A Clash of Cultures in Paradise

Bluefield Range, Belize

Bluefield Range Resort

Another astonishingly pleasant day. After pulling up anchor at about 11:00 a.m., just a scant 4 hours later we crept into a perfectly sheltered little bowl amidst three mangrove cays with about 12 feet under us. The trusty cruising guide spoke of the “Bluefield Range Resort” on the southern tip of the westernmost cay, but binocular surveillance showed a ramshackle collection of stilt buildings with all doors and windows open and looking pretty well abandoned.

The post-nap dinghy trip over to the “resort” confirmed that the place was indeed deserted, but not abandoned. The cay is barely a quarter mile long and maybe 50 yards wide at the widest point, with a few scrubby trees and mangroves along the north end. The grounds appeared raked, there was no trash or flotsam on the shoreline, there was a neat fire/trash pit, and the place looked tidy. When we found a laundry bucket with warm water and clean clothes in it, we got a little spooked, as there was no evidence of anybody around.

We decided to walk along the docks connecting the stilt huts, and from out of nowhere, a man quietly appeared from one of the huts. He greeted us in limited English, and we gathered that he was there to “watch the resort for the owners.” We asked his permission to look around further, and found a collection of half a dozen or so little huts, each with a bedframe and bedside chest, wooden floor, and white-painted lounge chair out front. “Resort” was more than stretching the term. It reminded us of the wilderness cabins the forest service maintains in Alaska – nothing but the barest, most primitive shelter.

The man said he had been on the cay since June – that makes it 9 months! He appeared clean, tidy, and well-fed, but we were compelled to ask how often someone came by with provisions. “Weekly,” he said, but his provisioner was a few days late this time because he was ill. He was out of fuel for the generator, but had plenty of water. A glimpse into a doorway behind him showed a primitive, if well-stocked little kitchen, with neatly stacked crockery, pots and pans, and canned goods.

In a way, he was also the owner’s real estate agent, explaining the resort was for sale – that the owner was asking $500,000 Belize for it (about $250,000 US). Great price for the island, but the buildings weren’t much more than salt-washed kindling.

Later that evening, as the sun went down and we sat on the back deck looking over toward the “resort,” we couldn’t help speculating about the guy. Did he need anything? What about communications? Did he have a radio? Enough food?

Bluefield Range Chart

I suppose this won’t be the first of the culture clash conversations we will have. Who are we, comfortable and prosperous in our floating home with ice, generator, frozen food, electronic entertainment, and way too much clothing, to assume this man needs anything? He gets up with the light, and goes to sleep with the dark. He is only about 20 miles from Belize City, a half-hour by speedboat. The “resort” is listed in the cruising guide, and probably visited several times a week by yachties of one sort or another. He’s fine.

And so are we. We turned the anchor light off at about 9:00 p.m. so that we could sit on the sun deck and look at stars, which we don’t often get to see in the “civilized” world of light pollution. It’s definitely contributing to the kindling of a tiny “glee” spark to note the Southern Cross rises fairly early in the night and stays constant.

Off tomorrow for the Fly Range and Garbutt Cay.

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