I have been in Belize now for a couple of weeks and must admit that I have been pretty slack on the photography and writing from the moment my anchor first touched the bottom here. Belize is so very different to Mexico. English is spoken mostly and with a heavy Caribbean accent and very similar slang to Trinidad. Within minutes of landing on the beach my Trini accent had returned and was joking and laughing with the people along the way and at customs, where we had to go through the usual check in procedure. Think this was a bit of a surprise to the crew off “Suricat” and “Fishers Hornpipe” who were looking at me and wondering what the hell I was saying and what had happened to me so suddenly.The truth is I have lost all control of my accent and depending on whom I am talking to this can change drastically, even from word to word.
After a tricky entrance through the small pass in the reef I dropped anchor off San Pedro. A small town, which reminded me of where I grew up in Trinidad. The people, places and feel were all very familiar and I found myself smiling as different memories, long forgotten, would come drifting back, prompted by a sight, sound or smell. The only down side to it was the anchorage, a shallow layer of sand covered a flat, rocky bottom and in only seven feet of water didn’t leave much room below the five foot keel. Added to this were the forecast winds of 30 knots and the crazy boat traffic as ferries, fishing boats and other craft flew by at full speed, giving the obligatory wave of the hand, as their wake went about ricking Kuhela and threatening to pull the anchor off the bottom. In the end I set another anchor, attached to the first, and was very glad I did this as once the wind started blowing we had three days of twenty five knots and gusting higher. Fortunately though I held fixed in place and spent a week there hanging around town, relaxing and checking it all out. I feel a lot more relaxed now that I am a bit further south and behind the fringe reef that runs the entire length of Belize, still have to keep and eye on the weather though.
I had been contacted by a friend of one of the guys I had gone to panama with and who lives and spears here in San Pedro and was awesome to meet up with Daniel, who took me out spearing a few times and showed me some of the spots to dive around the island. Belize is blessed with amazing reef, one of the spots was only in about 5M of water, but was the prettiest little reef I had seen in some time. Also got the chance to land my biggest mutton snapper to date and ensured that the boys and myself ate very well. Unfortunately though this would be the end of the road for traveling together with “fishers hornpipe” as they decided to make the run directly down to Roratan, Honduras, to meet up with friends and get some things sorted there. After a week in San Pedro, and with the wind dying off a little, we both pulled anchor and headed our separate ways. Cay caulker, my next stop, being a pleassant 3-hour sail south.
Cay Caulker is even smaller than San Pedro and moves at a slower pace. I dropped anchor in the small bay west of the island and was glad to be in the lee of the island and to have a good sandy spot to drop my anchor, a lot more secure than the last spot. On going ashore and walking along the one main street, running parallel to the beach and dotted with small shops, street vendors and travelers who’ve come to take in the chilled out vibe, I knew this was somewhere easy to get stuck. Not that that’s a bad thing. Wasn’t long before I struck up some conversation other travelers and spent the first day hanging out with some other ozzie crew and meeting some of the other people who were staying at the backpackers there. Most people here seem to be traveling south and heading down to Guatemala or further and have explored Belize a bit and getting a bit of relax time in before heading back on the road. Its great to be around people who are out exploring and great to hear the stories of things they’ve seen and places they recommend. Most people spend their days hanging at the beach drinking and then heading out at night for some cheap food (not as cheap as Mexico but not bad), and there’s a few small bars on the island to check out but so far I've been dropping in for a look down the beach during the day and trying to organize some spearing, and have even been out for a small surf on a stand up paddle board.
The weather continues to follow the pattern of a few days of sun followed by a few of rain and wind, but with the good holding I have been a lot more relaxed.
Been hanging out with the Czech family that I met in Cuba a bit and was lucky enough to be given an amazing painting done by Ketca, their little girl who has taken a liking to me and is determined to catch fish as big as I do one day, and is all ready feeding her family with what she catches off the back of the boat. Talking to Josef and Jana and hearing their stories has been amazing. Josef has done some amazing travel and from the pictures and stories they have shared with me of the Czech Republic I will have to go visit them one day. They are really good people and its great to be able to share stories about life and travels in different places.
After diving here around the island for a bit I managed to score a trip out to the Turneef islands, one of three coral atolls located about 15 NM SW of Cay Caulker. Headed out there in the early morning with some of the local crew from the island and in their boat it was about and hour before we came up onto the shallow surrounding reef and headed into the lagoon. We had been watching the weather build before we left but had hoped that it would continue to head east and miss us. Mother nature, however, had other plans and after sitting out next to a small island to wait out a small lightening storm, we could see it continue to grow as huge black and grey clouds boiled upwards in a very impressive display. We decided to cut our losses and head back home and with the weather closing in on all sides we made our way through the shallow reef, through the pass and ran for Cay Caulker.
Again mother nature thought it best to put on a show and on nearing the reef we had to pull up and drop anchor as the lightening storm hit, there was no wind, but huge bolts of lightening flashed overhead and arced across the sky. Everyone lay in the boat and took what shelter they could find, but on looking over the side at the crystal water and amazing reef below I decided to go for a dive. Now I'm not sure whether that was a good idea or not, but figured it was just as good an option as the boat. I don’t think I could fully find the words to describe the scene as I lay on the bottom of the ocean, in 15M of water and looked up to see the flashes of lightening above and the way its diffused light spread through the water, it was one of the most amazing things I have seen diving. Not all the other creatures down there seemed to share my view though, it was eerily quiet on the reef. Other than a few small fish darting in and out of their homes the reef was deserted, guess they’ve seen that view a thousand times and aren’t so amazed anymore.
At this point I think I will stay here for another few days, depending on weather, which continues to be gray, overcast and wet, before heading to Belize City. Once there I will pull into the marina for a week to catch up with some family I have yet to meet, explore the mainland a bit and meet up with Joe. For those who don’t know, Joe is a great mate of mine who will be joining me for the rest of the year and an accomplished waterman who I dive and surf with regularly. Been looking forward to have him join me for a while. Joes runs courses in free diving and also works with big wave surfers doing surf survival to help them deal with difficult situations, you can check out his site at www.oneoceaninternational.org to see some of what he gets up to.
So still a few days relaxing here and then off to Belize city and then out to the offshore atolls and then down to the Rio Dulce is the rough outline of the upcoming weeks. I will write again soon and put some more pictures up soon.
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