Sunday, June 24, 2007

As Promised: More on Belize

Following the Holla's usual production schedule, we are exactly one week late in bringing you a report on our trip to Belize. Hopefully you'll find that the extra time has allowed for further reflection and refinement of the ideas inspired by our time in Belize.

Which would be a surprise, since your correspondent is struggling to come up with much to say about Belize beyond a catalog of things we did. We scuba'd. We snorkeled. We consumed island delicacies. We soaked in the Caribbean atmosphere.

As regards the scuba, it was pleasant. The reef there is magnificent. The most exciting (and really, only) major animal sighting was a few huge spotted eagle rays gracefully swimming by. We also saw an abundance of what are technically known as Pretty Tropical Fish in formats that we're pretty sure we hadn't seen before. But further taxonomic precision escapes us.

As regards the snorkeling, it continues to surprise your scuba-snobby correspondent. I have been snorkeling a total of two times in my life, both after I was already scuba certified, and have thoroughly enjoyed it both times. Assuming one is doing it in appropriately shallow water, one gets just as close to the sea life as one does diving. You'll never see some of the really magnificent stuff snorkeling, but you'll see other really magnificent stuff. In this case, there were more Pretty Tropical Fish. But also at one of our snorkeling sites, the sound of the boat is associated with fisherman dumping off unwanted fish entrails (or so we're told) and so a whole swarm of stingrays (and one huge barracuda) show up whenever the boat does. It sort of felt like cheating. Then again, watching stingrays swim is so cool, it was worth cheating for. Thus, the photo department's first attempt at just-barely-underwater photography, seen above. Obviously still a few kinks to work out of the system.

Which brings us to the matter of the island delicacies, of which there are apparently two. First, June 15th brought the beginning of lobster season to Caye Caulker, so every restaurant in town had a cheap lobster special. I'm not so into lobster and the attendant labors of eating it that I would ever order it in a restaurant in the U.S. But on the opening weekend of lobster season, a $15 full-lobster dinner is hard to turn down, so I had two. The other island delicacy is a drink known as the "Panty Ripper," which is a simple mix of coconut rum (in the States, you could use Malibu, I think the Belizeans use something that one of their fellow islanders distills in his bathtub) and pineapple juice. Your correspondent does recommend the combination, although he couldn't bear too many as they are a bit too sweet and fruity for his masculine pride. In any case, such a simple combo shouldn't be exclusive to Belize, but if you do a Google search on "Panty Ripper," several of the top hits are about Belize. (At least, that is, if you've set Google to filter out all the pornography.) If any loyal reader is a Malibu fan who enjoyed this drink under a different name, perhaps in your sorority days, do let us know.

Lastly, there is the Caribbean atmosphere. If you haven't been, the rumors are true. The ocean is gorgeous turquoise. There are lots of guys selling rasta-themed souvenirs. There is way too much reggae music, though it was a nice break from the reggaeton music that is inescapable in Guatemala. There is no rush to do anything at all. In fact, the motto of Caye Caulker, inlaid in mosaic on the dock where the water taxi drops you off upon your first arrival, is "Go Slow." We met one guy who had moved from Florida to Belize for the express purpose of going slow. Well, that and because there were too many Mexicans in Florida, so he moved to Belize so he wouldn't have to learn Spanish. Anyway, he now makes his living slowly, selling barbecued shrimp kebabs from a hibachi on the beach. Many fugitives from all over the world come to Belize based on the understanding that the police there will also go slow. As for your correspondents, we have a hard time with going slow, especially when we've only got a three-day weekend minus travel time to cram in as much sightseeing as we can. But you don't really have a choice sometimes on Caye Caulker, so we went as slow as we could.

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