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Belize in January

Author: Paul (More Trip Reviews by Paul)
Date of Trip: January 2008

Wednesday January 23

Up at 0600 again to walk the beach and watch the sun rise.

The whole day is spent at the cabana taking sun, swimming and relaxing. At some time in the morning we change cabanas because the one we are in is booked for tonight. Our new one is the same as the last except it does not have a kitchen. Near sundown we walk to the wharf and watch the local fishermen clean conch and fish from their daily catch. They have stories of how the catch has slowly declined in recent years. They blame over fishing.

In the evening we wander downtown and end up at the Purple Space Monkey again for their karaoke night. The rum is flowing freely for all the patrons so there is a wide variety of entrants, some good, some not so good. We have a good time though I wouldn't get up no matter how Dallas asked.

Thursday January 24

More of the same morning routine; up at 0600 and walk the beach for an hour then back to the cabana for coffee. Breakfast is at Wendy's restaurant (no, not THAT one!) and then we pack for the trip to FLC. Our extra luggage is stored at the Tradewind's office and we wait on the beach for our pick up boat. The sea has a slight chop but it is bright and hot, we slather on sunblock for the trip out but it doesn't really matter because the boat has an awning. Ronny is our boat operator and owner of the island but not the caretaker. He slows the boat and points out the sights on the way out; the lighthouse and coral shallows. The trip out is about eight miles and takes forty minutes. Ronny slows and circles the complete island so we can take pictures as we approach.

After docking we meet our host / caretaker / guide and cook; Alberto. He helps us carry our luggage to our quarters and then takes us on a tour of the island. Our quarters are tiny and rustic, sharing a small building with the kitchen. Washrooms with toilet and shower are just a few feet away. The island itself is less than two acres, more than half taken up by mangrove trees and sharp rock. The only beach is not fit for swimming because of coral. Hammocks and a few palapas are interspersed among the palm trees. It is idyllic. We are very pleased.

The morning and afternoon is spent wandering the island, swimming off the dock (wear reef boots), lazing in the hammocks and talking to Alberto. We can have as much or as little privacy as we want; Alberto will go to his tent if we wish to be by ourselves. An afternoon rain sweeps in and we take cover under one of the palapas but it only lasts a few minutes before the sun is once again beating down.

Before we know it, Alberto is starting preparations for supper. A large pile of island wood is fired and let to burn down to coals. This is scooped up in a shovel and placed in a home made grill. The grill is an old propane tank made into a grill in Ronnie's shop.

As supper is grilling we are visited by several hermit crabs. Alberto spots them and waves us over to see. They scurry about, looking for scraps of food and new shells.

One finds the pile of cast off shells that Alberto has saved and crawls about, feeling for one just the right size so he can replace the one he is wearing. The sun is now setting and we have a chance to see this sight unhindered by land.

On one of my short excursions to the far side of the island to get rid of one of those good Belikin beers I discover something that I must share with Dallas. I go back and lead her amongst the palms and bushes, pointing at the ground with my flashlight as if I am looking for something. When we reach a clearing I turn off the light as Dallas asks "what am I looking for?" My answer is just a whisper, "look up". Her breath is taken away. The stars. The stars. The stars. We have both seen stars in the clear skies of northern Ontario that we thought were amazing but never anything like this. The black sky is so crowded with these distant suns that we cannot make out the Big Dipper. We cannot make out anything except the belt of Orion. The spectacle is more than amazing. Dallas and I sit on the porch and make conversation with Alberto while he cooks our meal. He is very easy to talk to. He tells us the story of the island and how it survived the hurricane in '05. Every man made object was lost; cabana, docks, washroom and palapas all disappeared never to be seen again. No insurance coverage either. Ronny is slowly building everything back, equal to or better than the way it was.

We have an excellent supper of fish, chicken, sausage and rice sitting on the porch in front of the kitchen, Alberto eats with us.

After a short respite while supper settles a bit and Alberto washes the dishes, we get ready for snorkelling at night. Alberto sets us up with mask, snorkel and fins, waterproof flashlights and a PFD for Dallas. We start at the east side dock and swim straight out for a couple hundred feet before turning and following the profile of the island. This was simply incredible! Many different fish are about in the colourful coral. They seem to be stunned by the light and become docile. I went so far as to pick up a barracuda and another fish (can't remember its name) in the palm of my hand. Sea cucumbers pull back into their lair when approached. Small squid squirt out tiny clouds of ink as we pass. A sting ray floats past on the ocean floor just out of reach. Plant growth waves back and forth in the swells. We wave our hands in the light and see phosphorescent organisms. Before we know it, we are tired and head back to the dock.

Alberto retires while Dallas and I shower. We sit together on the porch, share a drink of rum and talk about the sights we have just seen. We are still pumped from the experience. Sometime later, we too retire.

Friday January 15

I'm up again at 0600 to wander about the island and swim off the dock. Coffee is on at 0700, we swim and sit down to a breakfast of fried Jacks, bacon, scrambled eggs, fresh sliced pineapple and the best refried beans I have ever tasted, all washed down with fresh squeezed orange juice.

We swim, sketch and journal away the whole morning. A rainstorm sweeps in quickly while we are sitting under one of the palapas and we watch the weather and water change. The sun is blotted out as the rain moves in from the north and the waves pick up to huge whitecaps. Within minutes the islands to the east, no more than a mile away, are hidden by squalls. Another few minutes it is all over and the sun is once again beating down.

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