clare-hill.com The story of Clare Hill's voluntary work adventure in Belize

29/08/2008

Good looking!

Filed under: Adventures in Belize,Beisle Cottage,Crooked Tree,wildlife — Clare Hill @ 10:04 pm

There are so many different things I could say about our weekends at Crooked Tree, it is hard to know where to start. We did eventually find the starting place for the 5.05pm direct bus, and we are now recognising the faces, anticipating who will be on till Birds Isle, who will get off beforehand. There are the grandparents who go all the way up the northern highway almost to our turnoff, who have a sprinkling of grandchildren with them. The grandfather has a special connection with a wee boy, about 4 years old, who sits on his knee and they chatter together all the time; except, that is, when the man sees someone he knows along the way, when he invariably stands and calls something out the open window. “Good car there” or “How d’ya doin?” “Hey, man!”

Our bus conductor suddenly appears on the bus on the outskirts of the city. On Mondays we get the bus at 5.45 a.m., and it meanders around picking everyone up, and then sets off across the causeway about 6.15am. Having done it a few times, I now notice that he gets off the bus at the same place too. He carries the leather pouch which all the conductors use, taking the fares with him off the bus in the morning, and back on in the evening returning to CT. Our man is quite dapper. First of all I thought that unlike any other conductor I’ve seen here, he has his own version of a uniform: smart beige polo shirt and matching beige slacks with a leather belt. Most conductors wear jeans, or the baggy long shorts hanging off the hips with a tee shirt. Then the penny dropped – it is a uniform for the place he works in.

Travelling with him feels a bit like being a guest in his domain. He is very courteous to all his passengers, helping women and children on and off, passing out parcels, bags, even delivering things en route. He always checks with you first, standing quietly beside you with a small smile tucked into a cheek: “Would you like a hand with your bags?” “Shall I do that for you?” A bus conductor version of a “maitre d’”.

When we arrive on a Friday night, it is just getting dark, and by the time we have settled in and started cooking, night has fallen. But on Saturday and Sunday evenings, it is lovely to walk in the evening cool, and sit on the verandah catching the breeze. As the light fades tiny fairy lights begin to twinkle momentarily here and there across the grass, and amongst the undergrowth over the lane. Fire flies! They don’t last for long, and my understanding is that it is the same as the phosphorescence that the plankton glow with when you sail in the sea at night. As far as I can find out (Wikipedia) it works by organisms absorbing light and then releasing it at a slower rate.

We have got cockroaches here in CT, grandfather bull versions of them: not a lot but enough to make me wary. Conor brought up some special little contraptions – two layers of 2” by 4” about ¼” apart, with four wide entrances and some poison in the middle. We thought this was preferable to some ghastly spray that most folk seem to use. Trouble is, the two very large ones – one the standard Americanus version, the other more like an elongated pebble – have such sumo shoulders that we suspect that they won’t be able to reach the poison. Judging by the corpses, some can though. Conor managed to sweep one of the mega-roaches out the backdoor, but there is at least the other giant pebble, and one Americanus which is about 4”, an inch less than the other two. Maybe we will resort to the spray after all.

Corletta ambled over the road towards our gate the other day, and we welcomed her in. She came onto the verandah as we were tackling some of the mangoes (end of the season so not so good – bruised or damaged by insects) so we found her a chair and offered some of our fruit. She tucked in with relish, proving that there is no easy way to eat mangoes – just enjoy and mop up afterwards. She had an electricity bill for us, but we used the occasion to talk about all sorts of things. Conor found that she reflected his memories of an Irish childhood – she sat easily with us, talked touchingly about her recently dead husband while gazing out across the ‘yard’ (garden to you) and then when we had exhausted our conversation, quietly got up and took her leave, taking some mangoes for her extensive family with her.

It was very hot yesterday afternoon (it has been very hot everyday for the last two weeks) so we thought we would try again to see the croc that occasionally basks on the bank behind Bird Isle Lodge. We saw a very pretty blue heron, and a bird that we can’t decide whether it’s a rail or one of the small dumpy herons you get in these parts, but not a sign of the croc. The water level has gone down by about 8 feet from when we first ever came across the lagoon, and we guessed that we would probably be able to reach the board walk which is there for the birders in the winter and spring bird migrating season. It was glorious to be in there in the shade, dappled water underneath in parts, the mimosa and mangroves and flowering vines all around, the open lagoon a few feet to the right, the swampy – potential croc – pond to the left. But nothing larger than the heron and a few whistling ducks in sight. Plenty of small fish, frogs croaking, the occasional butterfly or damsel fly but not even an iguana. The cool was lovely though, and we went back to the start and just sat on the boards enjoying the soft breeze in the shade. We saw our fisherman and one of his sons start an outboard motor and set off across the lagoon. He was bailing out all the way, so we hoped the boat was safe! Before reaching the other side the boat stopped, and we trained our bins onto them. The son was setting the fishing nets – they must have repaired them since the HaligaTAHs got them.

Eventually we ventured out into the sun again, crossed in front of the Lodge and ambled up to the table and benches with a nice big wooden shelter on them. Christina was there chatting to the fisherman’s lads – Sons? Grandsons? We greeted them, and then I struck up a jokey bit with them, saying that I thought that it was just a story that there are crocs (HaligaTAHS) in the lagoon, to get people like us to come again and again looking for them. They enjoyed the banter, and we heard again how in the dry season, you can see them with out trying. (In fact this morning, Leonardo said you can see coatis and lots more really easily because the animals go to the narrow channel for water. Just have to come back in April!)  Christina said that she thought that the croc had moved out of the pond because a canoeist had gone in a couple of weeks ago when the water was higher. “I saw it yesterday” the elder boy said quickly, “on the hill”. At which point the younger raised his eyes heavenwards and said “You is just no good lookin”…..

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