Finally Erica and Wes joined us for a week in Belize! They’ve spent so much time with Wes’ family in Colorado over the last three years, we were beginning to feel left out. Of course coming to us is challenging for two college students with very busy schedules. This journey to us was definitely complicated. An overnight flight, a taxi to the bus station, then a three hour unairconditioned bus ride, another taxi to the Hokey Pokey, a twenty minute water taxi, and finally a wet trip out to Alembic by our tiny dinghy.
While I waited for them to arrive by bus, I wandered around the bus station and the nearby market and school. Part of me felt sorry for the locals, seeing the dilapidated state of affairs. But how can I judge? Here I was, eager to spend time in this paradise: warm breezes, tropical fruits, idyllic underwater scenes, and safe anchorages among the hundreds of islands. My expectations and experiences from growing up in suburban US do not necessarily pertain to the folks here. Meeting Ibrahim, and hearing his life’s story helped me to recognize, yet again, that every human has a story, and every culture has its own set of essentials.
After wandering all over Placentia, collecting provisions and indulging in a few offerings from local tiny outdoor restaurants run by entrepreneurial women (Yoli’s and the Juice Bar), we were ready to sail away to outer islands. Our first adventure was to head to Ranguana. Here, we sailed past the island, anchored in the cut of the reef to enjoy excellent snorkeling. Bill shot three lion fish with his Hawaiian Sling. These invasive fish consume ridiculous amounts of the local reef fish and have become a true threat, so killing them helps the ecosystem. As a bonus, they are also delicious, if you can remove the 13 venomous spines without poisoning yourself. Swimming with an enormous spotted eagle ray was another treat at this snorkel spot.
Waking up in the tranquility of remote Ranguana was spectacular. Luckily, Erica and Wes didn’t complain about the rolly anchorage. When you are far away from the mainland, and just inside the cut of the reef, swells can roll around a small island. Dinghying to shore, we enjoyed exploring, playing with Blue, and beach flyfishing. Permit were everywhere, but they are a significant challenge to hook.
Erica and Wes tried again to flyfish when we arrived at Hideaway in the Pelican Cays later that day. Here, Erica caught a starfish and Wes caught a barracuda, right in the eye, unfortunately. Visiting with Dustin in his open air thatched roof home was a delight, especially for Wes, who pondered: “I could do this…build a home on a mangrove island, fish all day, and entertain guests at night”. Wes saw that Dustin had built his dream home for himself and his wife (and now 4 year old daughter) and was embracing every moment.
Stormy weather could have socked us in the next day, but we knew our crew could handle a bit of rough seas, so we sailed off north to explore more special places. We had hoped to go to Tobacco or South Water Cay for awesome snorkeling, but it was much too rough, with winds blowing 25-30 knots. We tucked into Twin Cays for a quieter anchorage up a creek. Erica and Wes took off in the dinghy again to explore the island.
We made it to South Water Cay the next morning, even though it was still blowing like stink. Here, after anchoring, we prepared to snorkel, leaving our Hawaiian Sling on Alembic because it is a preservation area. The IZE (International Zoological Expedition) Resort on South Water Cay has built tables underwater where they are growing coral experimentally. Snorkeling around these tables was interesting and I thought of all the lucky students who get to study here. Bonefish lined the shore, tempting any flyfisherman!
Back on Alembic, we readied ourselves for a wild ride to Colson Cays through large swells building in the Victoria Chanel. This channel is usually flat calm, but with this relentless 25 knot north wind, seas had a chance to establish themselves. Erica and Wes proved to be mighty fine sailors, helping when we needed a hand, and relaxing enough to play Backgammon and Mastermind even though the boat was pitching back and forth.
Colson Cays was our final anchorage before heading to the marina the next day. Erica and Wes again took off in the dinghy to explore this last set of islands. Even though the weather was still a bit dreary, they had fun. Bill and I knew that this weather was unusual for Belize this time of year and were bummed that we couldn’t show the kids the spectacular endless sunshine and calm harbors, but Erica and Wes seemed so happy to just be out in the warm air, adventuring in a unique area and sharing time with us on our floating home. It warmed my heart to see their endlessly cheerful approach to all of these new experiences.
After one last dinghy ride the next morning, we headed for Cucumber Beach Marina in Belize City. The marina is a few miles from the actual city and is more of a resort. Erica and Wes headed straight for the water park while I taxied to town to get a rental car. We enjoyed our last night together at the resort restaurant then locked ourselves in Alembic, behind screens, to keep out the annoying no-see-umms. Good name, as you can’t see the little bugs coming at you, but you can sure feel their bite, and, in Erica’s case, you could certainly see the evidence of their existence all over her legs the next day.
Before dawn, we drove to the airport to watch Erica and Wes head back to Colorado. Sleepily, we said our goodbyes. Walking back to the car, it seemed so quiet, just Bill and I. Erica and Wes had filled our week with such joyful sounds, chatting with us and with each other and laughing readily through all of our adventures.
I am having the hardest time putting into words how I feel after spending a week with my youngest child and her dear friend. How has this happened? She was my baby for the longest time, wanting to be held (by me or anyone!) until she was about five, and holding my hand (still!) through many more years. Now, she lives in Colorado, is about to graduate from college at age 20, and is a mighty strong woman. I only get a glimpse of her now and then. And my heart is bursting. Bursting with pride that she has accomplished so much with her jobs and studies. Bursting with joy that she has found love that is so mutually supportive. Bursting with longing for more time to be with her. Being a mom is hard. And wonderful. Especially when you have a delightful, appreciative, inquisitive, confident daughter like Erica. I will always be grateful for any moments together. Anywhere.