No sooner did saltwater-veined Texas singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker blow town than another popular salt-water singer-songwriter from Texas strode in to take his place, Kelly McGuire.
(UPDATE: Link to more and better pictures added to bottom of this post. Check ’em out, ya’ll!)
The pattern is similar. Texan McGuire will be showing up at venues around town to sing some of the popular stuff from his Belieze-inspired songbook, like “A Boat in Belize, ” “Daddys & Daughters,” “King of the Island,” “Blame It On Buffett,” and “Girls of the Island.”
Wednesday afternoon was given over to celebrating McGuire’s birthday at the perfect haunt, The Palapa Bar, about a half-mile north of the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge (if you believe the signs).
Please welcome our guest blogger today, Rose Alcantara!
This is a letter Rose wrote the other day to some of her friends back in the States. I would love to see her write more often, and not just because she says nice things about me! And besides, it is about time for a fresh voice and perspective here.
If you agree that Rose should write more often, encourage her. If she does write, I promise to take more yoga classes (and maybe cook occasionally … although that may not be much of a bargaining chip).
And now, a word from Miss Rose: Read the rest of this entry »
On Sunday evening, Rose and I bicycled over to the Palapa Bar for a couple f cold beers before dinner.
There was a fresh-made Chinese Chicken Salad chilling in the refrigerator along with some of Maria’s homemade guacamole and a bag of her sweet potato chips.
The breeze in the bar was stiff and refreshing. The day’s crowd had dwindled to a hardy few.
Rose and I enjoyed a brief chat with an Oklahoma man named Todd and his college-age daughter Madison. He’s been coming to the island for many years and plans to retire here some time. We were already on or way out the door (mentally) when we met them but hopefully we’ll met again.
Sounds like Todd has some great tales to tell from his 18 years here, off and on.
This is the gift you receive when you head home from the bar, as planned:
So, every morning I go for a run over brutal rugged rainforest terrain, up breathtakingly steep hills and down slippery slopes, sometimes narrowly leaping from the jaws of animals I have yet to identify and fending off attacks from angry macaws – or are they mosquitoes? Not bad for a 10-mile sprint.
Ha! Ha! Just kidding.
Would you still be reading if I said: “So, most mornings I go for a short run up the road, until I reach the Palapa Bar where I do not stop for a beer, no matter how tempting. I turn south and head back along the gentle beach trail past beautifully landscaped houses and resorts. Not bad for a two-mile jog.” Read the rest of this entry »
There’s a gecko in the bedroom.
Like many a good gecko, this one is heard but not yet seen. Unlike that overexposed fellow who shills for GEICO.
Problem is, the gecko is heard at the most inopportune times. Like when we are trying to sleep. If you go strictly by the sound, this thing must weigh in at 10 pounds and measure more than a foot long. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Wow. How did it get to be Friday already?
Time is moving kind of quickly for a tropical island, if you ask me.
And yet, right on schedule, Rose and I will be signing a six-month lease on a condo this afternoon. But more on that after it happens.
In between the hunt and the acquisition we’ve been doing all those things people normally do when they move from places like California to a tropical Caribbean island like Ambergris Caye.
First up, of course, is work on my tan.
Just kidding. (I see eyes rolling from California friends and family and on the East Coast their snow-bound counterparts are thinking “What a jerk.”)
You don’t “work on a tan” here. It just sort of works on you. Just a natural part of being outside and getting stuff done.
For example, two days ago, Rose and I picked up some essential Caribbean tanning equipment. They’re called bicycles.
It is the Number One way to get around the island. We simply visited several of the many hardware stores on the island, picked out two still in their boxes and Castillo’s Hardware and were told to come back after lunch and they would be ready.
“Don’t you want a deposit?’
“No. No problem.””
“Would you like our names?”
“Bob and Rose, right?”
“OK, Bob and Rose, see you around 2 p.m.”
And sure enough, they were sitting there like two frisky ponies, ready for a spin around the island.
There are other ways to get around Ambergris Caye, listed here in order of popularity: golf carts, motorbikes, taxi vans, water taxis, walking. The last one is probably higher up the list but who’s going to sit on a corner and count?
Yesterday we were at the Palapa Bar and Grill, having a celebratory yea-we-have-a-place-to-live happy hour drink, when a guy asked Chee, the bartender, to call him a water taxi. He wanted a ride back into town. It is true. You can do that.
The water taxis run up and down the eastern side of the island, in the calm waters inside the barrier reef. Cree pointed one boat out shortly after we sat down at the bar. It had “Miss Rose” in script across the side. “There goes your boat,” said Chee with a grin.
And that’s how you end up having two drinks instead of one at the Palapa Bar. Nobody is a stranger for long here, unless you want to be.
Up the coast – this island is about 24 miles long – is still unexplored territory to us. There are numerous resorts and private residences, for all of which water taxis are the best way to get around. The single dirt-and-sand road gets pretty rugged the farther north you go.
For us, for the most part, bicycles and walking will do just fine.
The bicycles are remarkably cheap and almost all are beach cruisers with big fat tires that can grip the sand and roll over the lumpy roadways. A basic bicycle, brand new, is around $160. After you add basket and fenders (useful in the rainy season, we’re told) and 12.8 percent tax, each bike is just over $200.
An essential accessory, which we brought with us, is a bike lock.
Dawna, a delightful woman from north of Toronto whom we met the other night, bought a bike her first day here and it was stolen the very next. As she pointed out, the thief also took the cable and lock that were sitting in the basket. “I was going to give it to someone who needed it when we leave the island any way,” said Dawna. “I just gave it away sooner than I expected.”
Dawna is renting a bike for the rest of her stay.
We were talking to Dawna in a roadside palapa restaurant called Pirate’s Treasure where I was having my first taste of lionfish, an incredibly angry and disheveled looking fish that tastes really good when served up with tasty sauces, spices and herbs.
Belize is trying to turn the capturing and eating of lionfish into a public service, as this non-native species is roaring through the barrier reef procreating like rabbits and hovering up all the other fish. Pirate’s Treasure is apparently one of the few restaurants to serve it prominently on the menu. The lionfish dishes are fantastic but pricey, by island standards, so it will be short-listed for “special occasions.”
We’ve checked off a few other places on our list – DJ’s for the best hamburger on the island, Estel’s for the best breakfast on the island, Fido’s for the best – oh, hell, everybody can’t be the best. We had a nice lunch at Fido’s. We grabbed breakfast at an old favorite, Melt Cafe in the Exotic Caye Beach Resort complex. We also stopped into Pedro’s Hotel to watch the final minutes of Arsenal’s 2-nil defeat to Munich in Champion League play.
As a Californian I’ve learned to take the defeats of my pro teams in stride. Let me restate that: As a long-time San Diegan, I’ve learned to take the defeats of my pro teams in stride.
For the English, at least Arsenal fans like our friends John and Rose East and their fellow countrymen assembled at Pedro’s (owned by an Englishman named Peter) there seems to be no consolation. They analyze the failings of their boys and speak ruefully of lads not performing to expectations or, worse, not acquired by the team to make it better.
John and Rose dutifully proceeded over to Carlos and Ernie’s Runway Bar where one of the owners is a big Munich supporter. “I had to take my stick ,” explained John the next day, with a sly grin. “If we hadn’t gone right away, Ernie would have accused me of avoiding him or worse of being a coward!”
Soccer, excuse me, football is not a game for the weak and timid here.
We have been staying with John and Rose in the first-floor apartment of their newly built home since arriving on Ambergris Caye. Their generosity is nothing short of extraordinary and they will forever be our best friends here on the island.
If all goes according to plan, we’ll move into our place this afternoon. One of the things I like best about it is we are just down the road from John and Rose. I see lots of dinners shared at our place, breakfasts at Estel’s, some Belikin beers at Carlos & Ernie’s and, maybe, the Arsenal game or two.
Time to get on the bikes and hit the road for a bit with my Rose.
As the nearby Caye Caulker islanders say, “Go slow.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.