Sunday, January 17, 2010

Circle South America: The Beginning

Dear Family and Friends,

We are currently heading south around the coast of Nicaragua at a heading of 192 degrees at latitude 13° 25’ 30” on our way to Costa Rica. We will be at the dock by 7:00 AM in Puerto Limon.

It has been a whirlwind trip so far. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday afternoon, January 9th and checked into the Fairmont Turnberry Resort and Golf Club. What an elegant place. Were it not for the 38 degree temperatures and 20 mph winds, it would have been just another balmy Florida winter day. As it was, the majority of the travelers we met thought it was butt cold and could not wait to head south. As it turned out, it took us a couple of days to shake the frigid weather.
After a day at sea we arrived in Cozumel, Mexico to still low 50’s temps and overcast skies. We were supposed to make a technical stop in Playa Del Carmen but the high winds prevented us from putting into port so we headed directly to Cozumel. Vicki and I were scheduled for an ATV excursion and beach tour but it was overbooked and we were wait listed. We spent the day on board and went off the ship only long enough to pick up a door magnet. It didn’t matter to us as we had been to Cozumel before, about 30 years ago when it had but one hotel and nothing but pristine and mostly deserted beaches. We prefer to remember it that way. Ask Vicki about that romantic day where we were alone on a north coast beach…save for one local who flashed her as we were headed back to our ship on our rented motorcycle.

Our next stop was Belize…or as the locals like to claim, “Beautiful Belize”. It is a lovely place but poverty is “unbelizeable” and everywhere. We took a hour and a half long bus ride out into the jungle and went tubing on a pristine, spring-fed river that meandered through 10,000 year old caves inhabited for centuries by the ancient Mayan tribes whose civilization dates to the time of the pyramids of Giza in Egypt. My underwater camera, Polaroid no less, leaked from the first submersion and I am sure none of the spectacular photos of stalactites and stalagmites, cave bats, sparkling water and dense jungle vegetation will ever come out. I am afraid you will have to take my word that the two hour drift down the river in inner tubes was amazing as well as how wearing aqua shoes to walk the hour back into the jungle to get to our launching place, over rocks and roots, was a huge misjudgment in footwear selection. A thousand times…..OUCH!

Belize was so named in 1971 after it gained its independence from England. Formerly known as British Honduras it is on the south side of the Yucatan Peninsula in Central America. English is the first language, unlike the other countries which surround it who speak primarily Spanish and some 26 Mayan dialects. The chief export was mahogany wood, which is still an important industry in Belize, during British rule, although bananas, sugar and tourism have replaced the harvesting of this beautiful red wood as primary exports and income.

Next stop, Guatemala. This gorgeous country is full of flora and fauna to lift the spirit and its people are beautiful inside and out. We loved going up on the Rio Dulce, a river connecting the port of Santo Tomas with the largest lake in Guatemala, Lake Izabel. We took a bus to our river boats and then cruised the river to an island where the Castillo Del San Felipe is located. This ancient castle was originally a fort which protected the harbor and then a prison for captured invaders. A moat, narrow doorways and multiple cannons kept invaders and pirates from overrunning the fortress and the region protected from hostile takeovers.
Then it was on to Roatan, one of many islands off the coast of Honduras. This is a gorgeous jungle island with huge banana trees mixed with 100 foot tall coconut palms and flowering flamboyant trees forming a high canopy over the entire island.

We took a bus to the leeward side of the island to a beautiful park located on a pristine beach. Just off the shore was the end of the second largest barrier reef in the world, second only to the Great Barrier Reef off northern Australia. It is 162 miles long and runs off the coasts of southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras in the western Caribbean. We spent the day kayaking and snorkeling on the reef with its myriad of coral formations; brain, fan, tube and many other varieties with dozens of reef fish, shell fish, conch, sea cucumbers and the largest lobster I have ever seen in open water. He was T……H…… I……S BIG! (Hands held three feet apart…no kidding)

It was a fabulous day and we sailed at sunset for Costa Rica and I will give you another update after we transit the Panama Canal.

God Bless you all,

Jud and Vicki

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