Friday, March 22, 2013

Ambergris Caye, Belize

            Captain Chris assesses the anchorage in shallow, windy but beautiful Ambergris Caye

                After anchoring in the very shallow Caye Caulker, it was even more nerve-wracking
entering the Ambergris Caye anchorage at San Pedro. Average depth of this anchorage here? 7-8 feet.

          It's not only very shallow here, but the holding is bad -- it's near solid coral. This photo
           shows our double anchors, which we deployed for the first time during our adventure.

              The Belizian island of Ambergris Caye is world famous for it's crystal clear
                                 water and death-defying SCUBA diving adventures.

     Most famous of all is the Big Blue Hole, just offshore from Ambergris Caye.  It's beautiful and horrifying to behold.  IMHO they should call it the big BLACK hole, though, because it looks like the hole goes all the way to hell. But in actuality, it is "only" several hundred feet deep.


         You can dive it, and many do, but you've gotta go down 100 feet before the spectacular stalactites and stalagmites come into view.  Cough. Hack. A-hem. Did this wimpy cruiser get up the courage for such a dive?   Me thinks not, sadly. Ah, well.  But thankfully,  lunatics like these guys in the photo above go for us and film the whole godforsaken entry into the portal of hell, so you and I can enjoy the spectacle from the comfort of our couch at home (or aboard)... LOL...   :-)

                   Any-whoo, we made the day sail north to Ambergris with our
                                         buddy boat Blue Shift, from Denmark.

  Me with "The Norseman," as we lovingly referred to A.J. and Philip, the Danish crew of Blue Shift

        I've gotta give a big shout-out to these young guys. With no sailing experience, they flew to the Bocas del Toro in Caribbean Panama, sailed through the Panama Canal, crossed the Pacific to French Polynesia, sailed to Easter Island (!) then to Ecuador, back through the Canal and up the Western Caribbean to Belize...

....all in 9 months.    Without an auto-pilot.     YIKES. Yowza. These guys are my heroes. And they're not done yet!  Soon they'll be crossing the Caribbean to Martinique, where they'll jump off and sail across the Atlantic, returning to Scandinavia.

 Wow. Did I say they don't have an auto-pilot and will be hand steering the whole way?

And to top it off, they had their (locked) dinghy stolen here in Ambergis Caye, right off the dock. Infuriated, they spent hours looking all over the island and finally found her, no worse for wear, up on the beach next to a local watering hole (natch).   Looks like it was nothing more than a joy ride by some local youths, thankfully.

   Philip smiles bravely as he ponders the daunting return trip to Denmark. Keep smiling, my friend!  


           The view from our favorite coffee house and internet cafe. Espiritu is in the distance.


                                   Palms sway every which way

   The main form of transportation on this small island is golf carts. And get this: they use John Deere tractors to pull merchandise from place to place!

                                            Yeee-haw!      :-)

          Our "swimming pool" over the side of Espiritu. We don't have a shower aboard, but we have no trouble bathing in the salt water (we just use a bit more shampoo and soap) -- and then giving ourselves a final fresh-water rinse aboard in the cockpit. It works fine for us, and in fact, is a real pleasure!

                                          We're sure going to miss this view

                                                              Bike on beach

        Everywhere we've traveled we've found our friends the Mormons working hard evangelizing. Here, they were really smart: they scored a mission house right on the beach! Location, location, location.   :-)

                               Colorful scene in San Pedro, the only town on the island

                                       Boat and snowy egret in distance

                         I was entranced by the three layers of clouds. Can you find them?

                                     Fishing is, of course, also big business here

             Christmas decorations mingle with Day of the Dead skulls


          In parts of town, the beach and the street are the same. You would think I would find this offensive, ecologically speaking, but here it just seemed right, especially since golf carts are the main means of getting around. And the island is clean.

               They've got their golf carts, and we've got our faithful dinghy!

                                                       Clouds and sea

This young tourist from Nevada gracefully modeled his shirt which said: "Keep calm. Things are
           about to get weird." Indeed. Anyway, with the hat and bright colors, I liked his style.

        One thing I love about Ambergris Caye is the fact that although the town of San Pedro is built around tourism, local children are constantly playing all around -- on the beach, around the palapas, amidst the SCUBA shops.  I'm sure some tourists find it irritating, but for me it was charming.

                     Local children ride bikes on the beach in front of a beachfront hotel

     Giving candy to the children, then watching their faces light up is the biggest pleasure of my day. :-)

                                                                     Boys being boys

        This scene just amazed me when I took the photo. Check out the idilic locale for this waterfront public playground.  Now notice the children of different races all happily playing together. If I saw this photo I might cynically think it was some doctored photo for an ad promoting diversity and tolerance. It looks fake and too good to be true.

  Except it's real. Welcome to Belize.    :-)

  So, as I write this Chris and I are safely anchored in Isla Mujeres, Mexico after a brisk (10 knots over ground!) overnight sail. More on that later.

  During out last night in Belize, it dawned on me that our nearly year and a half of living in Mexico and Central America is coming to a close. Upon this realization, tears sprung to my eyes.

   It will take me months to untangle my feelings and actually figure out how this trip has changed and affected me.   For now...there are only the tears...of gratitude and joy.

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