Saturday, September 20, 2014

Monkeys, Dogs, and Tricky Mennonites | Belize 2014

June of 2014 is home to one of the greatest experiences of my life. On June 2nd, about 5 days after freshman year ended, I packed up my bags to travel to Belize with a group of kids and teachers from my old middle school. I was a bit weary of being one of only 6 high-schoolers going, but I decided once I got to the airport that age didn't matter, seeing as everyone going was just as nervous as I was. It was the first time I had ever traveled alone, without my parents I mean, and the first time I had ever even left the county. The fact that I had to be at the airport at 2:45 a.m didn't help my mood; my mom got to deal with a grumpy, tired, nervous girl for 3 hours before my flight.
The travel group consisted of about 25 people, so it took us quite a while to get through customs. Security was also a bit of a mess, seeing as the metal detectors kept picking my metal in my collarbone and head...?  Mom, is there anything you need to tell me?! 

After the 6 hour flight was over and we landed in Belize City, saying I had culture shock would be a bit of an understatement. We left Denver in an air conditioner airport with bridges to get into the airplane and we arrived at a building no bigger than your local drug store, by getting out the plane through emergency exit steps. Not to mention the ground was covered in dead months bigger than my passport. *cringe* 
The first hotel we stayed at was Birds Eye View Lodge, and it was a cute little thing. We were right on the shore of a lake, and there was hermit crabs crawling around everywhere. To be honest, the first few nights were hell because I was terribly homesick and I was roomed with 2 girls who didn't like each other. I was quiet as could be for a few days, and didn't really feel like I fit in. Most of the kids there already knew each other and I only knew the teachers.
I did make some friends by the end of the trip, and I do regret my the gloominess I had the first few days. Who cares if you're alone, you're in a foreign country for goodness sakes! Make the most of it!

The first day we were in the country we went to the Lamanai Mayan Ruins, took a boat ride on the Belize New River, and drove by the Old Sugar Mill. The mayan ruins were beyond cool. Our tour guide, Roberto, knew basically everything there was to know about Belize, so it was very educational. There were lots of temple you could climb up, some being over 200 ft. tall I believe, and get a panoramic view of the area. The entire country only has 300,000 people in it, so the views you get are not of skyscrapers but miles and miles of rainforest. Stunning. 
The Belize New River tour was also spectacular- we actually got to the ruins by taking a boat. We were on the lookout for wildlife the whole time. 
One of Belize's primary exports in sugar/sugar cane, and we got to the factory just as they were bringing in the last few truckload of sugar cane stalks. 

The next day we left my least favorite hotel, Birds Eye View (I hated how cliquey everyone was there... why are you forming cliques?! You're in Belize.) and traveled in our charter bus to San Ignacio to stay at Windy Hill Resort. I don't actually remember this hotel all that well, but they probably hate stellar food. All the food is Belize was fantastic and different. I got to try ceviche and lots of other strange foods. My favorite was the homemade burritos, obviously.  
Day 3 consisted of visiting Peccary Hills National Park,  taking a jungle hike, cave tubing, and ziplining. This was probably my favorite day of the trip. I really enjoyed the jungle hike - I loved seeing all the unique plants and their uses. This hike was actually more of a survival hike, so our guide would show us edible and useful plants we could eat or use. It was unbelievable how much there was. 
Most people haven't ever heard of cave tubing, but if you ever get the chance to do it I strongly recommend it. Belize has lots of natural caves that have rivers running through them, and cave tubing is basically where you sit in a tube and go down the river through the cave. Your not allowed to get out of your tube, but it is very relaxing and the caves are full of beautiful formations.
Ziplining was such an experience. We got to go on a course that went all through the jungle and over rivers. I really want to do it again... so thrilling!

I'm going to end the post know because it is getting a bit long, but I'll post part two tomorrow! Check back to read the rest of my life changing adventure! 


Bird's Eye View

'Jesus Christ' bird

Here's some local mennonites we saw on the way to Lamanai...

And on the way back! 

Mask Temple

High Temple. To get up, you had to hold onto the rope and basically scale the side!

Hot face I'm pullin'

Check out the names... ;)

Water vine

I wasn't allowed to take my camera cave tubing or ziplining... so here's a crappy picture of the sign! haha x