Thursday, April 30, 2009

BTB Swine Flu Info Link - perpetually updated

The Belize Tourism Board sent out a link for the most up to date reports on the status of the swine flu situation in Belize. You can access it here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


As we expected, we received a notification about swine flu from the BTB. This is a copy of our email:

From the Belize Tourism Board, April 29th. 6:00 p.m.


The occurrence of swine flu in Mexico and several countries throughout the world has raised concerns for travelers and our businesses in regards to the prevention of transmissions and the impact on travel plans. As this situation is rapidly evolving you are urged to keep updated on the worldwide and local situation.

The Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture and the Belize Tourism Board have not been advised of any confirmed cases in Belize and maintain contact with our local health authorities to closely monitor any new developments. We will share with you any information that is forthcoming and have included helpful resources at the end of this message including a link to the Belize Ministry of Health website at -

Please be advised of the following, excerpted from April 29th releases from the Belize Ministry of Health:


It has been reiterated that the closing of borders is not recommended as it is not recommended by International Health Regulations. Surveillance and screening of visitors at the northern and western border continues. Surveillance and screening at the Phillip Goldson International Airport will begin on Thursday, April 30th.

Any sick person on board a vessel (including a cruise ship) will not be allowed to leave the ship and come on onshore.

A meeting with stakeholders took place on April 27, 2009 to discuss the multi-sectoral approach in responding to the potential introduction of Swine Flu. Participants included:
Office of the Director of Health Services, Ministry of Health
National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO)
Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA)
Regional Health Managers of the Ministry of Health
Ministry of Education
Cuban Medical Brigade Coordination
The Ministry of Health has established a Hot Line for the public from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm. the number is 629-5604 and will be handled by Nurse Augustina Eligio, stationed at MOH HQ.

With the underlying principle of preventing any potential transmission of Swine Flu in the country of Belize, the Ministry of Health through the Director of Health Services, in accordance with Section 83 of the Public Health Act, has issued a directive to postpone all major public gatherings until further notice. This includes the following events:

The Annual General Meeting of the Holy Redeemer Credit Union Belize City
Morgan Heritage Musical Concert, Belize City
The University of Belize Fundraising Event – Spring Fling 2009, Belmopan
National Agriculture and Trade Show,Belmopan
Cashew Fest, Crooked Tree
Hermanos Ponce Circus, Belize City
- End of Ministry of Health release -


Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

From The World Health Organization(WHO)
WHO advises no restriction of regular travel or closure of borders.
It is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention, in line with guidance from national authorities.
There is also no risk of infection from this virus from consumption of well-cooked pork and pork products.

For Tourism Businesses:
Ensure a high level of sanitation in your property to minimize the spread of any infection. Health experts recommend frequent hand washing and use of alcohol-based hand cleaners. Cover your nose or mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as germs spread in this manner.
Any employee who exhibits flu symptoms should stay at home, minimizing contact with others. If flu symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical treatment.
Maintain a level of concern, not panic. At this point there is no reason to discourage people from traveling to or within Belize.
Individuals should be encouraged to take common sense steps to protect themselves including maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle with adequate sleep, proper nutrition, controlling stress and maintaining physical fitness.

For individuals - Take everyday actions to stay healthy.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
Stay home if you get sick. Stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.
Develop a family emergency plan as a precaution. This should include storing a supply of food, medicines, facemasks, alcohol-based hand rubs and other essential supplies.
Additional Resources
Belize Ministry of Health -
The World Health Organization:
The Center for Disease Control:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Since so many people have asked...

...this is what we know about the swine flu situation in Belize. This link is a news story from yesterday's Channel 7 news. Beyond this, we haven't heard anything and haven't noticed people around here even being aware of it. There's a thread about it on the Belize Forum because people are wondering how it will affect travel, but so far we haven't heard of any official government position on that issue, and if the Belize Tourism Board issues any notices, we'll receive them via email - and I'll post them here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Funny Ferry Tale

Things can be so strange here. Yesterday Tom and I drove to Spanish Lookout, and decided to take the ferry rather than driving the long way around over the bridge. As we pulled up behind the single car waiting for the ferry to get back to our side of the river, we saw the driver look in her rear view mirror, and then jump out of the car and run back to us as though she had been waiting for us. We both looked at her as she got to Tom’s window, and she blurted out “I’m afraid of the ferry! Will you go in front of me?” She was obviously very upset, so Tom, being the ever helpful Tom, asked her if she would like him to drive her car on and off the ferry for her. “Oh yes, I would really appreciate that! My husband said I should go this way because it’s so much shorter, and I didn’t want to do it, but I did, and then I wished I didn’t, and I’m so glad you pulled up behind me to help!” We couldn’t help but laugh, but she was so obviously relieved and had worried so much about this, that we were only too happy to help her. She had a legitimate concern with the ferry – the river is low, the ferry bounces, and sometimes getting the first car on the ferry can be a little bit of a trick if the car is small and gets to the ramps when they’re bouncing up. She was driving a Geo Metro, so I drove on first with Bluebell and waited on the ramp until Tom had her front tires on the ferry. I pulled on, he pulled on, the woman walked on, and we chatted as we were cranked across the river. When we got to the other side, I was the first off and actually had to wait a minute or two for the ferryman to get the ferry ramps positioned on the cement ramp – or I could have driven off into the bushes! But, once we were docked, I drove off, Tom drove the Geo off behind me, then the woman got in her car, Tom got in ours, and we were all off, safely on our way to Spanish Lookout!

Ariana, Josh, Rachel, & Ian

This past weekend we had a fabulous time with Ariana, Josh, Rachel, and Ian from Massachusetts. This was their first visit to Belize, and they wanted to spend some time in Cayo seeing the archeological sites and wildlife, and the rest of their vacation on the coast in Hopkins, where they could do some water activities and some more hiking in the jungle, along with a bit of beach time.

While they were here, they took a hike with Selwyn to Big Rock Falls, where they swam and ate lunch. Tom met them there with Bluebell, and as soon as they got here they jumped in their car and took off for Barton Creek Cave. They did the amazing ATM tour the next day, followed by a full day at Caracol with stops at Rio Frio Cave and Rio On Pools.

As if that wasn’t enough activity, the morning they left we saddled up Ness and Tony and Tom and I walked while Ariana and Josh rode to the Green Hills Butterfly Ranch.

Rachel and Ian drove down and we all took the tour, complete with lots of photographs.

Josh is an amazing photographer with incredible patience.

But we still had to rely on Tom with his old Sony Cybershot to get this picture of the butterfly landing on Ariana’s arm!

Because they live in northern Massachusetts and spend most winter weekends skiing in Vermont, we knew lots of places in common. And, they brought us real Vermont maple syrup, so we could really enjoy our waffles!

We also now have a whole box of books and school supplies which Tom and I will be taking into 7 Miles this week where they are much needed – so we have to thank Ariana, Josh, Rachel and Ian for all the stuff, as well as for giving us a really fun weekend. They promised another visit to Belize, and we’ll do our best to continue to remind them of that promise!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Haircut Lessons For Marge

Marge has been grooming horses and dogs for years but had never attempted to cut my hair. Now that we live in the jungle, I hadn’t had my haircut since Tamis was here around Christmas around 4 months ago, and the only ones we have found to cut my hair are the local kids, she decided it was time for her to put her “skills” to the test.

Armed with a Wahl hair clipper set, complete with a set of directions on how to be a successful hairdresser (LOL), she went to work.

Now, my favorite part about getting my haircut was that I can sit and watch the birds right in the horse pasture as Marge went to work. I made Marge stop when I spotted the small bright blue bird we have been trying to identify as she was shearing off the locks on the back of my head. My LEAST favorite part of getting my haircut us we have to run the generator (but we had to run water up the hill anyway so we made good use of the big generator being on) and we have to listen to the noise.

After some finishing touches, here’s the end result. Man, I now feel like a horse that has traveled from NY in the winter to FL and had my winter blanket cut off; nice and cool. Marge was worried that she wouldn’t get it to come out right but I reassured her that SHE was the one that had to look at my hair all the time (not ME) so what do I care? Also, if she REALLY messed it up? Well, we could just get out the Gillete and shave it all right down and start again, it will keep on growing back and, besides, it would be a bit cooler that way!

End results in my book, “Great job Marge”! Now she can become a beautician here in Belize. Next she can start practicing on my nails and callouses.

Bravo for Bravo Motors!

We just got a flier from Bravo Motors last week. We purchased our little Isuzu from them on the day before Christmas, 2008 and they asked for our feedback. Then we find ourselves in their New Customer Corner. Thank you, Bravo, our little truck is doing great up here in the mountains.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Armed with only a machete…

Tom managed to chop down (in 5 minutes right where he wanted it to fall), chop up, and move this gumbo limbo tree which our horses had girdled.

It actually had some new leaves coming out on its branches, but between the fact that the horses had girdled it, and that it had termite trails running up it, Tom decided it was time for it to go. Turns out that was a good decision since the termites were eating it from the inside out.

We now have 2 new starts to gumbo limbo trees back behind the guest cabin. We will see if they grow like everyone says they do. The rumor is, all you have to do is stick the branches in the ground and they grow! We will keep you posted.

She’s Baaacckk…

Marjie had been here the week before last, and left last weekend to go to her property in northern Belize, so we were delighted when we got an email from her on Monday that it turned out she had a few extra days and wanted to come back. So, her second visit overlapped with Steve and Hannah’s, and she was actually able to spend a few days here without working on our horses’ feet since she’d finished everybody the week before. However, she couldn’t stay away from the horses, and ended up hanging out for a few hours a day for a couple of days at the Blancaneaux stables, where she’ll be helping them out a little when she’s here for good. We, of course, are thrilled, since not only will we then get to hang out with them, but we’re ensured good care for our horses’ feet! I think most of Cayo will be thrilled to have a professional horsewoman in the area, and I'm certainly pleased that some of the locals around here will be able to see that if I'm odd because I'm female and passionate about horses, at least I have company.

Steve & Hannah

Steve and Hannah visited us from Alaska for a few days last week, and were lucky enough to have their visit coincide with the blossoming of the Cortes tree. Steve is a scientist who studied wildlife in Belize for a number of years before settling in Alaska, and Steve decided it was time to show his teenaged daughter Hannah where he and his wife used to live and work. We knew we’d like them right away, first because they were referred here by Sharon, and second, because we found out within a few minutes of conversation that the reason Steve and Hannah were traveling without Steve’s wife and son (Hannah’s mother and brother) was that they have a dog with a heart condition who also suffers from separation anxiety, and they’re afraid he could die if the entire family left him. Hmmm…I think Tom and I know more people than most who tailor their vacation plans around their animals.

While they were here, Steve and Hannah visited Chechem Ha Cave and Xunantunich, spent a day exploring ATM, and then went up into the Mountain Pine Ridge to 1000 Foot Falls to see a falcon – not the falls – with a stop for fun at Big Rock. We’re just hoping we get to meet the other half of the family eventually!

So brief!

We have a tree over our cabin called the Cortes tree, and it erupts in brilliant yellow flowers once a year for two or three days. Then the flowers fall off and make the ground beautiful for a day or two, and then they dry up altogether.

This was the Cortes tree on March 29. If you look closely, you can see two toucans in the branches in the upper left.

This is the tree same tree on April 9. Beautiful.

Here it is from a greater distance. It really is right over our house.

And here it is today. So sad! We have to wait another year before this flashy tree shows off for us again.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


We moved directly from the cool rainy season into the hot dry season. The temperature was over 90 every day for the past week, although it’s hard to complain with all the sunshine. It’s been so hot that our candles melt!

We’ve also moved directly into forest fire season, with one fire in the Mountain Pine Ridge the week before last that caused some guests to pack up and leave Five Sisters Lodge, and one this week that had Hidden Valley and some of the farms around there very worried. We went out gallivanting on Thursday because Marjie was here, and we ran into Melina who owns Bull Run Farm near Hidden Valley, and she said all of their workers were dedicated to fighting the fire. We then went and had a great lunch with Rich and Cindy in Belmopan, and on the way home, we could see the smoke spreading from the Mountain Pine Ridge. On Thursday evening the three of us went to Blancaneaux for a beer, and when the sun set, we could see the glow of the fire through the hills. People are a little worried because it’s also been windy, so the fires have been able to jump roads and creeks that would normally contain them. We’re having another hot and sunny day today, so Tom and I are planning to head up to Big Rock for a swim this afternoon, so we’ll see what the fire status is then.

Got ‘im!

My limited patience finally paid off and I managed to get a photo of one of the baby Golden-Olive Woodpeckers sticking his head out of the nest hole. I’m still trying for a photo of one of the parents, who are very beautiful.Tom is a little more patient than I am, and he got this shot.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Woodshop Projects

Over the past few weeks, in between guests, Selwyn and I have made 4 more suitcase stands and 2 beds for Mark’s house. Since he was coming down this time with the entire family, he needed more furniture.

I am always amazed that we can take just ordinary looking lumber down here, cut it up, sand it, and then assemble it to make very pretty furniture. We have not been staining or finishing the wood since the wood is so hard and beautiful when left natural.

Not sure the next wood shop projects are going to be. I have bedside tables to make, chairs, and a wardrobe for Marge & I, so we have a place to put our clothes (we are still living out of the plastic drawers we bought for the camper). I have also been talking to some people about making some furniture for their homes. Who knows, maybe we will become Moonracer Farm and Furniture!

And, to facilitate the furniture building, we just took scrap lumber and made some very sturdy workbenches for the shop porch.

Friendships Never Fade

Tom and I had a completely awesome day yesterday visiting with our old friends (or long-term friends as one friend said I should say now that we’re approaching an age that the kid-generation could term “old”) Bob and Tere from Prattsburg, NY. We’ve known Bob and Tere for 25 years, ever since I worked with Bob at my first job out of college, and then Tom became very involved with the Prattsburg Boy Scout troop, of which Bob was the Scout Master. We’ve stayed in touch since we’ve moved here, and a couple of months ago Bob emailed and told us that he and Tere were planning a cruise that had a one-day stop in Belize. Tom and I have spent the past couple months planning the perfect day in Belize (with the help of Sharon at the Zoo), and yesterday was it.

We left home at 5:30am to meet Bob and Tere at Tourism Village in Belize City, where they disembarked from the tender. Fortunately we met a guide we know at Tourism Village, who told us the process for getting visitors’ passes into Tourism Village so we could go in to find Bob and Tere. By 7:45 we were on the road to Cheers, a restaurant near the Zoo, where we had a delicious breakfast. I had my third fry jack since we’ve lived here and Tere fulfilled her craving for a real tamale, while Tom and Bob had slightly less Belizean breakfasts, although Bob did have a flour tortilla. While at Cheers I finally got to meet Chrissy face-to-face. Chrissy is one of the owners, and she and I have been emailing for months exchanging horse information since she’s also a horse nut. Then George, our neighbor from up near Hidden Valley, stopped for breakfast with his son, and we were able to introduce Bob and Tere to “our Belize.”

We left Cheers and headed to the Zoo, where we walked around and looked at the animals, talking non-stop, until about 11:00 when we met up with Sharon near Junior Buddy’s enclosure. That meeting was funny because I had described Sharon to Tere, and while Bob, Tom, and I were still around the corner watching Junior Buddy, Tere had settled on a bench. She saw a woman who fit my description of Sharon, so, being Tere, she jumped up and introduced herself. The three of us saw Sharon and Tere come around the corner talking like old friends, and Sharon invited us to go in for a Junior Buddy Encounter in the cage within the cage.

Tere declined – she was hot and ready to go tubing – but the rest of us went in the cage with Sharon and kissed, scratched, patted, and oohed and aahed over what a beautiful animal the now-2-year-old jaguar has become.

We left the Zoo right around noon and after a few logistical decisions, headed to the Sibun River for our tubing adventure. This involved dropping our truck at the end point River Camp and piling into the Zoo truck to get dropped about an hour’s float upriver. We had a delightful float down the river, watching the birds, spying the iguanas, trying to steer around branches and rocks in the river, and talking, talking, talking.

We arrived at the River Camp about an hour later, where John had set up a beautiful Belizean lunch for us – chicken, rice and beans, slaw, and Belikin. The only downside to all this fun was that we’d all been having such an enjoyable time, none of us had been checking our watches, and we suddenly realized that we had about 45 minutes to get Bob and Tere back to Tourism Village to catch the last tender to their cruise ship at 3:00. We piled up our dishes so we didn’t leave John too much of a mess, had John snap a couple of pictures of the four of us, quickly changed into dry clothes, jumped into Bluebell and started the mad dash into Belize City.

Well, it was sort of a mad dash. We went fast enough on the dirt road away from the River Camp that I managed to bang my head on the ceiling as we hit a bump in the road, but Bluebell’s speed was sorely tested. Tom and I have known that Bluebell doesn’t have much power – she is a “third world vehicle” after all – but we were really feeling it as we were watching the minutes tick by on the digital clock as Tom kept the gas pedal floored and we approached Belize City at the amazing speed of about 107 kilometers per hour, Bluebell’s top speed on the flat. None of the four of us said anything as 3:00 ticked past and we were still about 5 miles from the tender, and then Tom asked what happened if they missed the boat. Bob very wisely said that he wasn’t sure, and while he might get upset about being late back in their real life in NY, he wasn’t going to get upset on vacation until it was necessary. I told Bob and Tere that things always worked out in Belize, and I wasn’t going to get upset unless it was necessary either. Tere smiled and shrugged, and Tom apologized repeatedly and kept the gas pedal floored until we got into Belize City, and then simply went as fast as possible.

We hit Tourism Village at 3:08, piled out for quick hugs, and then Bob, Tere, and I dashed into the terminal. The security guards at the gate told them they just made it, and they dashed through the doors as I fumbled in my wallet for ID to exchange for the Visitor’s Permit. Tom charged through the doors with his ID just as I got mine out, and we went out to make sure Bob and Tere were on the tender. They weren’t. BUT….the last tender was radioed back to pick them up, and after an abbreviated docking job, Bob and Tere jumped on and headed back towards their ship, Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas. This picture is of the ship on the far left, the next to last tender heading back to the terminal in the middle, and the last, delayed tender carrying Bob and Tere back to their ship on the far right. Phew! While the last 45 minutes of the day were a little stressful, we were glad that we knew we’d spent every possible minute visiting and enjoying ourselves.

We’re also glad that this was our first real experience doing anything with cruise ship passengers beyond just joining them for a tour (as we did with friends cave tubing last spring), and that Bob and Tere were so easy going about it. Then, for the ride home, we ended up meeting our guide friend who had helped us in the morning, and we gave him and two other guides from Cayo a ride home. They told us that next time we needed to get the terminal’s phone number, and if we were running late we could call and make sure the tender would wait. We wish we had known that this time, but next time we meet somebody from a cruise ship, we don’t intend to push it all the way to the limit again!