We’re well into March now, the weather is good, swimming good, food and drink good and my foot is feeling pretty good, too. I admit I’ve been somewhat mischievous about my foot and what happened to it and I promise to tell all at the right time. Suffice it to say that I have had a very unique experience which, as a writer I view as climatic and therefore want to save it to the end; and, because of its very uniqueness, I don’t want it to overpower the narrative of my 2013 adventure in Belize, leaving the rest hum-drum and uneventful.
I will say categorically that it has nothing to do with kicking Evelyn in the ass, as one of my readers has opined. An ass is nothing to be kicked at and Evelyn’s is strictly off limits.
We are looking forward now to our annual visit with our daughter, Rhiannon and her partner, Andrew, and our granddaughter, Clea. Clea is 8 years old and this will be her 4th visit. She has learned to swim in the Caribbean and this experience coupled with swimming lessons at home in Ontario have turned her into a good swimmer. She is confident in the water, even exhilerated by it. She started snorkelling at the split last year and was so proficient at it that Luciana, our host, has a special surprise for her.
We have been able to chart their progress from Toronto to Atlanta to the Goldson International Airport in Belize. Jason, our favourite taxi driver in Belize City, is at the airport to pick them up and take them to the water terminal in the city. Jason waits as they visit the duty free and clear customs. He helps handle their luggage and the 12 bottles of red wine they have purchased on sale at $6 US. Don’t you just love visitors like that?
Jason phones Luciana to tell her what water-taxi they will be on, so we know now where and when to meet them when they arrive.
And there they are. We are standing under some palm trees near the termininal when we spot the water-taxi swing round the tip of the island leaving a wake of white froth behind it as it lunges through the waves towards us.
As the boat docks, we make our way out to greet them, then it is hugs and kisses and hand-shakes all around.
Clea is as excited as only an 8 year old can get but we are not doing badly as decrepit old grand parents either.
We immediately pick up on a routine we have established over the years.
Our cabana or apartment is over their cabana. I’m usually up making coffee by 7, am sitting out on the verandah dunking a ‘hard times’ cookie when Evelyn joins me. We chat and watch life on the road in front of us, the first tricklings of school kids, Belizeans on foot on the way to work, alone, in pairs or in small groups, bicyclists ghosting in and around them, the occcasional golf-cart taxi humming slowly by, headed south to the little Tropic Air airport or north to the village..
Usually the sun is up and shining through the littoral forest across from us. That’s where I take my ASUS tablet to check up on current affairs as presented by the Toronto Star. We sit people watching and bird watching in the oasis beneath us, listening to the grackles grackling and a few song birds singing, but mainly waiting for the 8 yr. old bird in the nest beneath ours to wake up, spread her wings and fly into the arms of her grandma and grumpa.
The general plan is to be ready to head for the split by 10. We are not regimental about it but usually we are ready to go by then. We all have our bicycles and pedal at a leasurely pace to get there, about 10-15 minutes.
By the time we have unpacked our snorkels and masks and spread out our beach blankets, Clea, in full gear including fins, is in the water. It is a great place for us to swim because it is often glass clear, clean, firm sandy bottom and its bounderies are circumscribed by patches of sea weed.
I’m usually in next, following Clea who is snorkelling ahead of me, diving for shells and occasionally emerging above the waves with a sea star clutched in one hand.
We snorkel together for awhile, then we are joined by Evelyn and we track red snappers and 2′ barracudas through the water.
Then our Rhiannon and Andrew tag-team us and take over in the open sea-ring.
When the four of us are ashore, Clea is lured out of the water with promises of sea-snacks like sun-chips and popcorn. Then she negotiates more time in the sea.
Sometime after 12, we bicycle back, stopping at shops along the way we need for lunch and supper.
(Special Note. We’ve been in the sun for a couple of hours. We all applied sun screen lotion before leaving. It’s supposed to be water-proof but you can’t be too sure about that. We all wore hats while out of the water and draped towels over our shoulders or put on shirts if we thought we had had enough sun. We were over-protective with Clea who is fair-skinned and our efforts paid off with a golden tan after 6 days. The tropical sun is ferocious on a clear or a cloudy day. Burn-rays penetrate the clouds. And remember, you are getting direct sun rays and rays reflected by the water and the sands. Be very very careful.)
Then it is lunch time, an afternoon nap if possible, and maybe an afternoon swim in one of the swimming pools at the houses managed by Michael. When the owners are absent and the property has not been rented, Michael opens the gate and lets us in.
Then it is time for a sun-downer and supper preparations. Many nights we barbecue outside under an almond tree and eat our meal under the near-by festivally-lit palapa.
(Two SNAP SHOTS to end this post:
1. Michael takes us out to the Barrier Reef on a snorkelling expedition. I watch from the boat as the serious snorkelling begins. Luciana, Evelyn and Clea head for the reef. This is Clea’s first real snorkelling adventure and it is on the second longest barrier reef in the world. I watch their fins stir up the water as they leave the boat far behind, headed for the reef. Then they disappear, all three of them, then after minutes of anxiety on my part, they reappear, one, two, three heads bobbing in the water.
Afterwards, by all accounts, it was a fantastic snorkelling experience. Evelyn said they snorkelled in water as deep as 20′ and Clea dove as deep as 8′ to retrieve a sea urchin for examination.
Back on shore, in the comfort of our cabana, with a double rum and water in my hand, Clea describes in detail what she witnessed and pointed out the fish on plastic identification cards.
2. Michael and Luciana bring their scuba gear to one of the swimming pools in an early afternoon. Luciana suits Clea up, explaining the apparatus. They enter the water and after some last moment instructions, they submerge. Clea is breathing air from the tank strapped to her back. She faces Luciana underwater and mimics whatever Luciana does. One arm out mirrored by one arm out. Two outstretched arms mirrored by two outstretched arms. She is totally composed, totally trusting Luciana. They stay under for nearly an hour, emerging from time to time to discuss what they will do next. Clea learns hows to clear her mask underwater. a remarkable achievement for a beginner. We are in awe.)
Next Post in 10 days. Life on the island continues…and the beat goes on