An AIDS Lifecycle lesson I should have remembered: Drink before you’re thirsty, and eat before you’re hungry.
I collapsed as soon as I got to the airport hotel, and spent a couple hours in a hazy state before it dawned on me that this wasn’t normal. I knew I’d been dehydrated in Antigua (which is so damn hot the sweat just pours out of you), but thought I’d gotten enough water–but something was definitely wrong. So I ate half a Power Bar out of my first-aid kit, which gave me enough energy to stagger downstairs and ask the women at the guesthouse to make me some food. At this point it dawned on me that I’d only eaten twice in the last 48 hours.
Anyway, I think I was severely dehydrated, suffering from an electrolyte imbalance, and seriously underfed, but four hours later, I’m back on the road to feeling like a real human being. It’ll probably take me a day or two to get fully rehydrated, but I’m no longer falling over, and that’s a good thing.
Lesson for future: remember to eat and drink.
Now I’m looking ahead to Belize, and it promises to be exciting. There are four really interesting things going on in Belize. The first is the Punta Gorda ecotourism association, which offers a chance to stay in Mayan villages (and make hot chocolate from cacao beans!). It’s in southern Belize, at the very bottom of the country. The best part is that the villages are traditional but all have English as a second language, meaning it’s quite possible to talk to them about handicrafts, food, etc.
(Chocolate, as most of my friends know, is my second obsession–I love making chocolates, keep 30-40 pounds of Valrhona on hand as a matter of course, taste any top chocolate I can get my hands on, and have a library of books on cacao and chocolate (not to mention making about 30 pounds of truffles every Thanksgiving). However, I’ve only seen a cacao tree once, at a distance, in Hawaii. One of the things I very much wanted out of this trip was the chance to see cacao where it naturally grows–it is a Central/South American tree, after all! It doesn’t grow in the Guatemalan highlands, but apparently it does grow in Belize. I’d LOVE to get to see a cacao tree up close, see how it’s harvested, and learn more about how the Mayans prepare chocolate.)
The second cool thing in Belize is the Cashew Festival, held in Crooked Tree (population 600) the first weekend in May, which celebrates all things cashew–cashew juice, cashew butter, roasted cashews, etc. I just happen to be in Belize that weekend, and it sounds like fun, and I’ve never eaten a cashew apple (the fruit from which the cashew hangs), so I’m rearranging my travel plans to see if I can go to it. Check out this writer’s view of it.
The third thing is, of course, the diving–the barrier reef off Belize is the biggest in the Western Hemisphere, and the variety of marine life is stunning. I plan to do at least 3-4 days of diving.
Last, but definitely not least, is the wildlife. A huge chunk of Belize is set aside as a nature reserve, and the flora and fauna are diverse and abundant–the Crooked Tree Reserve is said to be one of the best bird-watching places in the world. Definitely want to take some time for hiking.
So I’m considering what to do. At the moment, the most likely route seems to be to arrive in Belize City, spend half a day there, then run down to Punta Gorda (a five hour bus ride) to check out the Mayan villages. I would prefer to start out with diving, but I’m still recovering from the flu. Maybe in a few days.
First order of business, though, will be picking up malaria medication. Malaria is endemic to Belize, and I should really have started taking medication two days ago, but I haven’t been able to find a suitable medication in the small pharmacies I’ve been seeing. So, I’m buying it as soon as possible, but I’ll still have to take my chances the first few days.
Oh, and if you aren’t quite sure where Belize is (I wasn’t sure either, until I started traveling), it’s south of Mexico and east of Guatemala, just north of Honduras.
Today Guatemala, tomorrow Belize. (Have I really only been traveling for one week??)