Saturday, July 31, 2010

Belize Water "Lettuce"...

About a year ago, Karen got some clumps of "water lettuce."  Being resourceful and willing to try anything, she used a black plastic bucket about 3 feet in diameter and 14 inches deep or so and stuck it directly in the ground. No holes in the bottom. Filled it with some stones, water and the plants and walked away. Just refilling the water as needed. It has been quite surprising how much these stay in bloom... of course, more so in the rains. 

Pontederia cordata
Family: Pontederiaceae
Pickeral Plant, Pickerelweed, Blue Pickerel

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Kendal Bridge... Southern Highway

Let's talk about the Kendal Bridge.  Two years ago, during particularly nasty Tropical Storm Arthur, which formed off the coast of Belize on May 31, 2008 and quickly moved ashore, dumping as much as 15 inches of rain on the country and in the mountains of Guatemala in early June.

The Kendal Bridge over the Sittee River at Mile 13.7 of the Southern Highway between Hopkins and Maya Centre was destroyed, cutting off road access to points south, including Placencia and Punta Gorda.

The Kendal Bridge was originally built in 1985 with British Aid Funds. It had an over all span of 237 feet, with navigable clearance of 23 feet and carriageway width of 24 feet.

After the bridge was destroyed in the Tropical Storm Arthur flooding, a dirt, gravel and culvert causeway was built over the river, allowing cars, trucks and buses to pass. A few months later, in late October, 2008, the U.S. military provided a temporary replacement bridge, which was never installed. This, for reasons that have never been clear to me.

Since then a steel and wood causeway structure has serviced reasonably well, but it is only several feet off the river when it is at its' lowest point, and with any rise in river level during rains, it is quickly under water. A permanent replacement bridge is planned, but work has not begun on this project.
Tropical Storm Arthur flood that washed away the Kendal Bridge
The initial temporary causeway...

The "more permanent" and current steel girder bridge...

Those of us in the tourism business watch the mountain rains pretty closely on the weather radar and forecasts, and monitor various sources of information to try to keep us and our guests informed.  There is even a Facebook page that folks contribute bulletins of news and tidbits of information. 

Dial 636 here in Belize and it rings some GOB Transport Department office (I assume) apparently set up to provide Kendal Bridge information. I don't know what office, where it's located or who is answering... but the person I've spoken with twice sounded readily knowledgeable. The regular GOB National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) phone is 522-0061 (regular office hours).  

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Belize Cell Phones and Internet...

I frequently get asked about cell phones here on the Peninsula.  This morning I responded to a friends' questions and realized that most of the information was pretty "generic." By no means am I an expert with this stuff... and I suspect that many of you may have more current and accurate details... so please add your comments.

You will need a "GSM" phone (that's the network type here in Belize and the most common in the "rest of the world," except US) for it to work in Belize. It takes a SIM drop-in chip. So you can buy pre-paid minutes here in Belize, etc. Also stores your address book/numbers/etc.  They are reasonably easy to come by online... just be sure to buy an "unlocked" one. I found a Samsung (Gravity 2) while we were in San Diego that has a "querty" keyboard... I hate typing in names and phone numbers on the standard cell phone key pads... it's awkward and frustrating!  

Samsung Gravity 2
Samsung Gravity 2

You can get a decent cell phone right here in Placencia for $100 or $200 USD... or less, drop in a sim chip and be on your way... not a smart phone, but it does the job. With four BTL cell towers on the Peninsula, coverage isn't an issue... or maybe it is if you enroll in the "Smart" plan competitor. Too many "smarts" to sort out! On balance I think BTL has the better coverage. But that may have changed.

 I haven't sprung for an iPhone... but they do seem to work here. I am told you can purchase them here (? through BTL) for about $2000 BZE! The iPhone does need to be "unlocked," and they are pricey when purchased without a contract. It seems pointless to me since you can't really (yet) use most of the desirable internet features of any "smart phone" here... at least not smoothly or economically that I know of. 

BTW, Southern Cable TV network is now offering internet service... and is working it's way up the Peninsula. Somewhat less expensive than BTL. I have switched to them for the Cabanas (and replaced the satellite here at our place), and it works well. Several "levels" of speed and price... from about $77 BZE/month for 128k on up. That does not include your cable TV monthly fee of about $40 BZE.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Several weeks ago, our neighbors tragically lost a family member in an auto accident. Seine Bight, of course, is a Garifuna village and one of several in Belize. As part of the healing process after a death, an extended ceremony called a dugu is held.

"The Garinagu believe that unhappy ancestral spirits cause bad things to happen to people, such as making them sick, to get their attention.  The purpose of the dugu is to appease the ancestors, to make them happy, and to heal the living of illnesses and other adversities."

To the beat of drummers, the final night was held, and the haunting sounds of the music filled the air till dawn...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Adventures of Viki Doolittle and Family!

From the wonderful TravelPod Blog 
of Viki Doolittle...

"As usual David and I rise early, about 5 am. My night has been filled with strange and wild dreams but I awaken refreshed and lazy. While I lounge in bed with the a/c blasting, David wanders down to our dock and begins making friends with every person he encounters on the beach. Random fishermen, our guard, kids walking by and of course dogs. There were only about 4 people but David got to know them all. Almost everyone we encounter is black, with rich very dark skin and speak with a lovely sing song cadence. David has a great way in strange places of using that naivety of his to disarm and information gather. As a result, we find out that: no the water is not supposed to be this murky and will clear soon; that yes there are tons of fish to be had and we will have enough lobster to feed an army delivered by dark tonight; town is just down the street; turn our beer bottles in every time we swap out a case and yes the sand flies were biting. David jumps right into the beautiful ocean and swims as far out as he can and can still stand about with his head one foot above water.
I join him about 7 am and the water is unbelievable. At least 80 degrees, probably warmer, I am ready to turn in my hot tub for a life here. Water is still too murky to see anything but we can feel the long sea grass caressing our legs. The ocean here is very gentle, almost no waves but still gray today due to the storms we encountered on the ride down. Large pelicans and pterodactyl looking sea birds glide across Looking back at the house from the water, it is truly a paradise. The cabana is immaculate, set back about 100 feet from the waters edge. In 
Belize, you cannot own the first 66 feet of beach from waters edge back, so our cabana fence starts exactly 66 feet away. Coconut palms sway gently as their offspring roll back and forth in the short surf. It is so quiet and beautiful, I have found the peace I craved.
When the rest of the family start to get up I throw together a quick breakfast of scrabbled eggs with cheese, fried potatoes with onions and of course the requisite fresh corn tortillas and black beans. Washed down with a Beliken or rum and pineapple, I cannot complain and I won't!"

Read the rest of Viki's Belize TravelPod blog entries... 

Friday, July 2, 2010

More Guatemala... Antigua

During our trip to Guatemala City, we had a free day, so a tour of the nearby old city of Antigua seemed appropriate. It is steeped in history, of course, and the ruins and restorations are stunning.  Destroyed many times over the centuries by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and war, it was once the "capitol" of Guatemala. More photos
Above... Study in contrasts in one of the many churches in Antigua.

One of the many beautiful fountains and parks.

More contrasts.

Posted by PicasaRestored Cathedral

Aerial view updates of The Maine Stay and Kokomo... Belize

So, on the way back from a quick trip to Belize City, the pilot flew right over the Peninsula and the afternoon light was pretty good for some aerial shots of The Maine Stay and Kokomo. It never ceases to amaze us how the trees and landscape plants grow and grow! Oh yes... how about that beautifully newly paved Peninsula Road!

And compare those with this photo taken August 23, 2003.