Labor Day in the United States is an annual holiday celebrating the contributions that American workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of the nation. My friend and I decided that we'd honor all our many professional achievements by popping over to Ambergris Caye, Belize for a laid back weekend getaway. At least that's what was initially intended...
Ambergris Caye welcomed us with sunny skies and perfect temperatures, even though we arrived late in the day. The next morning, we were abruptly awoken by power drills and jackhammers that sounded like they were IN our hotel room. I went to the window and flung open the curtains, expecting to see sunshine and the ocean. Instead, all I saw was plywood.
After stepping out of the hotel, we learned that there was a hurricane headed directly towards Belize. It was hard to image since it was absolutely gorgeous out. Feeling invincible, we carried on with our vacation and didn't pay much attention to the impending storm. Most of that day was spent diving in the Blue Hole (...with sharks. Eeek!).
The following morning, we learned that Hurricane Felix had been upgraded to a Category 5. Things began to get a bit hectic. Everything had been bolted/tied down or boarded up. The locals withdrew their life savings from the bank, leaving the ATM machines barren. And lines had formed from the docks, all the way down the beach, as people evacuated via water taxis, to the mainland.
It was decision time. The way we saw it, we could either leave with everyone else, cutting our trip short, or we could take our chances and use this opportunity to buy ourselves a few extra days of holiday. At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer. Ahh, to be young and naive.
We called our bosses and explained our (embellished) excuses for missing more work. The next call was to American Airlines to switch our flights. This turned out to be easier than anticiapted. They were happy to have two more seats available and even changed our flights for free - we later found out why.
Once all the logistics had been sorted, we decided to make the most of it. We essentially had the island to ourselves! It was like a Corona commercial, perfectly peaceful. We spent the remainder of the day pool hopping from one empty resort to the next. Once the sun set, it began to get a bit eerie. The ocean water receded, birds flew in circles and the mosquitoes came out in full force. We reconsidered our decision to face the storm for about five minutes...Until we saw a sign for Hurricane Felix happy hour specials.
On September 4th, Felix made landfall just south of the border, between Nicaragua and Honduras. We had survived Hurricane Felix! Well, 'got lucky' was probably a more accurate phrase.
Just as people started to inhabit our island again, it was time for us to depart. We arrived at the airport and got in line to receive our new boarding passes. The person at the ticket counter took one look at my new itinerary and actually called her co-workers over to all have a laugh. I had no idea what all the giggles were about until she handed me a STACK of boarding passes. My new flight pattern was Ambergris Caye to Belize City, Belize City to Miami, Miami to San Francisco, I had to spend the night in San Francisco and then fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and then finally, from Los Angeles to San Diego. (So that you can put this into perspective, my initial flight was Belize City to Dallas and then Dallas to San Diego). 28 hours later, I was home and still not regretting my decision to brave Hurricane Felix one bit!