The last two years have been a whirlwind for me athletically – I went from half marathon training at the end of 2010 straight into P90X and marathon training in the first half of 2011, then straight into triathlon training after my first marathon in June of 2011 and then basically straight into Ironman training. Post Ironman I took two weeks away from working out and went on some fun weekend vacations but quickly got back into training for the AFC Half Marathon and the Long Beach Half. In mid-September, I started training for Surf City Marathon. While I love to always have a race on my schedule, I don’t always give myself enough down time. Mike and I rewarded ourselves for a couple of years of hard work with a 8 night, 9 day vacation in Belize.
Although this is a fitness blog, it’s also about my personal life and it wouldn’t seem right to not share a little of my trip! After an amazing Thanksgiving dinner with Mike’s family, we headed home stuffed to pack and get to bed early in anticipation of our 3:30 AM wake-up call. Our flight left San Diego airport at 6:15 a.m. and we fought the urge to drink coffee for the sake of getting some sleep on the first leg of the flight. After a drive to the airport, an airport shuttle, two flights, a two hour layover and a two hour shuttle ride (complete with two local beers and the company of another traveling couple) we arrived at our Eco-Lodge in the middle of the Belizian jungle called Lower Dover.
Beers in the van 10 minutes after arrival in Belize
Family Style Dinners
We stayed in modest raised cabins with the shower and bathroom located in small rooms outside the sleeping quarters. Breakfast and dinner were served family style with the female owner and her son as well as the other guests. The eco-lodge is set on 80 acres of jungle and includes several trails that lead to un-excavated Mayan ruins! There are also several animals living on the property, including several friendly dogs, chickens, a confused rooster, three adult sheep and a baby sheep, turkeys, and tarantulas! We also saw a parrot and a family of quash (a Belizian mammal during our exploration of the grounds.
We were at the lodge for four nights and three full days. Two of the days were spent on excursions. The first excursion was to the ATM caves (Actun Tunichil Muknal) which is an extensive underground cave system with only four entrances. Tourists can only access the first mile or so of the caves via a guided tour. The tour was pretty incredible. We hiked through the jungle and then immediately had to swim through the cave’s entrance to get inside. Once we were inside, we slogged through various caverns, sometimes wading through water up to our chests and occasionally shimming through tiny passageways, with only our headlamps lighting our path. Our tour guide shared his knowledge of the caves as well as a few jokes along the way. The highlight of the tour was the Mayan artifacts that were discovered on a top level (i.e. no water). Most of the artifacts were pots used by the Mayans, but there were also the remains of five humans, including a fully intact skeleton that has been calcified and appears to sparkle. All of the human bones were believed to be human sacrifices. Unfortunately cameras are not allowed in the ATM caves now because several of the artifacts were broken due to tourists dropping their cameras on them!
Our second day was spent touring the grounds at the eco-lodge, including a guided medicinal plant and ruins tour by the family’s son. We also kept sneaking away to the recreation room which held the best wi-fi signal so we could track Asia and Jeremy as they competed at Ironman Cozumel. It was so fun to track them all day although we got quite a scare when Asia’s bike times weren’t updating and Jeremy’s were. Luckily, it was just a computer glitch and Asia was named an Ironman that night!!! I am so happy for her! Jeremy also had a great race – shaving an hour off his CdA time!
Near the Unexcavated Ruins at Lower Dover
One of the Eco-Lodge Owners on our Tour
On Monday we headed to Guatemala for a day trip to the Mayan ruins called Tikal. Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and awesome and for some reason we were the only two who booked for that day so we got a private tour! The day in Guatemala at Tikal was one of my favorite parts of the trip and I was also very excited to experience a new country (I’m a little obsessed with traveling and this was the 25th country I’ve been to – I would love to see 50 countries before I die and now I’m halfway there!). I would love to make it back to explore more of it one day.
Tuesday we braved the local bus to get from the eco-lodge to the coast where we boarded a water taxi to Caye Caulker. Caye Caulker is one of two major tourist islands, and is known as being more relaxed and budget friendly. Our kind of place. The motto on the island is the “go slow” life. We definitely took this to heart and spent the next four days eating, drinking and hammocking in bliss. It rained quite a bit at night so the only choice we had was to take shelter at the local bars and make new friends. In addition to our relaxation, we rented bikes one day to explore the more remote parts of the island, rented a kayak and went on an amazing half day snorkeling tour. Since the it is so small, by the time we left, we felt like we knew practically everyone on the island!
Our Favorite Morning Ritual
The snorkeling tour was by far the highlight of our time on the island. A group of six of us, including a couple from London and two women from Canada, plus two guides took a sail boat out on an absolutely gorgeous Belizian morning. We stopped at three locations and each one was better than the last! The second stop was at Shark and Ray Alley which is famous for the large amount of huge sting rays and harmless sharks that approach the boat to be fed. We had lunch about halfway through the tour and on the way back we drank rum punch and ate chips and fresh conch ceviche (this was one the only time I ate meat or fish the entire trip) and talked about all the places we’d traveled and gave each other advice on where to go next.
Making New Friends Over Rum Punch
Our Guide Making us Fresh Conch Ceviche
It was somewhat foreign to call myself a “vegetarian” for the entire trip, but in the end I was very glad I did! The female owner of the eco-lodge was a great cook and made us some incredibly delicious vegetarian food. We didn’t stick to anything resembling vegan food since it was very difficult to get any sort of whole grain there to help us get adequate protein and other nutrients (no quinoa, ezekiel bread, lentils, tempeh, or even brown rice, as expected), so we ate eggs for breakfast every morning and for vacation’s sake, didn’t pass on pizza and ice cream on occasion. Despite this, I ate more veggies on this trip than probably any other vacation of my life since every filler is vegetables when there is no meat to accompany it! Although beans are a staple in Belize, they didn’t seem to give us very many of them when they were included in a meal.
We gave ourselves a full day to get back into the swing of things by coming back to the states on a Saturday. We spent Sunday stocking up on tons of healthy groceries and I cooked our favorite “vegan mash” for dinner and prepared the quinoa black bean apricot salad to go with our spinach salads for lunch on Monday. One thing that is certain about vacation is that I’m always happy to be back in San Diego when I return. I’m also happy to be back to running! I missed it!
What is the best trip you’ve ever taken?