Monday, October 3, 2011

Belize some more of it!

(May of 2011)

Well, I had written the original version of this post and had it ready for the blog well over a month ago, but somehow I misplaced the thumb drive and lost everything. I know, I should have backed it up somewhere, stupid me. Sometimes one must learn the hard way. So here it is, the second, delayed, and abridged version:

The Hopkins Humane Society

The blood and guts didn't bother this owner.
While in Hopkins I also had the opportunity to play doctor again. Thanks to a few animal-loving foreigners who now reside in Hopkins, there is an excellent humane society at the end of town where the gravel roads meet. I was pleasantly surprised the first time I walked in the doors. The clinic is small, but it is probably one of the best equipped clinics in all of Central America. There is a significant amount of foreign funding, but the key to the success of the clinic is the people who run it. These are people who have dedicated so much of their time, money, heart, and collaboration to help the animals of Hopkins. I met a number of great folks who each do their part to keep the machine running. I must say a very special thank you to Nancy and Les and Micheal. You guys are awesome! I cannot thank you enough for your kindness and hospitality. They also have a local Belizean named Joe who is an essential connection to the villagers. Whenever someone has a problem or concern with an animal, they just call Joe. The locals trust Joe and he makes sure each animal gets the care it needs. The great thing is that the clinic is run solely on donations, so the people give whatever they can to help. This enables so many who cannot even afford health care for their children the opportunity to provide basic care to their animals. 

My surgery suite.
Surgery prep, treatment and
everything else.
Each week, I would take a day off from the dive shop and help out at the clinic. Not only was it a pleasant change to be out of the water for a day, but it was nice to get my hands dirty again. I would do surgeries in the morning, then see walk-ins in the afternoon. I saw some cool stuff I rarely see in the States, I especially loved the tropical parasitology. One of my favorite things to do was extract bot fly larvae. These cute, wiggly, and sometimes not-so-little guys bury under the skin of their host to set up camp until they grow to maturity. When the time is right, they wiggle their way out of their breathing hole in the skin and fall to the ground to continue their life cycle. Most bot flies don't do much damage in domestic animals, but they aren't very aesthetically pleasing. The most I found on one dog was 20+. Heck, I even squeezed one out of the chest of some Canadian guy at a restaurant! Deep down inside, I kind of wanted to have my own little bot fly larva, maybe in an arm or leg or somewhere on my back. You know, a little friend to join me in my travels. However, even after all my time in Central America, I have not been fortunate enough to acquire said friend. I guess some are more fortunate than others.
Bot fly larva I extracted, about
the size of a quarter.

It has taken a few years of hard work and education, but the people of Hopkins are now starting to take responsibility for the local cats and dogs. The children especially are discovering the joy that comes with having a pet. The village used to be riddled with strays wandering the streets. It is now fairly uncommon to see a homeless street dog scrounging for food. Those who have been there for a number of years told me that the overall health, image, and well-being of the village has improved drastically since the humane society began it's work. This is one of the few examples I have seen where a small group of people are changing a place for the better by helping the local animals. It takes a lot of time, effort, money, passion, and hard work to make a change like this, but it's encouraging to know that it can be done.

That's Joe, prepping a dog for surgery.

I can honestly say that it was a pleasure to be a part of this good work. Not only do I feel like I helped out a few of our furry, four-legged friends, but I also met some great clients. One of these clients runs a resort on an island just off the coast of Belize. After taking care of her dogs, she kindly invited me to come hang out on the island for the week. Seriously, how could anyone say no to that?

Glover's Atoll from afar

The water was SOOOO amazingly blue!
After a 3 hour boat ride, I found myself at Glover's Reef Resort.  If you are looking for a tropical getaway that won't break the bank (as will almost every other resort in Belize), I would definitely recommend this place. Don't expect all the amenities of a fancy resort. Accommodations are basic, even a bit rustic, but they are quite comfortable.

My bungalow with 2 hammocks!

I highly recommend the bungalows over the ocean. There is nothing quite like waking up in the morning and watching the sunrise from your deck. If you're too lazy to get out of bed and walk the 5 steps to your deck, you can even stay in bed and watch the sunrise through the open doors. Once you do crawl out of bed, there is a long list of things to do. You can go deep sea fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving, or you can do nothing more than kick back in a hammock for hours upon hours. The diving is actually quite spectacular just off the atoll (much better than most of the dive sites that Hamanasi would visit, and at a fraction of the cost). What I'm trying to say is that there is plenty to do on the island, don't worry about that.

Epic sunrise from my deck.

Tim, Steph, and I
I met a number of interesting folk on the island. My favorite was a young couple from Switzerland, Tim and Steph. They were on a trip similar to myself, but needed a week of intense beach time. We got along great from the start and actually ended up spending a lot of time playing cards, cooking, talking about the mysteries of life, and simply hanging out. Many rum drinks were enjoyed in their presence, for rum drinks taste better on the beach when one is with cool people. Tim and I even went on a night snorkel adventure (which I highly recommend). They were just so darn cool. Miss them I do.

It'th a thea thtar.

Glover's from the boat.
There were a few other couples on the island, but the group that really stands out was 10 young men from the East Coast of the US. They came to Glovers to partake in a bachelor party of most epic proportions, and that is exactly what they did. How cool of an idea is this: take a week off of work and travel to a secluded tropical island with your brothers and closest friends to celebrate the final days of singleness! I would love to partake in such a trip for my bachelor party. In the beginning, they were extremely exclusive, but by mid-week they had included the Swiss and I in the celebrations.

I like fire, a lot.


They came down to party, and party they did. You would think 20 cases of beer would be a bit excessive, but it only works out to about 3 beers a person per day. What was impressive was the volume of vodka, 'magic' mushrooms, home-made 'magic' mushroom vodka, and the 1.5 gallon bucket of pot packed to the brim. There was rarely a dull moment on their end of the island. Crazy guys + secluded island + lots of fishing + good weather + a bit of alcohol + illicit substances + fire dancing + music = epic bachelor party. All factors added up to an unforgettable week which got better as the week went on. What I enjoyed the most were the fire shows. Every night, Darin (a member of the bachelor party) would put on an incredible fire show. He was of the very musical and creative type, and he was one of the best fire dancers I have ever seen. The best show was the night we heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed and disposed of. Darin started off by whispering “Obama got Osama, Obama got Osama” as he danced around the fire. Soon enough, this crescendoed into everyone screaming “OBAMA GOT OSAMA!!! OBAMA GOT OSAMA!!!” at the top of their lungs while wildly making noise with a bunch of random musical instruments. While all this was happening, Darin twirled his flaming baton at incredible speeds, repeatedly throwing it 20-30 feet in the air and catching it while continuing his crazy fire dance. It was awesomeness.

Hermit crabs everywhere!
Sadly, all good things must come to an end and the week was soon over. Tim, Steph, and I had such a good time on the island that we decided to stick around for another week. It was very sad to see the bachelor party leave that last morning (most of whom were completely wasted and hung over. What better way to travel hung over than on a boat, eh?). However, we were hopeful we'd meet some cool new people the following week. Au contraire! We quickly discovered that the group of newcomers were not at all pleasant to be around. Many fit into the category of 'not cool' and there were even a few that classified as 'douche bags'. We were thoroughly disappointed, so we spent most of our time at Tim and Steph's place and played cards and talked life and read books and played cards and snorkeled and played more cards and drank rum drinks on the beach. Those were very difficult times, but at least we had each other.

So hard to say goodbye to such
wonderful people.
It's amazing how fast time flew on the island. Two weeks of doing nothing went by so fast, but I was ready to leave the island by the end. After we said our goodbyes, Tim and Steph headed for Guatemala while I spent a few days wrapping things up in Hopkins. I soon found myself on a chicken bus headed for the Mexican border, and that concludes my time in Belize.

Did some more lion fish spearing, I just couldn't get enough.
Belize is beautiful and amazing. If you are searching for spectacular beaches or wild jungle, Belize may be your place. The problem is that Belize is so darn expensive. The bulk of the tourist industry comes down for a week or two to relax at the over-abundance of all-inclusive resorts. They are amazing and wonderful and beautiful and spectaculr, but insanely expensive. There is very little for the budget traveler. I feel like I was able to enjoy some of the best of Belize has to offer on a backpacker's budget, but it took a lot of work and few strokes of good luck. I'm glad I saw the country, but have no plans on going back anytime soon. Since leaving Belize, I have found breathtakingly beautiful beaches with better diving, better food, and more cultural diversity at a fraction of the cost. In my opinion, Belize is nice, but overrated. You, however, may have a different experience. You won't know until you go!

No comments:

Post a Comment