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Monday, May 14, 2012

Holiday Ro-o-o-oad.....

As most of you know we LOVE a good road trip. And, of course we love a holiday within a holiday. So to celebrate Soli’s birthday weekend we rented a sweet ride and took the kids on an inland adventure through the beautiful Belize countryside.  

It was so cozy to be back in an SUVwith the kiddies buckled safely into the back seats and my hubby behind the wheel. 

Gorgeous colonial architecture in Belize City. 
Countryside outside of Belmopan near Spanish Lookout. 

I love this little house. Typical Belizean style. 
We started our adventure on Saturday morning with a visit to the Belize Zoo. The highlight was the private jaguar encounter with Junior Buddy the jaguar. He entertained us with somersaults and kisses while the kids got to feed him chicken legs, scratch his back and feel his velvety soft paws (through a specially designed cage, of course).

Then back on the road, we stopped for a yummy Belizean lunch at Cheers. (Dave wants you to ignore his gray and I want you to ignore my wrinkles. I guess that's what happens when you take 4 kids sailing in the Caribbean for five months. Hmmph.)

On to our fabulous hotel, the Five Sisters, in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve where we swam in the falls and enjoyed the cooler mountain climate. I was enthralled by how happily the pines and palms intermingled. It was sensational to see fire flies zipping through the bromeliad clad pine trees. And the smell! A mix of pine and vanilla orchids and plumeria. Heavenly. Have I mentioned that you simply must visit Belize?

The staff was waiting with tropical beverages when we checked in! Shut up. Such unadulterated pampering. I almost cried. And check out the view of The Five Sisters Falls. 

The falls at Five Sisters. 
So refreshing...

The fresh water was a welcomed respite. 

The kids clamored all over the rocks with only a 25% "slip-and-fall" rate. Just a couple of bruises and a headache but luckily she didn't have a concussion. Sheesh. 

 It felt like Tahoe in the summer. (But the water was warmer - no snow melt.)

Emerson will be twelve next month. He's struggled some over the past few months with the infiltrating hormones. Homeschooling, living on a sailboat and sleeping with his sister haven't helped the mood swings. Oh the joys of tweenagehood. 

Cole was quick to find a section in the slippery rocks where he could make a water slide. Yee-haw!

This trip has been good for family bonding. Once we got over the initial shock, that is. Or maybe because of the initial shock. Hmm.

Being one of only two groups on the premises (it's slow season) the staff spoiled us rotten, and our “jungalow” was so absolutely cozy. Perched high above the falls, the subtle roar of the river was soothing and magical. Our jungalow was two levels with a king bed and bath downstairs. It was heavenly to sleep under a down comforter listening to the hum of the falls and breathing in the cool mountain air as it flowed in through the open screened wall.  Upstairs, under the vaulted palapa ceiling, was a queen bed, a queen fold out futon and a second bathroom. A screened in sitting room with hammock, overlooking the forest and falls, was the cherry on top. The Five Sisters Lodge in San Ignacio, Belize. 
Stay there. 

Check out time came all too quickly. But, refreshed, we hit the road anew, armed with peanut butter and banana sandwiches. We passed through the charming twin towns of Santa Elena and San Ignacio then crossed the hand cranked ferry on our way to check out the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich.

Even the kids were impressed with the huge pyramids and the immaculate grounds of the plaza. We learned about the ancient Maya (always homeschooling) and got the special treat of seeing howler monkeys in the wild. 

Adorable aren't they? 

A babe sitting on the branch behind his mama. 

Then we headed back down the hill from Xunantunich and onto the Western Highway for the 72 mile drive home (the entire width of the country). On the way, we drove through the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout which blew our minds. Not because of the people (it was Sunday - not a soul was out and about), but because we felt like we were driving through Anytown, Middle America. We’ve become so accustomed to the traditional Belizean style wooden clapboard homes on stilts that seeing U.S. style homes with basements and bay windows and crew cabs parked out front felt -- well, it felt like home. Honestly, we could have been in the middle of Idaho with its huge grain silos and dairies and John Deer tractor retail warehouses. Leaving Canada and settling here in the 50‘s in search of unrestricted religious freedoms, the Mennonites are responsible for much of Belize’s production of milk, eggs, and poultry. We home schooled about that, too. 

After leaving Mennonite country, we stopped for a delicious dinner at Rosa’s restaurant. Of course no Stewart Family Road Trip would be complete without the adoption of a pet.  (Read the story of Morgen here and the story of Arizona here and here.) This road trip was no exception. While at dinner a darling, pathetically skinny, severely dehydrated kitten appeared out of the bushes, begging for scraps from our table. It took us 6.2 seconds (if that) to collectively decide as a family that there was no way we were leaving that kitty behind to starve to death. So after dinner we loaded back into our Expedition and drove home with our new family member in tow. Now, I’m telling the kids that our job is to get him healthy and find him a new home before we leave Belize at the end of the month. But you and I both know that I am feverishly interneting to find out how we can bring him home to the States. I’m shameless. Bleeding heart, shameless. Shoot me. 
His name? Belize, of course. "BZ" for short. 

Back at home on the boat it was bath time...

...and straight to bed for all weary travelers. 

 ***I scheduled this post to go on-line while we are in the islan's. So by the time you read it we will be checking out the scene at Cay Caulker and maybe up to San Pedro on Ambergris. Then we’ll be heading south back toward Placencia where we will reprovision and pick up Thom who will help crew for the trip back to the Bay Islands of Honduras. In Roatan, Thom will fly out and we’ll pick up the Miami grandparents for the trip back to Panama. We'll stop at Vivarios and the Columbian island of Providencia on the way. We’ll meet up with the cousins in the San Blas Islands of Panama where we’ll outfit all the children with spears and send them out to harass the unsuspecting sea life. Don’t freak out. I’m mostly kidding. Thanks so much for checking in and living this adventure with us. 
It's good to have you along. Hugs, H


Carol said...

Dear Heather,
So enjoying your pictures and stories. I can't even imagine the adventure you are having. For excitement tonight, I thought I might make a trip to Walmart! haha

Safe travels!


Jean said...

Wow! What excellent adventures you are all having! we loved Dave's movies also....keep 'em coming!! You ALL look terrific, and are living the life that we all dream about. Good on you!!
Love, and kisses to all, even cute.
Jean and Peter

Anonymous said...

Just got to know about this trip.
Fantastic !

Keep enyoing

Vianey &Tobias