Belize and Cozumel
Home Up Into the Jungle

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and Cozumel

Our trip took us to the Yucatan Peninsula.  We were originally supposed to go to Key West and Grand Cayman.

Unfortunately Hurricane Ernesto decided to visit Key West the same week, so our trip was diverted. 

For the third year in a row, we missed Grand Cayman.  I see the Cayman Islands on the map just below western Cuba, but frankly speaking, I wonder if they are really still there?

I doubt the Rhapsody personnel minded the detour one bit.  Instead of heading over to Florida, our ship took a direct route straight from Houston to Belize, shaving nearly a thousand miles off the round trip.

Each day for three straight days we visited a different place along the coast of the Yucatan.

The Mayan Empire was located in this area. The Mayan Empire reached its peak from 250 to 900 AD, a time frame that closely paralleled the Roman Empire.

Belize was quite possibly the capital of the Mayan Empire.  Many of its inhabitants are of Mayan descent.

Our second stop was at Costa Maya.  This village is so small I had to estimate its location since I could not find it on this map.  We will cover it in our next chapter.

Our third and final stop was at Cozumel then it was time to head home.

The port at Belize City was too shallow for our ship to dock. Consequently we had to be tendered ashore.  The process went smoothly.
There was no wait that I could see in either direction.
My first impression of Belize City was that it wasn't a particularly well-to-do city. The pictures of the homes you see were taken on the
good side  of the tracks.  I heard the homes on the wrong side of the tracks were pretty sad.

Belize is a small nation on the eastern coast of Central America on the Caribbean Sea bordered by Mexico to the northwest and Guatemala to the west and south. The name "Belize" is shared by the Belize River, Belize's longest river, and Belize City, the former capital and largest city.

Belize was known as British Honduras until 1973The only English-speaking country in Central America, Belize was a British colony for more than a century.  Belize became an independent nation in 1981.

The country is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy which recognizes Queen Elizabeth II as Sovereign.  From what I gather, the British maintain a military garrison in Belize.

Belize is the smallest (in terms of population) non-island sovereign state in the Americas.  There are about 300,000 citizens.

The history of this area points immediately to the Mayan Empire.  The Maya civilization spread over Belize between 1500 BC and 300 AD and flourished until about 900 AD.  History buffs will notice the Mayan Empire lasted longer than the Greek and Roman Empires combined, but then again the Mayans didn't have to mess with the Asians.

European settlement began with British Jews, privateers and shipwrecked English seamen as early as 1638.  In addition, this area was a big hiding place for pirates. I believe Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom holed up here a time or two.

According to the man who was my tour guide for a river tubing event, the ancestry of the people is a heavily mixed bag.  There is Mayan blood, Afro-American blood (from the British slaves), pirate blood, and English blood all jumbled together. 

Reading over an article on Belize in Wikipedia, I saw no mention of any Spanish conquest.  Nor was there any mention of Spanish blood in the makeup of today's citizens.  Apparently Belize was spared conquest by the Spaniards.  Lucky them!

The export of wood and sugar are two major industries. 

In addition, Belize is very hungry to increase its tourism.  This country has two huge advantages:

1. Islands and mountains that are beautiful and unspoiled. 
2. Now that the Cayman Islands don't exist any more, Belize is the only English-speaking locale in Central America.

The terrain of the area I viewed along the coast was very boring indeed, but once we got into the hills (about 60 miles away) and the jungle, Belize became quite beautiful.

One of the real highlights of this trip for me was tubing down a river through pitch black caves.  Way too cool!

Do you see the 3 little yellow dots?  It is a three-eyed monster waiting to devour the tubers! 

Actually those three dots are lights from the mining helmets of people already inside the cave. We were given miner's lamps to put on our foreheads.  This way we could see in the dark. 

I wanted to float in the dark so I got as far ahead of the pack as possible and turned my light out.  For much of the trip I floated down the river in the eerie dark.  Woooo.... creepy!!

I was Tom Sawyer having the time of my life!  Then I heard a roaring sound.  Uh oh.   Was I going over a waterfall?  That took some of the fun out of my little adventure.

Somehow I doubted it since I assumed the guide would have warned us.  So I stayed in the dark floating towards the sound of the rushing water.  Soon I was rewarded with a beautiful little waterfall that emptied inside the cave tunnel.  I loved letting the water spray on me.

Including an interesting walk through the jungle, the waterfall, tropical flowers and bird calls, a marvelous 15-foot jump off a ledge down into the river, a swift current, plus cool caves and warm water, this whole trip was way too much fun.  It was my favorite experience of the entire cruise.

The more I think about it, I don't know of any place in the U.S. with a similar boat ride through caves.  Too bad; this was a blast! Maybe Disneyworld will add a ride like this.  All that was missing was a good monster or maybe some mermaids.


You really can't go anywhere along the eastern shore of the Yucatan without finding Mayan ruins everywhere you stopped.

These particular ruins are in Belize, which was once the central area of the Mayan civilization.

There were ruins in Belize, ruins in Costa Maya, and ruins in Cozumel (Tulum).  Everywhere you looked, there was another amazing pyramid.  I stared so hard my eyes were practically ruined when the trip was over.

Cathy & Larry Leising standing atop a ruin. They are the new Masters of the Mayan Empire!  
Mindy Lindsay    
    Jim and Denise Duncan

Up the coast from Belize and Costa Maya is Cozumel, always a favorite stop for us.  Unfortunately on this visit, Cozumel was still trying to recover from major Hurricane damage in 2005.


When it comes to recent Hurricanes, Houstonians immediately think of the twin 2005 disasters Rita and Katrina. 

I know for a fact that all people living on the Texas coast pay attention when a storm begins to develop.  However we also know that Texas doesn't get the big ones very often.  Our friends over in Florida definitely get the lion's share of the biggest storms.

However it was this trip that really opened my eyes that Mexico gets pounded just as hard as Florida.

Don't forget there was a third 2005 hurricane that was just as devastating as the Twin Terrors.  On October 20, 2005, Hurricane Wilma slammed into Cozumel as a monster Category 4 storm packing winds of 140 mph.

Hurricane Wilma tore into this Mexican resort with torrential rains and shrieking winds. The storm filled the streets with water, shattered glass in every window, knocked down trees and spread debris.  Thousands of stranded tourists had to hunker down in hotel ballrooms and emergency shelters to ride out the storm.

As expected, the extent of the damage was incredible.  During this year's visit, I took some pictures to illustrate not only the damage, but some of the attempts to restore Cozumel back to its original state.  Please note all these pictures were taken at Chankanaab Beach in Cozumel which was under repair.
You can see the rubble at the
bottom of this picture
The beach was so torn up, they decided to build a lovely boardwalk over it. The new boardwalk is a piece of art.
Now you see some of the devastation.  Dead trees are everywhere. The whole area looks like this.
Chankanaab Beach was hit hard.
It was nearly destroyed.
Here is a brand new sand path. 
Beyond is more rubble.
Here you see grass patches being laid.
More grass patches. More devastation. What they do is push the rubble to one side and rebuild next to it.
Here are palm trees waiting to be planted. A lovely new garden is complete. Lots of bricks have been blown away
One of my favorite places is a long walkway full of archeological treasures. Many of the art pieces were destroyed and had to be replaced. More rubble.

Maybe the devastation to their park put a chip on their shoulder, but for some reason, the people who run Chankanaab people were very ugly to us.  This marked the second year in a row I have had a fight with the folks who supervise the Chankanaab National Park. 

Last year we brought a cooler along filled with ice and beer.  We had a group of ten people.  Despite a $12 cover charge per person ($120 if you don't feel like doing the math), we were not allowed to bring our cooler onto their beach.  I didn't appreciate their restriction, but I abided by it.

This year it was even worse.

Marla and I were accompanied by her daughter Marissa and Marissa's boyfriend Glenn.  We wanted to pay for Marissa and Glenn because they were our guests.  The moment I looked at their prices,  I nearly fell over in shock.  The price had risen to $16 a person.  The woman told me it would be $64 for the four of us.  The place was in ruins so they raised the price.  How much sense does that make?

No matter how much I protested the price, she would not budge.  I was indignant.  I asked to speak to the manager.

I could see from the manager's expression he wasn't looking forward to this any more than I did.  He immediately crossed his arms.

I began by explaining something Marla had told me.  Marla had read a recent Internet report regarding Chankanaab.  It said this park had just recently reopened and that they were charging half-price. This information meant nothing to the manager.  He said the new full price had just recently gone into effect and that's what we would have to pay.

I countered by pointing out the place was in ruins.  Many sections were not open yet.  The archeological park was destroyed.  They were charging us $16 a person for the privilege of sitting on their ruined beach.  And I always thought dirt was cheap.  But not Sand!

I explained to the manager that we came here based on what we read on the Internet.  Why wouldn't he honor the advertised price?  Then I pointed out there were ten people with us now and many more on the way later on.  I told him I was promoting his venue, so why couldn't he reward our loyalty by honoring the price we saw on the Internet? 

All of these protests fell on deaf ears.  The two of us did some serious dancing over this issue, but he stuck to his guns.

I will tell you I threw a fit.  I didn't use profanity, but I did raise my voice.  I remember how mad I got when the manager said he wasn't going to argue with me any more unless I spoke Spanish. 

Soon after that the manager mentioned the word "policia" if I didn't start to behave.  I think that was when I told the guy I was going to stand out front and tell every tourist that came by in a cab about the exorbitant price, then suggest they turn around and keep going.

I suppose my argument lasted 15 minutes.  My poor step-daughter Marissa was stunned at my insistence.  She had heard I could be stubborn, but it was something else to see it first-hand.

Before I finally gave in, I sat down on the curb to see if I could find a new angle.  No such luck.  Marla came over to talk to me.  I asked Marla if she saw any openings I had missed.  She shook her head no.

I could see I wasn't going to win this one.  I was stuck because I had promised we would meet everyone at this beach.  Imagine what they would think if one of our passengers shelled out $16 bucks only to discover we weren't even there.  This was the compelling argument why I finally gave in - I didn't want to stand up any of my guests.

So I threw in my beach towel and paid the money. 

However the hostilities were not over. Later I got yelled at on two occasions when they saw me trying to take pictures of the damage.  "You can't go in there!  That area is prohibited.  Taking pictures is prohibited!"

So I would leave and come back ten minutes later to take more pictures.  Even though I was mad at the people, it hurt to see this once-beautiful place so badly damaged.   Still, I was also pleased at the marvelous job they were doing to restore it.  I finally rested my soul by thinking maybe some of my money would be used for the restoration effort. 

(NOTE: Back on ship that night I discovered an entire van of Cozumel drinkers led by Alph and Center of Attention had come by that afternoon to visit Marla and me.  They turned back around and left the moment they heard the price.  Good for them!

I was told one of them yelled, "Hell, for that kind of money I can get five more Margaritas!" 

I am so glad they had their priorities established.)

Later that afternoon when I returned to the ship, I was amazed at the extent of the damage to the cruise ship piers as well. I was in awe of the destructive power of the hurricane.

Naturally I asked my friend Iqbal to explain how wind could so severely damage a structure made of steel and concrete.  Iqbal said the wind kicked up the water which lashed against anything in its way.  The wind made the water hurl against the docks with incredible force. 

Iqbal said they probably could build a pier strong enough to withstand these kinds of winds, but it would be expensive.  Someone had decided it was cheaper to just rebuild the piers.

  Over here is a hotel that has not completed its repairs.  As you can see, the entire roof
was blown off and is now only two-thirds repaired.

As usual, Alph and Center of Attention were leaders of the pack.  In the following pictures, you will see how Leslie and Phyllis led a vast army into Cozumel for a wild afternoon of drinking.

The old frat joke is during a toga party you are choosy at 10, selective at 11 pm, but at 12 you hit on anything that is still standing up.  Ha Ha Ha.  Obviously from the pictures below both Leslie and Dakota were ready to hit on anything still standing up, including green statues.


My friend Patty bragged to me at dinner that night that she had won a highly competitive drinking match against two ladies half her age.  Way to go, Patty!   (What she didn't tell anyone was she secretly poured most of her drink down Senor Frog.  Score another for age and guile over youth and honesty.)


That's Jeff, Cheryl, Cindy, Danny, and Frank.  Jeff looks plastered.  Heck, they all do.
Oh sure, I'll have another round. Tsk tsk. I know what they are thinking...
"What on earth are we doing here!"
I think those balloon hats give new meaning to the term "getting looped"

Click Here for the Next Story - Colorful Costa Maya

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