Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Caye Caulker-Belize

What is there to say about Caye Caulker? Well it is surely a little slice of paradise. A jewel sparkling in the Caribbean. We took a water taxi lasting about 45 minutes from Belize City

Passing numerous mangrove swamps and coral reefs along the way. We disembarked,

turned left

and made our way along the beach and some hotels

towards the airstrip to find the Ignacio Beach Cabins which we had read about in Footprints. We had spotted them as the boat arrived-see to the left this photo-the cabins are on stilts

We checked into our cabin for just BZD 45 (approx £15) cheap for here but expensive compared to Guatemala where you could stay in a hotel for about £2-3 a night. Anyhow we wanted to explore the island and do some snorkelling, and so you have to swallow the expense sometimes!

And here it is

Shabby and sparse but at least it has a bed, a cold shower, loo and sink. And the view is loverly!

Then we went for a walk

to find out about day trips out to the coral reef to do some snorkelling and also about canoeing and dingy sailing. We planned to stay 3 nights. We stopped off for an ice cream and sat on log on the beach to eat it

David made a canine friend instantly! We passed the local police station with an interesting public information notice painted on its exterior

Then we went for a walk to the 'Split' at the north end of the island where the Lazy Lizard bar acts as a magnate for beach beauties, their long haired hippy fellas and ogling rastafarians all to a backdrop of ear splittingly loud reggae and rap-yuk! Actually the Split offers the only clear place to swim on the island as it is largely circled by sea grass, so you have to wade about 100yds before getting to clear water. It is known as the 'Split' after hurricane Hattie in 1961, swept away part of the island dividing it in two. But the 'Split' has a small clean beach and crystal clear water so long as you don't go too far out and get carried away by a fast current!

Anyway we came upon a man proudly showing off this magnificent 'Jew' fish caught that morning with a harpoon

May all beings be happy!

He reckoned it weighed about 100lbs. Apparently the head, lips and eyes are a delicacy-yuk!

The following day we had booked in with Ragamuffin The plan was to join the Ragga Gal
for the day visiting Coral Garden, Shark and Ray Alley and Hol Chan Reserve to snorkel.

David had bought a small disposable underwater camera so he could take snapshots as we snorkelled. Sadly it jammed at around the twentieth photo. Anyway when we have it developed and put on disk we will hopefully have some more photos to post. In the meantime, here is one of nurse sharks feeding

Then we jumped in and swam with them. They are about 5-6 feet long. Patrick our skipper held one so we could touch it. They have a really rough skin. There were also sting rays some of which were huge, about 5 feet from wing to wing. They have very soft skin.

Then we headed to the reef

You can see here the waves breaking over it. I guess we had been sailing for about an hour to get to it. The dark water is where there is coral. The lighter water has just sand below the surface. Here is a photo of the other Ragga boat and the snorkellers

and me after a long snorkel before lunch

One thing about Caye Caulker are the Trade Winds which blow constantly. This works to keep us cool, but everything is constantly salty – not sandy, but the air and constantly our clothes end up really salty. And at night the wind howls around the cabin so we have to wear our ear plugs or we would never sleep. Here is a photo of the net curtain constantly stuck to our ceiling by the wind whipping through the shutters

We have a regular visitor an Iguana we have temporarily named Ian. Not sure why!!

Another thing about the island are the conch shells. They are piled up along the beach and some folks use them decoratively around their houses

Of course local folk also make jewellery using the pink inner part of the shell. But it is pricey, about 45 BZD or $22.50 (approx £15) for a pair of earrings or a pendant necklace. It is amazing how the cost of souvenirs has sky rocketed since Guatemala.

On our second full day, we walked around the south of the island, which is completely undeveloped save for a few isolated and apparently deserted and or 'for sale' American style mansions.

There is a big push here to attract people to buy parcels of land and build. The main drawback it seems to us is that you can walk around the island in about an hour. The south is pretty bleak, though with stunning views but no beach to speak of, and the sea is crowded with sea weed-which is why many properties have small piers out into the sea to clearer water

Unless you fish, sail, snorkel and scuba dive, there is not much else to do. Although Belize city is only 45 minutes by water taxi, it has little to redeem it. So quite quickly you could get island fever. But the walk was very pleasant through mangrove swamps

along piers

past the short airstrip

which is quite busy. A small dock

some ugly ex-pat houses

some pretty local houses

past a guy gutting fish and feeding entrails to the birds

and back to our little cabin and view

We had a quiet day as David had got quite sunburnt on his back and legs from snorkelling. Even though he put put P20 on liberally. But the sun is very intense and you need to put sun tan lotion on regularly it seems.

On our third morning we walked into town for breakfast at Amor y Cafe as it had been recommended in the Frommers guide and it was very pleasant. David had granola, yoghurt and fresh fruit. I had scrambled eggs and home made whole wheat toast-a treat! Since leaving San Pedro, it has been hard to find a breakfast to equal the super fruity pancake served at Cafe Atitlan and by Leti. And folk always seemed so pleasant.

We have actually found that there seems to be an air of indifference towards tourists on the island. At Syd's a place we went to for lunch, again recommended by our guide book, the owner was sullen. At Wish Willy's the owner was rude to everyone. When we asked a guy renting kayaks if we could rent one, he said dismissively that he was going out, but that his wife might want to 'get involved with it', but he didn't (she was nowhere to be seen). Even when we arrived at the cabins to enquire about vacancies, the owners son didn't look at us, he just talked to us whilst, playing with his mobile. All around whenever we asked for something, we were met with indifference. It was really disheartening. We decided that the 'Go slow' motto of Caye Caulker actually means 'can't be arsed Caulker'.

The best restaurant in terms of value for money, service and food, was Tropical Paradise Hotel. We went twice for evening meal and lunch. The next best was Rosies which only came second because it was three times more expensive than Paradise Island.

We returned to Beliz City to find a bit of activity around the courthouse. Apparently four Chinese people were murdered at the weekend and something was going on in court. And to protest all the Chinese shops (there is a large Chinese community here-not sure why) were closed. In addition restaurants also close on Mondays and Tuesdays, so we had almost nowhere to get supper. But Alex (on the desk of the Mopan Hotel) came to our rescue and we ordered a takeaway pizza.

Caye Caulker all said and done, has been a refreshing stop over where we have just lazed about, swam and snorkelled. Rather like a holiday. And one I think we have benefited from. San Pedro was good as it gave us some space between each other. Back on the road we had to get used again to sharing decisions and living a few centimetres from one another all the time. And it is hard even 11 months into the trip. There are still tensions and times when I wonder why it should be so difficult and what am I doing here. And David still wonders why he is carrying a woman on the back of the bike, who doesn't do very much. Since we came into Mexico at the end of November 2010, we have pretty much stopped camping, largely due to the fact that Mexico does not offer camp-grounds and it is unsafe we are told to wild camp. So my role as food procurer and preparer has faded away, and David is left doing all things bike related, and as the driver, route planning and me not a lot. So I guess I am a bit redundant. This has been a bit disheartening as we have bickered about who does most work on the trip. But we are still here and able to enjoy where we are sometimes, and what pops up...thankfully!

As we write this Blog we are coming to realise rather suddenly, that we only have 8 weeks left of our trip before returning back to the UK and work-another yuk! London is only 8547 miles west


  1. I'm following in your footsteps, four months behind. See you out there.


  2. sounds like quite a nice layover, reggae, snorkling, rastas!! Nice pics

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