It really is paradise here. *travel cliche alert* The sand is soft and white, the seas are turquoise and crysal clear i have no doubt that the mangrove trees lining the shore are green and lush and there is lobster being barbequed on the beach. The Belizeans are a friendly bunch and chat and smile as you walk past -as they try and sell their jerk chicken. The little shacks are painted rainbow colours and sell jewellery pieces made out of shell even the fruit and veg stall has a wacky reggae names: Da Roots.
I enquire about PADI – but they don't have the literature for PADI only an equivalent. I spend the day at "The Split" drinking frozen pina coladas and sunbathing - watching the Belizeans' dive into the strong currents and swim to the little island over the way.
In the evening i go back with some girls I make friends with at the hostel to watch the sunset and drink more cocktails - then we find a little bar that has swings for seats and one of the Brits demonstrates her pole dancing moves. There is much silly posing with boobs and pouts.
The next day I do a day trip to go snorkelling that's been recommended. Aside from the nausea at the beginning its incredible. The Captain is a big Belizean with dreadlocks - the fish seem to know him as he is followed in the water by a bunch of stripey long nosed fish. They are Grouper groupies....! Almost as entertaining as watching the fish follow him around is watching one of the woman on the boat thrust her ample curves in his direction and walk off with him at the end of the trip....
We see huge reef sharks circling in the clear waters and he picks one up so we can stroke his stomach which feels rough and scaly. Then we are joined by massive Rays. They swim gently around underfoot -the Captain picks one up and we stroke his soft underfin. I am so happy i am gurgling out oohs and aahs underwater through my snorkle. Its absolutely gorgeous being surrounded by such gentle peaceful giants, the beautiful clear water and the hot sun and the great looming shadows of the stingrays all around me. We even see turtles with their little wry smiles and scaly paws making their way through the sea weed.
Back on the boat and the Captain's second in command is making fresh prawn ceviche by shelling shrimp into a huge bowl and squeezing over lime juice and mixing it with chopped tomatoes and coriander. They are distributed out in massive stainless steel bowls of tortilla crisps with lashings of plentiful rum cocktail to accompany. Simple but very tasty.
In the evening I go for a meal with the two Brits and Jen. We go to a lobster shack on the beach and I have huge grilled lobster in garlic butter. We are all knackered and bites keep appearing up my arm so I want to get away from mosquitos and get an early night.
The next day and I am sick. I mean really sick. I have stomach cramps, an upset stomach that is producing something of an ominous watery yellow gray colour (sorry) aching in my lower back and all down my legs. I'm running a fever and the mosquito bites are running all the way from the tops of my shoulders down my arms and have swollen up into blistery heads.
I am too ill to get out of bed for a long time. Because i'm in a private room i can't see anyone to ask for their help. This - i think - is the downside to travelling by oneself.
Finally I haul myself up because I know I must get to a pharmacy. I want to change hostels as i am in the jungly back bit of the island and that must be why i'm getting bitten so much - but I don't have the energy to pick up my backpack let alone walk with it the 10 mins or so to the beach front.
The pharmacist gives me electrolytes to rehydrate my body (becuase I've had an upset stomach since Guatemala which has just got worse my body has become completely dehydrated) antibiotics to kill the stomach virus and calamine lotion for the bites.
I go back and die in bed for another night and then make a decision to leave Belize early. Paradise has been lost, i'm way too ill to even contemplate doing my PADI and the bites running all the way along my body mean i am in itchy hellish agony.
I have put so much mosquito spray with DEET in it on that the skin is peeling off the palms of my hands.
On saturday I somehow manage to make my way into another hostel by the beach (yuma's...where i'd originally been planning to stay. I still wake up with two huge – what I think are sand fly bites - oeon the pulse point on my wrist and one on my forearm They have blistered up as have all my other bites.
I decide to head off early to Cancun and relative civilisation and hole up in an airconditioned hotel near to a better pharmacy and hospital should I need it. I figure that the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza in Cancun are also going to be striked off the list...
I get to the dock for the boat to the mainland and see the Norwegian guy from the hostel - Antti. He is short with a goatee and blonde bobbed hair and wry senseof humour. He eyes my bites and then the skin that is peeling away from the palms of my hands
“I'm falling apart!" i say.
“In years to come they will name this illness after you. Did you hear about 'Didinal Syndrome.' they'll say..."