Sunday, April 27, 2008

Belize trip: day 1

The trip begins officially today, "Day 1".

I was up at the crack of dawn, 5am. So apparently were many others. The grackles begin their raucous calls at dawn, the sun rises very quickly. For the rest of the trip we all found it very easy to be up at dawn. By Toronto time that was 7am, so it really wasn't an adjustment for me, but even the westerners found it easy to be up at 5am.

We were given waterproof dry sacks to pack our things into for the kayak trip, we each got three 20-litre dry sacks.

We had some great coffee and a filling breakfast (eggs and beans and fruit!), and then got on the bus to head for Dangriga, via the capital "city" Belmopan and the Hummingbird Highway. Wonderful scenery! I tried to take pictures but few turned out well, nothing did it justice. I love the houses on stilts, the many buildings with thatched roofs, the mountains in the distance, the jungle palm trees.

In Dangriga we headed straight for the waterfront to catch our boat to the islands (cayes). Sam was there waiting for us. We all got on the same boat, but we Paradise Islanders would get off at the first stop, almost half an hour out from Dangriga. But we ran aground before we even got out of Dangriga, several passengers hopped out into the water to push us off. Josh, one of the Paradise Islanders, had his passport in a fanny pack and it got soaked.

First stop Cocoa Plum Caye. Here we geared up for the first leg of our kayak trip. Our group consisted of Omar our guide, Daisy and Matt from Atlanta, Josh from Colorado, Carol from Chicago, Sam from Vancouver and me from Toronto. Sam was probably the youngest and I was the oldest. We used the "facilities" and Omar made lunch for us.

Before we left the beach though we had to practice our emergency kayak exits and re-entries. I have done this before but for some reason this time I had a hard time with it, I panicked. Hanging upside down from the kayak underwater, I totally forgot the routine and just flailed wildly. I couldn't get loose! I couldn't find the tab to pull the skirt away from the kayak! I wondered how long it would take for Omar to notice that I wasn't surfacing... and then all of a sudden I was up in the air. Don't know how that happened, I must have pulled the skirt loose in my wild panic. Good thing!

The re-entry was not too hard for me but was very hard for Sam, as it turned out I had left off the waterproof cover on the front compartment of our kayak, which put Sam's end of the kayak way up in the air so he couldn't get himself back in. So other than having survived to tell the tale, I did not perform particularly well on that little exercise.

We bailed and packed and set out in the kayaks, first for a bird sanctuary that was a nesting site for frigate birds and yellow-footed boobies. Omar threw sticks in the air that the male frigate birds swooped in to catch for impressing females with their nest-building abilities.

Then we kayaked several hours to Tobacco Caye, with a short break next to a mangrove swamp.

Tobacco Caye was cute, a very tiny island owned by six Belizeans, each one operating a lodge on their property. A very lively place, popular with a certain type of tourist, the more free-wheeling low-budget kind. At one end the Reef's End Lodge with a bar on stilts over the water, Gavioti's and Lana's and a couple of others in the middle, and Paradise Lodge at the other end, where we were staying.

We had little cabins right on the shore with little decks overhanging the shallow water. A hammock and deck chair on the deck completed the idyllic picture. Sam unfortunately did not get one of the cabins, he stayed in a really awful and stuffy little room in a house. I told him to hangout on our deck as much as he wanted, which he did. Matt, Daisy and Josh shared another cabin with two rooms next to Carol's and mine.

Around sunset we saw a spotted eagle ray swim by our cabins. We saw it several times over the next day or two, it appeared to have a regular route back and forth in front of our cabins.

The entire island is sand with coconut palms. It is at one end of a section of a barrier reef. There is a second bar in the middle of the island by the water, we ended up going there after dinner at the Paradise Lodge, I had a pina colada made with coconut milk right from the local coconuts.

On a walk after dark Sam and I saw a few hermit crabs scuttling around. When we got back to the bar there was a woman there doing fire-spinning on the beach.

Don't know when we went to bed but it was ridiculously early.

Back to trip summary
Back to Day 0
On to Day 2...


Anonymous said...

Your description of the kayak exercise makes me feel short of breath and panicky, myself. Not my idea of a good time...willfully underwater and attached to something!

Zabetha said...

Yeah, one of those things that presumably with practice would get easier, but who the heck wants to practice it?!?