Trip Start Apr 01, 2004
Trip End Apr 11, 2004

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Flag of Belize  ,
Tuesday, April 6, 2004

The ship arrived in Belize at 8am and our horseback riding excursion was scheduled to start at 9am. This would have been no problem, except that Belize is surrounded by a huge coral reef and therefor does not even provide a dock for cruise ships. They, understandably, want to preserve the gorgeous reef. So, this means that everyone on the ship had to get into a 50 person speedboat and go speeding across the waves to shore. Our tender time was at 10am. We spoke with the front desk and they got us on the 1st tender of the morning. The front desk was very helpful to us throughout the cruise.

The tender ride was pretty rough, fast and very hot, but we made it to shore safely and I was thankful. We got out of the tender and into an area that was obviously built just for tourists. We were supposed to meet our guide at a flagpole in the middle of a square by a bandstand. Well, we found the flagpole, the square and the bandstand, but no guide. We were a little early, so we just waited for awhile. This would have been fine, except it was 90+ degrees and 90+ humidity and were dressed and jeans and boots for horseback riding. Sweat. After awhile, I found a guide who took us to the little shack of an office, located next to lots of other little office shacks. It was then that we were told that they were waiting for another cruise guest to arrive from another cruise line. Then we were told that the excursion was going to be at 10:00, rather than at 9. We learned Caribbean time very quickly. The people watching was interesting, as tourists are sometimes the most amusing people there are. It was just so hot. Finally, the other passengers arrived and the guide was ready, so we headed out in a blissfully air-conditioned minivan.

Once we left the tourist area, I saw why there was such a thing. Belize city is very poor with a great deal of crime. I felt really awkward being the "rich" American tourist being driven through the city. There were a few nice houses, but they all had 7" brick walls with broken glass and barbed wire on top. Our tourguide said the lootings are common due to people's desperation. Outside of the city, conditions were no less poor, but it seemed like people had more options. Nearly every house had lots of fruit or nut trees, chickens and a few even had skinny looking cows. It was the beginning of Easter Holy Week, so all the kids were out of school, many just hanging out in the front of their wooden or cement, dirt floored, one room homes.

I had pictured Belize to be lush and green, but it was actually quite arid. We saw lots of palm trees and Florida type scrub, along with cashew nut trees, several different kinds of mango trees, coconuts and papayas. Everything looked like it could use a long gentle rain.

After about 90 minutes, we reached the Spa and Horseback riding place. It was very nice, with several pools, a restaurant and a little walk away, the Spa. It had a palm thatched roof, open sides and mahogany wood floors. Apparently they also have guest rooms for people to stay over night as well. After a quick trip to the bathroom, we walked over to the horses. We had ridden up with a Mom and her 9 year old son and a Minnatonka Minnesota Special Education teacher. Once we were there, we met up with 4 college students on spring break. The 9-year old, Michael, was going riding without Mom, so we promised we'd look after him.

The horses looked well taken care of and most of them were quite feisty and ready to go. Our trail guide spoke some English, but surprisingly gave absolutely no instruction to anyone and no helmets. This was another reminder that we're not in the U.S. My wife and I both helped out a few people who obviously hadn't ridden before. The Minnesota woman happened to get the one horse that really didn't feel like doing anything, so we hung back in the pack with her and let the others go ahead. Poor Michael freaked out about a 3rd of the way into the ride, but the guide was good and held onto Michael's horse for the rest of the ride. Michael felt very proud of himself at the end of the ride and told his mom he had a great time. We assured her that he did very well.

We started out crossing the savanna and saw Holler Monkeys and some odd, rather large birds. Then we headed into the jungle, which was very beautiful with huge palm and palmetto and lots of vines. The guide pointed out a snake, but thankfully neither I, or my horse saw it. My wife was behind me for most of the ride and amazingly enough, managed to take pictures and ride at the same time, even at a trot! We had a lovely ride for about an hour, which in the heat was just about enough. My horse had gotten quite excited about heading home and had a jolly time trying to run to the stable. We came to a understanding, which was "oh hell, who cares, I'm on vacation!" Of course, every time I'm on a horse, I just want to stay on, so I was bummed when it came time to dismount.

I stopped being disappointed when I realized that it was time for my aromatherapy massage! My wife was scheduled for one too, but changed her mind as it was so hot. She decided to relax and have lunch instead. She had water buffalo, which she says was quite good. She also ordered a frozen pineapple daiquiri for me, which was delivered at the start of my massage. That was fun.

The massage studio was of the same thatched roof construction as the rest of the place, except it had a sand floor to absorb the massage oil. My masseuse was a wonderful woman with great hands. After the massage, she brought me to a room with stone walls and floors and a big well in the center. She threw bucket after bucket of cold water on me to rinse the oils away. It felt so incredibly cooling and invigorating.

Then we all piled back into the van and were driven back into town. We hustled to the tender and got on just before it left to go back to the ship. It turned out that we didn't have to worry about time because lots of excursions were late getting back. Our very sunburned tablemates had gone Cave Tubing and their 6 hour excursion turned into 10. They had a good time, but apparently hadn't been informed that they would be walking through the jungle for an hour carrying their own inner tube.

I was starving after only having a liquid lunch and was very happy listening to everyone's day, while diving into my shrimp cocktail and red snapper. One couple at our table celebrated their 10 year anniversary that day, so the waitstaff and us sang Happy Anniversary to them and the ship provided a delicious, very chocolate, chocolate cake with a candle in it.

We went to see a great comedian that night,
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