Saturday, March 10, 2012

Prepare for Takeoff!

Okay, this just cracks me up.  I hadn't been in a small plane since I was a kid and a friend's dad gave us joyrides in a little Cessna as the entertainment at a birthday party.  The Tropic Air plane from Belize City to San Pedro was certainly larger than that, but the smallest commercial plane I've flown.  The flight was my first experience with what I'd call an island puddle jumper.

When I decided to book us on Tropic Air between Belize City  and Ambergris Caye, I envisioned something like Horizon Air's small prop planes that we used to ride from Spokane to Montana on ski trips.  Metroliners?  I had friends who wouldn't fly them and called them the toothpaste tubes of death.  Well, these planes made Metroliners look like 737's, but only in the sense of their size.  I had no qualms because they appeared to be in tip top condition!

Craig and I decided on the return flight to Belize International that we wanted to sit in the row right in back of the pilot.  That's easier said that done since a larger person has a difficult time wedging themselves between seats to get forward.  Finally an old pro told me to turn sideways to squeeze myself through the tiny aisle.

Here's another suggestion.  Be early.  We checked in about 40 minutes before the flight and they informed us our plane would be leaving shortly.  Craig made a quick bano run and by the time he came back, a gate agent was leading us out the door and walking us out to the plane to board.  The flight took off about 20 minutes early.

If I'd known these guys were going to have to stuff my bag into this little plane, I might have packed lighter!

Here's a little video clip of the flight from San Pedro to Belize City.  Meet the pilot!  As you can see, we're up close and personal.  In fact, if I'd stretched my arms, I would have hit him in the head. He's the guy right in front of us with the GPS screen.  And the lady with the spiky white hair in the seat next to him is not the co-pilot.  She's the lucky passenger who was tiny enough to wedge herself into that seat and ride shotgun! 

There's no rum punch juice boxes, no banos, and no flight attendant making a safety announcement telling passengers to turn off electronic devices.  And that's why I was able to whip out the Flip and record the event for posterity!

For future info if anyone wants to travel to Ambergris Caye, there are two choices after landing in Belize City.  Water taxi or small plane.  The water taxis take about 90 minutes, and while much cheaper, can be a bone jarring ride.  And if you land late in the afternoon, you might risk missing the last water taxi.  We booked our Tropic Air flights through Taco Girl  and saved 10%.

We did make the boat crossing to and from Belize City while we were on Ambergris when we took the long daytrip to Lamanai.  I have to say after a long day of touring and/or traveling -- it's a gruel.  So if we return to Ambergris, we'll definitely just take the 15-minute flight on Tropic Air.  It's easy and scenic!


Tom said...

Can relate to all of that. We were sitting in one of those puddle jumpers (company has since folded) starting to roll for our flight to Dangriga when my wife looked out to see her suitcase still sitting on the tarmac. Pilot said -'No problem. It will be on the next flight.' Got it 2 days later. But at least it arrived. Definitely reinforces the 'cross packing' idea.

Life's a Beach! said...

I'm laughing Tom, but I feel you pain!

drgeo said...

I once flew on an 8-seater and was surprised when , because of the headwind, we started flying sideways!
Well we were going north but pointed west!

Life's a Beach! said...

Too funny drgeo. Fortunately, we had good weather for both legs on Tropic Air.

krisla said...

Coming just to Isla involves enough connections, though doable, even fun. I think that your trip to AC would be just too complicated to pull off regularly! Must limit the pop. there..

Life's a Beach! said...

Kris, it's an extra leg. Phoenix to Dallas, Dallas to Belize City, then the puddle jumper to Ambergris. Here's the weird fact. We left a bit later in the morning from Phoenix and were checked into the hotel on Ambergris before we'd normally arrive on Isla. I think the connection times in DFW are better, and the Belize airport is very streamlined because it's so small! We were on the Tropic Air flight to Ambergris before we would have cleared the airport in Cancun. All that being said, we'll be back to Isla soon because we did not find a substitute for Playa Norte. Belize is more of an active adventure destination.

drgeo said...

Active, eh? Watching kids return from school would wear me out too!

What sorts of activities were others up to?

Life's a Beach! said...

drgeo, you're too funny! I actually lost weight this trip, probably because we walked and rode bikes everywhere we went. Taxis were very expensive, so we never used them. At the end, we were about 3 1/2 miles from town and rode bikes on the sand beach into town daily for supplies. There were no stores anywhere close, so it was a long haul in the hot sun to stock up on soft drinks, snacks, and Z packs. HA! Actually, when I was at my worst, Craig rode the bike into town to buy the antibiotics! At Caye Casa, we figured we walked about 10 miles a day the first few days. No wonder I lost weight! But don't fret. I've gained it back!