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A Tropical Adventure in Cross-Training

  • Submitted by: James A. Peters
  • Website: None Available
  • Submission Date: 04th Feb 2005

I Don't Have To Shut My Hand In A Door To Know That It Hurts

I am going to limit this account to my athletic endeavors in the Central American country of Belize versus a complete travel log. Brevity is the soul of wit.

The best way to explore a foreign city is on a bike. It is also not a bad way to stretch out following an extended period of time in a coach airline seat. I discovered a local "guide" named Dave willing to show me around Belize City on a mountain bike. My guide was a pretty good biker not to mention the largest black man I met in Belize City, and we managed to completely navigate the entire city in 2 1/2 hours. Darn I forgot my log book and the Vetta Cateye on my MTB could not convert kilometers to miles!

After biking it is always appropriate to reload carbohydrates and replace fluids so Dave took me to a fine local creole restaurant called Macy's. Locating buildings in Belize City is done without the use of street signs. To get to Macy's take a right on the street just before Sing's after crossing the swing bridge. It's on the left about a block down. The restaurant patrons consisted of a French couple, a German couple, an English couple, a Belizean army officer and myself representing the rude American contingent. The fluid replacement commenced with the house speciality lime juice and transitioned into carbo-loading with the local brew called Belikin. The food was an exceptional example of fine creole cooking. The remainder of the evening was spent indulging in local cultural activities at a Rastafarian bar called the Gate Club.

The trip out to Glovers Reef Atoll was extremely colorful with the high point spending 5 hours on a slow boat ride with 15 northeastern college coeds. The college students disembarked on Long Cay which is about 3/4 mile across a channel from the Northeast Cay base camp for sea kayaking. This looked like a proper incentive to do some open water swimming.

The first morning of kayaking was spent learning some basic techniques such as pumping out water after capsizing and entries from the water. I refined capsizing and the solo water entry to fine arts. Most of the rest of group relied upon an assisted entry which involves straddling two kayaks in a most compromising position. The muscles involved in kayaking are entirely upper body and abdominal. Legs are simply used as wedges to keep you in the kayak. Shoulders are not as important as wrists, forearms and biceps. This caused me a bit of grief for I could get away with shouldering my way instead of using better paddling skills.

In the afternoon we embarked on our first kayak trip which took us to a coral head 1 1/2 miles from the island for some snorkeling and playing with sea critters. Describing the quality of the snorkeling is not possible so you will have to suffice with a report on the water temperature. The temperature varied from 81-84 degrees. The snorkeling was at-a-lossfor -words excellent. Upon completion of the snorkeling session I returned to my kayak to find my paddle missing. This is a fatal error when kayaking. there were only two options for the return trip to the island, get towed in or swim back. The swim back was basically an extension of the snorkeling session but over a wider area. I managed to swim faster than the rest of the kayak party and was first back to the island, which meant the first to pop the top on a Belikin.

The next day our itinerary consisted of kayaking over to our neighboring island, Long Cay, presently known as "Isla Mujeres". I decided to bypass the kayak and swim over. This again proved to be a faster trip given the circuitous route used by kayaks to avoid a shallow approach over a sand bar. As luck would have it the coed's were out doing a reef survey. The snorkeling took us to the windward side of island to "The Wall" where the barrier reef drops off rapidly to deep blue water. Most of the neat stuff was about 30' down so I decided to test my free diving prowess. I was able to shadow our native Garifunian fishing guide John down to 20' when the pressure told me enough. I returned to the surface and was about to take another plunge when John noted that my mask was full of blood. So much for free diving, I had just blown out my sinuses. The bleeding stopped without the aid of cauterization. This was fortunate for John was more than willing to shove a hot metal instrument up my nose to help out.

The remainder of the week was simply more of the same with the kayak trips getting longer. We did not do an overnight trip but stayed content doing day trips. Middle Cay is probably the best snorkeling in the atoll but will soon be a marine park managed jointly by the New York Museum of Natural History and the government of Belize. Admittance to Middle Cay will be by fee next year. Southwest Cay is the only island in the atoll with running water and electricity because it is the location of the Manta scuba resort. The manager of the resort Houssain does not accept Visa, AMEX, or MasterCard for bar tabs.

Ten Belize trip tips from someone who has been there and done that:

Do not give money to street panhandlers, find Dave and hire him as your "guide". Mountain bike tour is not included in the standard fee.
Go to Jackson's Mountain Hideout for all your provisioning needs. Teva's are de rigor formal wear on the islands, socks optional. Bug juice and biodegradable camp soap are requirements. Buy a big floppy hat with a chin strap that makes you look like Pancho Villa. Take Neutrogena SPF 30 sunscreen. it is titanium based and comparable to armor.
Learn how to divide by two, applicable to non-engineers. Two Belizean dollars equal one U.S. dollar. Bonus: every denomination of Belizean currency has Queen Elizabeth's portrait.
Be sure to have $22.50 Belizean to get out of the country for the airport tax.

There are no ATM's in the entire country and the only bank open on weekends is at the airport.

Have your last supper in Belize at the Chateau overlooking the harbor. Recommended entree is the Conch in Garlic Butter.
Buy as much Marie Sharpe's hot sauce and Melinda's banana jam as export laws will allow.

Try to schedule your trip to include Bliss Day, a national holiday.
Choose your hammock and coconut trees carefully when selecting a sleeping spot.

When playing with hermit crabs put your thumb over the entrance to the shells hole, trust me on this.


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