night.

THURSDAY

For our last long trip, we headed to Turneffe Elbow. I wasn’t sure how these guys would top the previous three days, but I did it myself by finding….a scorpion fish! Now these guys blend into the rocks and are impossible to find, but I somehow managed it. My brain just suddenly went, “That’s a fish!” And there he was! Of course, it was the one dive where James M DIDN’T bring his camera. Alisa had hers, but the batteries died. Plus, James M is a much better photographer, as Alisa tended to forget the first rule of photography: Be a diver first and be aware of the group and the reef. Plus, he just takes better pictures! *sigh* But the day was great, the Elbow was fun (but currenty), and Secret Place and Calabash wall were also good dives.

And then….we got to swim with dolphins! We’d seen a pod on the way to the Blue Hole, but on our last dive here, at Calabash Wall, while hanging at 15ft to do our safety stop, we suddenly heard/saw the boat go by. And there, following it and playing in the wake, were three dolphins. They clicked and squeaked and swam around us for several minutes. It was AMAZING! Excellent, excellent experience!

Dinner that night was at Fido’s again, but this time in the downstairs part. We met up with my mother-in-law and some family friends and sat around talking until waaaay too late. I tried to hustle people to dinner, but by the time we made it to Fido’s, there was live music going on. So the food was tasty, but the talking was pretty much nonexistant. John was disappointed, but I really didn’t mind the situation!

FRIDAY

Okay, so you top great diving with the Blue Hole and boobies, and top that with a shark feeding/holding plus a fun night dive, and top that with a scorpion fish and dolphins. So what do you top a scorpion fish and dolphins with?

Well, 10 spotted eagle rays would do the trick!

We dove Eagle Ray Canyons and Pillar Coral Canyons on Friday morning. On the first dive, we saw 10 spotted eagle rays throughout the dive, with 4 spotted at once. It was so cool! Also, Tony brought more fish and fed some groupers that appeared. One of them, a biggie, actually chomped on another grouper to get it to move out of the way. He went after the gills, and the smaller one gave up the fight and swam off. I heard the chomp, and when it occurred to me that gloveless fingers look like small fish to big groupers, I kept my hands to myself for awhile! (We were diving in the Hol Chan marine park again, so no gloves!)

It was a fun dive, and the last one was also pretty darn good. We had a turtle with a remora as well as some more spotted eagle rays.

Then it was back to town to buy any last souvenirs and to poke around one last time. For dinner, we went back to Elvie’s Kitchen to sample their big Friday night Maya BBQ. Apparently I would not have made a good Mayan, but the shrimp quesadillas and fresh handmade tortillas were excellent!

SATURDAY

We got up at 6:30 to see of the mother-in-law, and then never went back to sleep. Trying to get 22 people and their luggage back to the airport was a bit of a hassle, but we managed, and all luggage arrived from San Pedro to Belize City…eventually. The claim tickets say your luggage is not late if it is not on your plane–it’s only late if it’s been more than 24 hours. Caribbean time, man!

The flight to Miami was fine, but lightening prevented us from landing right away. And then getting our bags at customs took FOR-EV-ER! I actually got my bag as my next plane was supposed to take off. We had to go through screening cause the customs guy didn’t like that we had so much baggage for only one week of travel. Ah well.

And now, I’d like to just take this time to say that (a) the Miami airport doesn’t not do well in the signage department. We had no idea where we were supposed to go to recheck bags and whatnot. While running at top speed so as to make our hopefully-delayed flight. And (b), while I really like American, their Miami people are incredibly not helpful and really fairly rude. When I ask where to go while panting and pulling two bags and two carry-ons, and you point in a vague direction and say over there, it doesn’t! really! help! But we got through, and took off at a dead run, towing James M, for the gate. Which was, of course, down a very long concourse.

Long run short, we made it there, but had to get a gate agent to unseal the doors for us. And thankfully, 13 of our group was already on the plane. And we sat there for another 45 minutes, which meant I could have stopped for dinner. But sadly, hindsight and all. The remaining 6 never showed up–they had a guy that wasn’t feeling well, so they decided not to make a run for it.

Thankfully, the people on the plane were nicer than those in the airport, and the divided up the food and snacks on board so everyone could have something to eat, and the didn’t charge for it. Plus, they showed “Music and Lyrics”, which is actually a really cute movie.

Of course, the situation wasn’t helped by Sally, who, in her infinite wisdom and lovely personal skill showoffness, marched up to the flight attendants and INFORMED them that that they had 22 people on board who hadn’t eaten since 10am (not true, most of us had lunch in Belize City) and they better get food and drinks on this plane to feed us all! If I’d been the flight attendant, I would have told her I’d serve her a beverage once we were in the air. Luckily, the flight attendants were nicer than me, and actually served us drinks before we left. But still! How rude can you be?!?!?

Not only that, but at several points throughout the trip I caught her doing things like counting the change from the waiter IN FRONT OF THE WAITER! Really, it’s no wonder this girl is single in her late thirties. James M, who might have been interested, swore off after just one day of traveling with her. HA!

SUNDAY

Anyways, we made it to SFO. Wait, wasn’t this trip supposed to end Saturday? Well, no luck, as we got in late. And, thanks to the ground folks at Miami, who’d had an hour between when we’d checked our bags and when the plane had taken off, we had NO DIVE GEAR AND NO CLOTHES! OR RUM! OR HOT SAUCE! So we fiddled around the airport until 2am filing claims and all.

Funny enough, there were 8 of us who’d come in on shuttle, and Sally took off right away. The remaining 4 waited for the three of us who needed bags. Good to see the good folks banding together.

But we made it home and collapsed in bed, and that was that.

One piece of luggage, my dive gear, arrived Sunday night, and the rest arrived late Monday afternoon.

And that, folks, is the end of the saga. I’m a little Belized-out at this point, but it was a fabulous trip! And other than some people who shall go unnamed (Sally), we had a GREAT group to travel and dive with!

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Day 1

And then the phone rang.

It’s from the dive shop, Amigos del Mar, and they’re cancelling diving for the day.

Why, you ask?

Well, the strong winds that make boat flip-overs a risk is a good place to begin.

So at 7am, we have to go around to all the rooms and let people know that the dive trip that they’ve paid good money for won’t happen. Always an auspicious sign. People were fairly calm about it, and accepted our positive spin of, “Now you can relax and have a day to enjoy, and we’ll make up for the diving later this week when it will be better visibility and whatnot without the wind.”

Meanwhile, my brain is setting off all kinds of alarms, going, “Danger!! Danger Will Robinson!!” As you can imagine, I spent most of the day watching the trees whip back and forth and hopingprayingdreaming that the wind would die down enough that we would actually be able to dive on our dive trip!!

So we enjoyed a leisurly breakfast–there’s really no other kind in the Caribbean. Heard of Caribbean time? It’s true. Nothing is rushed. Ever. For anything.

Then the AdM folks came and boated us into town to figure out the diving. The owner, Gilmar, who’s a great guy, was cautiously opptimistic about diving the rest of the week. He figured the wind would start to die down, and diving on the outer atolls would be possible the next day and the day after that–the diving at those sites is generally on the leeward side of the reefs, so much more protected. And by the fourth day, we would likely be able to dive locally.

So, in exchange for two days of two-tank local diving (i.e. $60×2), he upgraded us to dive Turneffe North (i.e. $160). Sweet deal all around. He saved us as customers by being positive and gracious and accomodating, we saved face with our travellers by promising them great diving to make up for the lack of diving that day, and our travellers would get three great dives for the price of four good dives.

Alisa, James M, John and I, as well as Sally, a diver who ended up being Alisa’s roommate, then wandered around San Pedro awhile. We visited one of the Toucan shops (if you ever go, they’re touristy little shops that sell just about everything you could dream of in the chintzy category, but they have lots of cool tshirts), had some ice cream, walked by the closed rum and cigar shop, and finally had lunch at a little place called Fido’s.

Yes, I know, you probably shouldn’t expect much from a place named after the family pet.

But it’s pronounced Fee-doze, according to the tshirts of the wait staff, and ohmygod was the food good. I had shrimp roasted in garlic, butter, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, with a side of foccacia. Let me tell you, people, I have had (and made) some tasty foccacia in my day, and this beat them all. And the shrimp was even better.

John had lobster rangoon–lobster season opened a week before we got there–and it was almost as tasty as the shrimp. If it hadn’t been for the lure of the pool at the hotel, I’d still be sitting there eating.

But we did leave eventually, and the nice folks at AdM boated us back to BBR. Then we spent the afternoon lounging in one or the other of the two pools. The bigger pool had a couple of screaming, splashing kids, and in order to not commit murder in front of their grandparents or witness one of them split their head open when they fell on tile while running and thus be compelled to perform rescues, we adjourned to the smaller but quieter pool. This one has a waterfall, which is fun, but no lounge chairs. Alisa made a big production (throughout the week) of reading a bunch of the D.A.N. material for various diving safety courses, but the rest of us were officially on vacation and didn’t care. So an afternoon of fun and sun and water it was.

Eventually we retired to shower and nap, given that most of us were still sleep deprived. Then it was off to town again for dinner, the five of us, plus two other travellers. This time, we went to Caramba, a tasty Mexican-ish joint that lured us in with the promise of free conche ceviche appetizers, and then when we hemmed and hawed, offered free rum punch to all on top of that. So John was a pretty happy guy after having his, mine, and Alisa’s drink.

The ceviche was great, a little spicy, but amazingly good. And I had some of the best shrimp fajitas EVER. And they were beat, hands down, by John’s lobster fajitas. Ohmygod! Then it was off to DandE’s next door for “The best ice cream on the planet.”

Now, I know there’s a certain amount of liberty taken in advertising, but SERIOUSLY!! Best ice cream, or actually custard ice cream, EVER! I had an Oreo Cookie mini sundae, which came in a cute little dish with tasty hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry.

One day in and this vacation is doing horrible things to my diet. Ah well.

Then it was back to the hotel to set the alarm in order to be ready to go at 7:30 the next morning. And to send up happy calm thoughts, this time to the wind gods, that it would be a nice and diveable day. And to sleep with ever available body appendage crossed.

Day 3

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