Mom Says I'm Running Away

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International Hot Sauce Smuggler

Day: 236

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So with my trip to Belize winding down, I was left with only one question to answer today; should I smuggle my 5oz. bottle of the worlds most amazing Hot Sauce back in my carry-on luggage (all I had for this trip) and throw caution to the wind with the TSA’s restrictions on a maximum of 3oz containers in carry-on.

I am a man who likes to stare adversity in the eye (unless he is holding a doorknob), so I chucked it in my bag and we set off to find the water taxi to get us back to Belize City.

To make a long story short, other than lonely the Belizean X-Ray guy who manned both the bag x-ray machine and the people metal detector, who looked at me and said with a knowing look:
“You have a bottle of hot sauce in your bag.”

Which I replied to with the proper questioning look.

He just said “go on.”

And I was back in the states with my hot sauce! I still needed to get it through security once more in Texas though.  The strong and powerful TSA with a virtual army of secruity agents, with their Patriot Act, making me take off my shoes, unpack my computer, show my one liter zip-lock with all my liquids, then proceeds to X-ray everything. The whole time all of them looking at everyone like a terrorist, didn’t see my hot sauce.

I think the USA needs to hire more Belizean TSA agents, at least they seem competent to catch hot sauce smugglers, and are grown up enough to know that it is only hot sauce and not worry about it.

Tomorrow is my day off at home, then its off to China! Regular updates should start again in a couple of days.

See you soon.

A New Rule

Day: 235

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Mom Says… Rule #1: Now I am normally a very open minded person, but if any of you reading this ever drag a suitcase with wheels though the sand, you are no longer allowed to visit my page. I would really feel as if I have taught you all nothing.

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In other news, our day was spent renting a bad ass gas powered golf cart and driving from one end of this island to the other over bumpy dirt road seeing all kinds of shit that this place offered. Finally, exhausted and covered in dust from the open air driving, we settled in for an afternoon of drinking beers and just bar hopping up the beach in front of our hotel. Ed and Brian of course spent time lamenting the end of their vacation, I on the other hand am getting excited to be in China!

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Jacked! Once Again.

Day: 234

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Disclaimer: I am hesitant to publish the following story because I believe it will only help to contribute to the culture of fear that is so prominent currently in the USA, and the American thoughts on international travel. Yet, I also want my blog to be the truth of what happens to me everywhere I go, so it is with some reservations that I tell you the following tale. Just please remember that almost every person I have meant in Belize up until this point has been kind, honest, interesting and helpful. Belize is an amazing place, but there is always one evil person out there to ruin things for others.

She had only left my room about a few minutes before, the sun was on the verge of rising, as I finished picking up the living room and settled in for what looked like at least a solid two hours of sleep before a new day began. For some reason I lay in a state in between sleep and being awake for a while, quickly flickering in and out of sleep on the living room floor because it was cooler that the loft where my bed was. The guest house I was in had many rattling noises in the tropical wind; the vibrating of shutters, the hiss of the palm leaves against the side of the building and general background noise of such a situation. All the sudden my eyes shot open to a sound that was out of place, the jiggle of a door handle. I glance up thinking …weird, I am pretty sure I closed the door to our room.

I hop up and through the fog of a half sleep take the three strides to the door to close it.

As I pull on it, it pulled back.

My heart jumped.

I pulled harder, only to be staring down at the eyes grizzled black man about 8 inches shorter than me and at least a decade older. A weeks worth of beard, a white T-shirt, his short nappy hair and his beady eyes were burned into my memory. The funny thing is that I am pretty sure he was more startled than I was. After a solid two seconds of staring each other in the eyes I realize out of my peripheral vision that he has something in his hand, which was only inches from my gut. I slam the door shut in his face, only to realize as soon as I do that what was in his hand, was the other side of the knob that was also in mine.

I glance down, knowing what is the most expensive thing in the room, my daypack filled with my camera, passport and wallet is sitting right there where I left it next to the table, I unzip it quickly to make sure its all there just as I hear him running out the front door of the hostel. By this point the slamming door has brought Ed out of his room to see what is going on, he looks over my shoulder and sees our living room window had been opened and that was how this bastard had came in.

I went out and glanced around, locking the front door of the hostel again. He was long gone, my adrenaline was at its extremes and it seemed that all our stuff was still there. Deciding we would visit the police in a few hours we tried to go back to sleep.

I should probably see what time it is, so when I go to the cops I can tell them details. I think as I lay wide awake staring at the ceiling ten minutes later. I get up to go check my watch. Where the fuck did I put it? I swear I left it right here on the table…

Fuck, its missing.

I go in and tell Ed to get up, and that we have to go to the station now and tell the police what happened.

Now I won’t bore you with a Pulp Fiction-esque tale about a watch, but I will say that it was a gift from my step-father on his wedding day to my mother. A good deal of sentimental value is attached, but I am also aware that this was something I risked every time I took it out of the country.

Caye Caulker is a small community of around 1300 locals so everyone seems to know everyone. When I started retelling my story to the assorted police officers at the small station they quickly came up with ideas of who they thought it might be. The usual suspects. One officer took off to look around for a couple of individuals while the other one made a report of the confrontation.

The officer looks up from his desk, looks at the size of me, looks at the size that I told him the guy was on his paper, and asks me without a hit of sarcasm:

“So if dem was right der, why you no just grab em?”

I just smiled a defeated smile, and was at a loss for words. Looking back I guess I should have tackled him and had Ed help me beat the shit out of him… but standing there looking in his eyes knowing something was in his hand (even if it was just a door knob) was enough for me not to want to get stabbed in the gut.

They took my name, address, date of birth, phone number and a description of my watch and let me know that they thought there might be a fairly good chance to find it and get it back, with it being such a small island. Who knows, I may get it back in the mail in a couple of weeks. I thanked them for their hope, and Ed and I wandered through the sunrise (taking a few pictures on the way, of course) back to our room to try and get at least a couple of hours of sleep. By this point I had been up for about 22 hours with just a few blinks of sleep.

And now back to our regular Blog:

I hide my bag under the stairs and sleep until about 8am when the bright sun is hitting me in the eyes. Ed, Brian and I get up and spend a few minutes deciding to do with the next couple of days. Since we have spent three days on Caye Caulker and are getting rather bored we decided on a change of scenery and head to the largest vacation spot in Belize, Ambergris Caye (pronounced key). It was going to be a 20 minute water taxi ride and the next one left in about an hour, I brushed my teeth, packed my bag and we all headed to the dock.

When we arrived in San Pedro (the main city on Ambergris Caye, pop 7600) we found the last room in the Lonely Planet’s only budget choice, the Ruby Hotel, and headed off to finally get some breakfast after an extremely eventful night.

With out meal meandering down, I announced my plans to spend the next three hours sleeping in our room with all three fans blowing on me, Brain and Ed were going to go off to check out the beach and the little town.

I slept like the dead. When I woke up I found that their excursion was short lived as they were both crashed out as well. It took us a few minutes but we were off to vagabond along the coast for a few miles as the sun was getting low in the sky and the light was turning beautiful.

The day ended rather uneventfully (thankfully!) with a dinner of coconut snapper, a few beers on the roof of our hotel, an me spending an hour of so writing this up before I was ready for some more much needed sleep.

I sure hope something exciting happens tomorrow!

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We Did Nothing; Wonderful!

Day: 233

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With the amount of planning that goes into most war torn African governments- i.e. very little-  we decided to do nothing today.  Sat in the shade under a palm tree and sweated as the ocean wind buffeted this little strip of land.  When we made it back to our room in the early afternoon, we decided on a cocktail with some of the rum we had laying around… Then another. Then just for fun one more…

Then we were hungry, and our hunger converged with the 2-for-1 drink specials of Happy Hour.  We got trashed and with the sun setting headed back to our hostel/guesthouse just to chill and watch some TV.  When we got there, a bunch of Dutch girls and a couple of Kiwi guys had the same plan, so while Ed (feeling a little sick) and Brian indulged in watching  Night of Living Dead, I proceded to fininsh our rum and pass most of the evening in a haze defending our Capitalist way of life from the thinking of a socialist Dutch girl.  Which -I guess- is apparently a turn-on because by midnight we were alone on the patio and things turned out quite well for Rob, if you know what I mean.

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Rasta Cruise

Day: 232

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Trying to sleep last night was easily one of the worst attempts I have ever made at pleasent slumber. The mosquitos were so thick and the air so damp, hot and heavy that you couldn’t even cover yourself with a sheet or it would be quickly be sweat soaked. When we got out of bed this morning -covered in bites- the first thing we did was create a battle plan for tonights sleeping. Deet and mosquito coils have been aquired, hopefully tonight will be more restful.
Last night we were out drinking at the end of this tiny island and we meant a man by the name of Ras. We had been planning to do a snorkeling trip and such around here, but he sold us on his slow-rasta-boat tour around the caye with a couple of snorkeling stops and seeing a bunch of other things. Sounded good, and it didn’t hurt that his tour usually lasted long than six hours and included lunch when the other tours barely last 3hrs.

We spent the better part of the day cruising all over the sea, drinking beers, playing with sealife, watching iguanas, snorkeling, and drinking more beer. When the boat finally parked (right next to the bar), we were exhausted from a lack of sleep, a day in the sun and the afternoon of beers. Fortunately we did still manage to get out for a couple of nightcaps befores we crashed.
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To The Cayes!

Day: 231

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After we returned the car this morning at the airport, we made our way down to the Belize city waterfront to catch the water taxi out to Caye Caulker where we plan to waste away in the sun for the next few days.  Possibly some snorkeling and assorted watersports, most likely mass consumption of alcoholic beverages.

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Caracol

Day: 230

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Not to much writing today, internet is $7 an hour so I am just trying to cheaply get up a few pictures from the Mayan ruins at Caracol.  It was once a city of 150,000 (more than twice the size of the biggest city in Belize today) and still contains the biggest structure in the country. We just hiked all over it.

We also managed to hit up the Rio Frio Caves while we waited the hour for the police escort that has too caravan everyone the last 20 miles up a dirt road, throught the jungle to get to Caracol.  Some problem with Guatamalen bandits a few years ago or something.
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History of Poor People (Joke)

Day: 229

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So, my brother Ed asked me today “What are we looking at this morning?” (He actually has some Mayan background)
I am pretty sure it’s a history of poor people…” I jokingly replyed.  I know, completely un-politically correct (and they are probably not as well off as the western world because we exploited them at some point in the past to make ourselves rich) , but I thought it was funny.

We wandered around Blue Hole National park early in the morning then drove to the western side Belize to see the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich and tomorrow get up to Caracol.

Found a small hostel like place with a kitchen, bought a bunch of beer and burrito makings and settled in for the night.

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Ouch, I Mean Really…

Day: 228

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I may have woke up hungover, but Brian woke up still shitfaced. By the time we were able to motivate ourselves to actually do something it was past 10am, and the only thing we did was go find some breakfast.  Brian held it down for about an hour, but just a few miles outside of town I heard “Hey, Rob? Can you pull over?”

“Sure…”

And that was the story that was his breakfast.

At least we were able to start another story, One for today.  We made our way back up north to stop at the Cockscomb Basin wildlife reserve for some hiking to one of the higher overlooks in the country, and some wicked off-roading to get there.  It was harsh midday light and hazy skies, I really didn’t get any pictures I was in love with of the view, but the 4 mile hike up was great training for the JMT this summer.

I also didn’t get to see a jaguar.  With 50 of them in this area I thought I might get lucky.

As the afternoon wound down I sold Ed and Brian on heading to a jungle Lodge that I had been to 4 years ago with Alissa.  Nothing like rooms lit by oil lamps, outdoor showers with thatched walls and buckets with holes in them for showerheads, and a room without walls (just screens).

As I write this by the light of an oil lamp and the glow of my screen, I am smiling contently.  These last few days have been treating me well.

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The Days Are Just Packed

Day: 227

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Waking up in Gales Point Manatee (I know, it’s a hell of a handle for a village of 500 people), we went to the front porch of the guesthouse where we were staying to meet up with Raymond.  Raymond, among other things, is the 71 year old Hotelier, local Moonshine maker (hence last nights berry wine) and Manatee viewing tour guide.  After a breakfast menu, which consisted of any combination of scrambled eggs and fried dough you could want, made by Raymond’s daughter, we tossed him a wad of cash to head out on his boat and see what we could of the manatees that this place is named for.

Manatees, it turns out, surface for air about once every twenty minutes or so.  In a colony of somewhere between 50-70 sea cows there was a constant stream of them surfacing for air. The only major drawback is that, in exchange for being given an extremely lazy lifestyle, Mother Nature also deemed manatees shouldn’t be at all interesting too watch from a boat for more than a minute.  We sat there staring at the sea for a couple of hours with our major excitement being when one of these floating pieces of blubber would surface, breath with a huge “whsssh.”, then return to his underwater home.  Finally we told Raymond to take us back to shore so we could get out of this tiny town and onward to new places.  Being sure to stock up on a couple more bottles of his homemade headache wine for the road.

In a country as miniscule as Belize, having a car has already allowed us to travel to numerous places that the average tourist might miss.  Today we were able to squeeze in manatee watching at Gales Point Manatee, hiking and swimming in Mayflower National Park, and even made it all the way south to the peninsula of Placencia where there are bars and mass quantities of alcohol to celebrate Brian’s 30th birthday, which is today.

Needless to say I knew I’d probably lose control of most motor function, meaning my camera was locked in the room and I was free to test my wit on the ladies without trying to impress them with the size of my lens.  It almost worked to, but I think that last beer may have pushed me just past the point of being able to focus my eyes on her.

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