We've been back from Belize for about a month, and Jay and I are still just giddy about what was a really great trip. Here are some of his musings from our vacation - enjoy!
Some people know how their local airport functions at 5am in the morning, and other people like to follow the letter of the TSA Law to a tee. I am the former and Lindsay is the latter. So, we arrived at the airport and cleared security 2 hours before our flight boarded for Belize. Lindsay and I sat in the food court eating Chic-fil-A biscuits and questioning the people who even dare to eat at the adjacent hot dog stand. We fueled up on fried chicken and coffee and headed to our gate. When I hear the phrase “international traveler” I picture an educated, well dressed, adventurer that is out to expand their horizons. This is not the case at Greenville-Spartanburg airport at 5am. That morning there were a lot of average folks and a shockingly large number of creepy, nerdy white dudes that gave off a real “school shooter” vibe. One guy was wearing a t-shirt that had a wolf howling over a mountain range, with a train running around the base of the mountain. Needless to say, his phone was firmly attached to his belt. Oh, but it didn’t stop there. Once on board the plane, we heard a second grade teacher say, “I always forget that there is more than one airport in Tennessee. You’d think I could remember that, but I just fly out of Knoxville, so.” She is educating young people.
The heat immediately welcomes you in Belize. When the airplane door swings open, humidity rushes into the plane and you’re made aware of what your vacation is going to feel like. Since there is no jetway, we walked out onto a large set of steps. I had my phone out to take pictures, because I’ve never seen a runway with potholes in it before. I am instantly told that no photographs are allowed. My first thought, “Oh, security.” But then I realized that if these were to get out, people might not want to fly into Belize. It has more to do with protecting an imagine than an airport. We navigate through the airport, gather our luggage, and are greeted by our driver, Fernando. Fernando was amazing. He was polite, eager to inform, and totally aware of every unmarked speed bump that laced the Belizean highways. Seriously, if you weren’t familiar with the roads, you would have Dukes of Hazzard’ed it off the road many, many times. There are huge speed bumps everywhere and they’re unmarked! It was a 3-hour drive from the airport to the lodge in the jungle, so we broke up the trip with a quick stop for a lunch. It was a lovely meal, but nothing special. My favorite part was the Belizean beer, Lighthouse.
Once you turn off the main road, it is another 30 minutes on a dirt road to get to the Black Rock Lodge. Fernando prefers the term “massage road”. That is his little joke and completely inaccurate description. The drive is beautiful though. The rolling green farmland hills slowly give way to mountainous terrain, and then you start snaking into the jungle. There are roadside waterfalls visible as you drive along the river and it is breathtaking. We pulled into the Black Rock Lodge and were greeted by the wonderful staff. They prepared us a Rum Punch and showed us the grounds. Petra and her husband Peiter are the property managers and they provided us with plenty of information while we sipped on our rum punch and sweated profusely. As sweat puddles formed under my man breasts and started staining my shirt, all I could think about was air conditioning. As Petra showed us our cabin, I realized that air conditioning was not going to be one of the many amenities that the Black Rock Lodge offered. I felt silly getting my hopes up, as I should have realized that, “Hey, we’re at an ecolodge in the middle of the goddamn Belizean jungle that operates on solar power. There isn’t going to be any AC available you wannabe hippy.”
We met a couple from Tuscan, Arizona. They were a wonderful couple and I enjoyed their conversation. They were world travelers and had lived all over the world. We both shared stories of our travels and Lindsay and I rambled on and on about Beck. The second night we were there, they shared that they had a son who had passed away at 19. He had had cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair his whole life. They were so proud of their son and all his accomplishments. You could see it still weighed heavy on their hearts. My eyes filled with tears as I listened to their stories. Not because I was sad for them, but because I knew how lucky I was to have Beck in the shape that she is in. They told us about living in China and how rude people were to them because they had a special needs child. They took it all in stride and never let it hold them back. They told us that their son was a massive Jimmy Buffet fan. Apparently, Jimmy Buffet was the one thing that really brightened up his life. I’m such a music snob that that one small detail made me briefly dislike that kid.
Day two at the lodge started with Lindsay flooding the bathroom. It wasn’t her fault as the default setting on the sink is to be stopped up. Who designs a sink like that? “Hey boss, should we make the sink automatically empty the water out?” “Nah, let the poor jetlagged bastards figure it out when their feet start to get wet.” We went on an early morning bird watching tour, which was fantastic. We saw so many birds, which was capped off by seeing a tucan bird. Just like Tucan Sam, except he wasn't hocking diabetes cereal as he flew through the jungle. Our guide was named Freddie and he knew like 120 different bird calls. At least he said he did. I mean, does he know that many or is he just really good at whistling? I’m skeptical. Freddie was extremely friendly and I enjoyed my time with him. I was wearing a Phish t-shirt that said, “Makisupa Police Academy” on the back of it. Freddie asked, “Mister Jay, are you a police man?” Being a Phish fan is about as far away from being a police man as you can get, but I loved that he thought I was a police man. Just the idea that I could enforce anything is a real compliment.
Leaf Cutter Ants. Look ‘em up! They’re an amazing creature. They essentially destroy a specific type of plant/leaf, and take their clippings back to the ant hill and turn it into a fungus for their babies to eat. They work all day. I’m guessing their life is kind of what it must be like to work in an iPhone factory. These ants are everywhere. They went up the entire mountain that Lindsay and I hiked, which was steep. I made the mistake of drinking 4 cups of Really Good, Really Strong coffee before we left to go on our hike. This hike was straight up the side of the mountain. The switch backs were cut in short so you climbed at a 45-degree angle. We got about a quarter mile up the mountain when the caffeine hit me. I started to shake and feel light headed. I might has well have done a few rails of cocaine and decided to go for a hike. It was rough. I was stopping about every 500 yards to grab my breath and to sit down. When you’re feeling like that, it’s the perfect time to see a tarantula. It was alarming how big that goddamn spider was. You remember the movie Home Alone? When McCauley Culkin put that tarantula on Daniel Stern’s face and he screams, I use to think that he was over acting. After seeing a tarantula up close, I see he under played it.
I realized that being a parent has robbed me of any sense of adventure I thought might remain in me. The lodge offers whitewater tubing, which I thought I was going to love. While we were on our nature walk, I asked a guide what type of animals lived in and around the river. He said, “Oh, there are many different types of fish. Fishing is very good up here in the mountains. We have a few eels that also live in the river, and the occasional snakes. Also, every once in a while we get crocodiles.” Well, I’m not going tubing! That is now officially off the table as an activity Jay Hastings will be participating in. Who rolls the dice with crocodiles? I feel like they didn’t tell that story to everyone because I saw many people in the river. All I pictured was me sitting in a wheelchair at Beck’s soccer game when she is 11 and thinking, “Man, I really wish I hadn’t gone into that crocodile’s home.”
The people we met at the Black Rock Lodge helped make the trip memorable. Zach and Michael were a couple from Los Angeles and I loved hanging out with them. Michael had zero patience for a family of loud, redneck women from Texas. Paige was the worst of the three. She was loud and obnoxious while sober, so when you caught her after dinner it was almost unbearable. During dinner she proclaimed, "I don't listen to music if it isn't performed live. It doesn't have soul if it's recorded." I asked her if she could watch a movie, or if it had to be a play. Movies somehow got a pass. They were from the small town of Lindsay, Texas and they wanted us all to know that they grew up poor. The eldest woman proclaimed, "My daddy didn't own slaves!" I don't recall anyone accusing them of owning slaves, but she threw that statement out there just in case any of us were wondering. The next morning we saw them all at dinner and apparently they all kept drinking back in their cabin is it got a little crazy. They all came to dinner with children's removable tattoos all over their bodies. They were on their arms, legs, back, and face. Part of me thought that this was a prank. Like they each fell asleep at different times and the people still awake covered the person asleep in stickers. But more likely it was just there idea of a wild night. I mean they didn't buy those tattoos in Belize. They brought those into the jungle and Paige probably said, "Oh my god y'all! Let's keep drinking and someone put this glittering shooting start tattoo on my boob! Too crazy, too crazy! OMG, I'm almost out of white zin on the rocks." Then I guess you just cry yourself to sleep after that and wonder why you are on vacation with your mother and sister at 32 years of age and not your significant other.
Our trip was wonderful. I would go back to Belize. The people, the food, and the culture are all things I would like to experience again. It is always so rewarding to check out of the life you know and go experience something outside of your daily norm.