Last year was the first time we'd ever been in Belize in the month of October. It was not our favorite month. I remember it as being gray and rainy and still, with not nearly enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes and sand flies away. I remember plowing through deep pond-sized puddles on the road north of the bridge as we traveled from our condo to town and back again, time after time. I remember washing our bicycles over and over since the puddles were deeper than our bottom brackets. About the only thing positive I can recall about last October was that it was cooler than the summer months. October, we were not sorry when you melted away into November.
What a difference a year makes. This October has been much drier, sunnier, and the breezes a bit more constant. There have been a few mosquitoes and sand flies, but nothing like last year. It has been, really, gorgeous and bright, with only a few days that tourists wouldn't love. Those folks who got cheap low-season rates for October vacations here are no doubt feeling a bit smug. Hurricanes? Nope. Tropical storms? Not even close.
The biggest difference in the October of 2012 and the October of 2011, though, is the roads. Sure, less rain has helped, but thanks to a big effort by the new town council, the road north of the bridge (at least as far as Grand Caribe), was graded and filled with load after load of gravel this summer. And it's holding up well. There are a few areas where potholes and "moguls" are developing, but this is nothing even close to the "great lakes" of October '11. And in a few of the larger holes, more heavy-duty gravel was dumped just in the past week or so, after a few wet days made a bit of a muddy mess in a couple of lower-lying spots. This rocky gravel isn't the most bike-friendly stuff I've ever seen or ridden on (thank goodness for wide beach cruiser tires), but it certainly beats putting one's legs up and going "wheeeeeee!" through deep, silty puddles you can't see the bottom of.
This was a big, wide puddle a little over a week ago but was quickly filled!
Rocky gravel fill
But I'll shut up now and let the photos tell the rest of the story.
Huge puddle behind our condo
Same area behind our condo - dry
At Reef Village looking towards Kama Lounge -- what a mess this made of us and our bikes!
Same view and a very different road this year thanks to weather and lots of packed fill
Looking south towards Legend's -- tough going for golf carts and bikes
Looking south towards Legend's now -- smooth sailing!
Reef Village -- notorious for having a terrible road out front
Reef Village now -- still some small bumps but the "great lakes" are GONE.
Outside The Cloisters and Funky Monkey Bar & Grill -- cyclist dodging huge puddles
Road is far better and even the telephone & electric wires have been cleaned up!
In addition to changes in the road, the Funky Monkey at the Cloisters is no more, but a new restaurant. Feliz, is busily preparing for opening soon, and we happened by as the new sign was being painted.
Sign being painted
Sign for "Feliz"
We also happened to meet the new proprietor, Kevin. He's currently working on planning the menu and is hoping to keep prices reasonable so ex-pats and locals, as well as tourists, will be able to afford to eat and drink there. Great idea! It will be nice to have another choice of eateries in our north of the bridge neighborhood.
All in all, I'd say the changes between this year and last are for the better!
Emily talking to Kevin
UPDATE October 20: I was biking by again today, and the Feliz signs are complete. Very cute and colorful, don't you think?