Grand Caribe

This is Belize: Looking a bit more like the Paradise we always imagined

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Look, Ma! No trash! A rare and joyful sight on Ambergris Caye, after yesterday's First Friday trash cleanup.
Look, Ma! No trash! A rare and joyful sight on Ambergris Caye, after yesterday’s First Friday trash cleanup.

Moppit and I walked to Ak’Bol and back this morning and for the first time in a long time this always beautiful walk dazzled me.

And I know why, too.

Not only is the shoreline almost completely recovered from Hurricane Earl but the beaches are as full and lush as I’ve ever seen them.

But, most noticeably, THERE IS NO TRASH TO BE SEEN. This is a rare and incredible sight because even the most charming sections of beach up here are usually littered with plastic refuse and bottles. I urge you to take a walk north from the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge as far as you can up the beach. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Fringe of the Sea inspires a form of poetry all its own

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The Fringe of the Sea -- Ambergris Caye to your left and the Belize Barrier Reef to your right. An amazing amount of life goes on between the two.
The Fringe of the Sea — Ambergris Caye to your left and the Belize Barrier Reef to your right. An amazing amount of life goes on between the two, inside the Fringe.

Here’s a new term for me: “the fringe of the sea.”

This the space between the eastern shore of Ambergris Caye and the great Belize Barrier Reef. From space, I imagine, the relatively calm and shallow blue-green expanse must look like a colorful collar. This fringe teems with life, aquatic and human.

In many ways it is a highway, too. At its busiest, it is filled with water taxis, sailboats, barges, para-sailors, jet skis, resort boats, pleasure boats, kayaks, fishing boats . . . . If it floats, it will make its way up and down the coast.

Beneath the aqua and emerald waters you can spot turtles, dolphins, sharks, a thousand varieties of colorful reef fish, brightly hued corals — and conch and lobster, too.

From the shore, the white rumble of the surf against the reef seems so close — and in some spots it is.

Read the rest of this entry »

When the power goes out on Ambergris Caye, the feet start walking

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Walking north through Tres Cocos, this property (a couple of residences, actually) is a real success story -- albeit an expensive one. A year ago, the water extended to the dock ramp and where you see sand now, there was a thick layer of stinky sargassum seaweed.  Tons of the stuff were pulled off the beach but keeping up with it was impossible. Now a stone wall and tons of fresh sand hold back the seaweed and keep it moving south with the current.
Walking north through Tres Cocos, this property (a couple of residences, actually) is a real success story — albeit an expensive one. A year ago, the water extended to the dock ramp and where you see sand now, there was a thick layer of stinky sargassum seaweed. Tons of the stuff were pulled off the beach but keeping up with it was impossible. Now a stone wall and tons of fresh sand hold back the seaweed and keep it moving south with the current.

True to its word, Belize Electric Ltd. (BEL) shut down the entire island’s electricity at 6 a.m. Saturday morning for some maintenance projects.

I suppose that sounds a little strange to you, my First World family and friends, but that is how things are done here. When something is taken off-line for repairs, the whole island goes black. I guess we just don’t have the redundancy systems that would allow them to bypass a transformer, feeder, substation or whatever.

By BEL does have a Facebook alert system and the utility posted warnings as early as Friday about the shutdown.

So, you adjust, roll with it and move on. Read the rest of this entry »

Following the road most-cycled on Ambergris Caye

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The evening light was beautiful on Saturday.
The evening light was beautiful on Saturday.

Very late on Saturday afternoon, Rose and I decided to head :30 p.m.)north on the bikes.

No destination. No agenda. No plan other than to ride into the night (which arrives around 5:30 p.m.) and then head for home.

There is one road when you head north from San Pedro. The condition varies from flat and dusty, to rocky and dusty, to very rocky and dusty, to very rocky and lumpy, to BMX-class track.

Perfect for a lazy Saturday evening excursion. Read the rest of this entry »

Move over, buddy, I have a golf cart and I’m crazy!

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The view from the pool at the Blue Tang Inn in San Pedro. At the left is Wet Willy's at the end of a pier. My friend Kevin Brass says Jerry Jeff Walker ("Mr. Bo Jangles") used to give an invitation-only concert out there. You can read Kevin's story here.
The view from the pool at the Blue Tang Inn in San Pedro. At the left is Wet Willy’s at the end of a pier. My friend Kevin Brass says Jerry Jeff Walker (“Mr. Bo Jangles”) used to give an invitation-only concert out there. You can read Kevin’s story here.

After experiencing a genuine San Pedro traffic jam this morning, Rose and I naturally went out and rented a golf cart for the afternoon. At least we went north of San Pedro, away from the traffic.

Even then, the clerk was horrified when I told him we were headed to the north end of the island.

“You know its been raining,” said Allen.

Rose posing at the Ak'Bol Yoga Retreat just north of San Pedro. Morning yoga classes are held at the end of the dock directly behind her.
Rose posing at the Ak’Bol Yoga Retreat just north of San Pedro. Morning yoga classes are held at the end of the dock directly behind her.

My blank face gave nothing away. So he continued, “The road is filled with potholes and ruts and big puddles. If you get the motor wet, it is a long way to push it back here.”

Point well taken.

He recommended going no farther than the Palapa Bar, about a half mile north of the toll bridge. We did make it a little farther, to the Grand Caribe resort.

And Allen was right to be concerned. “Washboard” doesn’t begin to describe the rutting of these dirt roads in the rainy season. My teeth and kidneys couldn’t have taken another half mile of it.

OK, if we rented this place ... the upside is I wouldn't have to mow the lawn. The downside is we'll never again own dry clothing. Still ...
OK, if we rented this place … the upside is I wouldn’t have to mow the lawn. The downside is we’ll never again own dry clothing. Still …  To the right is the Palapa Bar, on the end of a short pier. OK that’s another plus: The bar is a short row from your front door.

Seriously though,  worse than the road is the mosquitoes.

Every time we stopped to look a a house behind a for sale sign they would swarm the cart and try to tip it over. Only the most reckless swerving on my part kept them from getting a good grip on it.  Unfortunately a few thousand got through and attached themselves to  major parts of my body.

So proud to be giving blood in Belize. Wish it were for a greater cause.

As everyone knows, it is not the bites, it’s the itching.

A second view of the beach at Ak'Bol Yoga Retreat. Really lovely and lovingly maintained grounds.
A second view of the beach at Ak’Bol Yoga Retreat. Really lovely and lovingly maintained grounds.

Then there’s the Dengue Fever epidemic. Apparently 19 people on the island have contracted Dengue in the past couple of week. The culprit is a small black and white striped mosquito. Frankly I didn’t look at their markings as I squeegeed them off my arms and legs. I’ll let you know if I begin to ache in my joints, contract fevers and acquire headaches.

The best antidote for a mosquito attack is a Belikin beer out in the Palapa Bar. II think the mosquitoes are either afraid to swim or can’t fight the headwinds coming off the water. At any rate, they didn’t follow us down the pier to the bar.

Rony provides service with a smile at the Palapa Bar. The bar has Jimmy Buffet photos posted allover the place. I'm sure he is a god to the patrons of this way laid-back place.
Ronny provides service with a smile at the Palapa Bar. The bar has Jimmy Buffet photos posted allover the place. I’m sure he is a god to the patrons of this way laid-back place.

Like most places we’ve visited so far, this place was nearly deserted. In fact, while my burger was cooking, the few remaining guests got up and left.

That left bartender Ronny, a native Belizean, time to tell us about the enormous New England Patriots logo tattooed on to his right forearm. Seriously, why not a soccer team, like Manchester United or Chelsea? He’s just always been a fan, well, at least since his high school football coach told him about the Patriots.

Coolest feature of the Palapa: There is a cluster of inner tubes gathered in the warm Caribbean waters below the bar. You can lounge on them and the bar will lower drinks to you on a rope.

Since we had the golf cart for four hours we decided to see how far south we could go. Answer: Pretty far. It’s not like the cart has an odometer. It does have a turn signal which I was forever leaving on thus instantly becoming the old man in the gold cart you hate to drive behind …. The normally cheery Belizeans apparently are easily pissed off by tourists who forget to turn off their turn signals.

Sorry, my new friends. I’ll do better.