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Published: October 28th 2009
The regular boat leaves for the Glovers Atoll Resort every Sunday at 9am from Sittee River, a village about 2 hours north of here. So Chris Jackson and I loaded our grocercies, his dive gear, and backpacks onto the 6am bus out of Placencia. It was a beautiful ride up the peninsula at dawn until we went over a huge pothole and heard a large cRRaCK from the back wheel area! The driver kept driving to the tempo of the punta reggae beat for about another 20 minutes, and then, about one mile from the junction of the Southern Highway, he pulled over, inspected the wheel, and pretty much just gave up! He didn't tell anyone on the bus that we were officially broke down or that we were abandoning the bus, but two by two, people were leaving the bus, and soon enough CJ and I realized we would be walking a ways to hitch our next ride!
We were pretty much giggling the entire way, and silently hoping we had enough spare time in our schedule for a break down! We got to the junction, where there are sometimes a few cops hanging around. Belize does not have speed
radars or police monitoring the highways, they simply have officer checkpoints once and a while on the days that they feel like it spread randomly throughout the country. On this day there were two officers at the junction doing little more than checking registration and catching up with old friends as they drove past. When there are only 300,000 people in your country, odds are you know a lot of them, and they are more than happy to share a few pineapples and a watermelon with you in your uniform!
After about 30 minutes of unsuccessful hitchiking attempts, the bus picked us up and took us the last 8 miles to the Sittee River Junction. Lucky for us as soon as we stepped off the bus, there was a friendly guy in a pick up truck that would be happy to drive us down the next dirt road to our boat launch, now scheduled to leave in about 5 minutes. We got to the lodge and scurried up to the boat area only to find about 10 people lazily munching on breakfast fruits and sipping coffees....no boat in sight. It's Belize, so we all know that ... the boat is
late! Yes! We had time for an omlette and pinapple breakfast, then, still more time, so somehow CJ and I convince the lady to give us a nearby cabana to take a nap until launch! I woke up about an hour later to the sound of a boat engine and the frantic loading of the week's worth of supplies needed to run a deserted island resort. We lucked out with a long, smooth ride out to the atoll - Glover’s Reef is a coral atoll that is 35 miles from the Belize mainland, outside of the Barrier Reef. An atoll is a really interesting ancient formation, a sort of fossilized footprint of a now dissolved island. Forever ago, a coral wall formed around the shorelines of a 54 mile oval island at the edge of the continental plate. Over time, the island eroded and disappeared and the coral wall continued to grow and build on top of itself so now we are left with a massive shallow lagoon surrounded by the coral wall and vast sea on all sides! The lagoon at Glover’s is mostly a white sand bottom, making the water glow the most captivating turquoise, and the hundreds
of coral heads throughout give it the blue mottled look I so admire!
As our boat was approaching the atoll, the horizon line started to glow with this turquoise and it got brighter and bigger until we were upon it, jaws hitting the bottom of the boat in awe! There are only three small islands in the entire Glover’s Atoll, and we stayed at the budget resort that allowed us to afford an over-the-water cabana! As we pulled up to the dock, I heard someone yell out “Hey! Wandke! Obama!” (as Chris is known around the village, and the world, I’m sure!) What?!! Wow, this country is small! One of our friends from the village, Doyle, happened to be on the same small deserted island for a fishing tournament this weekend! (Why he didn’t just give us a ride in his boat is still a hotly contested topic between us!) The island is everything you could ask for in a desert island - white beaches, coral reef, jungle interior, and isolation. There were about a dozen tourists sharing paradise, and we lucked out getting the furthest leeward cabin that was only about 50m from the open ocean waves crashing on
the atoll edges. Within ten minutes we were getting a lesson on coconut cracking with a piece of dead coral, and within fifteen minutes we had One Barrel rum and coconut water in nature made goblets! Cheers to this great birthday idea!
We brought a fair amount of groceries, planning on picnicking for breakfast and lunch and then eating a nice warm dinner at the lodge. Our first night we were pleasantly surprised to be seated with a most interesting German couple who has seen and experienced a vast amount of the world! Their three children all lived in other countries, and their next trip was to be to East Timor. Our first night it was discovered that Chris and this couple had all been visiting Liberia on the same day in 1989 when rebels stormed the capital city and the tourists had to flee…exactly 20 years previous! This couple also told us their frightening first-hand account of being on the beach of Phuket, Thailand during the devastating tsunami of 2005. I was enamored with their stories and awed by the tenacity of their travel after so many years!
The next four days were the best Groundhog Day one could
imagine. We were either in the water, diving or snorkeling, or on our deck over the shallow pools of schools of fish, small rays, and an assortment of urchins and stars! Chris has a camera able to go the depths of diving, so I am happy to be able to share a lot of pictures of the creatures we met! We were able to spend a lot of time with a sleeping turtle, then even follow his swim off for a few minutes - magical! Most of the dives started over a white sand bottom, then over the coral reef wall into the deep blue of the Caribbean. There were too many huge groupers to count, and many schools of black durgons, their neon blue stripes at the base of each fin were shimmering the in the sun. I was also lucky to finally spot many of the longspine squirrelfish, usually hiding out during the day, their bright red scales and huge eyes were really curious that week! Between the dives, we would shore up on the deserted end of one of the islands and indulge in pineapple, watermelon, and the fantastic blues of that Sea! After we returned from
our underwater adventures, we would crack a couple coconuts and sit in the breeze talking about all the interesting things of the world and ourselves. Before long it was time for a fresh fish dinner with rice, amazing veggies, and even desserts!
It was hard to leave, but we had to return to Placencia for Chris’s birthday celebration and flight back to Canada the following day. We had to charter a private boat back to the village - much easier and faster than foraging through the bus situations - and had to leave before the only scheduled WEEKLY boat departure! This isolated island getaway had everything a underwater loving fool could dream of when blowing out those birthday candles!
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