Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Placencia, Belize, January 30 - 31, 2017

I'm having great sleeps in my miniature room.  It holds a twin bed, coffee table and small fan.  The best thing is-

the exit sign above the door!  It's hilarious!

Sail Fish Resort was a former yacht club.  It was purchased 3 years ago and remodelled-

It's on an island-

So to get from the mainland to the resort, I have to either yell across or ring the doorbell-

And then someone comes and picks me up-

There isn't much to see in Placencia besides the beach-

and restaurants.  I like the colors at the Barefoot Bar-

Homes, hotels, restaurants and shops line the sidewalk running parallel to the beach and Main Street.  The sidewalk is only for pedestrians-

Friends from Calgary, Neale and Krista Cruickshank, are driving from Hopkins for lunch tomorrow!  I'm really looking forward to seeing them!

Sailing: Caye Caulker to Dangriga, Belize, January 27-29, 2017

21 passengers and 4 crew left Caye Caulker at 9 am Friday on the Ragga Empress.  We were Americans, Canadians, Germans and Chileans.  Most apparently booked online ahead of time.  I had read about Raggamuffin Tours but only booked while in Caye Caulker, sort of last minute.  Raggamuffin Tours has an excellent reputation, a great crew on board and friendly staff at the office.  The 3 day, 2 night tour cost $400 US and that included 2 nights accommodation, all meals and snacks, snorkeling, fishing, and all the booze you could drink.  The crew was excellent and I would definitely recommend the trip.  

The catamaran we were on easily held the 25 of us-

The Caribbean sea is beautiful and we were pretty much alone the 3 days.  We did see some cruise ships but from a distance.  Being in the middle of nowhere meant the reef was untouched so very healthy.  In some places, you have to lay completely horizontal to get over the coral.  The sponge, coral, plant and fish life was amazing.  So much better than diving at Esmeralda-

We had the opportunity to troll behind the boat.  I caught a small lizard fish that we threw back-

Helmut from Germany, caught 2 barracuda that we enjoyed for supper-

Preparing the barracuda-

The crew bought octopus from a local fisherman for ceviche-

Our first stop was Goff Caye, a super small island.  We walked around it in about 5 minutes.  It made me think of Le Petit Prince and all the different planets he visited.  There's not much there but day trips from Caulker come for the sun-

We went snorkelling on the reef numerous times: Gallows Point Reef and Southern Long Caye Channel and it just got better and better-

I probably saw most of these!

We were on the lookout for conch so we could have another great ceviche.  We found lots - they are really slimy and creepy looking but delicious-

The sharp pointy thing on the top is the fingernail and it feels just like one-

We collected quite a few for a great feast-

Chris ate the penis to gross us out.  It was a clear, rubbery, long skinny thing that's supposed to be an aphrodisiac-

Our first night was on Rendezvous Caye-

where we tented.  I had a horrible sleep-

After a great breakfast on day two, we stopped on Tobacco Caye for a half hour visit.  The sea wall is made of conch shells-

Watching a stingray slip away-

and chasing a dolphin-

Ragga Caye is the private island of Raggamuffin Tours.  We had the option to tent (no thanks) or stay in  beautiful cabanas complete with bathroom for a mere $100 US extra-

Or we could stay for free in the dorms-

I stayed here all by myself.  I had the best sleep listening to the Caribbean waves-

The dining hall on Ragga Caye comes complete with wifi.  It's absolutely amazing to me how good wifi is almost everywhere-

Supper was lobster.  There was more than one for each of us.  It costs $14.42/pound-

Day 3 started with a visit to Bird Caye, where frigates and boobies live.  They were brought from the Galapagos for research purposes.  Today, for whatever reason, they just hang out on this small island-

There are many boobys-

Male frigates have red breasts and females have white-

After Bird Caye, we went looking for manatees.  We saw quite a few but I wasn't quick enough to get a picture.  They live 60-80 years, weigh 200-800 pounds, eat 1/3 of their body weight everyday, feed on grass beds, can hold their breath for 25 minutes and are super docile. 

The Ragga Empress has two sails and two motors.  We probably only actually sailed about half the time because the winds weren't strong enough to move us very quickly-

The front of the boat has a trampoline for relaxing-

And the back has lots of room too-

The kitchen/dining room is quite large-

The weather was great so we didn't spend any time here.  It was a work area for the crew-

who shared the duties:  cooking, cleaning, fishing, preparing snorkel gear, snacks, rum punch, water, juices and driving.  We were treated like royalty!  Elio and Linthon did a lot of the cooking and cleanup.

Our crew was fabulous:  Chris, Elio, Fernando - who lives on Ragga Caye, Linthon and Captain Chris looked after us really well-

To complete the trip, two lanchas took us from Ragga Caye to Dangriga.  It was a rough and wet 25 minute ride-

Dangriga is a rubby town along the coast.  The people are noticeably darker than in Caye Caulker, more Garafuna.  It's Sunday so it's most people's day off so quite normal just to be hanging out-

I caught the 6 pm bus from Dangriga to Placencia where I'll spend the next 5 nights.  The bus was packed and unfortunately all the way was dark so I didn't see anything.  Once in Placencia and after I found Sailfish Resort, I had to ring a doorbell that's connected to the bar so they would come across a 60 foot stream of water to transport me to the hotel!  

Looking forward to more sun and fun for the next few days!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Caye Caulker, January 24-26, 2017

My days are basically the same.  I wake up early, make coffee, read the Star Phoenix (don't ask me why), go for a walk, find breakfast or make it, lay on the dock or the beach, maybe get wet if I get too hot, eat lunch, read a book, lay some more on the deck, go for another walk, have a beer or two, go for another walk, go to bed.  Not too exciting but I'm taking the motto of Caulker to heart:  Go slow!

I have, however, seen a few interesting things.  

The owner of the Roughrider Inn is from Regina but not here right now-

I also found another Rider No Trespassing sign.  The couple that lives there is from Saskatoon and have built 3 minimalist houses to rent out to friends and family.  Also, while buying coffee grounds for the journey ahead, I visited with the former director of education of Compton, California!  I know Nico would have been over the moon to meet him!  Nico used to have on his FB page that he was from Compton High.  The director had 1800 teachers working for him and only 2 were white.  The only part that wasn't 'true' in the movie was the bussing.  No one in Compton gets bussed.  In L.A., yes but not in Compton.  I've not seen the movie so I can't comment.  It's such a cool world.  

The Iguana Reef Inn cultivates sea horses.  They were either yellow or grey.  I've never seen one before so this was pretty special.  They grow to 6 or 7 inches and live 4 to 6 years, according to the guide at the resort-

The Queen Conch is a large edible sea snail that lives inside this beautiful shell.  They have a large muscular foot that they use to slide around the ocean floor.  Only one in 10,000 produce a pearl so needless to say, pearls are very rare.  It takes 3 to 5 years for a conch to become an adult.  The shell grows 3 inches every year.  Adults mate during July to October.  Females lay 300,000 eggs on the beach in sacs and multiple males fertilize the eggs.  During the first year of life, the babies bury themselves in the sand to grow their shell.  A conch can live up to 40 years if it's left alone.  Conch is on the menu today but it is illegal during the reproductive months (July - October).  Shells are plentiful on Caulker-

Tomorrow I leave with Raggamuffin Tours on a 3 day, 2 night sailing trip to Dangriga, Belize.  Activities on the boat include fishing - with rods and spears, helping to sail, snorkeling, eating and drinking.  I am very excited!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Belize Diving, January 22, 2017

I was up early, as usual, so was raring to go by 8:30 when I was to show up at Frenchie's Dive Shop.  I felt really comfortable: the front staff was excellent - very helpful, friendly and happy.  In no time, I was suited up and boarded on the boat, heading for Tacklebox and Esmeralda dive sites, which are east of San Pedro, Caye Abergris-

We did a back entry into the water, I popped up immediately and gave the 'ok' sign to... No one was paying attention.  While suiting up, I told them I needed 8 or 9 kg of weight.  Everyone just laughs at that, but it's true.  No dive master will give me that much but they carry extra in their pockets, just in case.  Sure enough, I got rid of the air in my BCD - kind of like a life jacket that holds the tank, and I went no where.  I had been assigned to dive with George, but he was no where in sight.  Juan came along, gave me more weight and down I went.  I stayed very close to Juan and the dive went well.  We didn't see a lot of marine life:  nurse sharks, yellow line arrow crab, lobster, Sargent major, a puffer,  a school of yellowtail snapper milling around a corral type tree, a huge sting ray at the dock and Spanish mackerel.  The coral was mainly yellow, green and brown, but there was the odd piece that was red, blue, purple or pink.  Tacklebox is a canyon dive, so we were on the floor of the canyon with high walls on either side.  I liked that!  The first dive we went down 25.4 meters and the second was 18 meters and both were about 50 minutes long.  I had a lot of air left too, around 90.  I started with 3000.  Usually, when one gets to 50, or with this shop 40, it's time to get out of the water but no problem for me and so no rush.  

I thought about doing Blue Hole and 2 other dives later this week but there was only 1 spot left when we pulled out this morning.  I was pretty unimpressed with what I saw so was glad I hadn't given a deposit to go tomorrow.  I'll save my money for the next place and besides, I will be doing a lot of snorkeling during the sailing trip and often you see a lot of fish that way.

I didn't bring my water bottle because usually it flips and flops all around the boat and besides, they said they had water onboard.  They did - a big jug of it and plastic glasses but it was very rough going out and coming in so the only time to drink was briefly.  Needless to say, I only had one glass of water and a can of Coke Zero Cherry (very good)  all day!  So, when I got home, I started to read but...

The vision in my left eye was exploding black fireworks and my right eye was unable to focus.  So, because I couldn't see, I lay down to close my eyes but my body itched, everywhere.  I had a shower, thinking it was the salt water but no, I continued to itch.  Then I hurt.  My breasts felt like they used to when I was ready to nurse but the kids weren't available.  They ached and were very tender to touch.  My butt and the back of my thighs ached too.  It felt like I had a lot of pinched nerves everywhere.  Stretching would not help.  I tried to sleep but I was hot yet shivering.  I drank water and lots of it.  I had a slight headache and decided to try and eat something so went for a walk.  I ordered salad and fish which normally I would have devoured but I couldn't finish it. I was naseous.  I walked home, feeling horrible and went to bed at 6 pm.  Gradually throughout the night I improved and woke in the morning able to see properly, with no body aches and no shivering but still with a slight headache.  I think I was dehydrated and perhaps had too much sun, although I tried to stay under the cover of the boat.  I'm not sure what it was but it wasn't very pleasant!

Looking forward to a couple more days just lazing around, swimming and reading!

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