It’s been a while SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO busy 🙂 . Recently my mate came over from the UK , which was his first visit. His wife hatched a plan for some peace and quiet looking after the kids and the the great escape was conceived .
The main focus was to dive The Blue Hole. I’d actually saved it for when he visited to make it special, 7 years in the waiting and finally it was going to happen. I hadn’t dived in years so decided to take a refresher course with the dive school we were using to do the blue hole. To cut a long story short we surfaced on the outside of the reef with an onshore wind and the boat was gone. We swam for an hour and only just survived being shredded by the reef, a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons. Now I was ready for the dive 🙂 .
H, Phil and I made our way over to Caye Caulker and readied ourselves for the dive, eating and drinking like it was going out of fashion. Phil even managed to do the fire ball shot at the sports bar which was something to behold. We did a night dive to prep for the blue hole and then 6am the next day we were off, speeding across the ocean to Lighthouse Reef 2 hours away by boat. The ride was smooth mostly inside the reef, but I did neck a few Dramamine tablets to stop my inevitable sea sickness. They worked a treat. The day consisted of a 3 tank dive, we did the blue hole first as it was the deepest dive. I was the only open water diver so got my own dive master and the rest of the group went with two other dive masters and went a little deeper.
We were the first divers into the water so there was no sediment and me and my dive master dropped straight over and descended into the inky blackness.
As we sank quickly two large reef sharks came to check us out, keeping their distance, letting us know who was in charge.
The main attraction of the blue hole is the stalactite formations at 35m and 42m. I saw the upper, Phil saw the lower, I could practically touch him.
Before we did the dive, there were a lot of reviews saying it wasn’t that great. Alternatively I thought it was fantastic, not diving for so long and having saved it. We were lucky as it was Labour Day, one of the busiest days of the year for diving the blue hole but got there early and everything went to plan.
The next dive was lighthouse reef were we saw an abundance of marine life most notably a huge loggerhead turtle and one of the largest crabs you could ever wish to see.
We finished off the last dive after eating lunch on lighthouse reef and going to long caye which has the dive known as the aquarium, the fish population is huge. All the sites we visited had great visibility and the reefs were in good shape. I didn’t see evidence of any coral bleaching, but they say it’s only a matter of time due to ocean temperatures rising.
The photo’s were taken on my lumix tz10 which I bought a marine case for to bring to Belize 7 years ago. It was it’s first real test at depth as it’s rated to 40 metres, so had my fingers crossed the whole time diving hoping it would stand up to the pressure and it did.
We spent a couple more days relaxing on caye caulker and went to the new beach resort on the north side of the split and had a really good time. The lazy lizard had been revamped and even though the owner is an ass*ole it is much improved . Just for a laugh I got the local police to handcuff Phil as I told the officer I could open those cuffs effortlessly without a key. He let us pose for the photo then said ok lets you open the cuffs ..I replied never seen this guy before in my life and walked off , to the roaring laugh of the policeman, who really was great fun.
Our time was done on caye caulker and we headed back to Corozal , we sailed and kayaked the bay, weather was just perfect, and then headed off up to Playa del Carmen for a spot of sight seeing, drinking ,dancing ,eating ,drinking and drinking…..We found this restaurant in a hue cave which was very swish it’s called ALUX and is just out of town a 5 min taxi ride well worth it. We had rented a penthouse apartment with private pool at the end of 5th avenue which served us well , although the next door neighbour kept trying to tempt Phil in for a glass of wine ( of course he just happened to be male 😉 ). We also visited a cenote ( cave swimming hole) where bats and birds swooped from the ceiling. Our local stop was patio 8 a gin bar where we ended up most nights. H says gin should always be enjoyed in the company of a good looking man, but unfortunately, we would just have to do on this occasion! 🙂
So I’ll be blogging more frequently as we have some exciting times coming up ….. Next one is Maya Breeze …the new house is finished 🙂
The trip across the gulf stream was overnight and took 23 hours , winds 15 mph sea’s 4-6 feet , just as perfect as you could ever had got. We took our DRUGS (dramamine) and went to sleep. There was an alcohol ban on this stretch ,because if anyone did go over board at night , they would definitely be lost at sea. The trip went without a hitch and we arrived in Hemming way marina 10 miles north of Havana. The customs process was fast and efficient . We had a medical check and boat , inspection then were free to leave and explore Cuba .. we had a quick breakfast ..said our farewells to the crew.
We left the marina and tried to get some Cuban money , there was none to be had at the local hotel . I got chatting with a staff member and before you could say CASTRO .. i was changing money on the black market ..with a friend of a friend 🙂 We jumped in to a cab and headed for Havana . Will was a little anxious about arriving with no accommodation , but i assured everyone if we couldn’t get a room , i’d buy everyone blankets at my cost 🙂 . We headed to the Nacional Hotel to use their Wifi , We were struggling to get a connection and to complete booking process for airbnb . So we walked out of the 500 dollar a night hotel across the road to a lovely building where a guy was sat outside ,asking if we needed a room. We bagged a 2 bedroom apartment for 70 usd per night ..BARGAIN!!!
The staircase to the building was quite interesting and proved to be a good photo opportunity.
and then later that night.
We headed out into old Havana and walked along the Malecon towards a restaurant near the fort that had been recommended to us. The food was so so but we got a balcony seat at sunset , which made up for it …
Havana is a safe place to wander through the streets in the day time , like any city it changes at night , so you have to stick close to the main arteries. keep your wits about you and you’ll be just fine. We got back to our accommodation and dropped into a cafe bar ..which was actually a haunt for ” Local sex workers” … a very chilled and relaxed place …becoming an instant favourite of ours .. we visited nightly in the early hours 🙂
The next night we went to a place called El Gato ( the cat) and they had an opera recital which was quite impressive.
On our final full day we hired a 1952 Buick and cruised the streets of old Havana. What a blast that was , 4 hombres lording it up. all for 30 usd an hour.
Cuba was such a surprise not run down like everyone had said ..Old Havana was of course old and in the long process of renovation , but has a warm rustic feel to it. People were super friendly and always smiling , in difficult economic situations. If you are thinking of going just book and go ..and look for the up turned blue anchor symbol above doorways and go inside and ask for a room. Use the nacional hotel to lounge around when you want a bit of luxury , reasonably priced food and drinks.
IMMERSE ….. RELAX …….. ENJOY 🙂
We cleared customs at about 10am and set sail for Boca Grande ,which lies in a chain of lslands about 15 miles from keywest , the waters are shallow and protected , due to the fact we had a 5 feet draft we had to stay in the deeper water outside the channel but had calm smooth waters as we made our way to our first nights destination. Incredibly no one was hung over just a little tired . Dramamine the sea sickness tablet , seconds as a sedative , so we all got our heads down for a little shut eye and arrived about 3pm at Boca Grande. By this time we were well rested aided by the NON DROWSEY dramamine sea sickness tablets ( disputed by Will and Sheila). We crawled out our beds to see the the last few boats heading back to keywest and virtually had the place to ourselves. The girls went straight to the beach ,Will and I headed for a sunken sugar barge wreck , to do some snorkelling. True to form the girls were having white wine spritzers on the beach , when we joined them. The sun sunk lazily over the calm waters and we all turned in early to get some much needed rest.
Next morning we sailed the short hop over to The Marquesas keys . They were formed by a meteorite impact, which made an atoll a few years before we got there 😉 . This was another great day relaxing on the beach , the boys went off fishing in the mangroves and were trying to catch this large fish. The fish proved to be a better fisherman than us as it took all our bait and lived to fight another day. Just before we got into the boat i spied 3 sea sponges washed up on the beach , an excellent photo opportunity. I said to Jim the captain lets take a photo , but props are involved , do you want small ,medium or large. Instantly he picked small and Will said i’ll have large and the photo was snapped 🙂
We spent the night in the marquesas then sailed to Dry tortugas the next day. H was a little nervous about the sail, but the weather forecast was just perfect for the whole week ,82 degrees light winds and clear blue skies. We had been so lucky as we’ve made the crossing in 12 foot seas before ,which isn’t fun at all. After 9 hours and a 45 mile sail the fort came into view and we entered garden key harbour .It was nice to be back and on schedule for my birthday on the 10th tomorrow.
We transferred all our “GEAR” to the island and went back and ate on the boat , the food was superb, every meal we had the entire time was bistro quality. The sun set behind the fort and gave us a lovely light show, Jim thought he saw the green flash , but i’m sure it was just H in the bathroom 🙂
The next day ,cautiously opened my eyes and i had made 50 , being in a pristine natural setting as the dry tortugas made it even more special.
We spent the day on loggerhead key and had birthday lunch on the beach , and then snorkelled little africa , a wonderful section of coral reef . A great day was had by everyone.
Our time was done in the dry tortugas , we left a day earlier than expected as the winds were favourable and we set off on the 100 mile night sail across the gulf stream to Cuba. See you on the other side AMIGO ‘S 🙂
I wanted to remember turning 50 by doing something out of the ordinary, so i made contact with Jim whom i’d met in the Dry Tortugas about 8 years , when he gave us a day sail on his boat to loggerhead key. He was excited to take us and two scallywags ,Sheila from Canada ( boat name Cockswain) and Will from Georgia U.S.A ( boat name Craptin Sorely). Our boat names being H – Naughtycal Newton and mine bilge pumper, the plan was to get to T-shirts printed with the names on and go around keywest ..on reflection mine might have given the WRONG signal so I decided against it.
We all met up in Miami and stayed the night in the clarion suites. I asked Sheila to organise the room preferably close to the airport room with a view. We arrived before her and were over joyed with her excellent pick.
Now when planning the trip Will had a few reservations about what were the sleeping arrangements on the boat and privacy. We also planned to camp on the dry Tortugas ,i reckoned we needed an air mattress ,sleeping bag and tent . As we had a fully equipped boat, he started to make plans to ship his GEAR down and camp in his own “2 man” tent. A little strange but we just let him get on with it, to make him feel at home and the fact he had never met Sheila before we set up a improvised tent in the hotel room so give him a little “privacy” , it was fashioned out of an ironing board and a bed spread and proved to be quite a hit with Will. Even though there was a spare queen bed sized !!!!
We hired a car and drove down the through the keys arriving in keywest as the boat sailed into the marina next to Duval street. We dumped our gear on the boat and headed for a drink and quick bite in keywest …… this turned into a 24 hour bender ,Sheila being the main instigator of the debaucherous antics that followed. She wanted to experience the tastes, sights and ” smells” of Duval Street ..and boy she SMASHED IT !!!!!!!
We started of in BO’s fish wagon with grilled mahi mahi to line our stomachs. This place is a keywest tradition rustic and great to hang out and watch the hoards of tourists passing on the sight seeing trams
After a few drinks we decided to let Will and Sheila hang out a bit and get to know each other … Sheila has an eye for a photo and decided on this as an ice breaker. Will was unaware of what was written on the board below as he posed next to the large rooster.
We drank sensibly one every one drink every 30 mins and fitted another meal in at the hard rock cafe before having some more drinks as the sun was setting …at this point we were WELL GREASED and decided that it was time to PASS THE CLOCK . The clock in keywest denotes straight bars on Duval , after that the gay bars start .
Before we knew it we were in the bourbon 801 heading for the drag show upstairs .
Inside i met this tall lady who said she’d be gentle with me , after taking this photo i realised she had been lying … !!!!!!!
squeal piggy squeal
The night was coming to a close so we headed for the “garden of eden ” we have a photo somewhere which says strictly NO SEX on premises ..it felt a bit strange stood on the roof top garden listening to high energy dance tunes looking at the stars ,with the random guy stood in the corner bollock naked … BUT we were in keywest. Next Will looked at me with a glint in his eye and said lets go to the OTHER dance club ..so we headed off quite wobbly and before we knew it was in the RED GARTER gentlemans club unbeknowing to Sheila . No cameras are allowed inside so when i put the sign above her head TRAINEE PAWN STAR it got quite a laugh from everyone ..unfortunately no photo . We made it safely back to the boat and went to bed at 5am … rising at 7am for breakfast … swaggered over to harpoon harrys diner smashed a breakfast and set sail for t Boca grande ..aboard the regal Gitana.
Watch out for boca grande to dry tortugas shortly !!!!!
When my brother visited we tried to guess each others weight , it turned out he was a stone lighter and it made me think. Am i over weight ? so i consulted the online NHS chart and realized i was starting to become one fat B*stard. It kind of creeps on and you don’t notice , until i had a comment on a photo i’d posted on facebook . Jokingly it said i’d put weight on. At some point you have to start the fight …yes the fight … sweets ,cakes ,buns they all take their toll. In one respect we are rather lucky that there are no processed foods here , no supermarket aisles full of chocolate… BUT there is sugar ladened cheap rum (our Nemisis) readily available. We were on the look out for an excercise bike to burn calories ,and were lucky to find two that a local gym had for sale 30quid each BARGAIN . So we started on a high protein diet ( in Belize that means chicken ) and cut our carb daily intake to less than 500 per day …. yes that mean’t that the rum went on hold for a couple of months to maximise results. We started on 10 mins daily and increased 5 mins extra evey week . The goal being able to spin flat out for and hour. Then we rode an hour one day and 3omins the next. BOOM the weight fell of us ,i lost 26 pounds and H 22 so far. We now have a mandatory dry month ( no alcohol ) every 3 months. It’s funny when the shorts that were very tight fitting before , now fall straight off to the floor.
H wanted a sunroom ,somewhere to relax and lie out , without the annoying mosquitoes or flies that can be around at certain times of year. As a rule if you live in the sun , you hide from the sun .. we literally get 350 days of 12 hours a day sunshine . Her wish is my command and i knocked up this sun room fully screened in . We can just walk down off the back porch into it. It turned out great and we really do enjoy mid mornings in there until the sun gets to hot.Not one fly in your drink …. pretty hard in these parts 🙂
When Paul was over in febuary we bought a papaya fruit from the market and had rum cocktails. He took the seeds out and planted some in the garden . 10 months later we have an healthy loaded with fruit papaya plant. No effort at all ..this place is like Jurrasic park plant it leave it and it grows. We have just picked a couple and have started to ripen them ,so by new year we will be eating Pauls Papaya. One interesting fact is that papaya seeds contain cyanide ,that can get rid of intestinal worms naturally.
Living outside of town away from roads and people ,nature is all around us ….. we can sit for hours watching birds squabble and play from the roof top lounge. Over here there are two types of wood pecker . The common woodpecker and the F*ckin DADDY woodpecker also known as the pileated woodpecker 🙂 The F/DADDY is as big as a crow and has a brillant crimson crown. They are very skittish and can normally be seen in the inkish dark of day break and on very few days of the year. The other day to my surpise whilst building the sun room , the F/DADDY flew onto a tree and started hammering right next to the house in the middle of the afternoon. Probably had heard about the blog and wanted to make an appearance ( like so many ) 🙂
To all our friends far and wide,we hope it’s been a good year for you and your family. We look foward to seeing you all soon again ……sometime in the distant future 🙂
So my brother Trev made the trip over recently , he had just split from his long time girlfriend and it seemed that the time was right to lift his spirits. To help him out he brought some coins over for us that he’d found with his metal detector and we paid for his flight. I’m not sure who got the better deal . I got a few chunks of metal and he got to lord it up in Belize. The day before he arrived a hurricane had formed and was directly over Cancun airport …not to worry him we said nothing and it had passed by the time he stepped off the plane in Mexico. H and I travelled up to meet him at the airport and we planned to go to Cozumel if the weather cleared to calm and sunny , but alas it was still a little cloudy. We opted for the one night stay in playa del Carmen at the ONE HOTEL next to the alternative bus station , which turned out to be nice .. the further away from 5th avenue in playa del Carmen the better ,if you want any chance of sleep. In Belize you don’t eat steak , it’s just not as tender as you’d want. But when in Mexico you eat steak and we did big fat succulent T-Bones and was really the reason we travelled up to meet him 🙂
The next day we headed off through Mexico on the ADO bus and in no time we arrived in Chetumal the city just 5 miles away from where we live. Always be wary of a taxi from the bus station it’s like arriving at an international airport …you are going to get fleeced and there is usually an argument over price when you get out …even if you agreed it before you set off. Well surprise surprise after telling me that all the chicken buses had left for the day to Belize from the neuvo mercardo , I told him I lived in Corozal and to take me to the new market anyway , he shrugged his shoulders and smiled . As we turned the corner 5 chicken buses neatly lined up and 40 pesos for the ride ( 2 quid) the agreed price … seems like Trev had brought us some luck ….. we passed through both borders with no trouble and arrived in Corozal for 3pm . I rang my friend who had just finished making two benches and a coffee table for us and he gave us a lift in his pick up truck. Trev and I rode in the back along the sea front with a stout in our hands …it was nice to return to the laid back life 🙂
Just before he arrived we had the pool table assembled and reclothed , Sean at lennons snooker centre had helped me buy some simonis tournament cloth which I brought back with me from the UK . Sibling rivalry over who was best ,there had to be a tournament so we kept score. He actually did a lot better than I expected and it was very close right at the end. Dave the WINNER , H second and Trev third .
We headed off to caye caulker when the weather was just perfect , rode down on the bus to Belize City and arrived at the bus station . NEVER I repeat NEVER walk from the bus station to the water taxi ,it costs 10 bz (3 quid) and is not worth the risk. When we arrived at the water taxi , they said they had a deal on 50 usd return .. not bad for 3 of us BUT WAIT that was each . I looked at her and said I paid 9 usd each way 3 months ago , we will go to the next place , she called me back saying next time tells us you are locals and you get the GOOD price. So we got the GOOD price and before we knew it we were drinking Belikin beer at the lazy lizard on caye caulker. We stayed at the WORLD FAMOUS … Popeye’s beach resort and were treated to a nice large room on the ground floor ..steps and one barrel rum are not a good mix 🙂 We took fishing reels with us and borrowed poles from Popeye’s ,Trev and I fished at the split some small fry were caught but not the huge monsters we were after. So that night we went to Rosie’s Grill and had a whole fish each with veg and wedges for 30bz BARGAIN 😛
Whilst at Popeye’s we asked Gilbert the manager where he had his haircut , and the guy who cuts it was sat right in front of us , he nipped off on his bicycle and was back in 5 mins with his clippers. A chair was produced outside in the court yard and he had his haircut under a palm tree , how impromptu was that , a mighty fine job 10 bz.
We did some more fishing back in Corozal and caught two decent size cat fish which Trev and our neighbour Pat cooked on the BBQ. We sailed over to Cerros the Mayan temple across the bay and were ravaged by mosquito’s as it had just rained after a 7 month dry spell. We went to the Corozal bay sailing club regatta and Trev was a big hit with the ladies … it’s a small town and ” fresh meat” is always devoured by the local expats 🙂 … and before we knew it the time had come for us to part . Belize gave Trev one parting farewell as he crossed the border , he was ripped off for an additional 50 bz ..I gave him the exact money to leave 37.50 bz and they said it wasn’t enough and saw another 50 bz and said he needed to pay more .. well they you have to take the rough with the smooth.
We purchased two spin bikes and have gradually been building ourselves up to an hour a day. Weight loss results in the next blog !!!!!!!!
And to finish off we were watching criminal minds on the tv and heard something at the window , and there peering in watching the people watching the people was a tree frog getting his FREE VIEW quota 🙂
It’s been a while since I last posted lethargy is a terrible disease 🙂 . So we spent the last 3 weeks before we left on our trip putting in the foundations pouring the floor slab , building the walls and finally casting the roof. Then we went on an 7 month trip , it should actually have been longer ,but we did get travel weary and half way through the month in Greece we decided that we would save S.E. Asia for another trip ,otherwise we would have just been going through the motions of travelling. So we came back early and spent the December and January the project of a house build never really finishes and evolves after all the messy stuff is out of the way. In Belize is actually finding things to go inside the house , like furniture and the such as it doesn’t exist here . Bed sheets are a prime example they only have a few sizes of cheap thin material covered in gaudy patterns so these need to be sourced outside of the country. I was responsible for the build and H kitted it out and picked the coloured scheme and furnishings. When we planned the house I drew all the plans and then sent them to an architect to put into the official format so they could go to the Central Building Authority for approval. This went really smooth ,not the hassle we were expecting. When I showed the plans there was a column in the front room that it was suggested could be moved and hidden in a wall . This would have moved us away from the 13 foot rule from beam to beam and building down here things are different so I wanted to keep as strong a structure as possible . So I hatched a plan of encasing the concrete pillar with a tree trunk. I hadn’t seen one done down here only in magazines in the states ,but thought what the hell. It was only a chance meeting of some Mennonites at the wood yard that resulted in the tree trunk idea becoming reality. Very little English and no proper German or Spanish is spoken its a horrible mixture of blurb so I sent them away with an idea of what I wanted and waited not knowing what i’d really get. The tree was cut in the deep jungle probably where no one had ever set foot. It was trimmed in the jungle down to a 40 foot log then dragged out by a tractor to a saw mill they had built. It was cut and I got the bottom 10 feet. They then cut it in half right along it’s length using a 54 inch blade and the cut the heart out ,so when the two pieces were put back together they would fit around the concrete pillar. It was then loaded on to a truck that had to be dragged 15 miles by a tractor to reach a road. then driven another 60 miles to my house. It arrived and was far better than what I had been expecting. It took 7 men to drag it into the house and hoist it up. It was a risk that paid off and it joined perfectly around the concrete pillar .
The house was built with the maximum airflow possible , aircon is not needed if you plan right at the beginning . Being near the sea there is always a lovely onshore breeze , and although we put ceiling fans in we never have them on as there is so much breeze. everything you see furniture wise in the house is custom made ,there aren’t any home depots or DFS furniture stores to go pick from. August -Nov can get humid and sticky so we put in a plunge pool on the back porch , this works perfectly for cooling down when it’s hot. I’m just perfecting a sand filter so I can fill it directly from the well.
The house is two bedroomed ,each with en-suite our bathrom has a steel safe room door on it ,that H can look herself in when she wants to get away from me :). The upstairs roof top lounge is taking shape now ,although I still have to put the pool table up , something that right now is at the top of my list. The upstairs has a fantastic palapa roof done by a guy who builds all the fancy resort palapas and he sure did a great job on this one. The up stairs is a 1000 square foot and gives a lovely breeze . We bought the dining set from Mexico , but as you know I just love to lounge around in my hammock.
H isn’t really into hammocks so WE ( she made me put that) designed and put together these hard wood seat ,6foot long and furnished with custom made cushions from our friend. it took about a week to do on an off due to varnishing and sanding ,complimented by general lazing about, but they turned out exactly as we wanted and will out live us.
Other news our good friend Gwyn proprietor of the Sea Breeze passed away in Jan ,he will be surely missed by us and many others.
So Casa Verde is open for visitors book your bed early to avoid disappointment , a bottle of rum will cover all lodging fee’s 🙂