After traveling heavily throughout these beautiful countries, it is time to wind down and take it slow for a few days. Belize is a perfect destination for this, as the most traveled part consists of beaches and islands. Due to the Covid regulations, we booked 3 nights in Hopkins, a small town in the south of Belize right at the beach. Funnily enough it turns out that the Parrot Cove Lodge is run by a Dutch man, who hardly gets any Dutch tourists… go figure!
The place is great, we spend days just relaxing, swimming in the pool and the sea and having a great time on the provided sups and kayaks. The owner is also a chef and his restaurant is fantastic, it has been a long time since we had a proper piece of meat or fish (meaning a thick one), and the quality here was incredible. Combine that with the perfect location and the friendliest staff around, and you have a perfect place to fill up the batteries!
Caye Caulker with friends
Coincidentally our friend Jordan turned out to visit Belize as well at this time of year, and we would of course not let an opportunity go by to meet up with a friendly face while we are there. So we packed our bags and tore ourselves away from the laziness, and drove from Hopkins north to Belize City from where we had to take a ferry to an idyllic island off shore called Caye Caulker. We only had one night booked here, in order to not have too much pressure on our travels back to Cancun, but really made the most of it. Together with Jordan and his friend Charlie we headed out to the split for some swimming and cold beers. We all killed the 4m high water jump into the ocean, including our boys.
After this we headed out to Iguana Reef lodge, to which you pass a small cove with massive tarpons swimming around. Mind you, the entire island is small and walkable, with only golf carts plowing through town, and these little coves seem to have become part of the on land community as well, making the animals completely at ease. One cove further down the stingrays of the area come out for happy hour every day between 4 and 6pm. They let you feed them – although you should be mindful not to become the next Steve Irwin! – and roam along the shallow waters for quite some time. We enjoyed them while sipping our cocktails and seeing the boys feed both stingrays but also the local pelican and frigate bird population :-).
The rest of our time at the island was filled with dinner and breakfast and some more swimming at the dock of the hotel while catching up with our friends and getting a lot wiser again about the things we have seen in the US. We could have easily stayed longer here on the Caye, but duty calls and our ferry ride back to mainland was ready for us to go back. The drive to the Mexican border is not enormous, but including the +1hr time change the moment you cross the border we did not want to get stuck there at the end of the day.
Bacalar and its stunning lake
The Belize/Mexico crossing was the smoothest so far, with of course the big differences being we did NOT need to take a Covid test, and our car is a Mexican car i.e. no car import paperwork to be done. All in all, the whole out and in process was 45 minutes, which meant we got to our accommodation on time for some R&R and a dive in the pool, before heading out to yet another restaurant for dinner. Our stop is at Lake Bacalar, which changes color throughout the day from bright blues and greys to orange and pinks.
In the morning the lake is a blue/gray afaire, and a fantastic wake up moment to jump in and have fun! The accommodation provided kayaks so the game was on with kayak races all over the place. More importantly, the lake was warmer than the pool, so it proved difficult to get everybody out of the water and into the car again :-).
Tulum – Cenote fun & karaoke!
One big item we had not been able to tick yet – in part because the one planned was closed – was of course CENOTE swimming! We would not be true to our Dutch heritage if we would not make an effort to find some for free, which we did around the small town of Chemuyil. Around the town there were several different cenotes, from a cave one (including bats flying around) to a shallow open space one, to a version somewhere in between. The water is crystal clear and a great temperature to cool down, moreover they are filled with tiny little fish that nibble at you! There was nobody else there, so we basically had a private cenote experience hopping from one to the next.
After this we piled our wet bodies into the car for 5 minutes to our accommodation for the night: A small scale resort that had cabins built out of sea containers. Very cool concept, although the room does get quite damp, but the pool was great – and without fish – so we could relax some more. In the evening we went back to our cenote town for a bite to eat and we landed straight into the local expat community’s weekly karaoke night! Of course mom had to get on stage to get everybody warmed up, but this helped the boys muster up the courage to join mom and give a perfect rendition of ‘Larger than life’ by none other than the Backstreet Boys. You can imagine the ooohs and aaahs the boys managed to elicit from the elderly audience, even rewarded with some hard cash thrown at them! Exhausted and exhilarated, it was time to call it a night, which meant the eyes were shut by the time they hit the pillow.
Next day was all about getting back to the US, so after a final plunge into the pool we started driving towards the airport. Quick souvenir stop in Playa del Carmen, and then on to the car rental to hand in our trusted 4-wheel transport of this past journey. Check-in took serious time, as all the documents had to be hand checked (thank goodness there was no line at check-in!), but all in all we got to the gate with time to spare. Quick flight and into the Uber – Shout out to our driver Joel, the nicest Uber driver we have met so far!! – to get back to our US RV life.
Back to the US – Texas time…
Coming back to our Jerry was of course a great relief again. You always realize what you miss when you get back to it, and our RV is truly our home away from home. Not in the least we were surprised by the fact that Sinterklaas had actually managed to find our RV – with help of the National Park Rangers – and left us some gifts while we were gone! So the welcome home was even better than expected. The people we left our RV with let us stay the night on the driveway so we could get a quick sleep and not bother with finding a spot for the night. Unfortunately we had the unpleasant experience of something being stolen off our RV that same night. Waking up to the sound of unscrewing something at 4:30am, we jumped out of bed and got there too late… front fork of Svens MTB (literally the only part of the bikes that was not tied to the RV with locks) was screwed out and stolen… Such a bummer and incredibly frustrating!
After the insurance calls and some other admin we had to get going as we needed to get some breakfast in and tick off the first chore of the day: Vaccinations! Our boys had their 2nd vaccination coming up after more than 3 weeks away, and both parents qualified for the booster vaccine, so the local CVS hooked us up and got all our shots done at once. Fantastic to have this behind us and focus on the next leg of our journey; South America. We are still in the US for a month, but vaccinations are a prerequisite for any travel into countries like Chile and Argentina, so having these all done makes us much more comfortable to travel on.
Of course we could not leave Houston without visiting its most internationally acclaimed spot, the place we all know Houston from, where the famous words sounded “Houston, we’ve got a problem” – The Houston Space Center! With the ESA Space Expo around the corner of our home we came with some proper base knowledge, but the Space Center really gave a great introduction to space travel over the ages, and even seeing actual astronauts at work at the training facilities! A reenactment of the landing on the moon in the actual mission control was another highlight, and plenty of games, exhibits and real rockets and shuttles to explore. After 5hrs we still hadn’t seen it all, but the place was closing so we had to call it a day.
Next week: Further exploring the huge state of Texas