Monkey Bob

This is Belize: Chew on this ‘Shark Tank’

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Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle . . .
Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle . . .

For a fleeting moment as I drove east on Caribena Street in San Pedro, Belize, I had a blinding flashback to an old lost friend, Monkey Bob.

Some of you may remember our earliest travel companion in Belize. He went where we went and never complained. Until he mysteriously disappeared without so much as a “See ya!”

Looking at this sad excuse for a primate, I could almost see an older, disheveled , more-alcoholic Monkey Bob behind those blood-shot eyes.

But no. It was not our Bob.

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News to me … and thanks!

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You have to love how information travels these days.

My friend John East in San Pedro saw a post on the AmbergrisCaye.com Forum about a wellness centre opening in San Pedro. He thought it would be of interest to my wife, Rose, as the owners are seeking yoga and Pilates teachers.

As it turns out, it is!

Rose already knows the women who started the Zen Arcade Wellness Centre from our visit in September-October, and is talking with them about picking up some classes after we move there next month. Read the rest of this entry »

‘In an uncertain world, you can never have too many Monkey Bobs’

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Look, Monkey Bob would be the first to admit that he was a little spontaneous and unpredictable. In Belize, he had a way with the ladies and could disappear for hours without an apology or explanation.
Look, Monkey Bob would be the first to admit that he was a little spontaneous and unpredictable. In Belize, he had a way with the ladies and could disappear for hours without an apology or explanation.

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Long time readers of this blog — some of you go back decades … to where I’m not sure – will remember a little miscommunication that led to our split with our Belize travel companion, Monkey Bob.

And sometimes Monkey Bob just drank too much and got reckless. Belekins are pretty small beers but they go down smoothly. The buzz kind of sneaks up on you on a warm summer's night.
And sometimes Monkey Bob just drank too much and got reckless. Belekins are pretty small beers but they go down smoothly. The buzz kind of sneaks up on you on a warm summer’s night.

What part of “we’re leaving in five minutes!” he didn’t understand, I’ll never know.

I say “never” because Monkey Bob has made no attempt to contact us since staying behind at the Orchid Bay Resort near Corozal. While Rose and I continued our journey to the rainforest community of San Ignacio, Monkey Bob made a deliberate and, I believe, possibly self-centered decision to remain behind.

It broke Rose’s heart because the two of them were near constant companions and getting along magnificently as travel companions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Monkey Bob bets on Belize

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Such an imp. It was just like Monkey Bob to climb atop  one of the many helpful maps in San Pedro and try to tickle the underbelly of the fish who stands guard over it.
Such an imp. It was just like Monkey Bob to climb atop one of the many helpful maps in San Pedro and try to tickle the underbelly of the fish who stands guard over it.

It is with some sorrow that we announce the departure of Rose’s constant traveling companion, Monkey Bob.

Somewhere, most likely at Orchid Bay in Corozal, northern Belize, Monkey Bob decided to remain behind. Our guess is that, as we packed for the journey to San Ignacio, Monkey Bob remained asleep under the covers.

Always one to seek out the positive, Rose is hoping that Monkey Bob finds his way into the arms of the one little child who currently lives at Orchid Bay year-round. If so, he will make her delightful companion until other children arrive, likely in the High Season, starting in November.

We held out hope that Monkey Bob would hop aboard one of the many colorful and inexpensive buses that crisscross this little nation, tying together Belize City, Corozal, Belmopan, San Ignazio, Spanish Lookout, Placencia, Punta Gorda, Dangriga, the Guatemalan and Mexican border crossings, and all points in between.

But he didn’t.

All the way from San Ignacio to Placencia and, yesterday, from Placencia to Belmopan and Belize City we searched the windows of passing buses in hope that Monkey Bob would be peering out a window, searching for us ...
All the way from San Ignacio to Placencia and, yesterday, from Placencia to Belmopan and Belize City, we searched the windows of passing buses in hope that Monkey Bob would be peering out one of them, searching for us …

Monkey Bob had a talent for amusing Rose when she was bored, distracted or lonely. He would pose almost anywhere in an attempt to make her smile at his antics.

The little monkey.

Monkey Bob’s favorite past-time was photo bombing. He loves the camera and the camera, in return, loves him. Not since Marilyn Monroe has a face been so naturally drawn to the lens, and drawn by the lens.

We carry on, now back in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye for five days. Yes, without Monkey Bob, but still very much in love, even more so, with this spectacularly diverse and welcoming country.

All this means is that Monkey Bob is moving here permanently, months ahead of us.

We will meet again, Monkey Bob. On a beach or in the jungle, somewhere in Belize, we will meet again.

Rose, without Monkey Bob to amuse her, took to isolated activities, like paddleboarding off the beach of Turtle Inn in Placencia. When she discovered she wasn't alone -- that there were many jellyfish out there to keep her company, Rose set a sea surface record paddling for shore.
Rose, without Monkey Bob to amuse her, took to isolated activities, like paddleboarding off the beach of Turtle Inn in Placencia. When she discovered she wasn’t so alone, that there were many jellyfish out there to keep her company, Rose set a sea-surface speed record paddling for shore.

In Belize, ‘What do you recommend?’ opens doors

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Rose and Monkey Bob enjoy some sauvignon blanc from Sonoma, of all places at Wine de Vine
Rose and Monkey Bob enjoy some sauvignon blanc from Sonoma, of all places at Wine de Vine

Can I get a recommendation?

On Ambergris Caye you only have to ask and people come forth with all kinds of great stuff.

The other day over breakfast with English expats John and Rose East, we learned that Friday night’s must-eat dinner is the Mayan buffet at Elvi’s Kitchen. And, holy cow, was that a great recommendation. Later this morning we’ll line up for the soup at Briana’s on Back Street, a Saturday-only experience that lasts only as long as the soup. And according to John and Rose, you get there early or you don’t get any at all.

Part of the buffet table at Elvi's Kitchen.
Part of the buffet table at Elvi’s Kitchen.

Over breakfast yesterday at the Melt Cafe, owners Mark and Michelle tipped us off to what sounds like a pretty good rental — two bedrooms fully furnished on the ocean in one of the nicer condo complexes south of town. We’re going to grab a golf cart or bikes and check it out later this morning, after Rose is done with yoga.

A glimpse of the interior of Elvi's Kitchen
A glimpse of the interior of Elvi’s Kitchen.

Yesterday afternoon we grabbed a light lunch at the Ambergris Brewing Co., which as yet does not brew any beer. But they do offer good sandwiches at a cheap price and they are right next door to out Blue Tang Inn. The owner, Don, stopped to chat after picking up his son at school. When he learned of our intent to move to Belize, possibly San Pedro, he immediately recommended talking to Bob Hamilton, a former Canadian, now Belize citizen, who owns Coral Beach Real Estate.

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Dinner at Elvi's
Dinner at Elvi’s

Another great call. Bob — or Barefoot Bob, as he’s beginning to be called — turns out to be an incredible resource. Even though we just sort of popped into his office yesterday he gave us as much time as we wanted to talk real estate, local gossip, the trials and tribulations to migrating to Belize — he knew it all. And he hardly cared if we were interested in buying property.

He calls it good karma. When we’re ready, he said, he’ll be here. Meanwhile Bob recommended a couple of property management companies that could set us up in a long-term rental while we decide the next big step.

After leaving Barefoot Bob’s — he does work barefoot and in shorts, with a graying ponytail, we headed for the social hour at Wine de Vine, a high end wine, meats and cheese bar. That was another recommendation, from Rose’s yoga instructor. Lots of expats flock to the wine bar on Fridays.

Wine, by the way, is a bit of a luxury here — very expensive by US standards. After a couple of glasses of chardonnay from Chile and sauvignon blanc  from back home in Sonoma we felt it was time to get back into island life and head for the Mayan buffet.

Good citizens: Carlo & Earnie's (to the left) gave up part of its parking lot for a detour around a road construction project.
Good citizens: Carlo & Earnie’s Runway Bar and Grill (to the left) gave up part of its parking lot for a detour around a road construction project.

But first we had to check out another recommendation: Carlo & Earnie’s Runway Bar and Grill, an open air bar right next to the airport landing strip. John East had noted that it was one of three very inexpensive bars worth visiting.

We thought it was pretty decent of Carlo and Earnie to donate a big portion of their parking lot for a detour around the town’s one major street rehabilitation project. Otherwise traffic would have been routed around the far side of the airport, a major inconvenience to all.

And what do you know? We ran into John there, picking up fish and chips for him and Rose, who’d taken a bad fall at their home construction site yesterday. She was home recuperating as he ran errands. (We send our thoughts and well wishes to Rose, a lovely woman, our first friends on the island.)

The Mayan buffet was every bit as good as John and Rose said it would be. Starting with a shrimp bisque, the fare was familiar — rice, chicken, pulled port, tortillas, refried beans and more — all with unique twists to flavoring and preparation. Desserts included a very dark papaya, chocolate bread pudding and strong Mayan coffee.

Elvi’s Kitchen is a cavernous space with a packed sand floor and a huge tree decked in twinkling lights. Great atmosphere.

For the moment we’ve run out of recommendations but I’m pretty confident that as soon as we strike up a conversation with the next local we’ll be off on our way to the next great discovery.

Hello, Belize, you beautiful, colorful, complicated thing you!

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Rose and her longtime companion, Monkey Bob, at a BART station in San Francisco. Making our way to San Francisco International Airport. Monkey Bob was around in various forms before I was, apparently. Some attachments are hard to let go of!
Rose and her longtime companion, Monkey Bob, at a BART station in San Francisco. Making our way to San Francisco International Airport. Monkey Bob was around in various forms before I was, apparently. Some attachments are hard to let go of!

A couple of flights that can only be described — thankfully — as “uneventful” have brought us to Belize.

More specifically: the Blue Tang Inn at 1 Sandpiper Lane in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. (I’ve suddenly begun misspelling the caye as “Amberguis” on Facebook. What’s with that? Sleep deprivation?)

So, words fail me just now — hey, it is sleep deprivation!

Until the brain re-engages, here are some early photos.

Suddenly we're at the Belize International Airport, boarding a Tropic Air puddle jumper for the 15 minute hop to Ambergris Caye. Miami's airport was a brief and anonymous blur, notable only for the bowl of grits I age at 6 a.m.
Suddenly we’re at the Belize International Airport, boarding a Tropic Air puddle jumper for the 15 minute hop to Ambergris Caye. Miami’s airport was a brief and anonymous blur, notable only for the bowl of grits I ate at 6 a.m.
The view out the window as we flew to Ambergris Caye from Belize City.
The view out the window as we flew to Ambergris Caye from Belize City.
The view out the window as we flew to Ambergris Caye from Belize City.
The view out the window as we flew to Ambergris Caye from Belize City.
Wheels dowbn, landing strip ahead. The view out the window as we flew to Ambergris Caye from Belize City.
Wheels down, landing strip ahead. The view out the window as we flew to Ambergris Caye from Belize City.
Classic view at the Blue Tang Inn. Every photo album I've seen has this shot from the entrance looking out toward the sea. Big difference is, mine has Rose Alcantara in it!
Classic view at the Blue Tang Inn. Every photo album I’ve seen has this shot from the entrance looking out toward the sea. Big difference is, mine has Rose Alcantara in it!
Jesus Anthny cleans a fresh caught baracuda. Dinner for the family tonight, he said. He also cuts up coconuts for tourists to drink, for a slight charge. "Very healthy for you" he adds. What you don't see is the very large "pet" ray that swims up as soon as it hears water splashing around the cutting table. Scraps have conditioned it to know when the dinner bell rings.
Jesus Anthony cleans a fresh-caught barracuda. Dinner for the family tonight, he said. (He was also smiling every second except the one in which I snapped this photo!) He also cuts up coconuts for tourists to drink, for a slight charge. “Very healthy for you,”  he adds. What you don’t see is the very large “pet” ray that swims up as soon as it hears water splashing around the cutting table. Scraps have conditioned it to know when the dinner bell rings.
Monkey Bob's first exposure to the national beer, Belikins. Very tasty but the bottles? Very small. Even at $2.50 US a beer. Shot taken at Estel's on the beach where we'll be meeting some recent ex-pats, John and Rose East, for breakfast tomorrow. Can't wait! They are building a home just north of the town of San Pedro.
Monkey Bob’s first exposure to the national beer, Belikin. Very tasty but the bottles? Very small. Even at $2.50 US a beer. Shot taken at Estel’s on the beach where we’ll be meeting some recent ex-pats, John and Rose East, for breakfast tomorrow. Can’t wait! They are building a home just north of the town of San Pedro.
Rose looking so much warmer than when were were sitting in the BART station. Here at Estel's, where we grabbed our first Belikins and fish tacos shortly after chacking in at the Blue Tang Inn.
Rose looking so much warmer than when we were sitting in the BART station. Here at Estel’s, where we grabbed our first Belikins and fish tacos shortly after checking in at the Blue Tang Inn. Monkey Bob did NOT get a fish taco.

As we walked back to the inn we met our first San Pedro real estate agent, who naturally offered to help us find a home. We may drop back to chat with her.