Belize~Mon. May, 17, 2004 ~ Part 2

Anchor is eventually lifted and the Janelle is turned South to Tres Coco. A warning is given. The current is a little stronger here. Okay. There is several other tour operators with their groups in the water. Is the water as shallow as it looks? Tops of coral formations can be seen peeking above the water. Some time is spent anchoring to the sandy bottom.

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In we go. Yes, the water is shallow. Standing is easy. The eastern horizon seems to be darkening. We swim closer to the coral. Today, the equipment is not cooperating. Water is constantly entering the mask and time must be taken to empty it. Standing on a patch of Turtle Grass the readjustment process is taking place when the current sweeps me into a tiny patch of Staghorn Coral. There is a scrape on the leg but damage to the coral is of main concern. Hurricane Mitch caused a lot of damage to the coral in this area and it is just beginning to recover. There is much dead coral. Many of the largest formations were completely destroyed. Despite the damage it is still beautiful.

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Swimming around the coral is difficult and over most of them impossible. They are within inches of the surface. Great care must be taken not to be washed into the coral by the current. Tulu does it with experience and grace. Itís not long before I become Tuluís shadow and mimic his movement. Going becomes easier.

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Tulu finds the shell, called a test, of the large species of Sea Urchin. The sands are emptied and it is tucked underneath the T-shit. A small one, approximately one and one-half inch in diameter, is found and it is very pink unlike the all white ones found in Mexico. They are very fragile and it is held in hand. Lobster and a Moray Eel are spotted.

As the excursion continues an eye is kept on the sky. It looks like a squall may be forming. Eventually tired of fighting the current and dodging coral heads, I move a bit closer to the Janelle and begin searching the Turtle Grass in hopes of spotting a Seahorse. Position of the boat and the darkening sky is checked frequently. How have I managed to get this far from the boat? I wasnít a moment ago. Trying to locate the men, Tulu can be seen swimming toward me with great haste and the sky is really dark. His words canít be heard over the sound of the waves. If he is moving that fast this canít be good and I begin to quickly make for the boat. Crrrunch. The little test dissolves in my hand. I am soon passed; Dennis reaches me and relays Tuluís instructions to stay where we are and he will bring the boat to us. We watch as he makes it into the boat and heads straight for the bow. The Janelle has lost anchor. It wasnít me moving away from the boat. The boat was being carried toward shore by the current. The boat is brought around, boarded and all has a good laugh.

The darkening sky is now overhead and a light rain begins to fall. No problem. It makes no difference since everyone is wet. The seas are not becoming dangerously high and a slow trip is made back to San Pedro. None want this trip to end. The large test is gently cradled in my lap. This one is coming home in one piece.

Janelle is tied to the dock, gear hoisted and we all trek to the villa. Rum Punch is served on the porch and conversation turns to our departure. It is tomorrow. Not a happy thought for any of us. Tulu gives me the name of the spice used for Stewed Chicken and shares the recipe. Recardo is put on the shopping list. Tulu eventually departs with a promise to return in the morning to say good-bye.

The water is off again. Swimsuits are peeled away and salt brushed from the skin. We can bathe after the trip into San Pedro. As a last resort, a dip can be taken in the pool. Clothes changed, the way is made onto Middle Street. The primary goal of the excursion is to find packing material for the conch shells, a large package of Recardo and to delay packing. A stop at the management office to find Nellie is unsuccessful. Packing material is scavenged from every store entered. Gold is struck at one of the liquor stores for a shipment has just been opened that is wrapped in heavy plastic. The Recardo is found at Nancyís Supermarket. Nellieís Laundromat is located and we are instructed to go upstairs. Oh, my! Itís her home. The stairs are quickly descended. No need to bother her at home. Surely she will find us later to make the return flight confirmations.

The dayís activities have left us with an appetite and a table is soon found at Fidoís. Dennis orders a hamburger and I, the Conch Fritterís. Dessert in the form of a Dirty Banana is enjoyed while waiting for the orders to arrive. A young couple arrives with two small daughters. Exhaustedly, they plop into chairs and watch the youngsters as they climb onto the stage and begin to perform the afternoon entertainment. The show is enjoyed as we eat.
Dennis recommends the hamburger and the Fritterís are all right. Wet Willieís are better, in my opinion. All too soon, the meal ends, the right foot goes into the sea and we take our last long walk along the beachfront.

Arriving at the villa a note from Nellie hangs on the door. A telephone is soon found, flight information given and confirmed. Pick-up is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. tomorrow. Feet dragging, the return is made home. No water. Miguel soon appears and takes Dennis off to the pump house. After a bit of tinkering, the unit is switched from cistern to city water. A shower at last!

The luggage is dragged out and packing begins. No it doesnít. Tears build at the thought of leaving, a Rum Punch is made and a hasty retreat made to the porch. One last sunset can be watched. The sun sets. Packing beginsÖin fits and starts interspersed with Rum Punch and multiple visits to the porch. The conch shells are split among the two carry-on pieces and the checked luggage in hopes the baggage will not be overweight. The job is finished after midnight and we take a walk to the end of the pier. Time is spent gazing at the stars that appear so close, watching the waves roll in, memorizing the feel and smell of a tropical breeze and listening to the distant sound of waves crashing over the reef. Words are not spoken. Reluctantly, we return to the villa and as Miguel is passed, he says not a word and gives but a nod. Our last few moments are quietly respected. Weary heads touch the pillows and thankfully sleep comes quickly.