Belize Expedition 2014

Belize Expedition–Preface

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

On Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 5:32 AM, Andrew Greenshaw ª<> wrote:

what happened to sunny Belize?

On Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 11:40 AM, John Lunam ª<> wrote:

I have connection to one of the Kayak tour operators down there, daughter of a friend, if there is interest I will pursue.

On Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 11:58 AM, Steven Marx ª<> wrote:

This sounds worth alot of trouble to me:

On 27 August 2013 14:55, John Lunam ª<> wrote:

Hello men,

Steven, the guy to call is my friend Rob’s son in law. He’s a Viking, just back from a visit to Norway. His name is Leif Sverre (Pronounced layff). His tel is 604-789-6092. His home here is in Pemberton, BC. Call him up guys and see what you can organize. I’m headed to Europe on a 3 week expedition. Here’s the link again to the website:

On Aug 27, 2013, at 2:01 PM, Andrew Greenshaw wrote:


What do you think,

On Tue, Aug 27, 2013 at 3:23 PM, Steven Marx ª<> wrote:

Hello men

I like Andy’s choice.  Here’s a map allowing for some initial orientation, showing Glover’s Atoll (or Reef, I assume) and Lighthouse Atoll, among others.

At this point it would be good to learn 1) which of you are seriously interested 2) if you have preferences for an alternate option, and 3) what dates you’d consider going, the more of them the better.   I’ll collect the information on a spreadsheet.


Belize Expedition–Day 1

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

April 11-12, 2014

Last minute shopping in San Luis Obispo”two Whisperlite stoves because John phoned from Dangriga and said the outfitters were wrong, there’s no butane available for the stoves we have”and coffee because Joe phoned from Idaho and said he forgot it. I exist in three places at once. Jan and I walk the dog while Ian’s at Seahawks swim practise and then go to the airport restaurant for dinner.  Depart 7:55 p.m., sleep on floor in LAX and Houston. On the Belize flight sit next to C¦ age 2 and his mom, S¦, a native Belizean living in L.A. heading home for a funeral. She works for County Mental Health processing children in foster homes. She got an AA degree as a paralegal but couldn’t find work before getting a government job with great benefits. A single mom, she’s now back in school studying computer science because present job is too depressing.

Reading Coral Reefs in a Microbial Sea (2010) on the Kindle–a book that combines a funny anecdotal narrative about goofy Oceanographic researchers with pretty hard science on the ecology of coral reefs and activist manifesto about climate change and overfishing. The reefs are in decline worldwide because of rising ocean temperatures and and acidification.  They are created by polyps (tiny animals) in symbiosis with algal zooxanthellae that generate energy through photosynthesis to build the calcium carbonate structures of the reef. Recalling the sadness of snorkeling at Playa del Carmen and Cozumel where I witnessed the bleached and crumbling coral five years ago during our trip for Emma’s wedding, the book reinforces my sense that we are in for a last chance experience, since there are some reefs where we are going still in good shape. (more…)

Belize Expedition–Day 2

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

April 13, 2014

Breakfast of local sausage and eggs is served at 7:00 AM on the beachside palapa amid excited laughter.  We take our mountains of gear to the next door outfitter, Island Expeditions, where the staff is thoroughly relaxed but extremely organized about helping us sort out stuff to store for the duration, stuff going with us for the next two days at Glover’s Reef, and stuff they will bring to us along with the kayaks for our subsequent unguided adventure.





Then along with other trippers we’re ushered into the 600 HP Panga boat that takes us the 35 miles offshore to Glover’s, a large coral atoll outside the barrier reef.

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Belize Expedition–Day 3

Monday, April 28th, 2014

April 14

Sunrise to the east no less grand than last night’s sunset to the west.


After a breakfast featuring local bananas, pineapple, papaya, mango, and citrus, we’re offered a choice of activities. Joe and most of the men go out in a motor boat fishing with Mike and I choose paddle-board instruction with KIMike and several members of another tour group in a nearby wind-free lagoon.  It’s not hard for me to stand, paddle and learn some navigation tricks, but I refrain from trying a head stand and other balance poses choreographed by a yoga instructor in their party.

After fighting the wind on the way back, I meet Joe, whose first fishing experience has been getting a cut from snagging a big sting ray.

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The rest of his group have all caught fish. (more…)

Belize Expedition–Day 4

Monday, April 28th, 2014

April 15

I’m up early and meet the Di the cook bringing the coffee pot to the raised dining pavilion at 6:00 A.M. She and the staff drummed and danced till midnight and then went swimming, and she got up at 4:00 to start breakfast.  In answer to my questions she tells me some of her story, less carefree than her joyous presentation as cook.  She’s about to go home to her tiny village in the interior to see her grandson and three children.  Thirteen years ago she left her abusive husband after he hit her and she stabbed him with a kitchen knife, taking her kids and making her own way. Her sister, who was at the party last night and cooks at the adjoining resort, had a similar problem. After she saw her husband punch her, Di smashed his hand with a rock and won when the case went to court.


I hear screams in Creole and loud laughter from the men’s dormitory above the cook shack. (more…)

Belize Expedition–Day 5

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

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.


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

Belize Expedition–Day 6

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

April 17

I wake up before sunrise and find a meditation spot under a palapa during a downpour. Soon the sun returns.

Lionel Webb photo

We decide to remain here one more day and enjoy a long leisurely morning.  Around noon, John, Eman and I head south on a winding white path straddling a long narrow isthmus.  We pass a young couple led by a Belizean toward one of the cabanas, and next, a fully developed boardwalk and harbor on the west side of the island invisible to us earlier.  Then, hidden by tall palms and casuarina trees, we come upon a huge conical thatch-roofed lodge.  We walk up the steps to a verandah surrounding a 50 foot conical dome held up by rafters lashed to a wooden circle near the peak.  A mastlike pole at the center supports a circular counter roofed by its own thatched palapa.

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The floor is a mosaic tiled with multicolored pieces of varnished hardwood. On one side of the dome is a large well-stocked bar, and opposite a small gift shop, and between them a couch, armchair, coffee-table arrangement, behind which is mounted a well-stocked bookshelf.  At the table sits a large bearded man typing on a Mac laptop. (more…)

Belize Expedition–Day 7

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

April 18

We strike camp and pack the kayaks, reluctant to leave the luxury of Cocoplum, but eager to experience what comes next. The manager shows up to see us off, friendly but vigilant, and discloses that the original owner of the island was a drug dealer.

The adjoining island to the south is another luxury resort, one less ecologically friendly, built with steel and concrete.  During the crossing of a wide expanse of water, Eman, who has adopted the solo kayak, confounds his elders by paddling only with his hands.

Joe discovers that the rudder on our boat isn’t working and we pull in at the first dock on the next Caye to see about repairing it. A young Asian woman approaches and anxiously says that we cant stop here because a guest party is about to arrive. They are paying $3000 per night and want the place for themselves.  Joe says we’ll be out well before her noon deadline, and she relaxes a little.  She’s from San Diego, and seems just like a Cal Poly student.


He finishes the repair, knotting some rope to replace the broken section of cable.


Back on course, we cross a new expanse of water and pass some less luxurious settlements. (more…)

Belize Expedition–Day 8

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

April 19

As I light the Whisperlite stove to brew a second round of morning coffee, Joe calls from where he stands offshore, “Hey Dad, would you bring my fishing gear kit from the tent?” I know from the quiet intensity in his voice that this is serious business.”


I shut down the stove and hustle to do his bidding. His pole is bowed and then a big shining barracuda appears on the end of the line.  He lifts it onto the rocks, carefully grabs its sharp-toothed mouth with his special fish pliers and removes the hook.


The creature thrashes wildly and Joe asks for a club. I cant find one, so he stabs it repeatedly in the head with his fish knife.


By now the whole gang is watching and cheering.


When the desperate gasping in the gills ceases, he carries it across the island to Fidel’s dock for cleaning.


The whole family is out to share the excitement. (more…)

Belize Expedition–Conclusion

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Next morning is for departures.  As we cook coffee and oatmeal at our campsite, Ismael the volleyball coach,  guide, drummer and singer is solemnly raking the sand of the whole island compound.  He’s transformed the ceremonial space of last night’s fire and chanting to a clean white carpet. I ask him about the chants and he tells me that Garifuna compose songs for everything, fishing, cooking, loss of love, sadness”all come from the soul.

We will be taken by motor boat back to Dangriga to retrieve our stashed belongings and stand together for the last time.


From there Joe and I will go to the interior to spend two nights at Mommaloots, an ecoresort in the jungle where we encounter more fascinating people and memorable sights.  Peter, John, Lionel, Andy and Eban will remain in Belize for several more days, enjoying new adventures.

On the flight back to Houston I have a short conversation with a young man hardly 30 sitting next to me who’s just downed two little bottles of vodka purchased from the attendant. He’s returning from a five-day trip during which he bought a lot near the beach in a resort subdivision outside of Belize City for $230,000 USD. It’s an investment for his retirement, secure, he says, because of the way the place is growing. “Maybe,” I say, “though with the way sea level is rising, you never know.” As we fly over the Yucatan coast near Cancun, I ask where he’s from. “Saskatchewan,” he replies, “but right now I’m headed back to work in northern Alberta.”  “Tar sands?” I inquire. “Yep” is the answer.