Belize Week 10: 14.01.2013 – 20.01.2013 Monday:- Could have slept for longer this morning.. Up for a waffle breakfast. Then packing. Today we were off to Shipstern Nature Reserve for a few days. Minimal things were needed but we would be in a high bug area so long trousers and sleeves required. The morning was more bird learning and megafauna. At 11 ish Joel arrived in the truck to pick us up. It was a 30 minute journey to the outskirts
Week 10: 14.01.2013 – 20.01.2013
Could have slept for longer this morning..
Up for a waffle breakfast. Then packing. Today we were off to Shipstern Nature Reserve for a few days. Minimal things were needed but we would be in a high bug area so long trousers and sleeves required.
The morning was more bird learning and megafauna. At 11 ish Joel arrived in the truck to pick us up. It was a 30 minute journey to the outskirts of Sarteneja. We were shown to our new quarters before lunch.
We were taken to the info centre, butterfly house (blue morphes, the pupae and caterpillar. Mahogany seedlings. Tower with views across trees and sea.
Catch up on bird lecture with Sarah as Pam and I missed yesterday. Then a chance for a quick snooze before dinner.
Night safari – truck down the missandcatch road (if you miss a pothole you’ll soon catch another one!) . Couple of Night Jars and a Pygmy Owl
Walked through the dark for a way until we reached the mangroves. We had the catch to get in a canoe and float around the lagoon – 2 at a time. Then to the bat cave – amazing!!!
Back in the truck and back for early bed. We saw a little possum along he way
Up early for a 6 o’clock breakfast and out by 6:30. Today we were bird spotting. The best place to see birds at this hour was along the road as you could easily see into the tree tops. So, packed into the back of a flat packed truck, and armed with binoculars, bird books, sunscream, insect repellent and water we set off. Within a few minutes we saw the elusive toucans – awesome!
We were able to alternate between the truck and walking which was great fun and gave us the chance to spot loads of birds and listen to their calls. We got to see a Coati too. Our guide, Joel, also entertained us with stories of his ranger experiences. Some pretty courageous in fighting the drug barons and illegal loggers. On one occasion he was struck over the head, was unconscious for many hours and was helicoptered out. A friend was not so lucky!
We returned to last nights lagoon just in case the crocs were out – no luck again today!
We got back to the huts by 11:45. Just enough time for a shower before lunch. Today was a traditional chicken and onion soup, with ………you guessed it, flour tortillas.
After brushing off the ants from my bed (I had stupidly left some mints on it!!! ) it was time for a snooze.
Around 3ish we were off again. Long trousers, long sleeves, stout shoes, waterproof jacket, water and bug spray. We were going to the savanna. Through the forest, and then the clearing of palms and out to the mangroves. It was already raining and the mossies were out. Thick, and deep, mud with the wonderful aroma of sulphur was our host for the next couple of hours. Each step tried to suck off your shoes. Limited bird sightings – the highlight being a Jabaru. The weather turned us back before we made it to the lagoon but it was a good effort. We made it back to the forest and four of us waited for night fall.
It was soon dark and when Nik got bitten by ants it signalled our nIght walk back. The path twisted and turned and we had to avoid the roots and old coral rocks. The forest was on either side and our headlamps picked out the reflective insect eyes – mostly little jumping spiders with vivid blue or green eyes. Then we were treated to a jaguar call. We switched off our lamps and in complete darkness listened to the big cat – some distance away but exciting all the same. Eventually we made it back with a quick detour to be hosed down before getting to our quarters. There was no water left. Not even to rinse the soap I’d lathered up on my hands!!!! A wet wipe came to my rescue.
I changed into some dry trousers and fought a losing battle with the ants which had returned and taken residence on my bed. Dinner was served. Rice, mashed spuds and chicken. We had earned our food tonight.
The water tank was topped up and the four of us showered. Some down time with Alice to look at her Madagascar photos- it’s changed a bit!!! Then bed
Up early at 6 again for the birds. We stayed within the compound as the trees were full of the songs of birds and they were busy with their morning routines.
Back for burritos for breakfast then out for a short truck drive and walk. The temperature was rising and the bugs, as usual, were out. Today I itched more than any other day. I am looking forward to being in a bug free zone and not waking up to the discovery of new bites!!! We saw a trongan nest in the trees and a mot mot nest in the mud banks. Some frogs camouflaged to look like leaves and a Millipede.
Back to the truck and the room to pack and have lunch – a traditional black chicken soup.
At the BV house we received the fabulous news that we had the rest of the day off. It was time to check out the dock pier which was further along the shore on the edge of town. The water was still pretty cloudy because of the sulphur silt and the shallow depth. I managed to get in a bit of a swim whilst the others either sunbathed or drank the local rum.
The sun set and the temperature dropped so back to change, have dinner and be out to Noa Noa.
The effect of the earlier afternoon drinking had kicked in for some of the guys who were starting to look worse for wear. Time to make an exit.
A lie in until 7! At the BV house Alice was looking a little green and Kelsey and Kate were conspicuously absent.
We spent the morning inputting the bird data from Ship Stern into spreadsheets and ranking their abundance. Kelsey turned up and Alice ducked out.
Saturday would be a Scorpion fish demonstration in the village and so we were split into 2 groups to put up posters.
The scorpion fish is not native here but has managed to thrive at the expense of local species. BV are trying to dispel the myths about the fish carrying poison (although the spines do have venom) and the benefits of the flesh. There is a plentiful supply of these fish so fishing is easy and the environment would benefit from a hand to eradicate the numbers.
Lunch was awesome and to top it off we had cold cake!!!
The afternoon was megafauna study and Spanish prep for the homestay tea.
Pam and I walked back to the homestay. Today we saw some little lambs playing in someones garden – so cute, but wonder where they will end up!!!
Dinner with the Samos family again followed by a quiet night of prep for the presentation tomorrow. I managed to put together some photos that i had taken here and some from facebook to make a little slide presentation to go with my very basic words. At last it came together and I had a practice run through with Pam and teacher Yodilda. I could sleep easy.
Up early for bird monitoring. But first i had the very responsible duty of changing the terrapins water and feeding it. It was touch and go for a moment that i didn’t tip it down the sink but all ended well. Bless – poor little thing living in a small tupperware container on the top of a cupboard.
Got to the BV house to find out that the bird monitoring had been cancelled due to windy weather. Back to bed for 40 winks.
The morning was to be for Scorpion fish prep. The skill was in cutting off the spines which I had a go at doing. Apparently the venom was painful if you got stabbed with a spine but got be quickly eased by putting the affected area in the hottest water you could stand. The scissors were crap so I went to the local store and bought 2 pairs – one of which broke within 5 minutes. Once I had my go at despining I was put in charge of identifying the sex of the fish then filleting them in readiness for the competition.
Once the fish were done we returned to the classroom for more Spanish and then the Megafauna test – I failed by 1 point because I wrote the name wrong. I will always remember the full name is ‘Caribbean’ Round Ray!! I’ll need to resit.
Lunch was pretty amazing – chicken, fried rice, and as an extra treat…..melon.
We readied the classroom for the homestay tea and had a practice run through. We were due to start at 2 but in true Belizean style everyone had arrived by 3. Can’t believe how nervous I was to stand up in front of everyone and present in Spanish. It was good to see Eni and Vivianna. Anyway, I survived and as I went 2nd could enjoy the rest of the presentations which were much better than mine. Roshny had made chocolate cookies and small lentil cakes which helped things along and also provided entertainment for the kids who managed to cover the floor in biscuit crumbs (Fritz the dog was happy). After the presentations were over there was time for photos before we all headed home and a chance to put feet up.
Dinner was at the Samos house again. Pam and I were given the chance to make flour tortillas and really feel part of the family.
Home for bed only to find Jacksel part eating and part dragging around the house a chicken foot. That was her tea.
At the last minute I decided to go out for drink. Only Jarad and Kelsey were out and we braved a rather quiet, cold and windy beer. Just one then home.
Prep for the Lionfish demonstration and cook off. Down to Richies with chairs, gas for the cooking hob, cooking ingredients, and the Lionfish.
Klavdija and I went to buy 3 prises and there were 3 contestants. Also drum up extra interest to get people to join us. I contestant dropped out so Sam took the place. Also Eni took part. Free food and soft drinks were on offer to raise interest. Quite a crowd in the end
Lionfish is not native but is thriving and eating its way through the native fish. Fast reproduction and no natural predators here means big impact. These fish aren’t fished because they have venom in their spines and the locals believe the flesh is poisonous – not so! Trying to encourage fishermen to catch Lionfish – backpackers and ‘richies’ are supporting by paying top prices for lion fish.
The competition was strong as Sam stood in at the last minute to make it a three horse race. Eni and one of the other homestay Mums produced fantastic fried fish but with different side dishes. Sam’s dish evolved as time went on – in the end everyone was making suggestions. The initial fish cake idea became scrambled fish and then fish fritters. All good. The judging was tough but Eni won- yee ha!
The food handed out was fantastic but we all needed to save room for our proper lunch at the BV house.
We had a special trip to ruins, in the afternoon. A short boat trip away to the protected area. Damian was our guide and gave us a little presentation about the Mayans and the ruins. Then through the forest to find the sites and photos.
We got back early evening so I had a run with Klavdija along the coast then into the town. 30 mins.
Tonight was party night at a place called Complete circle. We met at the BV house to wait for our lift. We waited, waited, waited then got a call our ride was in a ditch. So we walked. It was mostly gringos (tourists)!! The lights were full on and the way the tables were laid out it felt like a school disc. Gangnam style was played almost every other track, but we did get a new drink – panty rippers – coconut rum and pineapple. Yum!
After a bit of dancing we made our exit as we had an early start. I walked back with Klavdija which gave us time to catch up and have a bit of a heart to heart. We were sitting ducks and both got an arse swipe from the locals whizzing past us on bikes. It wasn’t until I got back that I realised I’d left my poncho at the bar!!
Woke up Alice. She had my poncho!
5:30 start with Sarah and Mitch, Jared and Nik. Met at pier boat ride to Cayo for bird spotting and an amazing sun rise. Osprey, frigate birds, pelican, American coots, and vultures filled the skies as we headed back for 9. I bought some provisions (corn flakes, crackers and cheese) then back for a waffle breakfast with Eni. Pam didn’t back until 11 ish so I tried to have a sleep for an hour.
Lunch was a strange local dish of smoked chicken, pototes and salad. It was lovely but the flavour stayed with you all day.
It was an afternoon of tests. First the Megafauna retest, which thankfully I passed this time, followed swiftly (excuse the pun) by the bird test – a slide show of 20 birds which we had to identify, open book, in 30 minutes. Thankfully I passed that too. Time to head home
Tonight was Thea’s birthday celebration tea and Pam and I were invited. We arrived a little late but the kitchen was still full of women finishing off the birthday cake. Pam and I were allowed to join the men outside for drinks. There’s a very obvious man/woman divide here. It the old fashioned values of women running the home while the men seem to be waited on. As tourists we are accepted in the male and female world.
The food was rolled out. Rice with beans (of course) turkey and stuffing, ham, garlic bread, salad and ……cake. Some dancing to happening belizean tunes ( not!!!) with the children followed. The candles on the cakes (Thea’s brother was also celebrating his birthday although we hadn’t met him many times as he was studying in Belize city) and Happy Birthday was sung – far more verses than I ever remember.
Off to bed in readiness for another early start.