Day 4: 16 December 2015
Chetumal Harbour in Mexico, waiting for our water taxi to Caye Caulker, Belize. Already checked out at Mexican border authorities. It took us 3 hours to get here with a bus from Tulum, the ride was pretty ok. We got another 2 hours ahead on boat with a stop in San Perdo for the border check.
What we didn’t knew is that we will spend 4 hours on these last 150km. The Belize border authorities managed to check-in the 46 people travelling on that boat in a bit less than 2 hours. The sun was going down in San Pedro. Go slow is what they do here.
DAY 5-6: 17-18 December 2015
Call it philosophy, lifestyle or overall concept – this is what you literally experience in Caye Caulker and perhaps in whole Belize. At the beginning I found all those “GO SLOW” signs hanging everywhere very funny, then I understood: they mean it! Caye Caulker is the perfect place to decompress from european velocity. The island is small enough and allows you not to care about any speed. All you have in the town is 3 roads, the Front Street runs along the eastern coast, The Back Street along the western one, and The Middle Street accordingly in-between. None of those streets is paved, they are periodically covered with a new layer of sand, wich will be guaranteed washed away by the next rain. Who cares?!
The majority of the points of interest are on the Front Street. So basically if you walk slow! for 20 minutes along that street, you’ll cross the whole island from south to north and will be perfectly informed of the whole happening on the island. That’s it! Your best option organising your day is going with a flow, you are not going to miss anything anyway. Actually you don’t really organise anything. GO SLOW – I adopted that concept pretty quickly, which felt good on day 1-2, by the end of the day 3 I knew, I need to move on on the day 4.
Surprisingly there were a lot of dogs on the Island. You might have already noticed I loved portraying the little Chihuahuas a lot. But the street dogs were the ones that captured my attention even more. I happen to talk to the owner of the local animal shelter, who explained me, that those street dogs actually have owners, but it is not common here to tie up the pets. So they are free to walk, and eventually they would come back home. An atypical behaviour for dogs if you ask me.
You won’t find any proper beaches here, the only swimming area here is “The Split” with the bar “Lazy Lizard” right next to the water. I personally was not into swimming in algae after the wonderful Tulum beach. What you have are numerous docks spread around to hang out and enjoy wonderful sunsets or sunrises. And guaranteed you’ll be offered some cookies for the outright relaxation despite the “DRUG FREE ZONE” signs everywhere. The best place to see sunset is the Back Street I mentioned before. Here in backyards you can avoid the tourists crowd and see some local life..
Talking about sunrise: the fondest memory I have from this island is the yoga on a the dock while sun rising behind the sea. That was just mind-blowing.
Lobster or Lobster?
Lobsters are served almost in every restaurant here. Usually they offer the catch of the day with 3-4 options of fresh fish and seafood, one of which is definitely lobster. Knowing how expensive a lobster dinner in Europe can be, I decided to have them as much as possible. The prices vary 20-40 Belize Dollar = BZD (10-20 USD) The cheapest I had was at Wish Willi for 20BZD, I payed the double at Rosy’s, which was better prepared, with more tender texture. Once I decided to try something else and ordered Pizza (don’t ask me why) and ended up overpaying and being unhappy. Another lobster dinner would be certainly a better option.
What to Drink: they have a pretty decent local beer called Belikin. I preferred the Rum Punch, which was rum with some fruit juice, for whatever reason cheaper as beer.
Buying food: the food in grocery stores was expensive, the choice was very poor, almost everything was sweet or sweetened. I hate that fluffy semi-sweet white breads you get in Americas. Also hate the idea, that it is going to be my bread in most of cases for the next 3 months. Lobster dinner remains a better choice.
Over Promise and Under Deliver
Caye Caulker has perhaps the highest density of diving and snorkelling shops per capita. Again, go slow, and just pick one of them, there is no chance you gonna make any mistake, Because all of them offer the same thing for the same price. The agony of choice is not gonna happen here.
Choosing a snorkelling tour: so there is a half-day tour 4 hours in Caye Caulker Marine Reserve (for about 35USD), which is protected for 10 years, and full-day tour 6 hours in Hol Chan Marine Reserve protected for about 30 years (for about 65USD). Basically you get to see the same Flora and Fauna, with the difference that the fishes in Hol Chan Bay may be a bit bigger. Again, it’s not really a matter of choice. Looking back I would ask myself if I wanna spend 6 hours on water or not, forget money and fishes. Doesn’t sound very promising, right? In fact I’m pretty disappointed of the snorkelling experience here. There was no variety of wildlife I expected, it was not that colourful as I thought. The most exciting moment was when I overcame my fears and jumped from the boat into the sea with (little) sharks.
The whole experience reminded me of the snorkelling in Antigua and Barbuda few years ago, as the guide explained me, that the reef was destroyed by a volcano recently. So I had understanding for the lack of jaw dropping wild life. But having the same feeling here after 35 years of wild life protection made me doubting, if this all is worth its reputation. Despite the fact that the Belize Barrier Reef is the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere and the second largest one in the world, the overall impression is rather disillusioning. I guess the topic of snorkelling in Carribean Reef is closed or me for a while, unless you give me a good reliable hint.
You can do a bunch of other water activities in Caye Caulker, such as diving, fishing, canoeing, etc. For 200USD one can charter an airplane to the Belize Hole. I didn’t try any of those activities, just for the simple reason I didn’t want to be constantly scheduled – kept practicing the “go slow” concept..
…this is how you pronounce the name of the Island. The official language here is English, but I heard locals speaking Belizean Creole in most of cases (some english dialect if I’m not mistaken, which I hardly understand).
The island is colourful, funky, trashy, laid-back, bright, pretty shabby, quirky and very talkative – especially the male population toward the solo female travelers, but in very friendly and funny manner 🙂
Day 7: 19 December 2015
It’s been raining all day long. Couldn’t be better for me – I spent the most of the day at home researching for my upcoming stops and finalising my post about Tulum, while listening the heavy tropical rain pounding the wooden terrace. Later in the afternoon I grabbed the camera and went out to capture some rain impressions. The streets were milky as well as the sea blending with the pale sky – very unique view. The town didn’t seem to be disabled by the rain anyhow. Every now and then the rain would stop, people would pop out walking barefoot in milky puddles. A few minutes later it would rain again and everybody would hang on the shower in next best bar or shop. Then the same procedure all over again. It rained that night too. Early in the next morning we left the island.
I loved my stay on Caye Caulker very much, despite the disappointing snorkelling experience and relatively excessive budget. If you ask me if I will ever want to be back here, I’d say “Most possibly not”. Nevertheless, it was the perfect way to decompress and charge up for the upcoming demanding transfers in a very short time. Thank Ya Kee Coca! Next stop Guatemala!