Belize Expedition–Day 5

April 16 2014

After home-brewed coffee and breakfast of leftovers, Joe goes fishing in the single kayak, Peter rests—sensibly pacing himself after his major surgery and also recovering from a back injury—and the rest of us return to the south wharf to revisit yesterday’s snorkeling paradise.  We encounter a group of local conch fisherman just back from a dive with hundreds of the magic-looking creatures in the bottom of their boat.  One cracks a hole in the shell with a pointed hammer at specified spot just below the cap, another sticks in a knife and detaches the inhabitant from the shell, a third grabs hold of the slippery crustacean and yanks it out and then tosses the empty shell onto a huge pile serving as a breakwater, and a fourth slices the edible meat from the gristle and drops it on a mound in the bottom of the boat. As we swim out toward the breakers at the edge of the reef, they take off for another load.

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Small children play in the water and a stingray with wings six feet wide glides by them coolly and disappears under the wharf.

The water along the barrier reef is clear and graced with endless gardens of coral.  Some of the exotic fish are now looking familiar. The colors, shapes and behaviors of the coral are so varied—some waving gracefully in the current, some stable as granite domes, some branched like desert plants—that the sensation of wonder is continually renewed.

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Underwater, the surf sways the swimmers back and forth in tandem with the fish and the softer coral.

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Getting tired and a little chilly after an hour and a half in this extraterrestrial world, we swim against the current back to the wharf where kids are waiting to borrow our masks and snorkels.

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We share the cheeses and sausages brought from many quarters for lunch in the shade of a palapa and, after several inquiries with locals, decide to pack up and head for the euphoniously named Cocoplum Caye in the afternoon, without a clear idea of what awaits there.  The kayak launch is hindered by a broken rudder cable, adeptly repaired by Andy. The smooth paddle across to Tobacco Range Caye takes about an hour, followed by another two hour’s crossing through its encircled lagoon and the passage east to CoCoPlum, guided by the sparse chart purchased for 75 dollars from the British Admiralty by chief navigator John.

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We’d been told that the whole island is private except for a single campsite.  As we approach we see posh cabanas near the middle of the island and a perfectly groomed beach area with palapas, tables, hammocks, wooden deck chairs and a rack holding a kayak near the north end that we assume belongs to a private owner. Rounding the  tip of the island we find a littered mangrove patch with hardly room for two tents.

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Returning to the lee side, but wary of going ashore, we wait for Andy and Eman to make inquiries at the cabanas.   They return with assurances that this is the place.

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We celebrate with the last of the bottle of whiskey brought by Joe and freeze dried dinner cooked in the comfortable outdoor kitchen. Eman works tirelessly for hours to penetrate through the armor of a dried coconut found on the coral sand.

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More photos and movies here
Slideshow here

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