One of the reasons for the constant breeze coming in off the sea for at least a few yards, I have discovered, on even the hottest of days, is because of the old Trade Wind. Suddenly a term from sea-faring literature and from geography lessons takes on more meaning: winds from both hemispheres blow along the equator in an easterly direction. The term trade comes from the old German meaning path the route that the ships took around the world. The trade wind also garners the hurricanes into an easterly direction. The place where the easterlies from the two hemispheres meet on the equator is the doldrums.
Apparently the surface winds flow towards the equator, and the higher altitudes flow towards the poles. About 50-60o N and S the higher altitude winds drop, and winds get pushed in a westerly direction, which we are very familiar with in the UK.
With the bulk of the hurricanes having moved through now, we are in a different weather phase. The extreme heat (high 90F, over 30C) and excessive humidity – which is the result of the hurricanes scooping up all the precipitation in an area has passed since Ike moved away. The last 2 weeks have been up to 20F cooler, with the occasional rain shower. And yesterday it rained all day the first time in 4 months. Today started showery, and actually felt cold at about 70F/24C, would you believe? But it has been more or less clear, and the temperature pleasant enough for us to have a five mile walk along the shoreline and back. Sometimes walking half a mile in the heat feels too much, so it was a nice treat.
I am not sure why, but I like the Trade Wind. I like the gentle most of the time warmth of it and I like all the stories from my childhood which have ridden on the back of the wind.
The swing bridge over the Belize River at the bottom of Albert St is one of the things written about in any literature about BC. It is turned manually to allow any large craft up or down river. We have only seen it being turned once in our 4 months, about 5.45pm so there was a lot of traffic and pedestrians around. We were walking back towards Albert St. by the Caye Caulker Water Taxi terminal, when we found a chain across the entrance to the bridge. Some men were right in the middle, and had some large metal poles attached to a crank. Slowly the old metal bridge began to slide to our right, gradually moving until only the end of the pedestrian path was buttressed up against the pavement and sides of the mainland approach to the bridge. And then it stopped! There was much heaving and pushing, and jovial comments about the men not being strong enough, but it was not budging! Someone went into the river, and discovered that an old bit of brick had got jammed in the mechanism, and that it would take a bit of time to repair. What to do?! Cars were already making their way round to one of the two other bridges over the water, but crowds of folk were waiting on either side. Whilst you could enter the pedestrian path at one end, it was hanging over the river at the other.
People became impatient, and adventurous: at first a few, with many of us watching, then all of us at both ends began to enter the pedestrian paths, clamber over or round the buttress end of the road area, and then climb over or squeeze round onto the pedestrian path on the other side, before safely stepping off the bridge! Sometimes a conveyor system was created, with someone standing and lifting over bike after bike, or helping elderly people, or managing the various loads that people carry about their daily business. It was quite fun!
The next time morning the bridge was back in its proper place, and we have never seen it on the move again.
Last weekend we caught the bus up to Belmopan to visit the brother of one of Niamhs friends who has been living here for about 3 years. He lives with his delightful Hispanic girlfriend in a house on the edge of the town. It was such a joy to be in a private house, and to discuss such ordinary things as gardening. Apparently the leaf-cutter ants decimate seedlings in the same way slugs and snails may do overnight in the UK! They pointed out the holes in ground tarantulas ..But they are shy and keep well out of your way, unlike their reputation in the movies. And so we moved on to other creepy-crawlies. Having told someone a few days before that he never shook out his trousers before putting them on, and that he thought it was a bit of a myth, a sudden sting as he moved downstairs one morning caught his immediate attention. Thinking it was an ant, he walloped it hard with his hand at which point the scorpion really set to and stung him at least 4 more times! With everyone roaring with laughter as he took his trousers off rather fast, the offending creature made a hasty retreat. But the purpose of his tale was to reassure us that although painful, the stings swelled but were not deadly.
As an architect, he has witnessed many ventures start and fail here, and informed us of a local saying: to gain a small fortune in Belize, you need to start with a large one! Since there are currently no building restrictions, it has been a wonderful opportunity for an architect. And as he says, the country is littered with unfinished houses and hotels .