Thursday, November 19, 2009

Garifuna Settlement Day Nov 19

this day or should i say the day before it, is an excuse for an entire town and alot of the rest of the country to party. though with dangriga being the main settlement of the Garunagu people it is a big thing here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Back to Belize with a boat.

So I am back to Belize again for another northern winter in the tropics.
This time around, I have finally decided to bring a white water kayak with me, and old Riot Disco that I picked up in Arizona. The boat will probably end up living down in Belize for people passing through down here to use.

There is only one good river to boat on down in Belize in the dry season (the Moho River) but there may be many more in the wet season (good reason to come back in Sept, October). I get to boat on the Moho allot over the last 5 years and have always wanted to take a hard shell instead off the inflatable’s we usually use. Finally I have got motivated to do it.

I checked my baggage restrictions for my flight and I was allowed to bring a pack kayak at 50 lbs with no set restrictions, and luckily due to my booking date I was allowed one piece of check in at 70lbs and my usual carry on.
I might just get away with this.
I had my Lendal paddles (one ocean and one river) that dismantle into four pieces each, all my guiding equipment, my helmet, guitar and camera gear. I was carrying too much stuff but was going to try it.

I got to check in station with help from Nina Lewis, the attendant looked at me in a strange way. “Is that a kayak?” I was asked in a surprisingly calm voice. I put the boat up on the scales and tried to think of possible solutions to problems that may be about to occur. The boat in its boat bag came in at 49lbs, and when they looked for size restrictions and found none the boat was good to go (big sigh of relief from me). my next check in was overweight at 75lbs, and my carryon bag was too big, due to the line behind me I had to take everything, boat and all, out of the way and re pack. It was a great chance to shove new stuff in with the boat and hope they didn't re-weigh it. Paddles, helmet, throw bag some books went inside the kayak, and Guitar stayed behind in the USA with Nina.

back at check in they took my bag it weighed 71lbs now and they let it through, the boat, now much heavier, went through without a second glimpse, but my carry on looked to big still, though I was allowed to continue at my own risk. I hugged Nina goodbye and off I went. Once I removed my laptop from my carry on the bag it was more than small enough and on a plane to Belize I successfully was.

Arriving in Belize I had missed the last plane to Dangriga, though they told me at the office the kayak wouldn’t have fit anyway, so now I was off to the bus station.
The taxi drivers tried to tell me that there were no more buses to Dangriga that night and I should check into a hotel. I don’t think so “I have been here before many times, There IS a Bus!!" I stated. So we loaded the kayak in the trunk of the car and off we went to the station, with the driver asking “was I sure I didn’t want a hotel?” the whole way. On arrival there was a bus due to leave in 30 minutes, I paid the taxi driver after he helped me move my big bag and boat into the terminal and there I waited for my lovely bus ride of two hours to the town of Dangriga where I will live for the next 5 months off and on.

It was a simple process of waiting on the bus as it wound through the dark jungle roads heading south until I arrived in the little sleepy town of Dangriga. Not much quaint about this place though it is a great central and affordable location for accessing the rest of the country and outlying countries from. I was met by Andrew who took me to the Staff house that was to be home for the season, I was the first to arrive of all of us who work for Island Expeditions.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Toba Inlet Trip in Contrast

here is a poem and some picks from the next trip i did into the mountains and up Toba Inlet. the weather was in stark contrast to the first one i wrote about, so it gives you a nice veiw of the other side of the area, and the Poem (written By Tania Parker from NZ) captures the trip brilliantly.



Desolation Sound

I met Cathy and Tracey one bored day

What’s there to do in Powell River I say?

We’re off on a seven day kayak

Join us and get ready to pack

Wasn’t quite what I had in mind

But inspired we set off with adventure to find

We arrived at Powell River Sea Kayak Site

And met Don looking for an adventure to write

Jaime our Kiwi Guide lead the way

His big smile dissolved any doubts away

Sitting sturdy and tall we paddled out on the bay

And found an easy gait gliding in suns ray

I learnt that paddling requires an easy flow

As one with nature – don’t fight it – just let go

Tree-lined shores of feathery leaves greet us

Pungent aroma of Pine, Spruce and Aubutus

Tracey with his stealth way

Photographs the eagle with its prey

Don sings fly eagles fly

And with a swoop they soar for the sky

Jaime calls out a songful tune

And the wild responds with the sound of a Lune

The Raven sings a tune for fun

And Jaime adds yet another one

Occasional shy seals stare wide eyed

Heads bobbing in rhythm with tide

We gaze upon them without line of sight

To keep the Mum and Pup from diving in fright

Jaime being one step ahead

Pulls us up to a bay for an awesome spread

Diving into the cool clear water

Finding sun spots of head – well… sort’a

We push off out on the bay

Fish jumping and Porpoises making way

Gliding up to a rock leaning tower

We all enjoy a waterfall shower

Then we hoisted a spinnaker made tent

And sailed along singing until the wind was spent

With our destination in sight

We setup camp for the night

With a smile Cathy lends a hand

To gather wood from across the sand

Unpacking kayaks is part of it all

Keep track of your sunnies as there is no mall

Full of blatant innuendo

Entertained by a kayak dog rappo

Sharing kai moana around a fire

How could life get any higher

Although another whiskey would have been nice

It wasn’t required for our life of spice

Another day draws to an end

We retire to tents for slumber to mend

When dawn breaks in luminous ray

The melodious blackbird has her say

And so begins a brand new day

Full of adventure and joyous play

We kayak up to Toba Inlet

Enjoying another picnic set

Finding peace and tranquillity

To be found right here in Canada, BC.

By T.Parker

Also see Dons Blog for his in depth story of the trip

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Toba Trip 09

This trip started of as an innocent little five day trip, and turned into an epic adventure that captured the essence of what world wild adventures is about.

"a unique trip with a small passionate group, willing to push their limits to explore beautiful places and to explore their inner self."

As Bruce, Karen and myself headed out of Penrose Bay into Okeover inlet, it was a hot sunny day. Bruce casually but confidently remarked he would like to see the entrance to Toba inlet some 70 km north. I (not being one to discredit anything too quickly) smirked and said "we will see how we go and what the weather does," though at the same time I was chuckling in my mind thinking that most people barely make it around the head land and back in five days (hence we have a particular trip for Toba that entails about 6 days one way and a motor boat pick up from Toba back).

It quickly became clear that despite Bruce and Karen being on their first Multi day Sea kayaking trip, they had kayaked enough to have strength, stamina and team work together in a double kayak that rivaled most experienced paddlers!

We blew past our usual first night camp before lunch, being helped by the out going tidal current that swept us into the magnificent Desolation sound. We were not giving it our all but setting a good pace, a flow, a meditation in our strokes, as we observed and absorbed the surrounding beauty. The shinny round heads of seals, gazing at us through the whirls in the current next to a kelp bed, the great spread wings of the bald eagle that flew across the sun then landed in a tree above us, its gleaming white head cocking back as it let out its mighty yet beautiful shrill cry!

The day was hot and there was not much of a breeze. We pulled into a sheltered cove in Galley bay, where the glass flat water reflected the small cabins that surrounded it, with a wavering ghostly image. We ate our lunch looking out over the sound at the magnificent snow capped peaks of Vancouver island in the far off distance, as the green pointed trees of the north started to sway in a slight breeze that was building and promised to help push us even further to our final destination for the day; The Curme Islands.

The Curmes are a beautiful array of four islands at the NE end of desolation sound, they posse's magnificent vistas in all directions, drop toilets and warm ocean water to swim in, not to mention the prolific oysters that can be collected in the area. We set up camp on the southern most Curme, after a wonderful crossing through the southern part of desolation sound.

The wind had picked up to a moderate level as it does in the afternoon in this area, though it was warm and pleasant and only slightly hampered the speed of my cooking. We all slept that night with the tent flies off, letting the outside sky and air creep through our mesh enclosed tents.

As we fell asleep our last view was the stars and then we awoke to the sun creeping over the horizon and a still calm morning on the water.

The weather forecast was predicting rain to come with a low that night and the next day, though I felt confident we could actually make it to Toba and back in five days, as Bruce and Karen where both still energised after dinner the night before and also still before and after breakfast. Today we had to cover slightly more ground than we did the first day, though we could also get an earlier start. "If there was any five day trip that could make it to Toba and back this would be the one, with the currents running the way they are, how the wind is helping us to get up there, the fact that we are a small group quick to pack and set up and the fact that you two are strong enough". I told Bruce and Karen.

Bruce being a determined man that knew what he wanted and enjoyed a challenge, grinned. Karen, probably not quite sure what she was getting herself into, smiled and suggested we get on the move!

It was a magic day, no wind in the morning to hamper us and slight current against us, we awed at the mountain rimmed Homfray Channel, its peaks reflected in the light ripples on the surface of the inland sea, as we started heading north. it was not hard to imagine the glacier that once lived here, carving the shear sides of the channel hundreds of meters above the surface of the sea and hundreds below it. Despite its depth and glacial history the surface of the channel was warm. Not until we paddled over the outflow of a snow melt stream did we realize just how warm the sea really was. The air was even cold to our lungs as we breathed above the freshwater outflow that mingled with the salt water to make a murky haze below the kayaks bright hulls.

We landed on Lloyd Point for lunch, which was half way to our camp at attwood bay. As we sat in the sun eating, a breeze picked up and some clouds began to roll in. It began to cool off just as the hottest part of the day began and we slipped our boats silently back out across the deep green sea.

Paddling north into an increasing wind, we stopped to check a potential camp site that had a beautiful waterfall in the back though was still quite industrial looking from previous logging. We decided to push on, arriving at 6pm at our camp in Attwood Bay. I set up the kitchen and rain tarp as Bruce and Karen set up their tent, tonight it would certainly rain. The forecast was for rain all the following day, however the sky cleared up and the high tide, that had come in and confined us from our kayaks stashed above high tide down the beach, and us to our shady yet pretty wooded camp site, eventually withdrew and allowed us to stand out by the glassy flat water and eat our desert.

Despite the big day, Karen and Bruce where still very energised, staying up until about 10.30pm, while I was falling asleep on my feet.

We awoke to light rain, I made breakfast and prepared a packed lunch in case we just ate in our boats. Then we slid into our boats after eating and paddled north towards Toba inlet. Today was to be our relaxed day, though that changed when we reached Toba Inlet. As we approached the mouth of the inlet the rain increased to a steady light pour, and you could see the wind and the current pouring out of Toba into Homfray channel, nothing crazy though enough to slow our progress and make us realise just how sheltered the water we had been paddling on was.

Turning the corner we were not greeted with the high towering mountain vista Toba was known for, but with the strong winds and tidal chop it was also well known for. However this all been said, it provided an exhilarating paddle, I was ready to turn back as soon as Bruce and Karen wanted, however i also encouraged them to push on, especially when Karen was unsure of the rain hitting her face. The sight of the large falls on the northern shore was a dramatic lure to continue and Bruce and I with smiles on our faces, enabled Karen to find the fun in it all.

Eventually we got through the mess into quieter water and decided to try and cross the large inlet, as a worse case scenario simply meant the wind and current would push us back to where we came.

The wind almost seemed to pick up in disagreement with our attempt, though as we neared a sandy beach on the far side it gave up, the white caps subduing and the rain stopping. We stepped upon sand ( a rare treat in this area) and explored the beautiful campsite nestled amongst large cedars, then ate lunch as the clouds eventually opened up for a short while, bringing veiws of the mountains.

As we crossed the channel we had seen the magnificent falls that surge to the inlet from the mountains like a great silken veil beckoning. Now after lunch we paddled north towards it, where we sat below and bathed in its beauty and power.

On the paddle back to camp the rains were scattered, even the clouds allowed some sun to shine through for about half an hour and we skimmed over mirror flat water to our sheltered bay and pre made camp. On arriving at camp Bruce and Karen found a stream now flowing around their tent, then began a furious attempt to re route the water and dry the site. It worked and with the help of the dissipating rains, the camp was well drained and protected from further flooding before dinner. We had no fires due to a ban in progress though even without it, there was no appropriate place to be found, however it was not needed.

I woke early to an overcast sky though no rain, I packed up my tent then set to work on breakfast, we managed a quick pack up despite the soggy camp, and thanked the sky for saving the rain until we had our boats loaded and had pushed off onto the misty cool water.

Crossing to the far side of Homfray channel and traveling south this time along the shore of East Rhodonda Island. We had an amazing view of the coastal mountain range to the east, with its snow tipped peaks now clearly seen below the rising clouds. The water remained calm, the rain was sporadic, and after exploring a beautiful gulch with a freshwater cascade, the sun even came out for our lunch break.

However they say things must get worse before they get better and the weather is no different. We continued paddling south and watched a big black frontal system wrap around the peaks of East Rhodonda then pour down the sides towards us like a tidal wave. We paddled close to the shore as the squall hit us with hard rain and strong winds. Tucking into a small conveniently placed cove we sat and waited it out. Admiring the power and beauty of such and event and knowing we were lucky not to be out in the open sea in such an event, we continued on our way.

Later that day we crossed back to the Curmes passing buy a large group of seals that swam about us snorting and puffing at our rudeness to pass through their territory. The Curmes greated us with dry windy slopes that quickly dried our tents and gear as we set it out in full exposure. The sun came out eventually giving us a lovely sunset, though the chilly wind forced us to hide behind the rain tarp as a comfortable wind block. It was lovely to climb into a dry tent and sleeping bag and I slept like a stone until morning.

The Morning was an overcast one, though no mention of rain on the forecast was heard, and even if it did rain we were heading out today anyway. We ate a great gluten free pancake breakfast then hit the water, to find the day was going to be hot and clear.

As we pulled back into Malaspina Inlet and passed into Okeover Inlet back to Penrose bay looking at starfish along the way, we all laughed at how "when it rains you really want the sun to come out, though when the sun is out hot and strong, you hide in the shade wanting the clouds back!" It was great to have such a wonderful mix of weather in such a perfect combination, and to get up and see Toba inlet like no other commercial trip usually does at such a quiet time of year. We only sighted about 7 other kayakers, and that was mostly on one day.

I recommend to any one looking for an adventure of beauty, to check out Toba Inlet.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Sibun Gorge Solo

Here is a story and some images and a little video I got from my four day solo up the Sibun Gorge into the heart of the Belize Jungle.
I took an inflatable Aire Canoe which enabled me to pack it small then pump it up and have a very stable boat to line up river and run the white water back down.
This trip was an amazing. Challenging, rewarding, astonishingly beautiful and it left me wanting more
Day 1
I caught a ride from the office to the Sibun River put in, with the PACZ tours bus on their way back to Teakettle (a small town in Belize). I had been hearing stories of Xateros and how they steal things from people camping in the bush. Xater os are men who illegally collect the Xate palm for florist industry. They can be mischievous and are known to be occasionally Violent. This had me a touch nervous, as well as the stories of man eating Jaguars (though I Know there a very rarely attacks on humans from wild Jaguars) I was mostly nervous as I wanted to see one.IMG_2735
The trip started in agricultural land though by the third rapid and the end of the fourth big pool, I was entering the George and the jungle slipped closer and the signs of humans vanished. The pools where crystal clear and full of fish, and reflected warped impersonations of the large green trees that towered up and over the river. The rapids, slick with green algae and smooth granite boulders, where very frustrating and exhausting to line the boat up. However the pools got larger and longer, so more paddling was possible as I progressed.
I wonderful sandy spit on river left gave me a great first camp for the night. I witnessed Neo tropical Otters feeding right in front of me until they noticed my curious gazes and disappeared with a  splash.
That night I paddled further up stream and searched for what I could see In the Flashlight beam. I found a coffee snake swimming across the river, large water spiders on the banks, and a really big frog about the size of my foot.I ran back down the rapids, lit only by my head lamp, and paddled back towards my tent. Out of the night there came a gentle rumbling on the air. It sounded almost like someone snoring and sent shivers up my spine. I shone the light across the river towards the noise, though nothing was there to announce itself further. Was it the elusive Jaguar?
I slept sound that night; however I did dream of Jaguars drinking hot chocolate outside my tent.
Day 2
I awoke to the cool tranquil peace of the jungle, as the sun started to sneak over the mountains and flood the gorge with a golden light. I was on the water early and wanting to push as high as I could in the day. As I progressed the river started to resemble a New Zealand west coast river, big granite slabs that create deep pools that the beautiful rapids fill with an ongoing song like noisy gurgle and splash.The Rapids got increasingly larger and harder to portage, requiring me to carry the gear and then the canoe around the rapid, they would be fun to run back down however.
Large fish swam in the waters and I wished I had brought a spear gun, so I could roast one over a fire for dinner. I found a great camp site that evening on a granite slab that stuck out into the river. The wonderful thing about the site was the hot tub in front of the tent. The river diverted into a channel towards my tent slab then ran into a large pot hole, swirled around and flowed back into the main stream. The best thing about the pool was that you could stand in it and the depth was right at neck height for me, a perfect tub. The view up and down the gorge and the jungle covered mountains made this a spectacular camp.
That night I watched the stars while drinking coco nut rum, and then feel asleep, exhausted.The days are hot, and I am struggling to drink enough water, minor dehydration and sun burn are leaving me shattered after such a physical day.

Day 3
i sleep in a bit the next morning, and decided to keep my camp and head up river for the day then boat back down before night. It gave me a great opportunity to travel lighter and push later. I calculated that what I would take me all day to get up would take me about an hour to get back down.
The day was spectacular, some large portages due to tricky and slippery rapids, though I sighted many more otters as well as Toucans, Parrots and signs of Tapir. The side streams where spectacular to explore up as well. Some held deep pools to swim in that had a garden of Eden landscape around them ,as the sun glistened through the emerald backlit leaves and across the water I wanted to live here or at least make my bath tub like this.IMG_3007 IMG_3045 STC_3051
My last pool for the day was a beautiful long shallow one, and as I crested up over the rapid and stepped into the boat to paddle forward, I sighted a large black shape swimming away into the shade. “Wow now that is a big fish”! I exclaimed to no one else but me. I followed it into the shade below the tree. Looking into the water I saw the debris at the bottom of the pool get kicked up and a line of bubbles lead of to the bank. As I paddled over looking for the big fish in the water, I happened to scan up across the bank. There on the edge was a big Croc about 8 feet long, I stopped paddling and watched it with wonder, as I glided past the croc exploded into the water and left a stream of bubbles as I swam away. It wasn’t a fish I saw but a big Morlets crocodile. Cool. However after that I couldn’t talk myself into swimming in the deep pools anymore.IMG_2985 IMG_2986
An hour from sunset I turned the canoe and headed down stream. It was great to finally be able to run some of the rapids I had worked hard to get up. The feeling was exhilarating, even though the rapids were not huge, the feeling of being alone in the jungle, makes many simple things feel allot more risky. I arrived back at camp in good time and my camp and gear was still there, the Xateros where not in the mood for mischief today it seems. It took me two hours to come down a relaxed day of upstream travel.

Day 4
On the water by 8 am I enjoyed the ease of the trip out, Running shoots and drops, though I hadn’t brought my helmet so I backed out of a couple of bigger rapids. However the funny thing was that the smaller rapids caused the most issues, catching the boat and flooding it, where it just bounced down the big ones.What a spectacular river. It took me four hours to reverse two days of upstream travel though it was worth it. I wanted more time there was so much more river to see and on the map it splits and then there are two rivers to explore. I promised to return with two weeks’ worth of time and perhaps a Helicopter lift into the fork of the river?
I rolled up the boat and loaded my gear into my pack and sat on the side of the road and tried to wave down he buses travelling along. Eventually the PACZ bus turned up on its way back to Dangriga and I got a ride back with them, telling of course the stories of Xateros and Jaguars.