Weather-wise, this November has been the best month we've experienced since moving to San Pedro fifteen months ago.  It was mostly dry, cooler than normal, with highs only in the upper 70s many days. Best of all, the humidity was so much lower than the norm that my skin and lips were dry and flaky, and I actually had a few good hair days -- with my wavy mop that tends towards frizz, that's saying a lot!  

But a couple of days ago, that all changed.  For the past two nights, we've had hours of heavy rain, a total of around five inches.  I guess our assumption that dry season might be beginning early this year was a bit premature.  I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story....

Here's the approaching storm late yesterday afternoon.
And some of the roads north of the bridge today.  These were all dry just a couple of days ago.
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Taxi negotiating the puddles
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Motorcycle testing the depth of the puddle
But we can't complain too much.  Without the rain, we wouldn't have the lush tropical foliage nor these beautiful flowers!
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Hibiscus
 
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It takes time to get used to the fact that Belize doesn't have the same concept of the four seasons we are used to in the United States.  In North Carolina, where I grew up and spent most of my life, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter are distinct seasons and provide an easy way to refer to times of year.  "Last winter we went to Florida," or "Sure has been an early spring," or "The leaves are especially pretty this fall."  

Here in Belize, the year is not structured exactly the same.  Instead of the four seasons I'm used to, there are only two:  dry season and rainy season.  The latter is the longest, stretching from June through December in most cases, though this year it seemed to last through January and start up again in May, leaving but a short three-month dry season.  Even during rainy season, it certainly doesn't rain all the time.  It rains more at night than during the day, but storms are more frequent and can be heavy, even if short-lived.  Occasionally it stays gray and rains off and on all day long, but that is rare.  And it rains on occasion even during dry season, but much less frequently.

This year -- this "summer" -- just when we thought rainy season was here to stay, Mother Nature's waterworks turned off.  Although I don't have official rainfall statistics to quote, on Ambergris Caye July was dryer than June, August seemed dryer still (with the exception of our brief brush with Hurricane Ernesto in the early part of the month), and September was downright desert-like.  Even the locals were complaining about the heat and dry weather, and passing motor vehicles kicked dusty dirt in our eyes when they passed us on the unpaved roads.  It was 83 or 84F every morning by the time I got up (6:30 to 7 am). Almost every day without fail, the skies were brilliant blue, the sun was shining brightly, and it was a perfect time for visitors to enjoy a tropical island vacation.  But for residents, the lack of clouds and cooling rain can get a bit stifling over time.

And then it changed.

Over the past few days, we've started getting some brief daytime showers and brilliant lightning and thunder shows at night.  And clouds, yes cooling clouds!  Although the high temperature most days is still hitting the 88 through 90F range in the mid-morning to early afternoon timeframe, we've been having great breezes in the later afternoons and evenings; and at times, there is the slightest "edge" to the breeze that almost feels...dare I say, cool.

The birds are in high gear as fall migration time has arrived as well.  Almost overnight we started noticing wood warblers in the heavy tropical foliage out our windows, along with the plaintive call of the Great Kiskadee that had been silent all summer long.  Even year-round residents like orioles seem more active and plentiful.  The Roseate Spoonbills are back at Grand Belizean Estates, along with the flock of Blacked-Necked Stilts wading in the mangrove pools, and many more birds flying overhead.  But again, I used the the US seasons "fall" and "summer" to describe these differences -- because they are important and distinct times for birders -- even though both are part of the rainy season in Belize.

I suppose no matter where one lives, there are certain constructs that will never die, and for me, one of those is the concept of the four seasons.  It's different here in Belize in spring, summer, fall, and winter, no matter how those "seasons" are described.  So now, I'm going to say it, even though the leaves won't be changing:  Fall is here!
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Black-Necked Stilts
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Roseate Spoonbill
 
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Sunday, May 13: The last day of dry season?
In retrospect, the dramatic halo around the sun on May 13th must have signaled the start of rainy season, and an early one at that.  Rainy season usually stretches from June through December in Belize; although this year, we had a wet January, and May has been very wet as well.  It has rained nearly every day or night since that rainbow around the moon appeared, twice nearly 3" in less than 24 hours.  Last night it rained nearly 3" in less than 12 hours!

Today we had to ride our bikes to town to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables as we were completely out, and Tuesday is normally a day that the boats come from the mainland loaded down with fresh produce.  We knew the road north of the bridge, which is unpaved and sandy, would be a real mess after the heavy rains last night, as it was already in poor shape from the past week and a half of on-and-off rain.  Fortunately we can ride part of the way on the beach, but in some places, there is no choice but to ride on the road.  Thought you might like to come along and see what a ride into town is like during rainy season....
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Here is what our bikes look like down here; fenders help, but they still stay messy
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Mr. Raymond hauling trash from Grand Caribe to town
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Tourists and locals riding by Reef Village -- no beach option here
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I'm riding on one of the better stretches of road past Reef Village
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Approaching the Paradise Theater and Sir Barry Bowen bridge
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I'm negotiating around the puddles large and small
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Main paved roads in town are fine, but side roads are messy!
In town we shopped at two fruit stands and got a great haul:  small bananas, papaya, mangoes, avocados, starfruit, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli.  Barry is hauling it all back in his bike baskets (one of the smartest things we brought to Belize).  Good thing he didn't fall in any of these puddles!
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Barry negotiating puddles by Reef Village and the Cloisters
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A threatening sky once again to the north as we rode home along the beach
When we got back to our condo, we had just enough time for a quick pool-down before the rains started up again!
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Storm coming our way
 
It feels like it's been raining for days here in on Ambergris Caye.  On New Year's Eve, we had a terrific storm with howling sustained winds in the 30 mph range and gusts in the low 40s.  The San Pedro Town rain gauge measured .89" of rain for the day.  

New Year's Day again brought windy conditions with a 41 mph high gust, and even more rain.  It rained on and off from lunchtime on.  The San Pedro gauge measured 1.49" of rain for the day when I logged off at around 10 pm.  

This morning we awoke to solidly gray skies and steady rain, just like the ugly February weather we often had in North Carolina.  Thankfully I did not have to commute to work in it this time!  We had a few mornings like this here in San Pedro in September and October, but we're coming into the dry season now and had been mostly dry in December, so steady morning rain is very unusual.  The town gauge now shows 2.18" of rain since midnight and just over 4" for the 24 hour period.  

This is a good day to stay inside, nurse my cold, and dream about days like the one in the photo below.
 
Last night we had rain, thunder, and lightning AGAIN; and the rain continued coming down in sheets through lunchtime, bringing over 4" to the San Pedro area.  This is a result of a low-pressure system that has camped out over the Gulf of Honduras and may be with us for another couple of days.  Here are a couple of shots during the peak of the morning rain.
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Note the sand flowing into the ocean from the heavy rain. The water will be shallower than ever!
This afternoon once the rain had stopped, Barry decided to head into town as he wanted to buy some produce, and I'm sure the cabin fever was getting pretty intense.  Truth be told, I would have joined him if my back were healed up.  It's getting there, but I want to give it a full week of rest and recovery before getting on the bike again, so I worked on my on-line Spanish lesson while he rode in on his bike.  Here are what the the roads just north of town looked like, and yes, he rode through those puddles!  If I'd been with him, I would have detoured onto the sidewalk!
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Some of these are at least a foot deep!
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No sidewalk to detour onto here!
If he didn't have fenders on his bike, I don't think he would have gone for it as he would have been filthy.  

With the produce he bought, along with our whole wheat tortillas from yesterday, we were able to whip up a huge batch of bean, veggie, and cheese burritos to freeze and eat for the next couple of days.  I guess it was worth the mess to have plenty of good food to sustain us in case this front hangs around for many more days.
 
The streak of days with rain in October is unbroken!  Yesterday was just a light shower, and it had already stopped by 6 am, but the pool deck was wet, so it counts.  This morning I heard rain as I was lying in bed early this morning thinking about getting up.  I also heard one loud clap of thunder overnight, worried that Paisley might get scared, then promptly fell back to sleep.  It had stopped by the time we headed out for our Friday morning run.  It's nice having most of the rain come early, leaving the rest of the day for fun and frolicking!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog entry as we took the ferry over to Belize City today for some shopping.  We'll have a report and photos up sometime tomorrow.  Happy weekend!
 
So, it's rained five out of five mornings in October, and we're wondering how long this streak will go.  Nearly every afternoon and evening is nice, but come morning, it's gray and raining.  This morning's rain ended early, allowing us to hit the beach for a nice little run, but then returned with a vengeance after we got home, as sheets of rain pounded on our windows, obliterated our view of the reef, and made us feel very thankful we hadn't set out on our bike ride to town at our usual time (around 9 am).  Here are a few shots Barry took of the rain, and the aftermath.
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View from our veranda
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A new swimming pool at Grand Caribe after the rain!
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I deviously try to lure Paisley into said "pool" - can you say hangdog?
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She isn't falling for it...
Finally, after lunch and some cooking chores, we hit the road to town.  We knew that the road around Reef Village that we have to ride to go over the bridge at the cut and into San Pedro Town was going to be a disaster, as it's been getting worse daily with the rain.  Several of the puddles span the entire roadway, so you have no choice other than to ride through them, which can be a bit daunting as you can't see the bottom to figure out the best line with the shallowest water.  The only good thing about these puddles, I guess, is that they give everyone who has to ride north of the bridge something to discuss and a common bond; the road is on everyone's minds!
On the way back from our marketing, we had a chance to witness quite a spectacle of workers on many, many levels of scaffolding, working at the top of this condo building.  They were passing full buckets of concrete up, level by level, and also passing the empties back down, almost in a synchronized "dance".  It was actually kind of beautiful to behold so many people working in such harmony towards a common goal.  
Here are a couple of photos of Barry braving the puddles with the groceries in his rear rack.  And yes, I went through these too.  Thank goodness for Chaco sandals that can be rinsed off after a ride!
Dinner tonight was a tropical pizza with jerk chicken, pineapple, papaya, red onion, red bell pepper, jack cheese, cilantro, and Barry's delicious homemade crust.   Thoughts of rain, bad roads, and muddy bikes were left far behind while noshing on this! 
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Pretty colors and tasted great too!
Will it rain again tomorrow morning, making October a solid six for six?  Supposedly the rainy weather pattern is going to ease a bit in the coming days, but I will believe it when I see it.  Stay tuned!
 
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We took a long Sunday bike ride after walking Paisley, hitting the pool, and eating breakfast.  This ride proved to be quite an adventure, and not always in a good way.  We headed far north up the beach, as we'd done several times before on previous trips, but this time, once we got several miles up, the beach was in pretty bad shape.  I had to walk my bike quite a bit because the beach was all cluttered up with seagrass and debris in places, and there was the usual soft sand at several of the resorts, rather than the usual packed sand that is easy to ride on.  In soft sand, your tires start spinning as you attempt to plow through, and often you lose all traction and have to put a foot down before you fall.  It gets old when this happens over and over on a ride, so we prefer to avoid areas like this.
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Pretty, but not the best for riding
There were also a couple of places where we encountered unfriendly watch dogs.  Large dogs running towards me barking angrily scares the bejeebers out of me, and one particular place, I knew I didn't want to have to ride by twice since the dogs approached quite ferociously.  Barry scared them off, but I still didn't feel comfortable encountering them again.  
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One of the few friendly dogs we encountered
To avoid the dogs and bad beach areas, we decided to take the unpaved "road" off the beach back to Chico Caribe at the turnaround point.  "Road" is in quotes because in places it is more like a trail, and is really intended mostly for golf carts.  When we first started back, the road was in great shape, a nice packed sand trail, and we also had a tail wind, so it seemed like we'd just sail back to our destination.
Unfortunately, we eventually got to a place where the road widened and was packed down and rutted by construction trucks.  There were deep depressions, but no water at first.  Eventually, puddles appeared, then the puddles grew into small ponds.  We could get avoid most of these by zig-zagging and going around the edges, but at one point, there was no way to avoid riding through them; and the standing water was fetid, muddy, and dark.  Barry plowed through some of this, but when I saw that his bike was about a foot deep in the water, I couldn't make myself attempt it.  I just knew I'd get mired in the mud and flop over sideways into the dank, stinky cauldron of who-knows-what kind of evil.  Just couldn't do it! 

Sorry for the lack of photos of this part; we were too busy trying to figure out how to cope with the situation to take any at the time.  Barry has threatened to ride back up there to take some, so stay tuned!

So, I turned back and started walking my bike through property that appeared to have a side cut-through to the beach.  We had already gotten by the doggie trouble spots we'd encountered heading north, so I figured if I could just get to the beach, it would be mostly smooth sailing getting back home.  About this time, a dog from the house whose yard I was trying to cut through saw me and starting barking loudly and running around the yard.  Crap!  I guess just about everyone in Belize who lives in a private home has a large watch dog to dissuade would-be thieves.  I felt pretty helpless, but the dog never actually came after me, and no screaming homeowners appeared, thank goodness.  I have to say my heart was racing.  Just what else could go wrong?

This:  Barry came rolling up beside me, none too happy since he'd had to turn around and come back through the putrid water once he realized I was not going to attempt it.  He showed me that he'd gotten a rather long scratch on his leg when a piece of metal wire in the nasty pondwater wrapped around his wheel, then slapped him on the leg.  He needed to hightail it back to the condo to get it cleaned and some antibiotic ointment on it, so he took off down the beach at top speed to tend to it, and I rode as fast as I could behind him, but he was out of sight almost immediately.

Fortunately, the scratch wasn't too deep, so hopefully all that will be required is the ointment and the large bandage we put on it and it doesn't become infected.  I don't think we'll be riding the far north route again until dry season.  What a fiasco!

This afternoon was much calmer but very wet.  Normally when it rains here, a shower or squall passes over quickly and the sun soon makes another appearance, but this time a tremendous storm blew up with much wind and sideways rain, and bands of rain and strong breezes continued to move in all afternoon.  We never saw the sun after mid-morning, and it actually got quite cool by mid-afternoon, by Belizean standards.  The outside temp hit a low of 73.5, which was the coolest since we've been here (even overnight), and with the wind and rain, it actually felt a bit chilly!  We hope that tomorrow will bring a nicer day, but after all the rain today, the road into town is sure to be full of puddles.  Ah, rainy season in Belize!
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We are finally getting a taste of what "rainy season" here in Belize is really like.  Rainy season here officially spans the months from June through November.  We were here for a week in late August 2010, during which time we had only one brief rain, so we were a bit unimpressed with the so-called "rainy" season.  It had actually rained more in May 2010, when we were here for our 25th anniversary.  On May 20, San Pedro recorded 11" of rain.  Yes, you read that right, ELEVEN inches!  Pretty unprecedented, even for here.  Fortunately, with the sandy soil, it soon soaked in, but the darker "pool" in the grass at The Phoenix in the photos below was not actually a pool, just flooding from the incredibly heavy rain.
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New pool at The Phoenix!
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May 20, 2010. It rained and rained and rained. Buckets.
But that was an anomaly for May; or for anytime, really.  Even the locals were astonished by it.

Then this past July, we spent two weeks here, and although it rained a bit more, there were still days and days of end-to-end sunshine.  As there were when we first arrived here in August.  Not so now.  Today was what seems to be a more typical rainy-season day here in Belize.  It rained off and on most of the night.  We woke up to rain but were able to head out on our morning run once it tapered off.  After the run, it got very nice and sunny indeed; in fact, eventually there was not a cloud in the sky.

We got through our bike ride to town and shopping (today we only needed a handful of grocery items, plus some housewares, after yesterday's big marketing), and the ride home.  But at some point in the afternoon, the sky over the Caribbean Sea grew dark again, the wind kicked up, and before we new it, it was raining sideways again.  Here are a couple of photos of the fast-approaching storm before the rain began.
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Once the storm passed, it cleared up again; only to turn cloudy again in the late afternoon.  This time the rain stayed offshore; but who knows, it could rain again overnight.  In fact, I'll be very surprised if it doesn't.  

All this rain has really done a number on the packed sand roads north of town.  We have to dodge many puddles on our rides, and some are so large we have to ride through them, as they span the entire width of the road.  I miscalculated one this morning, got into a patch of sticky mud, and had to put a foot down, lest I fall over sideways.  So, I got a sneaker full of mud, but I had to laugh it off.  We were close to town at this point, and once we got to the beach road there, I simply walked into the Carribbean Sea and cleaned off my foot, ankle, and sneaker.  Ya just gotta roll with the punches during rainy season.  And wear shoes you don't mind muddying up!
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A puddle after the rains...this is not one of the biggest as we didn't have the camera with us today.
 
First off, I have to give Barry credit for the title of this blog post or he'll never forgive me.  :-)

A tropical wave came through today, so we awoke to rain, rain, and more rain.  Today was a running day for us, and we ended up deciding to go in the rain after all since it was a nice warm rain, and we didn't want to miss out on a beach run when it wasn't blazing hot and sunny.  The rain got heavier during our run, and by the time we got back, we were SOAKED to the skin.  No photos of this, though they would have been pretty entertaining.

After we peeled off our dripping running clothes, we put on our swimsuits and swam in the rain for awhile, which was very pleasant, actually!  Again, no photos.  You'll have to take our word for it.

The rest of the day was devoted to projects, as it continued to rain on and off all day.  We got two out of three of our window shades installed (bedroom and living area), as well as as some holdbacks for the bedroom curtains.  We discovered that we needed these as when we are able to turn off the A/C and open up, the curtains get sucked into the screens, blocking the airflow.  

We got stymied on the kitchen window shade as we needed wood spacers on top, and the piece of finished wood Barry found that we could use for this purpose was wet, so we need to wait for it to fully dry out.  Here are a few photos of Barry installing the shade in our bedroom:
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Tada! All done -- this will keep the bedroom very dark at night as some outdoor lighting shined through the curtains before.

After the window shade project, we reorganized our master closet, and Barry reversed the door on our dryer so it would swing in a more convenient direction.  

At some point early in the afternoon, our internet went out.  We called the front desk, and finally, around 4:15 pm, it was restored.  Whew!  Would have hated missing out on having that in the evening.  Sounds like they need to take it down again tomorrow to do some more work, so hopefully that will be tomorrow while we're in town -- if it's not pouring!

Here's a photo of another wave of the storm taken right before dinner.  Needless to say, we didn't get to eat on the veranda tonight as it was soon raining again.
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For dinner we had bean, corn, and cheese tostadas with salsa; Barry's homemade gazpacho, and salad.  Delicious!
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