Belize Vacation Sweepstakes (Essay#52)

My 1993 introduction to Belize was an unceremoneous one. My husband (at the time) and I wanted to go to Costa Rica, but couldn’t afford it. I did some research and discovered a small country in central America that had much of what we were looking to see in CR – rainforest, wildlife, adventure, ocean – but was even closer and affordable to us. COOL! Let’s go!

I will never, ever forget the flight in. Goldson was a lot smaller then, with (i think) only one runway. I could feel we were approaching for landing. The fog was very thick as we approached Belize City. I couldn’t see anything out of the plane window but fog  – and then suddenly, *GASP* we were only 20 feet from the ground. At age 29, I think I nearly had a stroke. But the plane swooped up and around, and soon I could feel us approaching again. i guess morbid curiosity made me look out the window. Nothing, nothing, nothing…..then OMG there was the ground again!!  my fingers white from clenching the seat, I felt the plane go up once again, watched as it swung around the Maya Mountains for a third pass, and next thing we knew we were taxiing down the runway. EVERYONE broke out into a round of loud applause for the pilot. Welcome to Belize. J

The trip was incredible. Driving cross country on the Western Highway was our first look at everything – the people, the vegetation, the roads, the foods, and the Maya Mountains (from the ground this time). I remember taping the drive with our friend’s borrowed video camera while my mouth gaped open the whole drive.  (I still have that 1993 tape!) After two days at the San Ignacio Hotel checking out town, Cahal Pech & Xunantunich we thought we were sooo cool by staying 5 more days at Banana Bank Ranch. I had never stayed anywhere with no electricity before, with only keroscene lamps – or a place with screens instead of walls – AND, we were the ONLY guests with the place to ourselves. We both thought that overhead-pulley-system boat to the lodge was absolutely the raddest!!! Back then, they still had the original Tikal the jaguar, a spider & a howler monkey, a pair of macaws and a picary named Juanita. I was enchanted! Xunantunich, Blue Hole, Rio Frio Cave & pools at Rio Un, 1000 Foot Falls, horseback ride throught the jungle with machetes – WOW!! …then off to Ramon’s in San Pedro for 3 days of sun & sea. That was all it took-  Belize was now under my skin and in my blood. I knew I had return someday. What I didn’t know is that I would return more than a dozen more times.

In 2002, long overdue, we returned with our two young children and our close friend Todd. Todd had never traveled anywhere before and had just been diagnosed with cancer. I felt they all needed see the rain forest before it disappeared., so I contacted Barb at Barb’s Belize and she helped make that a reality.We enquired into staying at Chaa Creek Lodge, but couldn’t afford it unless we did the camp. Not me with two little kids and a sick friend, so I booked the casita at DuPlooy’s for the 5 of us. Because it looked so nice and pretty, I still wanted to see Chaa Creek, so we canoed up from DuPlooy’s for a day. We saw the butterfly farm & had a wonderful lunch – I remember the limeade was soooo good. Chaa Creek is really lovely – a first rate and first class lodge.

After 5 fun-filled days in San Pedro, it was time again to say farewell to Belize. I never say goodbye to her, because I know I’ll be back. It was another terrific trip taking and I accomplished my goal of having our kids & Todd see all those cool places we had talked about. Five years later, at age 45, Todd passed from cancer that he carried, but I know he felt blessed that he got an opportunity to see Belize before he did.

After two more trips to only SP, my 20 year marriage passed away too. But when that door closed another opened, and I soon met the love of my life. Still, I sorely missed Belize. Bruce & I traveled elsewhere, but Belize was the bar I had set so many years ago, and no place else was Belize. I wonderered if I could I take my new man to My Special Place? But, I had many memories with my ex? Someone asked me why would I not go to somewhere I loved just because of some jerk, and they had a very good point. So in February ’07, I took Bruce to Belize. He was hooked too.

We returned just four months later – this time to be married – with our now pre-teen kids in tow. I again looked into staying at the cottages at Chaa Creek, but we had even less money now than before (even with my mom’s help), and there was no way we coud afford it. So, we booked DuPlooy’s again. We visited those same places I love, and some places new to me, making new and better memories. For our last day in Cayo, our ex-pat friend Chris and his family joined us for a fantastic day in Mountain Pine Ridge, seeing all the sights and culminating in an amazing swim and picnic at Five Sisters Falls. Then a drive to Placencia for the wedding ceremony and 3 days R&R, and then back home. None of us willl ever, ever forget this most amazing trip.

Since then, we’ve flown in to meet up with friends in San Pedro, but we both sorely miss Cayo. I fear it may be a loooong time before I see her again. The economic downturn zapped us, and I feel it’s unlikely we can return for at least several years.

I entered this contest because I have wanted to stay in Chaa Creek’s cottages for eight years now – EIGHT YEARS!!! But it will likely never be in my financial reach. I want to bring my friends I meet in SP to see Cayo – they never have been – but we can’t afford it. So we suffice to tell them stories of the things we saw and did, show them our 500 photographs, and all say “maybe someday”… but know that is just a dream.

Please, please help us return to our beloved Cayo.

Muchas Gracias.

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