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.
Taxi negotiating the puddles
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!
I'm sure our regular readers have noticed that things have been kinda slow here on the blog lately. 'Tis true. With Barry partially out of commission with a pinched nerve in his upper back, he can't even ride his bike without a lot of pain, so we haven't been traveling, going out, or doing many interesting things of late. Hard to believe, but it's been six weeks since his injury. He's improved somewhat, but it's very slow going. I considered putting the blog on hiatus for awhile, but I decided that an occasional post was better than none at all.
One thing we have been doing lately is taking photos of the stunningly beautiful scenery right outside our windows, mostly around sunset or moonrise time, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite photographs taken in the past week or so. I hope you enjoy them.
Egret at dusk
Full moon rising
Unfortunately, ugly plastic washes up among the sargassum in certain weather conditions.
Ruddy Turnstones on the dock while storms brew beyond the reef
Coastal Express water taxi loaded down with passengers
Other side of the rainbow
One of my favorite views
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!
Looking northeast from our veranda. You can see how high the seagrass came at high tide. Normally it is washes up only to the level of the palm trees.
Fortunately, it appears that Rina has passed Ambergris Caye, and indeed all of Belize, with no more than a very high tide. The official San Pedro weather station
reported just under an inch of rain, most falling in the wee hours last night, and some this morning. Bernie's weather station on top of Chico Caribe reports a 28 mph wind gust at 8:19 am as the highest wind we've received so far, and interestingly, that was right when Barry and I were doing our morning run.
The run was challenging because the tide was at or near its highest point at that time, and we both ended up with wet shoes after running through puddles; soft, wet sand; small waves, and sopping seagrass on what is usually clear beach. You can see in the photo above how high the tide came from where the seagrass is deposited. This tide cut off much of our running trail and made a mess out of what was left of it. Barry finally gave up on the beach and cut over to the road, but I stuck it out.
At one point on the way back, I hopped up on the trunk of a slanted coconut palm to avoid getting my feet soaked again, then jumped back down onto the sand when the wave receded. This was on a shoreline that gets minimal wave action normally due to the offshore reef. I can still hear small waves washing up on our usually placid beach outside our condo at 2:30 pm, but the tide is quite a bit lower than it was this morning.
This afternoon is lightly breezy with no rain; in fact, the sun is even peeking through milky clouds and the sea is turquoise again. Rina has lost intensity and should be moving north very soon and leaving Belize behind. Unfortunately, I am sure she will leave behind some beach erosion as her legacy here, but it could have been much worse.
We're starting to breathe a sigh of relief as it looks as though Hurricane Rina will go north of us here on Ambergris Caye and head towards Cancun. Coastal Belize is under a Tropical Storm Warning, but our condo is built to handle winds in that range easily (reinforced concrete construction & hurricane doors), so we will be able to stay put.
We rode our bikes to town this morning in a stiff breeze to stock up on groceries, and it seemed that everyone was out and about as the streets were jam-packed. Nearly all businesses were open, and we even ordered another large batch of whole-wheat tortillas to be made tomorrow, so I guess Popular Tortilla Co. doesn't expect a hurricane.
Schools were cancelled today, which surprised me, but there is a voluntary evacuation of both Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, so I guess the authorities wanted to give folks a chance to get off the islands if they wished to. Regular water taxi service has been suspended, and ferries to the mainland are free for folks wishing to evacuate, but no boats are coming back into San Pedro.
The water level is as high as we've ever seen it here, and small waves are making it over the reef and onto our beach, which rarely happens; usually the water along the shoreline is dead calm. It is interesting to hear the waves wash to shore, since we normally can only barely hear the roar of the waves far out on the offshore reef. Here are a few photos Barry took around lunchtime from outside our condo.
Large waves over the reef today
Our beach is strewn with debris from the high tide earlier this morning.
Here is a small wave coming towards shore. Okay, it's not really surf-worthy yet!
It's actually a gorgeous day here, as you can see. I'll continue reporting on the storm here as long as we have internet access. Our building is on a generator, but our DSL line runs through two other buildings that are not on generators, so if they lose power, we lose internet. Stay tuned!