After a fairly full, activity-packed Wednesday, Thursday was lovely and relaxing. A leisurely breakfast; a very slow cycle into town; a slower cycle around town, from the south end where I’m staying, all the way to the north end, where I stopped, sat down and drank a Coke in the shade. I cycled back through town – I think I could’ve walked faster – and had a spot of lunch. Cycled a bit further, had an ice cream.
When I stopped at Morenco’s for the ice cream (it was fucking delicious), a guy, probably in his thirties, and definitely in a San Antonio Spurs vest, said hello. I returned the pleasantry, paid for my plastic (vending machine-style) cup of vanilla ice cream and asked if I could sit down with him at the one table in the shade. I told him I was Craig, he told me that he was Allan Valentine, “with two Ls; I’m the local hustler.” We had a brief chat about American sports and he was on his way without trying to hustle me. A bit more cycling, a swim in the sea, and my day was virtually over. It was only about four o’clock, but the laid-back life is really kicking in.
Malcolm and Cybil have moved on to bore people in another part of Belize, so for Thursday and Friday, I’m the only guest at Hickatee. This has been lovely. Ian and Kate have been treating me like a visiting friend more than a guest. When I insisted that there was absolutely no point in preparing the three-dish menu just for my evening meal, they suggested that maybe we could all go to a restaurant called Mangrove Inn instead.
This place, to use a tired cliché, has to be seen to be believed. We walked up some stairs to the first floor of a wooden building right on the northern edge of town, and suddenly, you’re in someone’s living room. There’s the husband watching “Lost” on the sofa right in front of you. There’s the family kitchen and dining room, and through the screen door on the balcony are a couple of tables. And it was by far the best food I’ve had in a restaurant here. Delicious rice and beans, mouth-watering jerk chicken, and a divine lemon pie for afters.
And today was just as much fun. Ian had a few errands to take care of in town, so I went along with him. We popped in here, popped in there. Had a chat with this guy, that guy. I heard gossip about local politicians (there’s an election in Belize in the near future, so there’s lots of rumours of vote-buying and various other forms of corruption). I heard about when seaweed will be delivered. I heard about all kinds of everyday stuff.
We then all went up to a fancy-yet-a-tad-dull resort up on a hill to eat. Fantastic views of the jungle; rather ordinary food. While we were there, we could see the rain clouds in the distance. Slowly they got closer, and for 15 minutes, we had a nice cooling shower. A walk down the hill to the Rio Grande where we sat for a while, took in the view, and listened to the chain-saws of loggers in the distance. On the way back up, I saw and heard what I’d been wanting to see and hear since I’ve got here: howler monkeys. A troop of them up in the trees. Big ones and baby ones. And the noise! Not a howl, more of a guttural roar. Very like the sound used in “Jurassic Park” for the dinosaurs. It was wonderful. Really wonderful. Sadly my camera isn’t so wonderful, and I only have these crappy shots.
My day of fun with Ian and Kate continued when we took a drive out along the road beyond their place to Boom Creek, a tiny Mayan village (ten or so houses) by the edge of the Moho River. It’s difficult for me to keep writing about all this stuff without saying lovely, fantastic, splendid, beautiful; but it all was.
The only not-beautiful thing is seeing where pieces of jungle are being cleared by loggers, often illegally logging. In the photo below you can see the low-level jungle trees and plants being cleared so that when they start chain-sawing the bigger trees, they fall to the ground rather than getting stuck half-way in the smaller trees.
People need wood, of course, but here’s a fine example of the damage that would be done by chopping one tree down (below). They wouldn’t be just chopping down one tree; there’s another tree that has taken root on its trunk; a fig plant, grasses, orchids and ferns. And that’s just what we could see from the ground; and ignoring the insects, birds, and monkeys affected. Tsk, y’know, someone should, like, do something. Sermon over. ‘Cause it’s dinner time.