Travel Blog: Week 11

Belize

Week 11: 21.01.2013 – 27.01.2013

Monday:-

5:30 start with Klavdija – Manatee mapping. We were to visit 2 sinkholes.

  

The first was quiet but the second gave us an awesome treat – a mum and baby manatee. We approached in the kayaks and then as the se was so shallow we were able to get out, approach even more and then just stand in the sea and watch. Just to top it off 2 spoonbills flew over.

    

 

  

A perfect morning which kept getting better. We passed so close to 4 dolphins on the way back and were able to spend some time watching.

We got back in good time and I met up with Pam before heading to the artist shop to collect my picture. It didn’t strike me in quite the same way as the first one I saw but it was beautiful. Pam and I decided to get a smaller one done for Eni – using one of the photos of the foxgloves in my garden as a template for the artist to copy.

After lunch, pasta and chicken, we had a talk from Hilsa from the Belize shark project talk. So interesting what they were doing with tagging and monitoring.

I had just enough time to buy so flip flops before heading out at 4pm to do bird nesting survey on kayaks. Fabulous sun set. Great afternoon.

  

Dinner and ball game in the garden with Thea. A quick Lighthouse a the bar with Alice, Kate and Konrad before a walk to the pier to listen to music and some me time. Back by 11:30 and sleep.

Tuesday:-

Early start – 5:30 at the BV house. Enroute I was diverted straight to the pier. Bird survey with Konrad, Nik, Jared, Kate and Kelsey.

Loaded kayaks into the Columbia and Fito. We were off to the mangroves around Shipstern lagoon. Eni had given me some fresh bananas the night before and these were very welcome.

I paired up with Nik in the Kayak. Very shallow so we beached a few times and had to detour. Eventually found the inlet. 2 minute silence then 30 minute survey. Apart from a roseate spoonbill, osprey, little blue heron and a few warblers the place was quiet. Nik and I separated from the others and drifted along the bank watching for the slightest movement. Back to the boat and onto Sarteneja.

  

  

Some long awaited time to myself which I spent changing into dry clothes, relaxing, catching up on emails, washing and a late breakfast.

Back to the BV house for lunch. Fried jacks with scrambled egg mix and beans. We also had corn milk. Milk sweetened with sugar and mixed with sweet corn ( which just collected at the bottom) – I braved a taste and managed half a cup. For any who know my little quirks I haven’t drank milk since I was 4 ish so this was a triumph for me!!!

Back to my homestay to collect my damp kayak clothes, change and onto the pier for 2:30 for another manatee mapping session with Klavdija, Alice and Mitch. We set off in good time but the weather wasn’t with us. The waves were choppy and there was rain n the distance. We saw the dolphins again though.

It was touch and go but we made it to sink hole 3. By now it was raining and the current was strong. Not manatee conditions so after our 30 minutes survey time (actually Mitch and I decided to finish early which we were told off for!!! And it took forever to paddle back to the boat against the current) we clambered back in the boat with the kayaks. Mitch’s hunch was that the manatees were further out were it was calmer. He was correct. A huge manatee appeared with its head fully out of the water. Awesome.

The rain got worse and for the first time in Belize I was freezing. It was driving rain so Klavdijva and I huddled under a spare kayak seat cover with kagools over of heads and braved it out. We saw the dolphins again. The second sinkhole survey was abandoned – thank goodness we were heading back. My nails were blue by now.

  

We unloaded the boat loaded the stuff, including the 3 kayaks, into a taxi. Today was the first time I boiled the kettle for a warm bucket shower. Luxury.

Fried jacks for dinner. Then a little birthday present ceremony with Thea – she actually turned 12 today.

Just before we turned in Pam and I were presented with oval pictures painted by the same artist as I had commissioned. Everyone had signed the back and left a special message. So very touching. Shattered so bed. Tomorrow is another early start

Wednesday:-

The alarm went off at 5:30!!!!!! It was raining. What a dilemma. Will the bird survey be going ahead or not. Do I risk getting dressed and heading out only to be told its cancelled? I decided to go with it and just as well I did. The survey was on despite the weather.

We loaded the boat and set off across the choppy sea with the usual jolts – one in particular landed me on the boat pole as a lovely bruise was sure to follow. After about 40 minutes and getting the best of the sunrise we arrived at the mangroves to survey for nesting sites. There were a number of waders which we had recognised and a number of very specific birds calls which sadly we didn’t. We did see a croc though!

It continued to rain the entire survey and all the way back too. So much so that we sat in the bottom of the boat with our backs to the bow. Very cold and wet I headed home and a snooze.

I got to lunch late but they had saved me some. The rain put a damper on the afternoon so we were given the time off. Just as well as we were leaving tomorrow and so I started my packing.

Last night of dinners with the Samos family. We were presented with more gifts – a bracelet and pen each. They are so thoughtful.

Last night at Noa Noa and the drinks and conversation flowed. A good night was had by all.

Thursday:-

Today was our last day in Sarteneja so we were meeting at the classroom at 9. A lie in at last.

I’ve not had the chance to say much about the village. It had its down sides but overall it was fantastic and really got under my skin.

 

  

  

  

It had 3 main streets (which were just muddy sand with huge pot holes – this meant there were no real road rules, you drove on whichever side of the road had no holes) with intersecting side roads. Many of the vehicles were huge with flat bed back, although bicycles were a close second, with the occasional moped, tricycle or horse drawn cart. There were a few shops, mostly grocery stores, but these blended with the houses. Many were both shops and homes. The houses were all detached, mostly small, one story and unpainted concrete. Nothing looked finished. There were also quite a few plots for sale. There were a few places that looked much smarter and these stood out amongst the others. I wonder where the funding comes from for these. Most “gardens” were unmarked and filled with junk, boats, sheep, goats, chickens (some of which were bald) or tied up dogs. This was the down side. There were dogs everywhere some forming packs. Some were cared for but many, sadly, were in poor condition and breeding like rabbits. Fritz was the BV dog – he insisted on chasing cars and bicycles which did not impress the locals and didn’t bode well for Fritz. His tail already crocked from a previous altercation. There were a few cats but these seemed few and far between and mostly healthy. There were so many churches all of different denominations but everyone got along. The only competition was who could play their music the loudest – not the kind of church music I’m used to either. There was green everywhere. Fruit trees and wonderful flowers which meant birds were in abundance and we got bird songs constantly. The other down side was the trash, that too was everywhere BUT the people were so friendly and as I said earlier the place really grew on me

Anyway, a little more packing before breakfast at Eni’s but made by Yodilda – toast with marmite and cheese – yum.

Off to BV house – we were to move our bags to the front gate for collection and meet at the pier at 9:45.

  

We were shipped out in Columbia (bags to follow) in the rain. It took about 90 minutes to get there and luckily the weather did improve but not much. Arrival at Bacalar Chico Dive Camp (BCDC) was cold and damp to say the least but we got settled in.

A scientist was due to join us in a few days so the huts were split Jarad and Kelsey in hut 3, Alice, Kate and Nik in hut 2, and Pam, Roshney and me in hut 1. 2 wooden bunk beds in each hut with a few shelves and a light which would come on when we had power between 5 and 9:30. They were surprisingly cozy in the rustic sense of the word.

  

    

  

The sun tried to come out so we had a mini tour – trash area, burnables area, showers, toilets, kitchen, alcove (for dive equipment) and the classroom. We were then put to work and did some chores around the place. I was given a machete so i could clear some of the plants which were starting to invade the living area. Cool!

Lunch was very welcome when we got the call to table – pasta and tomato sauce.

Because of the weather and the fact that staff and bags still needed to arrive from Sarteneja we had some free time. I walked along the beach taking in the air, views and sadly trash which drifts in from the sea – mostly plastics. There is a lot but Belize does not have the same process for recycling or disposal and it has to go somewhere.

  

Time to chill, catch up with the others and listen to the chores rota briefing. Also set up the net over my top bunk. Luckily there were mostly enough places to hook the tabs and where there wasn’t some string came in very handy. It looked fab and was like being a child again.

The call to dinner – tortillas and curry. Roshney made Indian dessert. It was great to all have dinner together in one communal area rather than being spread out in our various home stays.

It gets dark here early so most of us went to our huts. Pam cracked open a bottle of wine and we were joined by Nik, and klavdijva for a little picnic sitting on the floor – wine, snickers and peanut M&Ms. This is the life.

I climbed into bed around 9:30 and was asleep even before the lights went out.

Friday:-

I woke before the sun was up but snoozed until about 7. Hut 1 (us) was on raking duty for the next few days and it had to be done before breakfast which was at 8. All the sand in the camp had to be raked to keep the sand flies under check. They lay their eggs in the sand and 7 hours later the new flies hatch. Disturbing the sand reduces the eggs which hatch. I for one was very happy to undertake this task as I seemed to be the target for most of the bugs around here. Pam, who had remained fairly unscathed, reported back to her family and friends that I was acting as her human shield. Everything which bit me left her alone. Charming!!!

Raking done and breakfast. Last night we were asked to choose Eggs or Oats for breakfast. I chose oats – “you’ll soon change your choice” then echoed around the place. Anyway we were served dry porridge oats and had to pour in our own hot water. With a little imagination not to mention pancake syrup and bananas (a gift from the Samos family) it turned out OK. I followed it up with marmite on flour tortilla. The eggs did look good though.

Data entry briefing from Klavdija talking through why the data issei important and the new forms which had been designed to help – megafauna, dolphins and boat trip details all need to be logged.

The weather had been cool and a little damp in the morning but it warmed up just in time for our first snorkel trip – out to the site called the Aquarium. It was only a short boat ride away but first a boat Marshall briefing. Boat Marshall responsibilities include readying the boat with fist aid kit, flares, life ring, life jackets (one for each person on the boat, including the captain) and the SMBs (floats which alert boat drivers in the area that there are people in the water).

  

  

  

The snorkelling was amazing. So many fish – butterfly, wrasse, parrot, sergeant damsels, goat fish, surgeons, barracuda, and to top it off I came across a sleeping nurse shark and a green moray eel. We also saw a majestic eagle ray. Apparently there were turtles too – hopefully see them next time. We were in the water for about an hour and by then I was getting cold, despite Roshny lending me her long sleeved t shirt. Out of the water and in the boat it felt even colder. Glad we were so close to camp and the sun a last came out. Time for some sunbathing on the pier. Bliss.

  

Lunch was delish – chicken, plantain and rice with beans. Followed by chuppa chup. It stayed sunny for a little longer and then the heavens opened and it stayed that way. That was perfect for the manatee briefing but not so for the dusk bird survey which was cancelled. We had some free time and in this weather the only thing to do was takes to bed and read. The boys laid on some entertainment running between the showers trying to fix the electrics in the huts. Our light came on when the switch in the next hut was switched – somehow I don’t think any of them are qualified electricians!!

Dinner was rice, beans, spicy sauce and tortillas. I managed a third tortilla with pancake syrup – perfect to hit the sweet craving.

We had weh di gwan – I was on 5:45 bird survey! – then we played cards all evening. Bed by 9:30. It was windy tonight and after the rain everything was damp. Love my little camp bunk bed though.

Saturday:-

Alarm went off at 5:15 – it was really windy so no one was sure that the bird survey would go ahead. Got up anyway and met at the communal area. By now it was not just windy it was raining too. The survey was postponed until later – hopefully!! There was never to do but grab a hot tea and go back to bed. I dozed until 8ish then got on with some very zen sand raking until the shout for breakfast. Oats again for me with my special recipe of banana and syrup. Pretty good and soooo filling. Still made room for marmite tortilla though.

It was still raining and by now everything had that all too familiar aroma of damp clothes. Time for a snorkel. We bundled into the boat and set off for Barracuda Patch. Thank goodness for Alice’s spare rashly – it was cold. I also got to use the duck fins. So much better than bare feet.

Amazing fish AND we got to see a southern stingray, weenie turtle, barracuda, puffer fish, lobster and angelfish. The colours- wow!!!

  

  

  

Back to the beach. More rain – argghhh!! Would we ever get warm and dry! There was nothing for it but to take a shower in the rain. A bunch of us ran to the end if the pier and soaped up letting the down pour rinse us. Even time and rain for a shampoo and conditioner! Lunch and some down time. Then out for manatee mapping. I gambled with dry clothes as I wanted to stay in the boat for this one. The trip turned into manatee mapping, GPS point set up and a bird survey. We were out for 3 hours and despite the initial rain it cleared up and the sun even came out. My waterproof dried out – yee ha!

We saw 1 manatee and loads of birds. I was scribe on this trip so was keeping the details of each sighting on the slates. Back before sun down and the rain. Time to sit on he pier with our drink of choice, fresh coconut water with rum and lime juice (coco loco) until it was dark and the full moon came out from behind he clouds.

Dinner with another coco loco. I saved one tortilla to have jam on for afters. Then we had water melon

More coco loco and a few games of shithead as more rain chucked it down

Bed. Boy it was windy.

Sunday:-

Today was a treat – I GOT A LIE IN!! No bird survey and no manatee mapping.

I woke up early. Curses the call of nature, especially when the toilets are so far away. The good thing was I could get back into bed and snooze until 7. I watched the morning break and then turned to raking duties. There had been a storm last night and the beach was full of washed up seaweed. It all needed to be cleared so we set to raking up piles and transporting it to behind the camp in a wheelbarrow. There was a lot and we’d only managed a quarter when breakfast was called. Oats and tortillas again.

Although it was sunny the wind was up so the mornings snorkel trip was postponed and the EFR (emergency first response) DVD was put on. We would be learning these skills over the coming week so this introduction was helpful. It was, however 2 hours long and my attention span isn’t that long.

Back out to Barracuda Patch for a snorkel. Just as amazing as the last trip – this time 2 Southern stingrays, 2 lobsters and a tiny Toby.

  

  

  

We heard the scientist wouldn’t be joining us so hut 4 was free and Nik wasted no time moving in.

Lunch cooked by Fito was awesome and there was more watermelon.

Another snorkel, this time out to the mangroves. We dropped off Alice and Konrad first as they were doing some diver training. We did a loop around a small island.

    

I’ve never snorkeled in the mangroves. The current was strong when we first went over the side of the boat and it was an effort to make progress. It was shallow, murky, dark and a but weird with the network of roots covered in sponges. The fish were hidden within the roots so you needed to look hard. Not too hard mind – don’t want to come face to face with a croc.

  

 

 

Back in the boat, collect Alice and Konrad and off to BCDC. The afternoon was mine and I walked the beach finding shells which I then sat and made into jewellery.

    

Time for a little snooze.

It was dark by the time everyone got back from manatee mapping and dinner, cooked by Alice and Roshny, was served soon after.

Weh di gwan – I’m on early bird survey tomorrow!!

A few games of cards where I had mixed fortunes. You win some you lose some! (It’s mostly the sand flies that win!!!!!!) All good fun though. The generator ran out of fuel early so we played the last hand by head torch light before turning in.

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