On Ambergris Caye — change is gonna come

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All is calm this morning, just a hint of a breeze and calm waters. Welcome to hurricane season.
All is calm this morning, just a hint of a breeze and calm waters. Welcome to hurricane season.

You can’t escape change. Even on a Caribbean island.

Some of it you can’t do much about — like the weather. Some of it is economic — like the end of the tourism season. And some of it is man made — like traffic.

We’re heading into hurricane/rainy season and it is interesting how precise the timetable is — for the rain at least. Right on schedule, June 1, the clouds began moving in and the winds began to die down. It now rains, however briefly, at least once at night and occasionally during the day.

This is a good thing since our water supply is almost entirely dependent on rain and our cisterns are nearly depleted. Likewise, well water is quite low and high in smelly rotten-egglike sulfurs. Flushing toilets are not a pleasant experience at the moment. Ah, island living.

Almost over night, island beaches have gone from this ......
Almost over night, island beaches have gone from this . . .

Until June, the wind was constant, day and night, a steady breeze from the east that brought with it relief from the heat, crashing waves on the reef, an end to mosquitoes and sandflies and, unfortunately, tons of sargassum and floating plastic that piled up on the shore with a relentless smelly density.

The end of the winds mean a few things — those 85 degree days begin to feel like 85 degrees, but also the Caribbean grows glossy flat and clear. This gives the men with their rakes and wheelbarrows a fighting chance to keep the beaches clean. The other day the winds actually switched course and came gently from the south-southwest, pushing the sargassum back out to sea — something a lot of islanders were expecting to happen months ago.

. . . to this.
. . . to this.

The diminishing winds make paddling out to the reef by kayak or standup paddleboard much easier and the quality of snorkeling improves dramatically as the silt drops to the bottom and the fish grow bolder in calming waters.

All of this change in weather also marks the end of the High Season. There are instances when you can ride through San Pedro Town and not see a single tourist. Mostly now those who come to San Pedro are serious fishermen, divers, evangelical volunteer groups, bargain hunters and destination weddings.

It is kind of a shame because we are entering the best time of year. Oh, sure, it will be warm — OK, hot. There will be mosquitoes. And it will rain. But the opportunities to enjoy Ambergris Caye at its least-crowded will be wide open.

The bar at the Rondezvous restaurant, a few miles up the coast from us. It takes a certain quirky vision to combine a marlin and surfboard. That's just part of what I like about this place.
The bar at the Rondezvous restaurant, a few miles up the coast from us. It takes a certain quirky vision to combine a marlin and surfboard. That’s just part of what I like about this place.

Last night Rose and I drove up north to Rendezvous restaurant for dinner. It was the last coupon from her spectacular Lobster Festival grand prize winnings from 2014.  This popular resort area restaurant was uncrowded and we got unbelievable attention from staff. We opted for the Chef’s Table, leaving dinner up to Colleen with yummy results — a tuna tartare with a saki chaser, Thai shrimp soup, Phad Thai with tasty prawns and a triple-threat dessert.

Ah, dessert. Rondezvous calls it a "Trio of Petite Delights." Me with my unfiltered brain-mouth blurted out "Wow, sex on a platter!" which startled the staff and Rose. Ah, well, it was a close second. So I wasn't entirely out of line.
Ah, dessert. Rondezvous calls it a “Trio of Petite Delights.” Me with my unfiltered brain-mouth blurted out “Wow, sex on a platter!” which startled the staff and Rose. Ah, well, it was a close second. So I wasn’t entirely out of line.

Next door at Las Terrazas, a destination wedding with 80 guests was in full revelry, dancing in the sand to to steamy island beats under twinkling lights and gauzy white tenting. It looked simply magical.

Who knows, with the incredible airline summer sale this past week, incredibly low prices may entice more people to consider Belize this summer over driving to Yellowstone and getting stuck in the smog and traffic while searching for grazing buffalo and scavanging bears.

Speaking of traffic …..

A different sort of change. At a fixed time on a recent Saturday people all over Belize gathered together and held hands to protest plans to open the Barrier Reef to oil exploration. Here on Ambergris Caye, a similar protest one year ago drew five people. Concern and public advocacy is growing over issues like crime, trash, quality of life, hunger  and oil exploration. Probably a welcome change.
A different sort of change. At a fixed time on a recent Saturday people all over Belize gathered together and held hands to protest plans to open the Barrier Reef to oil exploration. Here on Ambergris Caye, a similar protest one year ago drew five people. Concern and public advocacy is growing over issues like crime, trash, quality of life, hunger and oil exploration. Probably a welcome change.

My friend Stephen Thompson, a 20-plus year resident of Belize, recently loaned me a visitor’s guide from the early 1980’s and I’ve got to tell you, that was some interesting reading.

Especially the section on Ambergris Caye.

It is no shock to anyone that this island has changed dramatically since then. I mean, look around your own town. Is it the same as it was 40 years ago?

With some exceptions, probably not.

Some things never change. With the calming weather, these guys are back netting grubs by the buckets full. . . .
Some things never change. With the calming weather, these guys are back netting grubs by the buckets full. . . .

I especially liked the description of San Pedro Town and was so taken with it that I copied whole paragraphs onto my computer. And lost them.

The gist was that San Pedro is a sleepy little fishing village with sandy streets and only a handful of golf carts. One phrase I remember vividly: “The streets truly belong to the pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Try to write that today and hang on to your credibility.

. . . And Jose can be seen every single day, harvesting coconuts and filling plastic jugs with refreshing coconut water. It takes him under five minutes to open a half-dozen coconuts and fill a gallon jug.
. . . And Jose can be seen every single day, harvesting coconuts and filling plastic jugs with refreshing coconut water. It takes him under five minutes to open a half-dozen coconuts and fill a gallon jug.

Even with the end of tourism season, San Pedro’s few streets — there are only four running north and south — are surprisingly crowded. And it isn’t all pedestrians and bicyclists. Golf carts (guilty), taxi vans, delivery trucks, beverage waggons, and more and more, private vehicles are clogging the streets.

So much so that the Town Council is contemplating installing a … wait for it … traffic light.

Yes, a traffic light.

Now that will be interesting in a town where most drivers consider such traffic staples as stop signs, hand signals and driving on the right side of the road as merely heartfelt suggestions to be acknowledged but ignored.

Mayor Danny Guerrero has plenty of other ideas on the table — including banishing large vehicles from the heavily commercial Front and Middle streets, opening a large central parking lot next to the football field and limiting the permits for private full-size vehicles on the island.

All good ideas. They will have an immediate impact.

Change is good. Change is healthy.

I just hope that the change ahead does not include a traffic light!

And finally, the strong winds didn't end in time to spare the agave-yucca-sisel plant that we have watched grow straight and tall to nearly 30 feet. An uncommonly strong wind a couple of weeks ago proved too much. But where it once soared young off-shoots have appeared and, god willing, we'll see the cycle repeated one day.
And finally, the strong winds didn’t end in time to spare the agave-yucca-sisel plant (honestly not sure which one this is) that we have watched grow straight and tall to nearly 30 feet. An uncommonly strong wind a couple of weeks ago proved too much. But where it once soared young off-shoots have appeared and, god willing, we’ll see the cycle repeated one day.

 

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One thought on “On Ambergris Caye — change is gonna come

    Susan Watts said:
    June 7, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Oh no! No traffic lights! Banish the cars first!

    Like

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