Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day 2: Heading Home

 First off, forgive the terrible quality of the pics. They were taken from the bus, through tinted smudged windows, at 70 mph (there isn't technically a speed limit in Belize)
On the way back from the docks, I grabbed a window seat in the tour bus and wanted to get some real estate shots. What you see in picture 1 is a typical house available to live in (and for sale) in Belize. They are on stilts because a lot of Belize floods during the rainy season.

Pic 2 shows some of the outlandish colours the houses are painted. This is commonplace to use whatever seems to be at hand, whether or not they go well together. 
Pic 3 here is an unfinished mansion. There were more than one that I saw during my stay in Belize. My guess is some rich couple started building it, and then lost their fortune in the stock market.

Day 2: The Return

Once we were done being in total awe of Lamanai, we still had the return trip by boat down the New River, back to the tour bus, and the ride back to the hotel. Most of my tour folks were worn out from the hike, climb, and heat, as evidenced here. 
The shot was a little too close, as I had my 80-200mm lens on, and didn't want to disturb them by changing lenses.
Our tour guide was kind enough on the way back to let them sleep all the way back to the docks.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Day 2: Lamanai

 So after lunch, it's a brisk walk to and through the ruins and surrounding areas. The original city of Lamanai has only been excavated to about 8 percent of original. It's difficult to explain the sense of age and permanence of the structures. When near them, and climbing their stairs to the top, you get a sense that they were built to last forever, and will be here long after mankind is gone. There is also the reminder that at some point in their past, they were used for sacrifices, and enough blood was shed to permanently stain the stonework.

The stairs were steep and built for the ruling caste, who were clearly much taller than my 6' frame, going up the stairs to the top was tiring, and heading back down was only accomplished with the utmost care, and usually in the squatting and scooting motions.
In the next to the last picture here, taken from the top of one of the ziggurats,  you can just barely make out a few people in the middle left of the picture. It was a long way down and I didn't mind one bit taking my time scooting down to get to the ground again. As a possible point of reference the palm trees were about 60 feet tall. We were up over 100 feet in the air, and I could plainly see just how flat most of Belize is, see the last picture for example, we were well above even the tallest trees, looking out past the New River and into the countryside beyond.  Nearly as flat as Texas, but much more interesting (sorry Texas.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

More Day 2, on the way to Lamanai

After lunch, the trek to Lamanai (Mayan Ruins) began. Along the way we ran across this little fellow high up in the trees, a Coatimundi. Sort of a raccoon fellow with a bit of monkey thrown in. He teased us by peeking in and out of the light that filtered through the jungle canopy. Nearby was a family of howler monkeys, but they stayed in the shadows, and being dark by design, were impossible to photograph clearly.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Day 2: Continued

 Continuing up the river, we started to see these snake-like plants all over the trees. Accurately enough, they are called Snake Cactus, and apparently fool the tourists. I was not fooled however! (riiiiight) 
Docking and having lunch, we were greeted by the little lizard fellow below. Known as a Jesus Lizard for its ability to run on water for short periods of time, they are more accurately called a Basilisk, and it's rare to see one with an intact snout. He was kind enough to pose for a picture before running off.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Recap from the trip: Day 2

 So our second day starts right proper and early, off to the New River for jungle exploration and wildlife watching, and then to the Mayan ruin, Lamanai. Along the way we'd see all kinds of exotic birds (who are darned hard to catch in flight with any degree of clarity),  reptiles of all shapes and sizes, strange new plants (I now know where air plants come from), and plenty of mammals, like the wild monkey pictured here. 
We stopped at a midway point and had a traditional lunch of jerked chicken with red beans and rice. I would soon learn I was going to be eating that dish a lot over the vacation. No matter, I loved it.
One of the other things we saw, were people fishing on the river for, well anything they could catch, colourful houses, Mormon enclaves and John McAfee's summer house (for sale for merely 1.25 million US.) Along the way our wonderful tour guide pointed out to us (there were a number of other people on the boat, including some wonderful Canadians, who I took pics of later) the hidden wonders of the river that we traveled. Bats dozing in the sun, termite mounds in trees, cactus plants that looked like tree pythons ready to pounce, and he kept up a steady stream of very bad puns (It's Unbelizeable!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Recap from the trip: Day 1

 So we arrive in Belize and right off the plane, things are different. For one, there is the old fashioned mobile staircase that attaches to the plane that you walk down. Two, the terminal has a live band playing while you go through the very light customs. A refreshing change from the sullen paranoia that permeates airports in the US.
By the time we got to the hotel, it was about 2pm and according to the desk clerks, Belize kind of shuts down at 5pm, so it's really too late to go out on an excursion into the wilds of the country.

So it's off to the pool instead. Here is where the reality of being in another country sets in, there are parrots flying over squawking at much larger birds of prey (some kind of vulture perhaps. The locals call them "eagles.")
And of course all the palm trees are laden with fresh coconuts. Anyway, here are two shots of the interior courtyard of my hotel. The pool never had anyone in it, so I had it all to myself the entire week. Now that's a vacation!
In addition, the bar that night (I don't drink, but I did visit to check it out) was playing calypso music. Fair enough, but the lyrics of the song were about the movie Terminator.
Sung by a woman who sounded a lot like Sade.

I could get used to this place...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Greetings From Belize!

Greetings to all my visitors from the sunny country of Belize!
I'm here on vacation for a week or so, but if I like the place (and it looks like I'm going to) then I may stay and become a ski instructor ;-)
It's 85 degrees here and about 90% humidity. In other words, just the way I like it. It's around 2.30pm here and the city apparently rolls up around 5pm, so today I'm hanging by the pool at the hotel. Tomorrow is the exploration of the Mayan ruins and river rafting. The day after that I will be doing kayaking and cave tubing.
Will have lots of wonderful pics (I hope) to share with you soon.
In the meantime, I'm turning on the A/C!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Another Rant

This journal is about photography. It's not about my political viewpoint, my societal viewpoint, world views or anything of that nature. I'm a photographer. I'm not a politician, or an actor, or an economist, or anyone that affects the way the world works. The way I see it, you come here for my pictures, not for my rants, and certainly not for my jokes (nudge nudge wink wink know say no more!)

So I keep these things down to a dull roar, only ranting about things photography related (or the rare soup one.)
Unfortunately I feel the need to rant once more. So to my dear readers, if you don't want to read a long-winded tirade, feel free to go back to looking at my pictures. I certainly won't mind, as I don't care to read rants either. For those that are still with me, here it goes:

Back in the late 80s and early 90s I worked at pet stores, working with reptiles and salt water systems. Back then, the only reptiles you could get, for acceptable amounts of money, were wild caught. Having been wild caught, they came with parasites and varying health, typically poor. They were stressed, starved, dehydrated and generally pissed off. Feeding was an issue because white mice, the most common food item available at a pet store, is not something found in the wild, so a vast majority of snakes simply refused to recognize them as food. 
I got to be very good at my job, rehabilitating, rescuing, reviving and feeding, these sad cases. I am ever so thankful that those dark days are behind us, and the reptiles available these days are captive bred and lack all those issues I dealt with decades ago.
Which is not to say they've been completely eradicated.

Enter "Lucky"

Lucky is an 11 year old Royal (nee Ball) Python. Lucky is half-starved, dehydrated, freaked out and very ill.
He was given to me by a guy who could no longer care for the snake.
The tank was too small, there were no hiding places, no water, no heat and it had never been cleaned. That the snake is still alive is a testimony to the resilience of Royal Pythons.

I am not certain he will live. I bleached the tank, put fresh paper down, got Pedialyte for him to drink, a hide box, full spectrum/heat light and some food. Lucky was too weak to constrict his prey, so fortunately the prey item didn't put up a struggle. Royal Pythons are supposed to be stocky bodied and round. Lucky is triangle-shaped. I can count his ribs and see his backbone.

This kind of neglect pisses me the hell off. The information out there on reptile care is legion. Royal Pythons are generally a forgiving bunch to begin with. Cases like this should have been consigned to the dust bin of history, and yet it's clearly still present in the reptile community.

Lucky is currently hiding, as Royal Pythons are wont to do, so no pictures of him, but when he de-stresses enough to come out, I will post a picture of him. 

Owning an animal as a pet is a responsibility. Their entire health and well being are in our hands. If we are unable, or unwilling to shoulder that responsibility, then we should not have a pet. Anyway, this concludes the rant, and I hope only to post positive comments on Lucky's health from now on.