Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sunday, the rest of the story

We are all home, SAFE and SOUND, so now I can tell you the rest of the story of our weekend at Tranquility Lodge.

Saturday was a relaxing a fun day. We drove in Punta Gorda in the morning to shop and experience Market Day.  Many of the people from the remote villages leave their homes as early as 4:30 am to take the bus to PG to shop for produce and other supplies. Trying to maneuver our big van through the crowded streets is quite a challenge, Ann is an excellent driver!

We bid farewell to the sisters at the Nazareth Retreat Center and headed over to Tranquility Lodge.  We were in for quite a treat! The Lodge is set way back in the rain forest and is lovely. There are four rooms in the air conditioned main lodge and three thatch casitas. We pull keys out of a basket to decide who gets each room.  Marilyn/Emily, Anita/Sam and Nick were the lucky ones (haha) who got the thatch huts. The owner told us to be sure to pull the mosquito nets over the beds, not for mosquito protection, but to keep off the iguana poop that might fall from the ceiling.

The new owners of Tranquility Lodge, Lee and Suzanne, are amazing people who made us feel right at home. They cooked a delicious lunch of chicken wings, nachos and salad. After having no salad all week, I know most of us were pretty excited to see lettuce.  After lunch we headed to Cyrila's Chocolates.  This is one of the projects from the Micro-loan program.  We learned all about the cacao plant and how it is grown and harvested in the rain forest, and well as the ecology of organic farming.  We got to try our hand at shelling the roasted cacao beans, which is much harder than it looks! We then made chocolate by hand, using the ancient method of grinding the beans on specially shaped stones.  We even got to sample our hand made chocolates.  Cyrila's makes several kinds of chocolates, all of which have a high percentage of cacao and ad are delicious.  We purchased some to bring home, we'll see who of you are lucky enough to get some.

Dinner was at a the Mangrove, a seaside restaurant in PG.  After dinner and a few loud games of table top shuffleboard, it was off to bed. It turns out that it is VERY dark and VERY loud in the rain forest at night, especially when a huge rainstorm comes in at 3 am!  Nick slept through it, but Marilyn and Emily discovered that there is not much sleeping done in a leaky thatch hut in a huge thunderstorm (Sam and Anita wimped out and bunked in extra beds in the AC rooms!)   Some of the group had planned to head to the ruins on Sunday morning, but after the bad storm were worried about the condition of the roads an decided to cancel that plan.  This turned out to be a good idea.  Lee, the owner, reported to us that the young woman who was supposed to come in from Jacintoville to help cook had called to report that the road to Tranquility Lodge was completely under water and impassible! This meant that we were all stuck there until the water receded!!!!  No panic yet!  Several people went down to check the water and it looked to be about five feet deep and completely covering the only entrance to the Lodge.

We had planned to leave around 11:00 to head out to San Lucas for mass at 1:30, and visiting with our friends in the village. We had a number of pictures, school supplies and other things to deliver there and in Santa Teresa.  We kept ourselves busy all day with a shuffleboard tournament, complete with Olympic music and team photos. Lee checked the water every hour or so and it was slowly going down.  By 2 pm the road was open, but with over an hour ride each way out to San Lucas, the unknown height of other river crossing and the threat of more rain, we made the hard decision to fore go the trip.  This was a really tough decision as we were all looking forward to a proper goodbye to our friends in San Lucas and Santa Teresa  :(   

We packed up the supplies and drove into town to leave them with Dorla Bowman to deliver later this week.  We were all more than a little concerned about the threat of more rain and the possibility that we would have to wade out of the Lodge! So we had Frances, the owner of the bus company, drive in on Saturday evening and we loaded up all of the big suitcases for him to lock in the bus overnight (on high ground!)
Headed in to dinner at Asha's by the Sea, a restaurant literally built on a dock, we could see the bay through he slats in the boards under our feet!  In the typical small world fashion we have come to expect, we discovered that Asha's wife (a marine biologist who helps out at the restaurant) was actually from St Peters, MO!  A huge storm blew in while we finished dinner which made the drive back to the lodge really interesting. Again, we are all amazed by Ann's fine driving skills.  The highlight (or perhaps lowlight for Judy) was when a large lizard fell from the thatch ceiling right on her shoulder! She was much calmer than Anita, who ran, screaming, in the opposite direction!  We like to think the lizard was more traumatized than we were, but I doubt it!

We managed to squeeze everybody in the AC rooms and got a few hours sleep before our 4:30 am departure time!  We all went to bed praying that we would not be wading out to the road to meet the bus!  Our hosts, Lee and Suzanne, had hot coffee and cold water bottles to send with us, the rain held off, we had an uneventful ride to Belize City, no problems going through Customs, and on time flights all around. Whew, that is the most stressful part of the trip!

It was hard to say goodbye to this great bunch of people.  Everyone was so flexible and so willing to jump in and adapt to the ever changing plans.  We have so many reasons to say BANTIOX (thank you!)