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Author: Lessons In Belize

One week later……Hurricane Who???

One week later……Hurricane Who???

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One week ago,  Hurricane Earl landed a direct on the eastern side of Ambergris Caye, destroying or heavily damaging nearly 90% of all the docks.  Although this little island community was devastated, there are great signs that things are improving and trying to get back to some sense of normalcy.  Most of the companies have moved to the back docks on the lagoon side and have started rebooking fishing trips, snorkeling tours and party catamaran cruises.        www.islanddreamtours.com          20160813_130546[1]

Having been invited by some friends in our condo unit to go on the party catamaran cruise, we decided it sounded like a great idea.  We weren’t sure what to expect, as we had yet to try this particular tour company.  The small group of 17 allowed for a great day, plenty of space to move around freely or just sit back and enjoy the breathtaking views.

We cruised along the northern edge of the island, passing the “secret beach” to a secluded sandbar where we docked for a couple hours.  Anyone who lives on the island, as well as most tourists have found and frequently visit the “secret beach”, making it much less of a “secret” and more of a “must do” while on the island. The clear and shallow water provides a wonderful atmosphere for a lazy beach day.

Life is Good!
Life is Good!

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The trip included continental breakfast of fruit, muffins and juice.  A full lunch of chicken and ribs as well as chips and shrimp ceviche on the return ride back to town….and yes, open bar!   The staff of four definitely catered to our small group of seventeen,  always filling drink cups and ensuring you were enjoying your day.20160813_120809[1]

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For a wonderful daytrip while on Ambergris….this is without a doubt a great choice.  The food was great, the drinks flowed and the water was crystal clear!

Check them out on Facebook  and Trip Advisor……islanddreamtours.com

Ranguana Caye…….Best Day Ever!!! | placencia day trips

Ranguana Caye…….Best Day Ever!!! | placencia day trips

Everyone in Placencia had told us about taking the day trip to Ranguana Caye.  A “must do” while in Placencia.   Ranguana Caye is a private island located about an hour from the downtown Placencia pier.   A great daytrip for snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding or just relaxing in the beach hammocks.  Lunch is provided in the fee and Billys Beach Bar provides cocktails and beer at an additional charge.

Raguana caye, placencia belize, day trips
Ranguana Caye, Placencia Belize

Only taking a small group from the village each day, you ensure the privacy and comfort of having the island to your own small group.  We  had approximately 13 in our group an were very comfortable in the boat ride to the island, as well being able to enjoy all the activities on the island.

ranguana caye beach day
Lunch is provided under the shaded palms

The guides did a great job explaining the options once we arrived on the island, as well as assisting the groups for snorkeling trips.  We were taken in two small groups to snorkel and the guides were so helpful in not only guiding us through the reef, but pointing out all the unique coral and fish.

Ranguana Caye, Placencia Belize
Ranguana Caye, Placencia Belize

We all enjoyed the lunch of chicken, rice, beans and cole slaw under the shaded palms of the small island.  Having the bar on the island allowed you to enjoy beer and cocktails throughout the day for a small additional charge.

Ranguana Caye, Billys Beach Bar
Billys Beach Bar, Ranguana Caye

We noticed areas on the beach, as well as up near the bar area where signs were posted for turtle nests and areas were sectioned off to protect the nests.  The guides explained how each nest was posted with a date fro approximate time of hatching.  Having seen the turtles come ashore on the beach at night, they were able to mark the nest to protect them until they hatched.

turtle nest, rang
Ranguana Caye, turtle nest,

Unsure of what to expect on the trip, we were very pleasantly surprised at the beauty and peacefulness of this small island.  The workers went above and beyond to make us feel comfortable and enjoy our day on the island. After snorkeling, we were able to use the kayaks and paddleboards, play volleyball or just relax in the white sand beaches of this small piece of paradise.

Beaches at Ranguana Caye
Beaches at Ranguana Caye

Two people from our group decided to stay on the island for the evening in the beach cottages that can be rented for an extended stay. Check out prices and details of the island and cottage rentals on facebook and ranguanacaye.com

Cottages Ranguana Caye
Cottages Ranguana Caye

From our experience, we would definitely recommend ranguana caye to everyone visiting the Placencia area.  The beauty of the island, the options for a day of beach fun and the friendliness of the staff makes for a nearly perfect day in the Placencia area.

Perfect day on Ranguana Caye!
Perfect day on Ranguana Caye!

Good bye from Ranguana Caye!

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Good bye from Ranguana Caye!!
Trips can be booked online, or at their local office on main street near the Placencia pier.

Ranguana Tropical Island Experience on Trip Advisor!

www.ranguanacaye.com

 

Hurricane Earl was not as nice to San Pedro ! | hurricane earl

Hurricane Earl was not as nice to San Pedro ! | hurricane earl

After the storm passed through Placencia, we heard that San Pedro on Ambergris Caye was heavily damaged by the fury of Hurricane Earl. Having been in Placencia when the storm hit, we were without electricity, making it difficult to get an accurate take on how the rest of the country had weathered the storm. I fly from Placencia, with stops in Dangriga, Belize City, and Caye Caulker, before arriving in San Pedro.  The island of Caye Caulker; a smaller and less populated island near Ambergris Caye also suffered damage to their docks and dive shops.  20160805_184052[1]After landing in San Pedro, it was devestating to see the damage that Earl had left behind.  The expansive docks that lined the east side of the island we’re either completely obliterated, or severely damaged.  Beach bars, dive shops, and spa companies were reduced to rubble that were scattered up and down the beach.  The hardest hit area seems to be the beaches near the center of town.  Palapa Bar, which recently relocated closer to the town center is completely gone.  Ramons Dive shop, docks and beach decking was reduced to rubble and now sits in front of the resort.20160805_184838[1]20160805_191025[1]20160805_192401After arriving last night, it was obvious many people evacuated the island when news warned of the severity of the upcoming storm.  The ones who weathered the storm were starting the process of removing debris and cleaning beaches.  As devastating as this seems, we were amazed at the resilience of the Belizean people.  The attitude of “no worries, we’ll rebuild” was overheard several times as we walked along the beach into town.   Yes, there is major damage, but the little island will recover.

Palapa BAr after hurricane Earl
Destruction to Palapa Bar

Although people were out and about last night, there was a sense of sadness and a feeling that maybe Earl has done irreparable damage.  Will there  be the  same hustle and bustle, traffic jams of golf carts and bicycles along the streets?  People stopping in the local markets, fruit stands and beach bars, just to hang out or say Hi to the neighbor you haven’t seen since your last trip to the island?   The devastation was making me wonder as we walked home last night.

I awoke this morning to the rumble of golf carts heading into town. It was amazing!  I could smell the corner BBQ as he heated up the grill for his weekend BBQ specials.  We took our bikes into town along the stretch of beach that suffered the most damage.  Groups of people were working on docks.  Trucks filled with limbs and debris were over flowing and headed out of town.  Golf cart were filling the streets, bikes were darting down the narrow streets of town and the smell of the infamous “Bakers” cinnamon rolls were a good sign that this little island is coming back!

Along with the devastation we saw yesterday…..these sights were breathtaking as they too are shots from the beaches of Ambergris Caye…just two short days after Hurricane Earl.

 

 

Belize Beaches

Goodbye Earl !

Goodbye Earl !

Placencia was Blessed!
After a very rough night, windows boarded up, rain pounding for hours, hurricane Earl turned north where the full force seemed to have hit near Belize City and northern regions of the country.  Preparations were made throughout the village as everyone prepared for what turned out to be a Category 1 hurricane.  By mid afternoon, most people settled and just waited.  Preparing for the worse, but praying for Earl to be kind to this beautiful piece of Belize.
As dawn broke, we were able to see the damage to the building. The rooftop palapa collapsed, basically sheared off and hanging off the edge of the townhouse. Of the four townhomes in the development, one palapa does not withstand the forces of the wind, yes, that was ours.  So, close to construction completed and now the entire rooftop palapa is destroyed.  Considering the wind we received, this is small compared to the damage throughout the country.
Rooftop palapa before Earl!
placencia belize hurricane, hurricane earl, belize
Rooftop palapa….after Earl!
We walk into the village this morning, although electricity has been off since 11pm last night only a couple small stores were open.  People are out and about in the village checking on neighbors and ensuring everyone safely made it through the night.
It seems as though the major damage in the village was to a dock and dive shop at the end of the village pier.  Heavy winds collapsed the dock and small wooden structure.  Numerous people were pitching in to help with the clearing and cleanup of the debris.image1
We made it back to The Pickled Parrot, one of the few, if not only place open for lunch.  It’s nearly 12  hours now with no electricity, so no service for cell phones.  A few people had contact via social media and the reports coming from the islands were not good. The BTL  (phone company) on the main street was the only place to pick up a signal.  So when you see several people standing against the fence, facing the building, frantically trying to dial…..yes, phone service is down.  You gotta love this place!

Cell phone service...can you hear me now?
Cell phone service…can you hear me now?

With Placencia being on the southern tip of the eye of the hurricane, we missed a direct hit.  Knowing this, most were aware that Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker probably suffered severe damage.  With Ambergris Caye being the #1 tourist destination in the country, the tiny island is heavily populated with vacation homes and island resorts. All reports are showing that there was major damage to the piers and several dive shops on the island of Ambergris Caye.

As for Placencia, Earl took a northern turn and only left minor damage to this beautiful, quaint village we have quickly come to love!

Earl is Coming….and he doesn’t look very nice! | Belize Hurricane

Earl is Coming….and he doesn’t look very nice! | Belize Hurricane

So we’ve been in Placencia four weeks now, so excited about our new place.  Although there have been construction delays, we have had a great few weeks.  The people are so welcoming and you immediately feel at home and we absolutely love the area.  The weather has been perfect.  Sunny days, a little rain overnight, cool breezes in the morning.

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Then…..Earl wants to pay a visit to this beautiful little country.  As the rumors of bad weather started floating around a few days ago, we didn’t  pay much attention.  Just casual conversation at the beach bar, or the local fishing guides discussing cancelling trips mid week.  One of the great things about being down here, is the lack of 24/7 newscast.  We have watched very little TV, so were really unaware that a storm was “brewing”.

Even yesterday, as we walked down the beach, we asked one of the local fishermen, as he relaxed in his hammock….”how’s the weather looking?….are we going to get the storm?”  He calmly laughed, “nay….should only be 75 MPH winds, it won’t be bad, we’ve had much worse….”don’t worry mon.”    So, we didn’t worry….mon!

Today….we worry!!   It looks as though it now has a name and is headed straight for Belize.  There was a sense of “calm before the storm”.  No one was rushing to the few stores in the small village of Placencia, but you could sense the tides had turned and people were more concerned.  Placencia is a small fishing village and the current prediction of storm surges could do major damage to the village shops, restaurants and local communities.

People are more concerned about helping their neighbors boarding up windows, securing boats and outdoor furniture.  As we sat at the local coffee shop this morning watching people prepare for the upcoming storm, we were discussing the storm with a young girl we met from Missouri.  She’s traveling alone, so the motherly instinct kicked in and I told her to please call your parents, tell them you are coming with us.  So, she’s moving into the new place  with us until this passes.

Although there are minor details that needed to be completed in our new place.  Today, they were the least of our concerns, as the concrete structure looks much better than the beach cottage when a hurricane is coming!  We checked out of the cottage and will be “hunkering down” in our new place.  Its suppose to be built to withstand Cat. 4 hurricane winds.  Earl is currently a Cat. 1, so we should be ok.  We’ve stocked up on water, coffee and wine.  The three food groups!

It has been relatively calm until the last hour or so, now at 11:30 pm.  the winds are definitely picking up and very noisy.  We pray others in this small village are safe, as the predictions are over 100 MPH before morning.

I’ll update tomorrow.  Keep this lovely village and its wonderful people in your prayers.

tropical storm, Earl, Belize
Hurricane Earl
We did the “Hokey Pokey”……

We did the “Hokey Pokey”……

When you arrive in Belize, your passport will be stamped and you are given an immigration card, which is valid for a maximum of 30 days.  If you decide to extend your stay, you must go to the local immigration office to obtain a new stamp, pay $25 US.  You can continue to obtain a new stamp for six months at this price, then the next six months the price increases to $50 US.

So,  about now, you are probably  wondering what the hell this have to do with the “Hokey Pokey”

Hokey Pokey Water Taxi
Hokey Pokey Water Taxi

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Well, if you are staying in the Placencia area,  the nearest immigration office is in Independence/Mango Creek.  The easiest way to get there is to do the “Hokey Pokey” water taxi. The boat leaves from MnM gas station on the main street  in Placencia.20160726_103155 (3)                                  The ticket office table where you pick up your taxi tickets and pay fees.

hokey pokey water taxi, placencia water taxi, independence mango creek belize, belize water transportation
Hokey Pokey Water Taxi

 

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Terminal Office in Independence/Mango Creek

20160726_110251                 Our boat was over sold, glad we didn’t have to ride in their boat, seemed a little fast..

 

 

Cost for the water taxi is $10 US roundtrip. Its a short ten minute boat ride and actually quite a easy and beautiful little tour of the lagoon side of the area.  When arriving at the boat dock, there will be taxis waiting.  Grab a taxi to the immigration office, $5 US per person roundtrip.  When we arrived, there were no lines, we paid the fee, were issued new cards and back in the taxi and back to boat dock.  We’re good for another 30days.  Very easy process!

So, if you are visiting the area and do not need to visit the immigration office, you should do the “Hokey Pokey” just to visit the Independence/Mango Creek area.  Although its a small village, there are several small shops, grocery stores and local restaurants and lots of nice, friendly and very welcoming people!

With Norwegian Cruise Lines just completing their new island destination  on Harvest Caye, their tender port will be located here in Independence/Mango Creek area.    Previously, Norwegian has docked in Belize City and although there are mixed feelings from the community as to how this will affect the area, as for a tourist, I believe this will be a better experience!  The daytrips from this southern Belize location is undeniably some of the best options you could imagine.  From cave tubing, waterfalls, Mayan Ruins, fishing and snorkeling….endless options in this beautiful little country.

So after a quick boat trip to Independence and Mango Creek, a van ride to the immigration office, back to the boat and back to Placencia, we are finished for another 30 days.

Doing the Hockey Pockey was quite painless and much easier than I expected.  We met some great people on the boat, the workers at the immigration office were very nice and helpful and the taxi driver gave us his number, so when we need to come over next month, he will be there waiting for us.

A very successful morning!   We did the Hokey Pokey & we turned ourselves around, ………… back  to Placencia!

In Belize,  that’s what it’s all about!!

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The Pickled Parrot & Placencia Beach Olympics

The Pickled Parrot & Placencia Beach Olympics

 

Having been in town now for a few weeks, we are meeting some great people.  Locals who have lived here their entire lives, tourist who are only in town for a few days, and expats who have made this quaint village their new home.  It’s amazing how they work together to give back to this community. Having found this wonderful little bar and grill just off the Placencia Sidewalk;  The Pickled Parrot, we are quickly feeling welcomed in the community  and meeting some awesome people.

pickled parrot bar placencia belize
Pickled Parrot Bar & Grill
pickled parrot bech bar, placencia belize beach bars,
Mia….Pickled Parrot resident dog!

With a great atmosphere,  this place provides a  relaxing feel, wonderful food and the coldest beer we have found in the village!  The owners quickly greet you with a warm welcome and serve lunch specials that daily fill their place with locals, tourist and expats.
Having dinner on Friday, we were told to make sure we come down to the beach on Sunday for the “Summer Beach Olympics”.  A fundraiser by local Rotary club, who provides scholarships for local children and various other community needs.  Uncertain as to what to expect, we were pleasantly surprised and it definitely reinforced the idea of how this community works together to support this village.
Local businesses, bars, Firefighters and tourist groups competed in activities, from Greased Beach Ball Relay, to Kayak Races and Human  Foseball.  The most entertaining was a game of “something to do with pantyhose on your head and knocking over water bottles”.    When you add these entertaining activities to the breathtaking views and atmosphere on the white sands of Placencia………. how could this not add up to a nearly perfect day……and that it was!
A perfect day in Placencia Village!

Rotary Club Sponsers Summer Beach Olympics
Rotary Club Sponsers Summer Beach Olympics
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I think this group of tourists were from Kansas City….. rehydrating before the next event!
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Pickled Parrot Team

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Firefighters olympic team summer beach olympics placencia belize
Firefighters Olympic Team
human foosball placencia belize summer olympics
Human Foosball Arena
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Greased Beach Volleyball Relay
kansas city team, placencia olympics, beach games,
“pantyhose on your head…knocking over water bottles relay!!”
human fooseball, beach olympics, placencia rotary club
Human Foosball
pickled parrot bar grill, placencia bars, placencia food,
A Must-Do in Placencia!!    The Pickled Parrtot Bar & Grill

 

Placencia Beach Bars

Placencia Beach Bars

While in Placencia, you will not find the enormous influx of tourist, especially in the low season.  Another of the many reasons I’m loving this area.  However, you will find some great beachside restaurants and bars.  The employees are friendly, the beach is sandy and the beer is cold.  What more could you want on a hot , breezy day in this beautiful beachside village.  Three in particular are tucked together on a great stretch of sandy beach, just off the infamous Placencia sidewalk.   Tipsy Tuna…… Cozy Corner…..Barefoot Beach Bar.

 

 

placencia sandy beach
Beach at Tipsy Tuna

July 7, 2016 (9:57 am)

Plalclencia barefoot beach bar
Barefoot Beach Bar

Each of these beach bars have great lunch and dinner specials.  From live music, happy hours, karaoke and beach volleyball, you’ll definitely be pleasantly surprised at these great beach options.

placencia beaches

Placencia Hotels Bar
Cozy Corner Bar & Hotel
Placencia beach bar, placencia sidewalk
Barefoot Beach Bar
Wings and Beliken beer
Wings an Beer at Tipsy Tuna!

 

 

Daily lessons….lettuce on Tuesday ! | placencia belize

Daily lessons….lettuce on Tuesday ! | placencia belize

Lessons in Belize!
I’m learning lessons each day…..some small, but nonetheless important, others large and very critical to an extended stay in this small country.
Large lessons……
Belize is hot!  After being here awhile, I’ve noticed the streets become quite abandoned during the heat of the day.  Locals tend to stay indoors and tourists are tucked into local beach bars or in the nearest pool. Having learned this lesson with our new bikes…..ride early in the morning, or late in the afternoon.

Placencia village downtown

                                                                                            Placencia Village
There are several grocery stores….a few larger stores, several smaller ones, many carry the same items, many with unique items.  So yes, in order to find everything you need on a typical grocery list, you will visit several of these stores.  I’m discovering many of the daily tasks that I seemed to detest back home, have now become quite enjoyable.  Grocery shopping in the states, consisted of shopping at the mega box stores and purchasing much more than you needed or would consume in a typical week.  Stores were filled with hectic, stressed out customers always in a hurry.   Here I’m learning to slow down and enjoy the process.  The counters are lined with fresh tortillas, rolls and bread, made by locals earlier in the day.
John The Bakerman
John The Bakerman

 

Fresh fruit and juices are staples here ……no preservatives.  Maybe this is why we are feeling so much better since we arrived.  We love to eat, we eat allot, but it’s healthy and fresh. One US dollar buys seven bananas or seven oranges.  Pineapples are around $2.20160715_122649

Produce markets
Local Produce Markets

There are three produce markets within walking distance, each having a few unique items, so stopping by each one is typically a good idea.  When I asked about  fresh romaine lettuce and spinach…… “honey, those come in on Tuesday an20160715_122150d Friday, oh…about 10:30 or so.  Get there by noon, or it will be sold out.”
So to find what you need, may require browsing through the small grocery stores or stopping by a couple produce stands.  Yes, this is a common task. I’m learning to slow down, enjoy the process and realizing, it’s ok…..it’s part of the experience and charm of living in this small Belizean village.

Lesson for this week…….if I want a salad on Wednesday……don’t forget “honey, lettuce comes in on Tuesdays”.
 I’m loving this place!

 

Exploring on Sunday!

Exploring on Sunday!

Unlike Ambergris Caye, where the main mode of transportation is golf cart, Placencia does have a number of cars, delivery trucks and personal vehicles.  However, bicycles are a very important part of life in this small village.  Most expats living in the village for a portion of the year purchase bikes.  Living in Placencia, a bike can easily transport you to any of lifes necessary locations in a carribbean beach town……restaurant, bar, beach, fishing pier, grocery store.  What more do you need?  Many people have asked if we miss not having a car.  No, I do not!  I do not miss any any aspect of owning a car.  I do not miss a car payment, car insurance, buying new tires, maintenance and cleaning..  So, no thanks, when we want to explore other areas of the county, we can easily rent a car….I’m fine with my bike!
 Biking in Placencia Belize

 My recent purchase of a new bike was similar to a child’s excitement with a new toy on Christmas morning.  I couldnt wait to get air in the tires, attach the new wire baskets…..I was going to explore!  With Placencia village being at the end of the peninsula, I decided I would venture up the coast, of course, having to turn around and come back had yet to cross my mind.  Another mistake!  By the time I was ready to leave, the morning sun and heat were in full force.  Another “Lesson In Belize”…… if the locals are not out riding bikes in the midday heat…..probably not a great idea!

I head out with my new bike, a bottle of water and my 4lb chichuaha whose wondering why the hell I didn’t leave him in the house!  I had purchased this great little doggie carrier….sort of a front pack instead of backpack…..great, he can see where we’re going, he’ll love it.  He can ride in the basket or the or in the little front pack carrier…he’ll love it.  He did for awhile, then decided he needed out.  I think this was his signal for a bathroom break! I don’t think he was “loving it”.

dogs in placencia
Floyd’s ready to get out of the basket!

Heading north and passing the airport, its quite interesting how the airstrip so closely  borders the local road, requiring the gate that must lower and stop traffic for low-flying aircraft.20160713_124642_1

Tropic Air Flight
Tropic Air

 

Passing through the village and you can venture down many of the side streets leading to the lagoon.  Amazed at the beautiful homes being built on the lagoon side of the peninsula.  Having excellent boat access and unbelievable sunset views, it’s obvious why this area is becoming so popular.

lagoon lots
lagoon lots

lagoon lot placencia belize

 

placencia lagoon lots

So exploring part of the peninsula, which turned into seven miles north, was strenuous but a beautiful ride.  The panic did not set in until I suddenly realized I must turn around and ride the seven miles back!  I was exhausted, sweaty and Floyd was no longer enjoying his doggie pack, nor the basket.  Little kids and even grown men were pointing and laughing at him, as he did resemble a small squirrel on a bike!

Belize dogs

Loving Belize!

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