Sorry-I hit the wrong button and posted my report in mid sentence before it was finished.
...Moncho's filled our gas golf cart with a full tank and it lasted the entire 8 days. What an improvement over the electric cart.
Sunday, Jan 4, 2004- Slept late, had breakfast in the villa, lunch at Stained Glass Pub, drove Joe around the town to show him some sights, then packed up my guitar and headed to the Palapa Bar at 3 PM for Dennis Wolfe's happy afternoon open mike. Joe was surprised to see the hand pulled ferry as we loaded the golf cart on to head across the cut. By the time we got to the Palapa Bar, it was getting pretty warmed up as were the customers. Dennis, Reynaldo and Dennis-cito were playing. Dennis graciously let me plug in and play and howl into the mike with some songs from the sixties. We stayed and had some libations and fun until 6:30, then headed to Wet Willie's for the JJW Camp Belize Welcome Happy Hour, the first official function of the Camp Belize week.
I discovered very quickly that very few of the Camp Belize regulars were here. I ran into Bob from Philadelphia, Ralph and April From Colorado, Fred and Karen from Connecticut, and a few others, but that was about it. Unlike the rollicking Sunday night Welcome Hour of last year as all of the regulars renewed old acquaintances, this was a very subdued group, totally unlike last year. In fact, it almost seemed like a tea party compared to last year. Most people drifted away early. We eventually made the rounds of a few bars, and got home relatively early, about 11:30 AM. Don was restless and took a beer and went out and sat on the pier about 12:15 AM. He heard voices at Wet Willies and went on over to find Jerry Jeff still there, drinking with 5 or 6 other people. Don sat down and drank with Jerry Jeff for a while, then went to bed. The next morning Mike told us that he had been on his golf cart(electric) with 2 or 3 people he had met and was near Ramon's looking for another bar when his cart died at 2:30 AM Sunday night. Just then Jerry Jeff came riding by on his golf cart, asked them what was wrong, then said "come on jump on my cart and go with me". He headed back into town to the Palace Casino and Mike and Jerry Jeff drank and played Texas Hold'em until 5:00 AM.
Monday, Jan. 5, 2004-I got up early, went for a run and went to Rubies Bakery for coffee, burrito and cinnamon bun. I sat at one of the two tables and watched the bustling traffic in and out of that little store. It seems like the majority of San Pedranos stop there every morning on their way to work. I had the opportunity to meet and talk to many people as there are only two tables and 8 chairs in the place. I met an interesting guy who works at a local money exchange, two tourists from Italy who spoke about as much English as I do Italian, and a local real estate agent as well as many smiling youngsters on their way to school.
This is a cheerful place to spend part of a morning. I love listening to the laughter as business is conducted briskly there.
Met up with Don and Joe, later had a nice lunch at Lily's and then spent the rest of the day reading by the pool, soaking up sun on the pier, and snorkeling near the pier. We arranged a snorkel trip for Tuesday morning to Caye Caulker through the guys at Hustler on the same catamaran
Don and I had traveled on last January. We were anxious for Joe to see the reef, shark ray alley, and Caye Caulker. We went to Caramba for another great dinner of blackened grouper. About 7:00 PM, we headed over to Wet Willie's for Jerry Jeff's first concert. It was very short (1 HR and 5 Minutes), but good. Jerry Jeff joked about having gotten seriously over-served the night before. Perhaps that's why it was so short.
After the concert, many of us went to Cannibal's where Dennis was playing, and spent the rest of the night there listening to his music and sampling the great drinks of Jan and her son at Cannibal's. We got to know a lot of the new campers/JJW fans and they really began to loosen up and a good time was had by all.
Tuesday, Jan 6, 2004-
We left from Hustler's dock at 8:30 AM for our snorkel trip.
Our snorkel guide was Matthew, a young guy who was a lot of fun. However, once he started telling jokes, we had couldn't get him to stop. He had a near endless supply. He even started telling us about dreams he had had, once he ran out of jokes. However, Joe quickly discovered that he had not outgrown his penchant for seasickness from some years ago, and spent most of the trip to Caye Caulker heaving his guts over the side of the boat. We didn't get to show him anything. He even missed Matthew's jokes. When we got to Caye Caulker, he was so green and sick he couldn't eat lunch and instead jumped on the water taxi to go straight back to San Pedro and his bed. Don and I had a good time. Saw more sharks than last year and plenty of rays. While snorkeling at the reef, we saw a huge speckled eagle ray. Drank our share of Belikins and rum punches.
By the time we got back to San Pedro, Joe was feeling better. We had a great dinner at the Stained Glass Pub, then headed to Cannibals where Dennis was playing again. James Story, who plays terrific guitar with Tim Budd(Barefoot Skinny), was sitting in with Dennis. Dennis had an extra mike hooked up and I and and some of the newer and younger JJW fans made good use of it to accompany Dennis on Dixie Chicken, Gimme 3 Steps and many more. Dennis played anything and everything we asked for and we got to know a lot more of the newer Campers and had a great time all evening.
Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2004- Tonight is JJW barbeque and pickin' party at Woody's Wharf. Joe and Mike and I spent part of the day practicing some songs we planned to do, then Mike and I went on a search for some tapes for his camcorder as his mother had left the island with 20 tapes that he thought he had in his backpack. We went looking for TV Tom, Mike's source last year for tapes, but discovered that what used to be his electronics shop is now George's Restaurant (across from Coconuts) The next door neighbor told us he had moved his shop back to town.
Discouraged, we went into George's and had a nice late lunch. When paying, I told the owner that we wouldn't have found her place if we hadn't been trying to find TV Tom, and that we didn't know where he was and were about to give up. She looked at me strangely and told me his shop was in the back of her restaurant, just several feet away. Sure enough, we found Tom and bought tapes from him to record the Pickin' Party.
The barbeque at Woody's started at about 5:30 and Jerry Jeff announced the winners of the scavenger hunt. The barbeque was good, but the pickin' party was not what we expected and nothing like last year. We only had three guitars, mine, Fred's and Bob's, and Jerry Jeff wanted us to start the pickin' party after dinner at 6:30, play for a half hour and then move next door at 7:00 to Coconuts to listen to Dennis and his band. Fred and Bob didn't get there until about 7:00 PM. By the time we had tuned up and were ready to start, Dennis had started right next door and we could barely hear ouselves play. Most of the crowd drifted over to Coconuts. We played for an hour or so, but couldn't hear ourselves very well, so we gave up and joined Dennis and the rest of the group. It was a good night at Coconuts-Dennis had an extra electric guitar hooked up and a mike and many of our group got up and sang and played some excellent music with Dennis There was one new guy named Dave who plays guitar in a band at home and did a terrific rendition of Gimme 3 steps, Dixie Chicken, and others. Mike got up and did a great rendition of Loudoun Wainwright's "Drinks Before Dinner, Wine with Dinner, After Dinner Drinks" and Beer, Beer, Beer, a hilarious and complicated song by a local Austin, TX band. As usual, closing time came too fast and too soon.
Thursday, Jan. 8, 2004-Tonight was to be JJW concert #2. Don and I had arranged to go to the mainland for cave tubing and the zoo on Friday morning, and had to get up at 5:30 AM to leave at 7:00AM, so I planned to make it a very early night and go home right after the concert ended at 9:30 PM or so.
Spent most of the day shopping for gifts, snorkeling off the pier and laying on the pier reading and soaking up rays. Went to an early happy hour at BC's then went to dinner at Caramba again. Don and Joe had another wonderful fish dish, plenty of Margaritas (which are also excellent). I decided to try their T-Bone steak just for grins. It was superb and only $10 US.
Got to Wet Willie's at about 7:00. This concert was much longer and was definitely the best. JJW told more stories and joked more than I remember ever hearing him do before. He was in great voice and seemed to be having a great time. This was prime Jerry Jeff. What an entertainer.
Although I needed to go home, by this time I had gotten to know a lot of the newer people well and they twisted my arm and forced me to go to Cannibals to listen to Dennis Wolfe "just for a little while". Well, I stayed out later this night than any other night and had more fun. I was just alert enough to know that I was going to pay big time in the morning.
Friday, Jan. 9, 2004-The alarm going off at 5:30 AM was very painful. However, I got up before Don who had been in bed by 11:00 AM. He was shocked to see me up-he was sure he was going to have to go cave tubing alone. Our tour guide was Daniel Nunez of Tanisha Tours. I highly recommend this captain. He is is excellent, highly knowledgeable and a very nice guy. There were 13 of us in his boat-8 for cave tubing and 5 for Mayan Ruins. It took about an hour to get over to the mainland on a beautiful sunny morning. At the mouth of the Belize River, Dan cut the motors off, served ice cold fresh orange juice and homemade breakfast pastries that were similar to sweet cornbread. Very Nice. We sat for about a half hour as we watched 8 or 9 curious manatees study us from 20 or 30 feet away. Shortly, we headed up the Belize River. Dan repeatedly took the boat over to one shore or another to point out rare birds and large iguanas in the trees. He has uncanny vision. He took a small and narrow tributary off the river with hanging vines which made me think of The African Queen. After about 30 minutes, he pulled over to a small dock where we disembarked and got into a Ford van with our cave tubing guide Carlos(but you can call me Charlie). He took as on a 45 minute trip down the highway, turned off onto 6 miles of the bumpiest road any motor vehicle should ever see, then parked in a park. He gave us each a large inner tube and a headlamp. We then crossed the river and walked up a trail for about 30 minutes to a point where the river goes through a mountain. We then jumped in our tubes and floated into and through this mountain on the river in total darkness, until we turned on our headlamps. We were inside the mountain for about 25 minutes. It was an excellent adventure and one I intend to repeat. When we came out of the mountain, we continued to float down the river for another 30 minutes or so, then got out of the river at the point we had crossed it earlier and walked back to the van and changed into dry clothes. Charlie headed back the way we had come, passing out beers and rum punches from his huge cooler. We then stopped at Cheers, a restaurant, for lunch of stewed chicken, rice and beans, and cole slaw, which was included in the price of the trip, which was $150 per person. After lunch we spent an hour at the Belize zoo which was really worthwhile. On the way back down the Belize River, Dan maneuvered the boat to within 20 feet of a 9 foot crocodile. He mentioned that he only wrestles the larger ones, not the 9 ft ones.
Got back to San Pedro about 5:45 PM. Had a great dinner at Stained Glass Pub then went to Hammock House, just across the cut, which is Tim (Barefoot Skinny) Budd's new place just opened. His band was playing and we stayed all night listening to his solid hard-driving brand of
rock 'n roll. The crowd was very sparse, but we had a great time. Once the word gets out, I think he will do well there. It just takes time. He has a jam session/open mike every Sunday starting about 6:30 PM about the time the Palapa Bar Open Mike ends. The ferry runs all night and the guys who run the ferry really appreciate it if you bring them a Belikin when you leave Skinny's. When we left Skinny's at closing time, we went across on the ferry to get our golf cart, and 3 of the band members jumped on our cart with us and we all headed to the after hours clubs and had a good time getting to know James and the rest of them. Got to bed late.
Saturday, Jan. 10, 2004- Starting to think about packing for tomorrow's exit from the island. Went for a run. Loafed around the pool and the pier, snorkeled a bit, returned our 5 gal water jug to grocery store, shopped some more for gifts for back home. Don, Joe and I went to dinner at Caramba. We all had lobster- blackened, in garlic butter, grilled- for $20 US. Had Margaritas and wine. Shared key lime pie. Said goodbye to the staff and headed to Wet Willie's for JJW final concert. When we got there, there was a rumor going around that Jimmy Buffett's yacht had docked early today which led to the rumor that Buffett was going to be a surprise guest again like he was at Birthday Bash 2002.
It seemed possible as Jerry Jeff had made a comment Monday of something along the lines of "be prepared for surprises this week!" Well, a rumor was all it was. It was a great concert,with lots of stories and joking, although
I believe Thursday was absolutely the best.
The group was not as large as previous years, I counted about 160, and tickets could be bought at the door which was another divergence from last year.
Sunday, Jan. 11, 2004- Time to leave. Always a sad day. Joe is already making plans for next year. I am coming back with my wife, Cookie, on Jan. 30, 2004 for Week #2 of Camp Belize. I understand that we have about 240 tickets sold so far, maybe even sold out. I need to go home for a couple of weeks to be sure I still have a business, unpack, do some laundry,work a while, pack again, and head back to San Pedro.
Don and I are packed and ready to go. At 11:00 AM, Mike shows up at the villa looking dejected. He had partied extra hard last night and lost his backpack in which he had his video camera, journal for the past 2 1/2 years and his passport.He has been walking the streets since 8 AM trying to find it. Went to the police chief who immediately recognized Mike from last year, as Mike had lost it last year and the police chief found it last year. Can't get out of the country without a passport he has been told.
We wished him luck, but had to go catch our Tropic Air flight with Lelo at 12 noon. As we winged our way away from San Pedro, I could not help but think how grateful I will always be to Jerry Jeff and Susan Walker for leading me to this magical place that I love so well.
Hope to see you Jan 30-Feb 8, 2004. Adios.