Belize Week 9: 07.01.2013 – 13.01.2013 Monday:- Woke later than I hoped. Packed and waited for the taxi to collect me and my bags and take us to the jetty. Carlos was prepping his boat before his snorkel tour so we talked and said our goodbyes. In true Belize style the water taxi was 30 minutes late but I got a good seat and managed to buy a couple of bags of plantains for my journey. Not much of a breakfast,
Week 9: 07.01.2013 – 13.01.2013
Woke later than I hoped. Packed and waited for the taxi to collect me and my bags and take us to the jetty. Carlos was prepping his boat before his snorkel tour so we talked and said our goodbyes. In true Belize style the water taxi was 30 minutes late but I got a good seat and managed to buy a couple of bags of plantains for my journey. Not much of a breakfast, but hey!!
At Belize City I met a taxis driver who offered to take me and bags to the bus station. Fantastic – I had wondered how I would carry everything. There were 3 of us in the taxis. The other two were going to a different bus terminal and as I had time I was dropped off last so I got a bit of a tour of the place.
The bus to Sartenja was light blue so easy to spot. My bags were taken on board and followed. There is absolutely no hurry to take your money here so I took my seat by the window and waited. The bus was fuelled up, using large buckets and a pipe, and we were off. The bus was probably half empty but soon filled up as we picked up people at the various stops along the way.
At Orange Walk, about 90 minutes in, we made a short stop before continuing the next hour to Sartenja. At last we reached the Blue Ventures (BV) house. Jen was there to meet me.
The first 2 weeks of the project were staying with a home stay family. So my home stay Mum came to collect me – Yodelda (Yod). She was a young mother of one whose husband worked away on a cruise ship. I was warmly welcomed. I also met Pam my roomie. A 62 year old from LA – very young at heart and VERY young looking. We got on immediately.
We were all to meet back at the BV house at 5 for intros and dinner. There were to be 8 volunteers; Pam, Kate (from the US), Roshney (from the US), Nicola (from Surrey), Kelsey (from the US), Jarad (from Kuala Lumpur), and Alice who would join us tomorrow. We had a traditional Belize meal that evening – rice and beans, chicken and plantains. Bloody lovely. And a quick intro to the project. We had our first snake sighting too – young rattle snake. It as bagged and relocated.
Home to home stay to get settled in and then bed.
Slept so well. First shower in the home stay – refreshing is not enough of a word!! Breakfast with Yod and Zoe (her 4 year old daughter who incidentally had heart surgery 2 years ago) fried jacks, fried eggs and sausage. The healthy option!!
Off to school for 9am. Beautiful day.
The day consisted of a Spanish lesson, and lesson on megafauna (basically the big stuff – rays, sharks), lunch ( a real treat of Spag Bol) and then a bicycle tour of Sartenja with Damien the local guide.
The village was great; we were shown the local school where Yod works – the school is painted with the symbols of Belize, the bearded toucan, the tapir, the black orchid, the mahogany tree and the flag. The flag has the words “sub umbra flured” – under this tree we flourish. Kinda like that!, the Mayan wells which are still used, the boat maker, the process of drying the barracuda fish, the local artist ( who had painted a boat called Lulu and some fabulous bird of paradise), and the tortilla factory. Fun and games all round.
Back to the schoolroom for “weh di gawn” – a daily update. The phrase is creole for what’s going on.
Home for dinner – we ate at the house next door. Ms Amos. Chicken, squash, plantains and rice. Plus…….pumpkin cake. The food here is fabulous.
Back to the home stay and then out to the bar – “noa noa – the cool spot”. We were joined by Alice – the final volunteer in the group. Mad but fab girl. A few beers, angel cards and some laughs later and home to bed.
Up early and out for a run. I would need to be earlier than this in future – how warm!! I managed about half an hour. Out along the coastline, through the village and along the “main” road. It’s so green. I passed a boa constrictor which had been run over (slightly different road kill to what I’m used to), a bird of prey, and a few horses. Rather a lot of trash too sadly.
Breakfast was toast and jam today. Phew we had a break from fried food. It was starting to look a more balance diet. Off to school.
Today started with an update from a local guide called Joel from SACT (Sarteneja association for conservation and development) which was very interesting but an hour of PowerPoint presentation in the warm was hard going. Next was prep for a school presentation we would be doing the next day. Alice and I teamed up to drawer our poster – it was to be used to stimulate some creative writing for 8 year olds – we drew a coral reef compete with moray eel, sponge, shell, queen angelfish, blue headed wrasse, blue tang and southern stingray. It was pretty good if we say so ourselves.
Lunch – another treat of lobster stew and rice. Then out to do some bottle filling. There is no refuse collection here so disposing of trash is an issue. They have come up with idea to fill empty plastic drink bottles with sand and use then like bricks. These bottles would be used to build a bus stop. 90 minutes of filling bottles in the sun was plenty but we had lots of fun and were joined by a little boy called Carlos and the team dog (the dog had adopted us and now followed us everywhere).
Last task of the day. The swim test. Perfect to get into the sea after the heat and sand of the bottle filling. As volunteers we had to swim 400 metres in the sea. We all bundles into the BV boat and were taken out to sea past the pier. At 400 metres from the pier we were dropped off and had to swim back. The village is fairly conservative and walking around in a bikini is not the done thing so we had to wear shorts and t shirts too. It was tougher than I thought but we all eventually made it. It celebrate we spent time mucking around at the next pier and in the water. The sediment is thick here and smells of sulphur so it wasn’t pretty. We waited to watch the sun go down before heading home.
Dinner was mash, rice and pasta – a carb blow out! I went out for beers leaving Pam to an evening of peace. Great night of pool, cards, beers and a crazy Russian guy. Don’t ask!!!
Curfew is midnight and I left around 11:30. Only to find I’d been locked out. Some time later after knocking on pretty much every door and window Yod let me in. She was chilled about it though.
Up at 7ish again. The mornings definitely need to be longer. Breakfast was as yesterday so I had some of the marmite I bough in San Fran.
It had rained all night and so my washing on the line was wet. Hopefully it would dry during the day.
The day was a study day. The morning was a combination of School prep, bird lecture and a health and safety briefing.
Today was the first day we would start the water quality monitoring (wqm) and Kate and Kelsey were first to have a go. It was a 6am start. As the weather was bad they were back by lunchtime instead of being out all day, so we all had lunch together.
The afternoon started with a walk to the school. The posters we had made a few days before would be the subject of some creative writing for the children. It was so interesting to observe the different levels of development within one class. I sat between a little girl who was very shy and knew little english (Crystal) and a bubbly little boy who was able to write a short story within a few minutes – it was about a policeman who was eaten by a shark!!
For the rest of the day we revisited the megafauna learning and Spanish – strangely I’m better with the wildlife than the language.
Tonight I stayed in. We were invited to have dinner with the Samos’s where I met Eni’s single brother. Me thinks they are trying to match me up and it was a theme that would continue for a number of other evenings.
We had just settled in for the night when a bottle was thrown against the side of the house. SMASH! Excitement for the evening set the dogs barking. A local had got drunk and wanted to take it out on his rival. Unfortunately he was so drunk he hit the wrong house. He was escorted home and the matter was dropped.
I got up early to go for a run. Its just too hot during the day. I managed half an hour along the coast and looping through the village. I passed a number of lots for sale, horses, the entrance to Backpackers and a boa snake which had been run over.
School prep then to school for Mary manatee manatee swimming in the sea, up and down up and down living peacefully. I was 2 fish hand puppets – shy fish and sleepy fish. Demanding roles! The kids were exhausting but it was great fun. Yodilda’s the teacher there and Zoe was definitely the most confident and intelligent.
Lunch – soft tortillas with chicken, and lemon meringue cake which was gorgeous.
Off to Wild Tracks for the afternoon. It was run by an English couple who incidentally were the ones who had adopted Simon, Yodilda’s husband, and given him such wonderful opportunities. We got a lift in the truck from a generous local. Great fun standing in the back of the truck leaning against the cab and watching the trees go by, and the frogs in the puddles in the road.
Zoe, Simon’s adopted Mum and namesake of little Zoe, gave us a talk about the work they are doing with rescuing manatees. Most of which are injured by boats. They were feeding up little Duke and bigger Rosie the manatees (twiggy had been released into the lagoon but came in most evenings). There was also a howler and spider monkey, otter, ocelot, deer, and peccary.
After the visit we headed back via a fresh water lake called a cenote. It was set back from the road was we had to pick our way through the forest. The water had a sulphur layer about 4 foot down which caused the water to go completely black so when we dived down you were in complete darkness. Spooky!
Luckily we got a lift back in another truck so got home early.
Tonight we were treated to a lobster dinner. This really was a treat. We were so lucky to have two home stay Mums. Yodilda but also Eni – what a wonderful women. The whole family included us an made Pam and I feel so welcome.
At dinner Yodilda got a surprise. Her husband Simon had got a few days off and came home unexpectedly. Happy faces all round.
We spent most of the evening at the Samos house before heading to bed.
It was a family breakfast – Yodilda, Zoe and Simon.
Off to school to learn about the native birds with Sarah. There are loads some of which I have never hear of. More megafauna with Klaudijva – we will be tested on these soon so pay attention. More Spanish – arrhhhhh! We would have to present to our homestay Mums in Spanish soon which would be a bit of a challenge.
Lunch was a whole fish, coleslaw and……………rice. As always it was served with some random flavoured juice.
More work on the bus stop which didn’t seem to progress as the electric drill had gone AWOL. So we constructively used our time eating ice lollies and doing hand stands.
Lentil soup and eggs with meat for dinner. We had a visit from Sam – Pam and I would be on water quality monitoring in the morning. That meant an early start.
We got a quick tour of the Samos house which was pretty huge but like most of the houses in the village looked unfinished. Tonight we all met at the bar. It was a great night with a few Lighthouse beers and a game of pool with Sam, Konrad and Desi. Sam and I won despite me managing to mistake the yellow ball for the while one on a shot – doh!!!
The early morning ahead meant bed by 11:30!!
Up with the birds for Water quality monitoring. We met Desi, Jen, and 2 interns Noe and Jamie at the BV house at 6am. By the time we had everything setup and the boat readied we set off at 7.
We sped out across the water but it was so choppy which was hard on the back and neck as the boat rose and crashed on the waves. As a reward we saw 4 dolphins and took some time out to track them for a while. There were a number of sites to visit which were labelled WQBC1, WQBC2 etc (water quality Bacalar Chico) and we tested depth, visibility, salinity, O2 content and some things too technical for me to understand.
We stopped at a little Mayan museum (mostly to use the toilet) before reaching Bacalar Chico for lunch.
This would be our next home and it was beautiful. Iguanas, huts, sandwich for lunch, snooze on bench, cormorants, pelicans, Indio the local who was “security” and importantly showers and toilets.
Out again after lunch and we stopped at a few sink holes where we saw eagle rays. Out through lovers tunnel and to the reef edge. Just wonderful. There was evidence of the previous expeditions as manatee signs “go slow” had been put up to warn boats.
It was a long but productive day and Desi whisked us back to Sarteneja just in time for sunset and then a huge smiling moon. The other guys met us at the dock- accompanied by the dogs. Back to BV house, cold shower, dinner, bed
My day had been busy but the rest of the group had to too. They fixed the school playground, bird lecture, cleaned out manatee lagoon pen at wild tracks.