Thursday, July 6, 2017

Days 329-231 June 22-25 Belize City, BZ



After a short flight we landed in Belize City and headed to our rental. It was said to be in the posh part of town and was definitely upscale. Its interior was mahogany - the tree of Belize, granite and lovely furnishings. The owner built it for his wife, who wanted a home on the mainland.                                                                   Because we had a bit of a drive to get into town, we rented cars, a nice change from the golf carts. After getting groceries we went down town for food and to the see the sights. Belize city is large and urban in a 3rd world kind of way. This was not tourist season, but 2 or 3 cruise ships still stop in the city each week. 

We all wanted to go see the Mayan ruins at Lamanai so we arranged for a guide to pick us up and show us around. We were picked up at 8AM to meet a boat for the trip to the ruins. The boat ride was fun. We sped down the New River, through a rain forest toward Lamanai. Along the way, we stopped to see a friendly spider monkey, iguana and fruit bats. 
Most of the site's excavation was done during the mid 1970s. Archeologists focused on the larger  structures and the central meeting place. It was occupied from 1200 BC to 1600 AD, much longer than other known sites. It is thought that being able to use the river for water and transportation may well have been a factor. 





 I think this is a "must see" when visiting Belize. The guide made the information interesting and easy to remember. All the temples can be climbed allowing you to get a great view of the surrounding area which includes hundreds of buildings that have not been excavated but can be seen as mounds of earth scattered throughout the 5 mile area.

We spent our last day in Belize, lounging, playing cards and sharing photos. The next day, John and I left at 5:30AM for a long day of travel that would end in Tucson, AZ.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Days 320-329 June 14-22 San Jose, BZ diving

Our friend, Jeanne, invited us on a diving trip to Belize, specifically Ambergris Caye, and we jumped on it. Belize is in Cental America, south of Mexico and east of Guatemala on the Caribbean Sea. Ambergris Caye, pronounces key, is a famous diving destination because of its large barrier reef. Only the Great Barrier Reef is longer.




The house we stayed in had 3 stories with the main living area on the second floor. The house was roomy and, importantly air conditioned. It was right on the beach with a fabulous view.
Out back the long dock ended with a palapa, a grass covered hut. It was blissful to say the least.

Barb and I went snorkeling there and were amazed at all the life. Earlier we had watched as 6 to 8 inch fish leapt out of the water as if fleeing for their lives. We believe we found the cause: a large barracuda.

Since the house was 30 minutes outside of town, we rented a couple golf carts to use as transportation. The roads in San Jose are rough, potholed and water logged. Oh and then there were hordes of mosquitoes. The challenge for the driver was to balance missing potholes while keeping ahead of the bugs. Riders balanced warding off bug bites while doing your best to not fall off.


The whole gang ready to head out. 
We dove in quite a few spots along the caye. We were able to dive through holes in the coral, see deep canyons, many forms of coral and a wide variety of critters, including sharks. One of the more interesting was the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. It is strictly policed and protected. The wildlife was incredible. We saw sharks, rays, Sargent Majors along with many I cannot name. 

My time in San Jose helped to grow my diving skills and understand what appealed to me I the sport. our dive masters were fabulous, extremely supportive and informative. After a week of diving multiple daily dives, we were all ready to get a change of scene, so we headed to the mainland. 


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Day 312-319 June 6-13, 2017 Rest days in Green Valley, AZ

It is good to have friends. It is very good to have friends who will invite you to stay at their home for over a week. It is especially good to have friends who live in great places who will invite you to stay at their home for over a week. Tim and Julie are those especially good friends.

View from their backyard patio.


These are the Santa Rita mountains. You can see a 'bump' on the highest peak that is an observatory.



Cool experiences in the Green Valley/Tucson area:

The desert.
In the Sonoran Desert between 2,000 feet and 4,000 feet elevation, which is where we are, you find Saguaro cactus. These are huge, and long lived.


They don't even put out their first branch until they are over 70 years old. I am 70, so the cactus on the right in the picture above is older than I am. I am told that they can live over 150 years, weigh over 4,000 pounds, and typically grow 40 to 60 feet tall. They are the largest cacti in the United States.


The Sonora Desert Museum, just outside of Tucson, had a lot of info. This is a slow growing cactus.


Lots of flowers on the cacti in the desert. Typically the flower opens during the night, and is wilted and withered by noon. This cactus was only about 18 inches high. The picture was taken around 10:30, and the blossom has already begun to wilt.


Tequila on the hoof, as it were.


This is a cholla cactus.


Close up of spines.


This is one of the nastiest cacti in the desert here. It is referred to as the "jumping" cholla.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cylindropuntia_fulgida
There are several you tube films about it. At least read the Wiki.

My shoes after walking by, and definitely NOT touching some cholla.


The Bike Hub bicycle shop.
Rob is the owner. He did some work for us at a very fair price. Knowledgeable man, and fun to talk with as well.






Tubac, AZ.
Tubac is a town that pre-dates the United States. It was founded by the Spanish in 1752. Beginning in the 1930's, the town converted to an artist colony. Lots of nice galleries and places to eat.




Thought seriously about getting a table like this. The spiral things are fossilized ammonites.


Margaret lusts after this fountain.


Have to stay well hydrated.


Mount Lemmon.
At 9,159 feet, Mt Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. There is a 27 mile paved road that goes from the valley floor all the way to the top. Driving that road you experience six different climate zones.


Starting out at the bottom, elevation 2,900 feet. Notice all the saguaro.




At Windy Point, elevation 6,623.




Coming into Ponderosa Pine territory, about 7,000 feet.


Coming into mixed conifers at 8,000 feet.


At the top, about 9,000 feet and 70F vs 98F on the valley floor. There was a fire up here in 2003, and the forest has not recovered yet.


A proper celebration for our climb. Aspens behind us here as well as conifers.



Tomorrow we fly to Belize for a scuba vacation. We will blog again as soon as we are able.





Thursday, June 8, 2017

Day 311 June 5, 2017 Senoita to Green Valley, AZ

Looking down from the open second story into the common lounge area.
Senoita Inn in Senoita, AZ was built by the co-owner of the famous racehorse, Secretariat. It is reminiscent of a barn in the most elegant and beautiful sense of the term.

John and I arrived around noon and had to wait 2 hours for staff to check us in.







The rooms are each named after a local ranch. Outside each room was an essay about the ranch, pictures of the owners and family and the branding symbol each ranch uses.




It is a lovely place to stay and I would highly recommend it. This is the slow travel season in Arizona which may be the reason that we were the only customers in the hotel that night, I hope so, as it would be a shame to see it go under.










As I mentioned earlier, June is the off-season for tourism in Arizona. The reason is simple; it's the hottest month of the year. The temperature is commonly well above 100 degrees. While temperatures in the 90's can be comfortable in this dry climate, temps over 100 are hot no matter the humidity. In fact the dry air may exasperate the need for water and the danger of running out of it.


It was particularly important to leave early on this leg of the journey, because we were dropping over 2,000 feet in altitude and the temp was predicated to be 111 degrees in our destination, Green Valley, just outside of  Tuscon, AZ.

We began the 50 miles with 7 or 8 miles of climbing followed by a long descent. A very long, lovely, winding decent.


Throughout our trip, we have been using Google Bike Maps extensively, but we take a trust, but verify stance. Nowhere is that more important than in the west. We've been given routes that travel non-existent or more often barley existent roads. This matters in the West because there are not many roads and they do not run parallel. If we chose to follow a road of dubious quality and had to backtrack it would be many miles out of our way in a hostle environment with few support systems.

Hwy 62, a dirt road. 

With that in mind, Google instructed us to take Hwy 62 toward Box Canyon. Hwy 62 sounded good to us especially since the alternate route added 20 miles to our day, but we were dubious to the wisdom once we looked at the map. The road and its connector appeared to go through the Santa Rita mountains and nothing, but a few ranches in the distance and acres and acres of open land.

Upon seeing it, we opted for the longer route.
It turns out that each cow needs 15 acres of grazing land to thrive.
After a stop at 28 miles, the road continued to fall. The scenery became more vegetative and green. This is open range territory. Cattle are allowed to roam freely to graze as they see fit. Since there was a sign warning us, we saw no cattle.



 Once we were within 10 miles of our friends, Tim and Julie's home,
Saguaro cactus began to appear. Saguaro National Park has two sections, one on either side of Tuscon, so that makes sense. Saguaro cactus can grow to a height of 75 feet, with arms branching out and large sharp thorns throughout.




In addition to the greening of the landscape and the addition of different species of cactus, the temperature rose as we lost altitude.  Our last 10 miles became more hilly and our struggles began. It is amazing how much the temperature saps energy. With temps over 100 degrees, it is not possible to drink enough to be adequately hydrated during vigorous exercise. In other words, only mad dogs and Englishmen are out in the midday sun. I'll leave it to you to decide which we were.
Green Valley is a lovely spot in Arizona. The scenery is beautiful and there are an amazing number of activities to participate in. We will be here until the 14th of July when we head out to scuba dive in Belize. More later.
I know this doesn't add to the narrative, but it is a nice shot, don't you think?