Flashback: Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve (Belize 2012)

Close to San Ignacio is the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve that was established in 1944 to help protect the Belizean pine forest. The majority of the region was destroyed in a devastating fire in 1949, so most of the pine trees today are around the same age from after that date. There are a variety of sights to see within the protected area and if driving yourself you will need an all wheel drive or 4×4 car as the road is a bit rough. The whole area is in stark contrast to anywhere else we went while in Belize and is well worth the time to visit.

Our first stop in the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve was Rio on Pools, which is located just off the main road after entering the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve. There are two sections to Rio on Pools. You can walk down a bunch of steps for good views of waterfalls and a pool that you can swim in or you can a little upstream for lots of smaller pools with mini rapids connecting them. We didn’t do any swimming while there and spent most of our time walking around the upper pools. We were incredibly fortunate and got lucky that we were the only people at Rio on Pools at the time!

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Badminton (Rio Day 8)

Our final Olympic event was badminton and we couldn’t have been more excited to end with a fun event. We don’t watch a lot of badminton at home, maybe occasionally watching a match during previous Olympics but that was about the extent. I’ve played a backyard game of badminton only a handful of times. But it was a lot of fun to watch live badminton.

Badminton has been an event in the Summer Olympics since 1992, though it did appear in the 1972 Munich Olympics as a demonstration sport. Asian nations typically dominate the sport with China leading the way with a total of 41 total medals, followed by Indonesia and South Korea with 19 medals total each. In the Singles competition 29 competitors (both men and women) are selected to compete, while 19 pairs are selected for the doubles competition. A badminton match in the Olympics is a best of three games played to 21 points using rally scoring. The winner must either win by two points or be the first player to reach 30 points.

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Christmas Ornaments 2017

Continuing with a mini post on Christmas showing off our souvenir ornaments we picked up in 2017. It’s a fun tradition Brian and I started way back when we first started traveling and it’s fun to try and seek out an ornament everywhere we go. Sometimes it’s easy and other times it’s harder. Sometimes it’s an actual ornament we find, other times it’s something we can turn into an ornament once we get home.

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Flashback: Tikal, Guatemala (Belize 2012)

We did a day trip from San Ignacio to Tikal National Park in neighboring country, Guatemala with Pacz Tours. The border between Belize and Guatemala is located incredibly close to San Ignacio and after a brief stop at the border to get our passports checked and exchange money, we started on our almost two hour drive to Tikal National Park.

Tikal National Park is the largest archeological site within the American continent and is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Tikal comprises over 500 square kilometers of jungle, including approximately 16 square kilometers of buildings. The park was rediscovered in 1848 when a gum collector saw some of the temples roofs off in the distance and went to inform the governor of the northern Guatemalan province. At the peak, Tikal likely had up to 100,000 residents within the city in the 8th century.

The first part of the park we visited was Complexes Q and R, which is a unique twin pyramid complex that has rarely been found in other Mayan sites. The Complex Q was built to celebrate the end of a twenty year period, called a Katun in the Mayan calendar. It consists of four buildings based on the four directional points with pyramids on the east/west and rectangular buildings on the north/south. We were able to climb to the top of the east pyramid for a good view. The east pyramid was used for rituals and celebrations, while the west pyramid remains covered still. Our guide said they haven’t uncovered all the complexes yet because no remains have been found and they haven’t wanted to spend the money to continue the excavations. The north building in the complex contains an important stela that displays Chitam, who was the last ruler to leave a written record of Tikal before the collapse.

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Sugarloaf Mountain (Rio Day 7)

We ended our day long private tour of Rio by our guide dropping us off at the famous Sugarloaf Mountain. We had read horror stories of long lines to both buy tickets and wait in line for the cable car, so we pre-bought tickets online prior to coming to Rio. When we walked up and were able to bypass an incredibly long line, we were glad to already have our tickets in hand. Now do you have to pre-buy tickets? On a normal day, probably not. But the lines can get really long there during peak season, especially around sunset.

Sugarloaf Mountain (or Pao de Acucar) sits at the mouth of Guanabara Bay. Sugarloaf is the taller of two summits and is reached via two cable cars. The first cable car travels from sea level to Urca Hill (or Morro da Urca) while the second cable car than travels to the peak of Sugarloaf itself. You can actually hike up Urca Hill from the Red Beach if you feel up for the challenge. Supposedly it’s not all that difficult, though it is steep in some spots and is a 1.6km trail one way. On Urca Hill, there is a small cafe and other facilities to relax and take in the outstanding view over the surrounding bay and ocean and with a view of Sugarloaf also.

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November 2017

November was an incredibly challenging month for my family, especially on my dad’s side of the family. We lost my grandma on November 4th and within the course of the same day, my grandpa fell and broke his hip. Upon his visit to the hospital, the doctors discovered he had cancer and that it was pretty aggressive. Moments after he left for the hospital was when my grandma passed away and watching my dad tell his father that grandma passed away was heartbreaking. My grandpa’s reaction was one of immediate heartbreak and then instantly turned to the rest of us in his hospital room and wanted to ensure that we were okay. Three weeks to the day after my grandma passed, my grandpa reunited with her. It was harder for my grandpa’s passing, mostly because it was so much more sudden and while we had three weeks to get “used to the idea”, he had been in such good health before that it was hard to see him go down hill so fast. My grandma had suffered from dementia for about 3 years and mostly only recognized my grandpa by the time she passed away. I did get to see two of my cousins who I hadn’t seen in years as they traveled from Colorado to the funerals, so that was a small blessing in an otherwise horrible few weeks.

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Flashback: San Ignacio, Belize 2012

We arrived in Belize City early in the morning, rented a car, and immediately headed for San Ignacio (about a two hour drive). There are loads of accommodations to choose from while in San Ignacio, but the most popular is a jungle lodge. Of course the jungle lodges aren’t right in town and are instead scattered around the town in the jungle itself. Of course, these aren’t exactly in the budget category, but there are plenty of hostels in San Ignacio itself if you are looking for something cheaper. There is a wide range of prices and luxury available within the jungle lodge category. We choose one on the lower end (at least it was back in 2012) and loved our few nights stay there. The one major caveat if you choose a jungle lodge, is factoring in how to get into town. Many hotels can arrange transportation into town and to tours themselves, but it may be cheaper in the long run to rent a car for the days you are staying in San Ignacio. We rented a car for this portion of our trip and were happy we had the flexibility to drive ourselves around and offset some of the cost by being able to drive ourselves into town without having to pay extra.

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Escadaria Selarón (Rio Day 5 & 7)

We visited the famous Selaron Steps (or Escadaria Selarón in Portuguese) twice while in Rio. We visited briefly while on our food tour while walking between two different eateries and then again on our full day private tour. The iconic steps were created by the Chilean artist Jorge Selarón as a tribute to the Brazilian people. The artist lived along the street and he began covering the run down steps near his doorway with multicolored tiles. The Selaron Steps run from Joaquim Silva Street to Pinto Martin Street connecting the Lapa neighborhood to the Santa Teresa neighborhood. There are a total of 215 steps covered in tiles and feature tiles from over 60 countries both on the steps and the surrounding walls.

It’s an incredible display of work and love to the Brazilian people. Our food tour guide said she was glad that the Rio government recognizes the artwork and is dedicated to making sure it is protected. She said the project could have easily gone the way of destruction and abandonment, but thanks to Snoop Dog’s music video shot there it helped gain international recognition and has since become an icon of the city.

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