Friday, March 30, 2012

In the Beauty of the Desert

We returned to the trail today with a different kind of hike!  Maybe not quite as challenging as a five mile trek with a 1000 foot elevation gain, but much more beautiful.  We finally turned off Highway 60 east of Phoenix at the Boyce-Thompson Arboretum.

The hike started out on the beautifully groomed paths of the arboretum at the visitor's center.

At first, I thought the bird above on the distant rocks was a decorative sculpture.

But when I zoomed in, I realized it was a vulture stretching its wings while sunning on the rocks.

We spotted this turtle sunning on a rock in the pond.

Just past the pond, we left the flat paths and headed up a steeper trail.

This is a little trick they use to keep people from cutting the trails.  Kind of like signs in the very climbable mesquite trees at a popular restaurant near us that warn kids to watch out for scorpions.

The historic home below sits on a cliff above the far east end of the arboretum.  I could definitely live there!

More interesting rock formations.

After following the trail along the creek, we crossed a suspension bridge and climbed up the rocky path on the other side.

At high noon, the temps were still really comfortable, whereas the highs down below in the Valley of the Sun were almost 90 degrees today.

After an up and down scramble over the trail, we crossed back over the creek again and ended up in the Australian exhibit, which included this rustic outback house.

I've been bugging Craig for a new SUV.  What do you think?

Soon, we were back to the plant lined flat paths near the visitor's center.

I snapped a photo of these gorgeous African daisies at the sale tables next to the parking lot.

To be continued!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke!

Belize is like everyplace else in the world.  Coca-Cola is king.

One time in Mexico I brought a bottle of Diet Pepsi into a friend's restaurant.  She seemed perplexed and asked me where I bought it.  I folded and admitted I'd eaten breakfast at another restaurant down at the docks.  She then told me the story of Coca-Cola's stronghold on the island.  It's not easy for small businesses to carry Pepsi products because Coca-Cola almost has the place locked down. Pepsi has a hard time delivering enough product to keep their island customers stocked, and -- once a business chooses Pepsi, they're scorned by the Coca-Cola distributor and sometimes it's very difficult to eat crow and get them to deliver again.

Coca-Cola is also sometimes attributed with mystical spiritual healing powers in the Third World.  A friend once told me about a visit to a church in Chamula, Mexico (a village in Chiapas) where he said people worshipped Coca-Cola.  I thought he was pulling my leg, but I've since read it in travel guides.  Coca-Cola has become a part of their religion right along with saints and is used for its spiritual and physical healing powers.  Worshippers believe when they drink Coke and burp, it releases the toxins within. 

On Ambergris Caye, a John Deere tractor delivers Coca-Cola from the wagon behind.

This snackbar/cafeteria is located inside the high school grounds.


Many tiendas have Coca-Cola sponsored signs.

Wall advertising at a mainland restaurant.

Another San Pedro tienda.

Burp burp burp.  Devil be gone!  Stay thirsty my friends, and drink Coca-Cola!  (I promise I'll lay off the Stay thirsty my friends after this post.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Da' Bumpy Road

I decided to have some fun and apply the gritty effects option on to some of my Belize photos before the website shuts down on April 19.  I'm not sure where I'll go for photo-editing after that because I love Picnik!

And speaking of gritty, sometimes on our trips we run across fellow Americans who don't care to see the realities of local life when traveling.  Life outside of suburbia just scares them a little.  One of my memorable encounters was with a couple from New Jersey while we were waiting in line for the water taxi to Yelapa, Mexico.  After bragging about the 'deal' she'd gotten at her all-inclusive south of Puerto Vallarta, the woman asked me where we were staying.  I told her we were headed to Yelapa where I'd rented the proverbial palapa in Yelapa.  (Actually it was an open air house.)  The woman's mouth fell open and the man and woman looked at us like we were crazed.  You're STAYING in Yelapa?  Is that safe?  You're not coming back today on the boat? Are there any A.I.'s in Yelapa? Where will you find  food?  Are there any restaurants where you can dine?  I patiently explained the village was perfectly safe and named some of the restaurants I'd read about with great food.  The woman stared at me and smugly replied -- Well . . . let us know how that works out for you.  Ha ha ha.

But back to this trip.  We were staying at what I would consider to be a swanky little boutique hotel located a little north of town on the sand beach road.  Our last afternoon as I was sitting in my lounger under the palms down by the water, a woman in linen pants, a linen top, and expensive hat and sunglasses approached.  She looked a little out of place because Ambergris Caye is really very casual.  Shorts, tees, and swimsuits.  After making sure I was staying at the same place, she confided that she was rather uncertain of the location we'd both chosen. I assured her that the hotel and staff were wonderful, and the neighborhood was perfectly safe. She replied that she really didn't care for the surrounding houses and was afraid of the neighborhood, particularly the next street behind us that she could see from her back window.  I bit my tongue and once again assured her that the neighbors were very friendly, and the area was perfectly safe.  Truthfully, compared to lots of places we've stayed in Mexico, the neighborhood looked downright gentrified!

She then moved on to questions about food safety.  She was afraid that the food on Ambergris Caye, especially fish, was not safe to eat.  She was from the South and loved fresh seafood, but had decided to avoid it here.  She thought she'd stick to the chick.  She asked for a recommendation on a place in San Pedro that served good 'safe' local food.  Someplace nice, but not too expensive.  I mentioned that we really liked the food at  Elvi's Kitchen, and assured her that all the local food we'd eaten, including the fish and seafood, was fresh and delicious.

Later that evening, after wandering into town and finding the restaurant where we'd planned on eating closed, we decided to eat at Elvi's again.   Once seated, I noticed the woman in the linen pants from our little hotel seated right behind us with her husband.  I gave her a friendly wave and she looked at me like I'd landed from Mars.  She obviously had no clue who I was.  Oh well.  They left, and we once again enjoyed our favorite fish dishes.  (The fish cooked in banana leaves Mayan style is amazing!)

The next morning after we'd checked out and were waiting on our cab, the woman from the day before once again sat down next to me in a lounger out front and started the same refrain.  She proceeded to tell me about the place they'd eaten the night before and how they felt the place was just a little too 'local' for their tastes.  She had no idea I was the woman in the booth behind her at the restaurant, and the same woman from the hotel yesterday who'd recommended the place!  She started the same refrain again about the neighborhood, food safety, and asked me again if I knew of any nice restaurants in town where the food was up to snuff.

All I can say is -- some people should just stay at the A.I. and not walk in a block from the beach!
Riding a bike down a potholed sand backstreet in San Pedro Town earlier in the week, a couple of local guys laughed at me bouncing around the big puddles on the old rental and yelled -- Mama, you like da bumpy road?  I looked at them and exclaimed -- I LOVE the bumpy road! -- and they just laughed and laughed.

Some people don't like the bumpy road when they're traveling and that's fine, but it reminds me to be thankful for my good fortune in life and appreciative of all the little luxuries in our daily lives here in the U.S. that we just take for granted.  Like clean running water from the tap that we can drink and use to brush our teeth, infrastructure that allows us to flush the t.p. down the toilet, clean streets, readily available medical care, enough food on the table -- and the list could go on and on.

Enough.  Here are some gritty photos from Picnik.  If anyone knows of a similar online site that's as good, let me know!

House in San Pedro

Perfect vehicle for the bumpy sand roads!

Wall on Caye Caulker.

Boat in dry dock -- that would be the side yard!

Truck repair in the middle of the road!

Final destination?

Chuck and Robbie's Dive Shop

San Pedro Town door.

Be adventurous my friends and embrace da' bumpy road!  (I've been watching way too many Dos Equis' commercials.  Stay thirsty my friends!)

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Clothesline Review

Once again, we revisit the clothesline fetish.  Ambergris Caye was full of them, so snagging photos wasn't difficult. 

A clothesline, kayak, and floatie on Beach Street down the sand road from our hotel.  

This house has it's clothesline and political flags on the front balcony.  An election was approaching and the blue and white flags were for the PUP -- People's United Party.


I love this clothesline right above the real estate shop!

 Master Lee's clothesline above the shop in downtown San Pedro.  There were lots of clotheslines in downtown San Pedro.

These people are missing a clotheslines, so they've figured out how to hang clothes off the security bars on the windows.  They're very brave people because I took this photo in San Pedro in the late afternoon during Carnaval when the kids in town were running up and down the streets throwing paint.  Wonder if these clothes were decorated with little painted handprints?

 This one's a cheater.  A vendor on Caye Caulker was selling beach toys and towels by way of the clothesline.

Typical Belizean clapboard house with the wood shuttered windows, tin roof, and colorful clothesline in the side yard!

One major difference between Ambergris Caye and Isla Mujeres related to laundry.  We only found one laundry in San Pedro.  We had to have missed some, but lavanderias seemed scarce.  The hotel's laundry service for guests seemed pricey at $15 U.S. a load, so we decided the two mile walk to Nellie's Laundromat in San Pedro was worth it.  Laundry at Nellie's was $5 U.S. a load (really not a bad price), and they were very busy! 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tales from the Trail

My current stress started with the desire to de-stress.  Actually, I think I just wanted another story for the blog!

After our successful hike the week before in the San Tans, we decided to bite off a little bit more before the snakes come out.  So we headed to the Superstitions.  The plan was just a little 4 1/2 mile hike with about a 1,000 foot elevation gain that would take us back into a basin area behind the mountain below.

But you know what they say about best laid plans.

 Lots of fellow hikers were headed up the trail that morning. 

Everything was just fine with no huffing and puffing, but I really need to learn to listen to that little voice in my head.  My inclination was to just slap the little man upside the head and tell him to shut up because we were there, and by God I was not turning back!  After all, we paid $7 for parking!

I snapped this photo after the lights came back on.  This was the view from the rock where I managed to flop just in time.    Craig said we sat there for about 20 minutes while I waited for my little drama to pass, but I really don't think it was that long.  But I did notice two groups of hikers who stopped to inquire if everything was alright. I guess a woman with her head between her knees must be a dead giveaway.  (Perhaps that's a poor choice of words.)

After my semi-speedy recovery, I was able to head back down the mountain and walk out of there in fine form.  I snapped a few photos on the way.

The classic Arizona scene.

Since I felt fine shortly after turning around to head down the trail, we decided to stop at Rex's junk emporium a few miles down the road.  It looked so inviting?  Rex was quite the character with his waxed handlebar mustache and missing teeth.  As Craig says, you meet some unusual folks in this area.

After Rex realized we'd been hiking, he proceeded to lecture me on proper post rattlesnake bite procedure. Be sure to pick up the snake that bit you and take it with you!  Since I can't even look at a photo of a rattlesnake without getting the heebie jeebies, I'm sure I'd be all over that one!  He suggested putting it in the trunk. He said you don't need to worry about picking it up because -- in his words -- it's already shot its wad.  Alrighty there!  I guess that's a reason to always hike with Craig or a girl named Buck because I'm not picking up any rattlesnakes!  And in case you've never heard the reasoning, it's not to help clear the trail for future hikers.  If you take the snake, the doctors know exactly how to treat the bite.  Just remember -- take the snake.

Rex's pile of junk.  (I bet there might be a rattlesnake in there somewhere?)


 Does a bear $$## in the woods?  Guess not since he's standing in front of the outhouse!

We considered stopping for some broasted chicken and live music, but I think this place was closed.  (About 30 years ago.)

Just another day in this paradise we call Arizona!  (Seriously, I'd rather be on a beach!)