This was always going to be a tough one. We have to get 21 people out of San Ignacio like we did going in, but 20 of them are going onto the islands. We can’t arrange the ferry to carry that many, so Tropic Air it was. I had originally tried to get people to commit on their own time and arrange just the first plane’s worth sure of going and many of whom were wanting to dive that day, but realizing that wasn’t going to work, I just booked all 21 people’s flights and determined they would have to owe me money. In the end it saves $5 so I’m doing them a favor. It also means we have 21 people for a flight that normally carries 15 people max with one in the copilot’s seat. We had one plane filled with just us for sure and Tropic Air being so very flexible was happy to send the plane direct to Caye Caulker. Normally the flight options are to fly to Belize International before laying over in Belize Municipal Airport for a couple of hours before carrying on. I had hoped that was 15 on the first flight, the remaining 6 wouldn’t have to wait long before Tropic Air would send them on to Caye Caulker, maybe they’d even fill the flight at Belize International and just be on their way.
Breakfast was relaxed with everyone talking about the cave yesterday. Some were in disbelief that they’d done what they’d done, or even been allowed to get so close to the relics of the ancient mayans with no more than a little line of tape between them and priceless history. Steven remarked “I never thought to hear “watch your step, don’t step on the baby skull to your right” in his life. Today though a travel day would still be fun and eventful.
We had brought some twinkle lights powered by little solar panels we’d brought from home, something from a Christmas sale that we’d wanted for the engagement party in January. Black Rock loved them, they even loved that they were solar being an eco lodge. They had wouldn’t be able to find anything like that in Belize even at a premium and offered to buy them off of us at full retail price, but we were able to work out a trade for the champagne from the previous day. They can buy the champagne in bulk, and even at our price they about were the same as what we paid for the lights on sale. It was a win-win.
We said good bye to the people of Black Rock, and thanked them for such a special time. They brought out the kitchen staff and everyone gave them a hearty round of applause. Their one request was to give them a good TripAdvisor review, which we were more than happy to do. I’m still stunned with how successful the whole thing was, and the extra mile Black Rock went to make it happen.
Down at the Maya Flats airport, really just a sliver of tarmac in a green field used for soccer as often as for inbound flights with the town seeing just a few flights a day. We dropped our bags off and checked in. Really I checked us in. I ask for the first flight and read off the names, and was handed 10 placards. I started handing them out and then realized there were so few. I told him we really wanted to get the first flight to arrive with divers so that they could check in and have time to get in 2 tanks in the afternoon. He re-counted and we went back down the list, this time I got 12 placards. By now I’d already arranged people into their flights and had them put their bags in 2 piles, but I had to re-arrange on the fly. Two of our first flight people had to move their bags to the second flight. I eventually got it sorted out. I gave Chuck the baggage claim tickets reluctantly, he has a habit of leaving things, for the first flight making a stop.
At this point I got to take a step back and breathe. Alyssa and Nick were throwing around a football with Chuck. Robyn and Sara were doing some impromptu yoga. Others had found a frisby. The sun was out, but not yet too hot. We had two others mixed in our flights going on to Ambergris.
Then the fun started. The first plane landed, and started filling up. Roger freaked out his bags were on the wrong flight, but this was actually flight #2 leaving first. Once everyone was in the plane and about ready to go flight number #1 landed. Somewhere over Belize flight #2 landed at the international airport and we carried on landing in Caye Caulker about an hour after we took off. A very fretful hour for Sara. Before we could even collect our bags, flight #2 landed right behind us, and we were all together again! No delay, no layover. How perfectly that worked out! We agreed to meet at 11:30
We all split up for our various lodgings, no one place is big enough for our entire group, and that’s fine, we could all use our own adventures. Most everyone had a vacation rental of some kind or another. We had booked over 6 months out at Oasi, the top rated spot on the island. It’s close to the airport in the quieter side of town. However the owner apparently had taken our reservations when overseas back home in Italy and had failed to save them correctly… So here we were with confirmed reservations but no room. My parents following my lead had done the same. Jose being slow to get on the ball with about everything to do with this trip though hadn’t had any problems. Ironic. Luckily Luciana, the owner, is married to a man who manages many of the rentals on the island, and he was able to shuffle us around in unoccupied windows at different places. Luciana would have to eat the additional costs, but in the world of TripAdvisor it’s the sort of thing you need to do when you mess up like this and want to keep a good review score. We had 2 options for the first night, a bungalow with 2 floors and no AC with a pool, or one without a pool and AC. We took the AC, and my parents took the one with the pool. The day did get on hot and humid, so for us it was nice, and I’m thankful to my parents making the sacrifice for their newly wed son and his wife.
We just managed to get ourselves situated by 11:15 and on the road to meet up with our friends. We found them not far from the ferry dock we arranged to meet at and found a place to eat. We ended up at Briasas De Mare which is a place on the water front we’d eaten at last year but wasn’t especially impressed with. This time was no different, the food is sub-par and the service slow.
I left early to go to Frenchies. Only I forgot our dive cards just like last year. I rushed back on my bike to the restaurant but Jenn of course didn’t have our cards. I told her where I had to go and left some stuff with her. Chuck pulled me aside and handed me the keys to a golf cart they’d rented to take some of the strain off of Pam’s knee. I hopped on and left. Only some of the stuff I’d left contained the keys. I realized a block away and came back frustrated. Grabbed the keys and left. Except I realized as I got to the house that I’d left the safe key. At this point I felt completely defeated. I had wanted to make it on time, but that wasn’t going to happen. I got the last stuff I needed at the restaurant and went back again for the cards. No one but Jenn really knew what was going on. Shintaro thought it was something to do with our room and offered us his. I acted like a jerk in general flustered and snappy. I think everyone thought I was just hangry and tired and gave me space.
When we got to Frenchies my heart rate was still up. I scarfed down some cold food and when I put together my gear I put the octopus on backwards at first and the tank too high. Nothing serious but it made me realize that I was thrashing and not in the right frame of mind. I took a minute to change and get right.
We had myself, Jenn, my Dad, Robyn, Alyssa and Nick all certified and doing a dive on the outside of the reef. Shintaro, Jose, Oly, Marc, Lisa, Shel and Amy were all doing discovery dive inside the reef, while Sara and Steven went partying and my mom shopping.
Our dive was ok. Nothing spectacular, maybe even not as interesting as our dive inside the reef last year, and certainly not as nice as the Lighthouse Reef. We saw a lot of lobsters, many paired off. My GoPro had apparently drained itself and my Canon can’t go as deep as we were so sadly no photos. But it was fun, and I enjoyed finally going diving with my father even if he was even less impressed than I was. He was frustrated to not be left alone, and our dive was very short. At the very start of the first tank Nick lost his fin and went on with just one. Both he and Alyssa blew through their tank like no bodies business. Jenn herself was also going through air quicker than she normally does and I was left with half a tank. I had some trouble equalizing so I spent a bit of time about 10 feet above the group patiently waiting for my ears to figure themselves out. On the surface my sinuses had apparently worked themselves clear and I had a bit of a mess… ew. The second tank went a bit better, and we had our decompression surface interval inside the reef at the Shark Ray Alley which I felt like my Dad was making an effort to not enjoy. This time Jenn’s air was better, but Nick and Alyssa’s was still short, so we just paired off and ended when we were done for the most part. I think one of the reasons they don’t like leaving divers unattended is that they can be disruptive to the life on the reef, and I did see my dad pull himself down with some coral and knock it loose. I heard later from a Doctor we shared a flight to Roatan with that they had a period where there were a lot of divers getting themselves in trouble and government had to rush them to the one decompression chamber in Belize City at their expense and that motivated a law that required supervision. Either way I had a good time, I just wish I could have shared a fun experience with my father, especially doing something that had been a passion of his for some period of time.
We then met up at Roses which had been so delicious on our last visit and is one of the only places, maybe THE only place that can accommodate a group of 20 people. The DSDers had a blast. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Shintaro so excited about anything before. He was over the moon. The food was pretty good, but no where near the fresh Lobster we’d had last year. Apparently we’d just missed Lobster season. Damn. It explains why there were so many Lobsters out there paired up in the marine preserve.
Everyone more or less has their plans sorted for tomorrow except us. Jenn, Robyn, Nick, Alyssa, my dad and myself are scheduled to go out to Turneffe Reef, something I’ve been looking forward to for some time, except Nick has hurt his ear apparently forcing them to equalize, Alyssa needs to stay with him, my Dad is horribly unimpressed and frustrated with not being allowed to be dropped off at some distant island with nothing but his gear and left to do his own thing doesn’t want to go either. Jenn kind of wants to stay with everyone else because it’s the last full day before we all leave. So it looks like we’ll be trying to get out of our dive arrangements instead of going. I’m still torn myself and am tempted to do my own thing and just go if anyone else goes or not. A lot of the DSDers want to go again but are worried about decompression sickness, but I tell them it seems silly since they’re going to going so shallow and still have 18 hours of off gassing. Some are going fishing tomorrow, others have no plans and like it that way.
We give Amy a bit of a tour by night of the island half looking for the Cake Lady from last year, but we’re unsuccessful and eventually just walk her back to Lisa and Shel’s bungalow.