We happened to arrive at Super Buy this morning right when they were unloading two truckloads of new stock. One of the large delivery trucks had just driven off when Barry snapped these shots. It's pretty crazy shopping here now as high season cranks up, as there are almost always numerous bicycles, golf carts, Polarises (ultra-loud souped-up 4WD golf cart-like vehicles), and sometimes trucks to dodge to find a parking place. But the prices are good, so we keep coming back.
One of many interesting things about shopping on Ambergris Caye is that very few stores have designated parking. Many shops have a bike rack, but there are no "parking lots" like back in the US. So people park on the street and pull in right in front of the stores, wherever they can find a place. It's quite chaotic at times with vehicles coming and going. The thing that really irks me is when a golf cart parks right in front of the bike rack, blocking entry and exit. If your bike is parked in the middle of a couple of others and a cart pulls in right behind you, you're stuck. I expect we'll be seeing more and more of this sort of thing as high season cranks into full gear next week and the week between Christmas and New Years. Hopefully after that, things will calm down a bit.
Today we started on something we'd been wanting to do since before we moved to Ambergris Caye -- beach cleanup. There have been some excellent organized efforts at trash cleanup here in the past with large teams of people, but we missed the last beach cleanup and didn't want to wait around for the next one. Plenty of trash builds up between organized cleanups, so there is almost always work to be done.
For a variety of reasons, lots of (mostly) plastic trash washes up on the otherwise lovely beaches here. I suspect some of it is dumped way out at sea by cruise ships and floats in, some is trash from neighboring countries that due to sea currents washes up here, and some is certainly dropped by people walking or riding bicycles on the beach, a very common form of transportation here on the island.
There is no recycling on Ambergris Caye yet, unfortunately, and not nearly enough trash bins once you get outside San Pedro Town itself. On a positive note, since glass beer and soda bottles are for-deposit, those DO get returned and do not end up on the beach, at least not for long. There are plenty of enterprising locals who pick them up quickly to turn in for cash when they do get discarded. So at least the trash that washes up on the beach is mostly lightweight and easy to haul away.
The beaches in front of resorts and condominium projects along the sea are raked clean of sea grass and have trash picked up daily by workers, but beaches in front of undeveloped properties are not cared for, and as a result, trash accumulates. There are several stretches of beach just north of Chico Caribe that we see every time we ride our bikes or run north, and it makes us sad to see all the trash marring their beauty, so we decided to start working on them. Once we make one pass through all three stretches, it will be much easier to keep trash picked up in the future.
Today we started on the furthest north and longest stretch of beach we plan to make part of our informal "adopt-a-beach" project. You can see from the "before" photos some of the plastic trash mixed into the sea grass before we began. And there are a lot of smaller bits you can't see in the photo.
It didn't take long to pick up the plastic on most of this rather long stretch, and it looked much better when we were finished. In fact, we ran out of trash bags before we ran out of trash, and had to leave a small area at the south end of the beach unfinished, but we'll get back to it another day. It doesn't take much bending over these days to get my fifty year-old back to barking, so this activity is best done in short bursts.
And the "after" shot:
Fortunately, a small effort can make a big difference, especially in a country like Belize, which has many fewer people and resources to go around than the United States. We are so happy to be here and perhaps to help make the place we've fallen in love with just a little bit better than when we found it.
I've mentioned Maria's fruit stand several times here, since we are frequent customers. Today we finally got a couple of photos of the lovely lady herself. She always gives us a freebie or two when we stop in for fruits and veggies, and today our treat was freshly cut slices of delicious watermelon. She saw about to take photos of each other eating it and ran out to be in the pictures with us. She is truly a delightful little lady, and we're so happy to support her family's business here in San Pedro. ¡Te amamos, Maria!
This Sunday morning we decided to do something different and ride down south of San Pedro rather than our usual route up north. The road south of Victoria House is much improved since the last time we rode down there and appeared to have been recently graded. Traffic was almost non-existent, and the mostly smooth sand made for some great riding, especially after the jarring cobblestone roads in town. There was still the occasional puddle, but many fewer than our last attempt at this ride.
We made it down to mile 5.5 south of town, which appeared to be about as far as you can go, though we might be wrong about that. Barry had already ridden 13 miles in a north loop before picking me up to join him, so we figured this was far enough. We were getting pretty hungry by this time anyway, and we planned to have brunch in town, so it was time to head back that way.
We decided to get our brunch at Estel's on the beach, where we had a table in the sand with a perfect view.
Breakfast was slower in coming than usual because the place was packed, but it was worth the wait. I was so starved I dug in before Barry reminded me about the obligatory food shot!
Today was a big day for me as I went over 2000 miles of cycling for the year. Most in Chapel Hill on my road bike, of course, but a good number since our beach cruiser bikes arrived in Belize in September. This is the most I've ridden since my cycling accident in 2005, so I'm delighted to have been able to accomplish this, since I'm certainly getting no younger. Fortunately, cycling can be enjoyed at any age for healthy folks, and I hope to do so for many years to come!
Regular readers of this blog will remember that I broke two spokes earlier in the week and had to get them replaced. However, I knew I really needed to bite the bullet and replace all the spokes in my front wheel with stainless steel ones, as many were looking pretty rusted. The spokes on the rear wheel were not nearly so bad, so that one could wait. So today we purchased a full complement of thirty-six thick stainless steel spokes at Castillo's and took them to El Guapo for Henry to rebuild the entire front wheel for me. He did a great job, but it was quite a long wait. Barry went ahead and took all our groceries back home in his bike baskets, then doubled back around to meet me and watch Henry finish the job. Henry insisted on giving Barry a lesson on spoke lacing; it's more involved than I realized! Truing the wheel took much longer than lacing the spokes, but finally the job was done, and my front wheel should hold up for a long time now.
It had gotten quite late by this time, well past our usual lunchtime, so I suggested that we stop at the Funky Monkey Bar & Grill for lunch on the way back. This proved to be a good choice as it was a perfect day to sit outside and enjoy the breezes. In sharp contrast to yesterday's gray off-and-on rain, today's bright blue skies were a real pick-me-up, and the temperature in the 70s couldn't have been nicer. There was a decent crowd at the restaurant, including Hugo and Victoria of Aji, along with their little dog Lulu. The owner, Dale, was there, of course, and we met friendly bartender Javier. We split a yummy pizza with ham and green peppers that really hit the spot, and enjoyed a couple of drinks (Belikin Sorrel Stout for me, the holiday brew). It was fun to do something unplanned, like stopping for lunch at a place we'd been meaning to try.
These pictures suffered a bit from a smudge on my camera lens...my apologies.
Barry spotted this Osprey at the end of our dock and noticed, using binoculars, that it was guarding the nice-sized fish it had just caught. The bird wasn't going to risk losing his lunch, so Barry was able to get quite close and zoom in for some nice shots.
We ride our bikes down to Maria's fruit stand south of San Pedro every couple of days to replenish our fruit and veggie supplies. Maria and Jose are so nice to us, and, if she is there, Maria always throws in a few "freebies" since we are regular customers. Here is what we got for today for $30 BZD ($15 US). I carried the lovely Canna Lilies (freebies!) back sticking out of the top of my backpack, and they held up pretty well.
"Ping" is the sound I've always read that a bike spoke makes when it breaks. I'd never broken a spoke before. It's something that typically happens to heavier riders, usually on the rear wheel, and I'm a lightweight, so I've been lucky. This didn't sound like a "ping".
It happened when I was wheeling my beach cruiser bicycle from the sidewalk area in front of the Greenhouse grocery store in town onto the road, and I heard what sounded like a metallic crack. It was loud and sounded like more than a "ping". I thought I had slammed my front crankset hard onto the edge of the curb somehow, just not paying attention. A quick look didn't reveal anything obviously broken, so I got on and started riding, with Barry riding behind me.
Hmmmm...what was that "whoosh-whoosh" sound? The bike was riding fine, but something was obviously very wrong. The sound was there even when I stopped pedaling, so that eliminated the crankset as the problem. It was something in the front wheel, but what? Tire wasn't flat. The hub? Then I thought about spokes. I stopped the bike, and Barry and I looked. Of course he saw it first. Yep, a broken spoke. Even though my bike is aluminum, the spokes are apparently just garden-variety steel, not of the stainless variety like Barry's are, and in this harsh marine environment, it had simply rusted through.
I was able to ride the bike far enough to make it to one of the local bike repair shops, but the sound seemed to get louder, and I could see that my front wheel was beginning to wobble as I pedaled along. When we got to the shop and I stopped, we could see that two spokes were actually broken, both on the same side of the wheel. No wonder it was wobbling! I was thankful that this happened today in town and not yesterday when we were riding way up north in Grand Belizean Estates. There are no bike shops, nor much of anything else, up that way.
Fortunately, the friendly bike shop guy had just what we needed and was able to do the repair right away. He commented that our bikes were very nice and we should always lock them up wherever we go. (We do, or one of us stands guard.) Soon after he started working on it, it started raining. It had been beautiful and sunny when we left for town, so we didn't anticipate this sudden shower, but we were able to duck under the tin roof of a no-longer-open local eating hole very close to the shop.
The repair and two spokes cost me $10 BZD ($5 US). Actually, he charged me only $8 BZD, but I gave him $10 for fixing it in the rain and so quickly. Sure beats the cost of a car repair in the US!
Sometimes it just seems like the powers that be are conspiring against you. We had been looking forward to the annual San Pedro Lighted Boat Parade all day, and thought we had the perfect plan. In addition to parade day, it was Barry's birthday, so a nice meal at one of our favorite restaurants was in order. We'd take the water taxi into town plenty early enough to get into Wild Mango's right in time for a drink, then have an early dinner when they started serving at 6pm. What we forgot is that for some inexplicable reason, there is no southbound water taxi in the 4 to 5 pm hour, which seems strange to me since that is getting on prime cocktail time. We got out to the Grand Caribe dock in a light sprinkle, only to see on the posted schedule that there is a 3:40 taxi and a 5:40 taxi, but no 4:40 taxi. Sigh!
At least we got to see this lovely rainbow as we contemplated what to do next.
We headed back into the condo to hang out for another hour. I poured a Belikin, and we sat and talked until time to head out for the 5:40 taxi. Now, in the past, it seemed that the taxi was always quite a bit later than the posted time; like fifteen to twenty minutes later. So, we didn't really rush and left our condo bound for the dock at 5:45. Another boo-boo. Right as we were walking towards the dock, the taxi zoomed by, leaving us in the sand. If anyone else had been departing, we could have made a run for it, but we were the lone southbound travelers. Foiled again, Batman!
So now what? We realized that our plans were completely shot; we'd be lucky to get a table outside anywhere on such a busy party night; and we only had our bikes or feet to take us the two miles into town unless we called a land taxi, which would have taken awhile and cost more than we cared to spend. So, we started walking down the beach. Since we'd thought we were taking the water taxi, I didn't have on my best walking sandals and knew I'd have a blister or two long before we made it to town.
We cut over to the road right around Legend's Burger House, and not long after, we were offered a golf-cart ride by some kind locals heading in for the parade. Raul and his wife told us that they managed the Cocotal Inn right up the way from our condo. During the ride, we enjoyed talking to their grandson in the back seat and realized that we've seen him riding his bike to school when we go on our morning runs. What an articulate and polite young man and so different from many kids his age in the US. They were very kind folks and got us to town much more quickly than we'd have made it all on foot, so we were very grateful for the ride (as were my only semi-blistered feet!)
Once in town we wasted no time hoofing it the rest of the way down to Wild Mango's, but as we figured, they only had one table left, and it was inside, so we decided to try Caliente's. We really wanted to sit outside so that we could view the parade from the table. Their deck tables were full, but they were able to accommodate us by moving a small table out to the balcony from inside. Perfect! We had a nice view of the water through the docks, as well as inflatable Santa on the roof of a dive/tour shop.
We had a good, hearty dinner and a couple of drinks. I really liked their "Pedro Collins", like a Tom Collins but made with rum, and only $8 BZD ($4 US)!
At one point there was a shower during dinner. Fortunately, like most showers in Belize, it was quite brief, and we'd finished eating, so our food didn't get diluted.
Let the parade begin! Barry raced out to a nearby dock to snap most of these shots, while I stayed and watched from Caliente's deck, and had a nice chat with a Canadian couple at the next table. We were impressed with the work that went into decorating these boats, and the pictures can't really do them justice.
After the last boat had passed by and Barry was coming back up to join me, he ran into our neighbors Tim and Jean, who kindly offered us a ride home in their large Polaris. We had been planning on walking around some in Central Park and taking the water taxi back, but a ride sounded great. Jean mentioned that there was a cupcake stand in the park, and we hadn't had dessert, so they stopped so we could nab a couple of birthday cupcakes, along with a few more photos in the park. Although I had hoped we could walk around a little more and see more of the booths and decor, there's always next year. It will give us something to look forward to, and I am sure we'll plan a bit better so that we can get to town earlier. San Pedro really knows how to throw a festive party, and it's fun to be among a sea of smiling faces.
So fortunately, the night ended on a happy note, and I think the birthday boy enjoyed himself. The cupcakes, which we devoured when we got home, were yummy too!
After riding our bikes into town for groceries, and paying our friend Robert a quick visit at Royal Palm Villas, we headed home for lunch. Before we started making our usual sandwiches, Barry got on his laptop and went into Facebook, where he saw that the Lazy Croc had posted a photo of their special -- Smokehouse Shepherd's Pie. It looked amazing, and only took us a few seconds to make the executive decision to head over there for lunch. After all, "the Croc" is dangerously close -- almost within smellin' distance, but not quite (thank the gods!) They were also having sweet potato pie today, one of my favorites, so off we went.
The Shepherd's Pie was even better than it looked in the photo. It was so filling that I had to get the sweet potato pie to go; hopefully I'll have more room after dinner. It was the perfect warming lunch for an overcast, blustery, cool day on Ambergris Caye. How cold was it? We're talking low 70s, people!