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.
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This was a big, wide puddle a little over a week ago but was quickly filled!
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Rocky gravel fill
But I'll shut up now and let the photos tell the rest of the story.

October 2011

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Huge puddle behind our condo

October 2012

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Same area behind our condo - dry

October 2011

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At Reef Village looking towards Kama Lounge -- what a mess this made of us and our bikes!
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Same view and a very different road this year thanks to weather and lots of packed fill

October 2011

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Looking south towards Legend's -- tough going for golf carts and bikes

October 2012

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Looking south towards Legend's now -- smooth sailing!

October 2011

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Reef Village -- notorious for having a terrible road out front

October 2012

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Reef Village now -- still some small bumps but the "great lakes" are GONE.

October 2011

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Outside The Cloisters and Funky Monkey Bar & Grill -- cyclist dodging huge puddles

October 2012

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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.
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Sign being painted
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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!
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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?
Paula
10/18/2012 07:16:12 am

Those photos are amazing! What a great idea to go right back to the same spots, get the same view, and SNAP! A picture IS worth more than a thousand words. Nice blog, Em & Bear. Thankful for a better October this year.

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BeBelize Emily
10/18/2012 07:55:27 am

Thanks Paula! It really is a sharp contrast from last year 'til now. Glad you enjoyed it!

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Carbunkle Trumpet
10/18/2012 08:13:42 am

Good to see the roads are being maintained a little better and it has been better weather. I have to admit I always accused Reef Village of keeping the roads in front of their place in bad shape so the Time Share people could corrall you easier.

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BeBelize Emily
10/18/2012 09:19:08 am

There no longer seem to be any timeshare salespeople around -- I guess because it finally became widely known that the timeshare building was never going to be finished and that the hapless folks who bought in basically got screwed. RV is still operating for condo owners and renters, but there are no annoying salespeople in the little kiosk outside. Hurrah!

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10/18/2012 11:04:58 am

Emily, I'm glad you mentioned in your comments that you had a blog! All these photos look so familiar. We stayed up at Cocotal last February and rode the bikes up and down that road to town everyday! Glad it's been dry!

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BeBelize Emily
10/18/2012 11:13:40 am

Hi Beck -- just wondering where you're referring to that I mentioned having a blog. I'm sure I've mentioned it in several places but am always curious to know where people find us! Thanks!

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Sabrina
10/18/2012 11:22:43 am

Wow, huge difference from last year. Looking forward to a food report once the new place opens. Rum report too!

~~_/)~~
Sabrina

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BeBelize Emily
10/18/2012 11:57:08 pm

Yep, will do!

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Ruthie
10/18/2012 01:40:16 pm

Great post. Looks like things have greatly improved in only one year. Or...it's just that mother nature has been gentler on the island than last year. Either way, the roads look pretty good.

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BeBelize Emily
10/18/2012 11:58:41 pm

It's definitely a combination of the two, Ruthie. Even when it rains now, the road is so much better filled that there are not so many holes to collect puddles that never drain. They have also done a lot of roads down south and even in San Mateo. This new administration is getting a lot of kudos from the people of the island for being proactive and actually getting important work done.

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10/18/2012 11:32:37 pm

Wow, there's definitely been some great improvements. I think ya'll bought at the right time!

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BeBelize Emily
10/19/2012 12:13:16 am

Yes, the improvements are definitely overdue. But we miss the days when vehicles other than golf carts were not even allowed on the road over the bridge. That kept it from getting so messed up and packed down to begin with and allowed the huge lakes to form. Once the floodgates were opened, they were not gonna be closed, though, and now more work has to be done to maintain what used to be a much less-used road.

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10/19/2012 11:39:32 pm

I agree the rocky gravel [hard core] is a pain in the butt for bikes. I always cross my fingers I do not hit a big rock when riding through puddles or sink in a hole. Great pic comparison fro 2011 - 2012 of the road really shows what a good job they have done to keep it in better shape north of the bridge. Can't wait till the new bridge goes up [hopefully one day soon].

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BeBelize Emily
10/20/2012 03:30:51 am

Yes, it will be interesting to see what the new bridge is like (assuming they do finally build one and don't just keep patching the current one), and if they raise the toll to cross it. I know what you mean about hitting those big rock IN the puddles when you can't see them. I always worry that I am going to go down, but have never had that happen. YET. Now that the roads are in better shape, perhaps it never will!

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10/21/2012 01:31:11 am

I heard through the grapevine that it might become swipe card to cross.

10/20/2012 02:09:38 am

I like good now and then shots. And I hope you didn't jinx us...don't like the orange blob rolling up on Central America.

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BeBelize Emily
10/20/2012 03:31:43 am

I know! I thought since we had Ernesto so early and it had been quiet ever since, we were done for the season. Mother Nature is always one for surprises, isn't she?

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10/23/2012 05:00:48 pm

Thank you for your lovely BeBelize blog. I will be traveling to Ambergris Caye on Nov 15 to check things out for a possible move. Your updates are exciting and ecouraging. Hope I get to meet some of you.

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