Happy Earth Day!

If you've been reading our blog for awhile, you know that we usually do some bird-watching on Sunday morning.  Sometimes we walk, sometimes we ride our bikes.  We'd been mostly walking lately, so this morning we decided to ride, since we can get farther north past more of the golf-cart traffic that way.  Although we didn't see many new birds, we ended up riding farther north than we ever have before and had a great time doing it.  

We started off riding north on the beach from our condo.  It was a gorgeous day after a cold front came through last night, whisking the humidity away (so rare for here) and bringing a great breeze and cooler temperatures along with it.  
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Blue sky as far as the eye could see
Once we got up to Indigo condominiums, we shifted onto the road since we have some favorite birding spots up in that area.  The beach offers mainly shorebirds, where the road provides a better variety, from various wood-warblers to flycatchers to Plain Chacalacas.  We stopped a few times along the way to check out birds, like these:
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Orange Oriole singing high in a tree
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White Ibis
Near Matachica resort, we ran into a huge puddle in the road. This area has had more rain than farther south lately, and there had been a very high tide not long ago as well, so high water from the lagoon just to the left certainly didn't help matters. We wouldn't be able to travel this way any further as I wasn't willing to ride through this puddle.  We did watch a local man do it, but it didn't look easy or pleasant and was quite deep.
So we back-tracked to Rojo Lounge, which is closed in the morning, and cut through to the beach.
We rode north on the beach for awhile until we found another cut-through to go back to the road, which was passable once the big puddle had been avoided.  
We continued to stop occasionally to check out birds we'd see or hear along the way, but this was fast becoming more of a bike ride than a birding ride.  We had only been as far as Blue Reef Island Resort before, but today we decided to try heading a bit farther north.  Surprisingly, the road was dried up (except for a few muddy areas), and we were able to go quite a bit farther north.  We didn't see another soul.  I always get a little nervous when we get into "uncharted territory", but fortunately, it was fine.  We felt like real adventurers, though, since we'd never been up this far.
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Road north of Blue Reef Island resort
Note that there are still power lines way up here -- someday we'll figure out where they end, perhaps!
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Official road sign :)
The shift of the wind to northwest off the lagoon brought with it a ton of mosquitoes.  Here I am dancing and dodging them, despite wearing insect repellent: 
The road got a bit sketchier, and we finally came upon a muddy area I didn't really want to cross after watching Barry fishtail across it.  So he continued up just a bit farther to take a photo of this resort (can anyone identify it?) while I waited, then he turned around and met back up with me.
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Mystery Resort
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Sketchy road to mystery resort -- suspect most people get here by boat!
We were getting hungry and thirsty (we'd brought water but had gone through it already), so it was definitely time to head back.  
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It's super peaceful riding up here
As we got closer to the big cell tower, we saw lots of smoke.  We had seen small fires along here on the way north, but they had really whipped up with the windy, dry conditions by the time we headed back.  We still don't know whether these were intentionally set to burn brush or whether an errant cigarette or even a lightning strike in the wee hours sparked the flames.  Unfortunately, we knew that the small and ill-equipped fire department would not be able to do anything about them in this remote area.  They reminded me of wildfires we'd seen along the highway in Florida and North Carolina during hot, dry summers.  We just hope they burned themselves out and were glad that they would be unable to cross the sandy road.  Quite a wide area was covered, making for a hot, smoky, and unpleasant ride along this section.
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Smoke and cell tower up ahead
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Hard to see me up ahead through the smoke
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Flames
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Lots of smoke and charred ground
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I hightailed it outta here as fast as possible, while Barry sacrificed to take the photos!
Finally we left the fire behind and were able to breathe clean air again.  In order to avoid the nasty puddle near Matachica, we cut over to the beach on a small trail we found alongside the wall at Canary Cove.  I heard a dog that sounded like Kujo snarling and growling behind the wall, but he didn't come running out onto the beach to bite our ankles, thankfully.
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Trail to beach by Canary Cove
We rode down the beach until we reached Rojo Lounge again.
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Riding in front of Canary Cove with an eye and ear out for "Kujo"
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This stretch of beach was covered with palm fronds and not very cyclist-friendly
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Another area where we had to "portage" the bikes
Unfortunately, there are a lot of seawalls in this area, some of which come near the beach path.  Being the klutz that I am, I clipped my pedal on one of them and went down.  It wasn't a hard fall, and initially I thought I'd just bruised my right knee a bit.  But when I got home, it turns out I must have hit the pointy bone on the inside of my left ankle pretty hard on a rock, and it's now tender and painful when I walk.  Doesn't look like I'll be able to do my Monday beach run, which is too bad since the weather is finally much nicer for running than it has been.  Sigh...

Fortunately, it didn't hurt much on the rest of the ride home.  We cut back through the road by Rojo Lounge and made our way back to our condo.  There is a nice little hill on this cut-through road which felt almost like mountain biking back in North Carolina.  Fun!  
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Sometimes I miss jamming over a hill!
After all that riding, we actually had the best bird sighting of the day right next to our condo, of all things.  This cute Dickcissel hung around for quite some time eating something in the grass.  He was incredibly tame, and I got within two feet of him even with Paisley on the leash.  Our Belize bird book says they are transients and appear here during migration season, so what a treat to happen upon this little fellow -- a new bird for our life lists!
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Cute little Dickcissel
Larry
4/22/2012 09:08:40 pm

The area (mystery resort) you may have been might be Portofino. I am not sure how far north you treked. There is a map you may want to get from online. Go to ambergriscaye.com/maps/art. There is one there for the Carts Belize company. It is not overly detailed for the north part of the Caye but does show a few places all the way to Rocky Point which is 22 miles north of the boco rio bridge.

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BeBelize Emily
4/22/2012 11:11:04 pm

Thanks Larry, but Portofino is actually south of Blue Reef. We did a little research this morning and determined that the "mystery resort" is most likely Sapphire Beach, based on where it is (one mile north of Blue Reef) and how it looked.

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BeBelize Emily
4/22/2012 11:41:15 pm

It is definitely Sapphire Beach (http://www.sapphirebeachbelize.com/), confirmed by a Facebook friend who is building there!

daddywags
4/23/2012 04:05:27 am

It is Sapphire Beach all right!

Larry
4/24/2012 08:46:06 pm

So Sapphire Beach is approximately 9 miles north of the Boco Rio bridge?

BeBelize Emily
4/24/2012 09:47:23 pm

Yes, that's right, Larry.

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