Travel Blog: Week 8

Belize Week 8: 31.12.2012 – 06.01.2013 Monday:- A three and a half hour stopover. I was almost the first to wait at the gate but it soon filled up. Mostly with families and from Canada! I grabbed something to have for breakfast and we were off. I sat next to Mike and Luke (father and son) who seemed to know exactly what they were doing – unlike me I had done little to no research and I still hadn’t booked a

Belize

Week 8: 31.12.2012 – 06.01.2013

Monday:-

A three and a half hour stopover. I was almost the first to wait at the gate but it soon filled up. Mostly with families and from Canada! I grabbed something to have for breakfast and we were off. I sat next to Mike and Luke (father and son) who seemed to know exactly what they were doing – unlike me I had done little to no research and I still hadn’t booked a place to stay. Anyway, it turns out mike had double booked hotels so I had an option if I couldn’t find room at a hostel.

We landed on time and queued for immigration control. Not quite sure of their definition of control but I was waved through despite not having a visa! I met Mike and Luke again at the exit and asked if they wanted to share a taxi. They were going to risk the bus, so…..what the hell I thought I’d join them. My bag was pretty heavy so I hoped the bus was close. Sadly, no. After we’d walked a while, and no bus was in sight, a pick up truck stopped and offered us all a lift. We chucked all the cases in the back, which were then joined by a number of other locals, and got in. The driver Glen, and his front seat passenger Clint , were friendly and chatty and told us a bit of the country – Glen, who was probably in his 60s was taking part in a 70+ mile bike ride the following day and was so was telling us of his training and the early night he was planning despite it being NYE.

Anyway, we were taken right to the front door of the water taxi office. We said our thank yous and goodbyes, and bought tickets for the taxis. It soon arrived – a biggish boat which was popular. It soon filled with tourists and locals alike and it took us about an hour to get to Caye Caulker. Off the taxi at the other end and along the jetty to the beach and to the awaiting locals touting for business.

  

Well, not much business everywhere was full. Thank goodness I was able to take Mike’s double booked room. It was bigger and more expensive than I needed but it was fantastic. I had somewhere to rest by head!

  

Time to unpack, shower, snooze and get ready for dinner. I’d insisted on paying Mike for the full cost of the hotel so he insisted in inviting me to join them for dinner. Dinner turned out to be just along the beach. Lobster wrapped in bacon with mash potato (your mouths are watering aren’t they??). It was freshly cooked and delicious. We met the locals too and shared a few beers. I also met Dom – an English guy who’d been here a few days with group of friends. He bought me a local drink (rum and ginger…….isn’t that the dark and stormy!!!!!)It was quite for New Year’s Eve. The place to be that night was ‘The Split’. A bar at the end of the island where a hurricane had some years before split a small piece of land away from the rest. It took a while to get there but Mike, Luke and I settled in for the night and hit the dance floor. Soon the place was heaving and just hoped I would make it to midnight. Dom and the crew joined us and there were hugs all round at the stroke of 12. Just at that time the fireworks and firecrackers went off, as well as fireworks across the sea on the horizon. It also started to rain – who cared it was still warm. What a night!!!! In the end I made it to about 1:30 before calling it a day. I made a sharp exit when some guys started to pull people into the sea. With my passport, camera and phone in my bag I chose the shelter of my room.

 

Tuesday:-

The first day of 2013 – woo hoo!

I slept so well that night!!! Woke the next morning around 9 but just couldn’t get up. Ah, the joy of the nomadic life. Hunger at last drove me out. Dressed, and feeling surprisingly ok, I went in search of food and to orientate myself in the daylight.

    

  

   

  

It’s only a small island so you quickly learn your way around. I have a feeling I might get bored here for a week. As time ticked on the search for breakfast turned into a search for lunch. It was after midday after all. I found a great place on the beach and sat next to a girl 10 years, at least, my junior who had seen so much of the world and spoke so many languages. Wow! We chatted for well over an hour before I had a wander around the place. I met Dom and the others again and shared a few bevvies. They invited me to join them for dinner later, but before that a few of us went back to the split. We were joined by Jamal, aka Pit Bull, who very gallantly allowed me to perch on the cross bar of his bicycle and he peddled us both to the bar. If only the dirt road had been a tad smoother – ouch!

Quick change and out to dinner. It’s all a bit random here. No set plans about time or place are ever discussed but its a small place and you invariably bump into the people you are expecting to meet. But also those you’re not expecting to meet. At dinner I met Rose! She was sitting next to me on the same table and we immediately hit it off. Rose was from San Fran and had a radio programme – she’s a bit of a celeb in her neck of the woods. The woman is amazing. Rose invited me to the reggae bar, which was actually just around the corner from my hotel, and as we left we were joined by Andy and Easton from the US who had also just got into town. Tonight was quiet compared to New Year’s Eve but we managed to search out the crowd and had a few drinks.

Wednesday:-

I had to change rooms today so I packed in readiness and then headed out for breakfast. How life has changed. Breakfast for me is now more like brunch by the time I get up and out. It tends to mean I have 2 meals a day with a snack mid afternoon. The pace of life is slow and carefree and you just eat when you’re hungry which is less often. The food here is unexpectedly pricy but freshly caught and cooked, and delicious.

Today I stopped wearing a watch. Now I not only have no idea what day it is but what time it is either. My initial thoughts about boredom have disappeared – you just adapt to the pace and learn to relax.

Back to check on my room. My bags were now stacked up in reception. They needed my room early and there had been a mix up with the other room I had booked. It was all sorted when another room was found for me. Smaller, set back from the sea, BUT clean and cheaper. It would be a while before I could check in so I headed down to the other end of the island. Apparently it was about 2 miles. A beautiful day for a coastal walk along the dappled pathways with lizards and birds at every angle. About 30 minutes in I found a jetty where 2 locals were fishing and gutting their catch. I walked along the jetty and parked up for a while. The fishermen left and so I had complete peace. Just me and the birds and the sound of the waves. I snorkelled for a while. There are so many fish in these clean, clear waters so you can just float along on the surface letting the tide move you through the water. Under the jetty in about 3 feet of water were 2 rays!! They just let me bob about above them before they decided to move away out of my sight.

Back to the path in search of the tip of the island. I passed a huge place on the water with 80s music blaring. The owner was in his yard and we got talking. He was selling up after 23 years – an American like so many who came for a 2 week vacation and decided to stay. There were crocodiles on the edge of his land and he invited me to take a look. No luck with any sightings but it kind of sums up how laid back everyone is here. There’s an open invite to come in.

  

 

    

Just when I thought I was never going to get to the end I crossed the end of the local runway. A plane was taking off. Weird standing out in the open watching a plane take off. I knew I was close. There is was – the end and just the open water.

I headed back along the path passing people being taxied around in golf carts and cyclists. One house had a old fashioned style phone hooked up to a tree with a sign saying “free calls home – help yourself”. I couldn’t help but lift the receiver. And you know what……..yep, no dial tone. That would have been too good to be true.

I stopped at the private jetty for my hotel and had another dip in the sea. It’s chilly to get in but the water is warm once you’re swimming. A little more snorkelling – less fish but still so interesting. Back to the room and a little snooze. What!!!! Life is so taxing here you have to snooze.

I woke later than I intended so changed and headed out for dinner. I was meeting Rose and her friends tonight. Great food, great location and great company. Some interesting life experiences were shared.

Rose and I walked the main strip and stumbled on the karaoke bar. It was the busiest place in town and in true karaoke style was very entertaining. Rose had to leave early(ish) as she was leaving the next day but I stayed for a quick drink and the not so bad tones of the locals and tourists.

Thursday:-

Malaria tablet day. One a week and today would be the 4th tablet so far.

There had been talk the night before for me to join Rose for an early morning snorkel off the Split. 7am! Well I woke up at 8:30. I headed down here anyway, just in case. Needless to say she was not there but a number if others had pitched up on the sand. I left my stuff with a couple and decided to snorkel solo. The previous hurricane had left various bits and bobs on the bottom as well as some things obviously throw in – like an old metal bed. It’s a shame to see some things but the fish had adopted these things like a reef, so there was lots to see. Including a couple of trigger fish who can be a little moody at times. I kept out of their way.

Back to the hotel – on the way I stopped to look at the breakfast menu at a restaurant. A voice shouted “it’s good food here”. No time like the present, I stopped for breakfast and joined David, originally from the US but now living 5 weeks on the island and 5 weeks on a research boat. I had a great brekkie. David had 2 stout beers and half a pack of cigarettes!!!!!!

Just enough time to change and meet Rose before waving her off from the jetty. Boo!!

I went for a walk and found the bank, a bakery, fruit shop and the post office. I also put my name down for a snorkel trip the next day with Carlos tours. Then I went for a run. The later afternoon was cool and there was just the hint of rain in the air – perfect. I ran to the airstrip and was hoping to finish the loop but previous rain had flooded the road so I retraced my steps. Back just in time to beat the sunset and the rain.

  

I had a quiet night. A fabulous meal at the lazy lizard – THE best ice cream! And back to the room.

Friday:-

So, today I needed to get going early as I had to be at Carlos’s by 10am. It’s a struggle!! I stopped by reception to pay for tonight’s accommodation, which I had reserved. The plan was to go to breakfast. Wrong. Because I hadn’t paid the room had gone to someone else. You live and learn. I packed quickly, wolfed down some fruit and went in search of a new place. I found one at a reasonable price so booked and paid for all 3 remaining nights. With just enough time to move my bags I headed to the snorkel place. A tad flustered and very sweaty. Nice!

There was quite a group gathered by the time I got there – maybe 10 of us. We were given fins and masks for those who didn’t have their own. Out to the jetty, on to the boat and out to sea. It was to be a full day 10:30 until 4:30.

  

It was bloody amazing. We had 3 stops at various places along the reef in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. The first was at the place where all the fisherman clean up the catch so the fish have learned that’s where the food is. There were so many fish, rays and turtles. The water was warm so it was easy to stay in and make the most of the fabulous opportunity.

 

  

  

  

  

  

We stopped for lunch at San Pedro. An island further north which was mo developed and had the hustle and bustle of a town. It had proper roads and cars and things!! It started to rain as we arrived so I found a nearby restaurant on the beach and had a local chicken and rice meal. The rain passed and I walked around the town. Thinking I had loads of time a meandered then realised I was already late back to the boat. I legged it back and we were off. A quick pit stop for fuel.

Now for the sharks. Nurse sharks. There were loads of them and they were friendly. Carlos was able to tip one on its back so it fell asleep. One came right up to me and bumped the glass of my mask. Woo hooo. That was a first.

 

  

The final stop was to a coral garden. Shallow water with amazing corals and small fish. What a day.

 

  

 

  

Back to Caye Caulker to pay up and collect the photos from the day. I was explaining to Carlos about my mad change of room that morning and he told be he had an apartment available for only $75 Belize. That’s a bargain. I went and had a look. It was a little out of town but fabulous. I decided to go for it and hope I could get a refund on the place I’d booked earlier. Fingers crossed – they didn’t seem overly impressed and after umming and aching told me to come back the next day. At this stage I was just grateful to have such a wonderful place to stay. I’d hope for the best.

I moved my bags to Carlos office and headed to this afternoons jam session at the sports bar. It was in full swing. Local, and tourist, musicians get the chance to play to a welcoming crowd. Paul, from the reggae bar, was there and dragged me to the dance floor. David, the 2 stout and fags, was also there and he saved me a seat and bought me a beer.

  

  

Great atmosphere and a real mixed bag of music. It finished at 7 and Carlos helped me moved my bags to his place.

A quick wash and change and we went out for dinner – habaneros. Dodging the rain again. The best food in the place with more live music. Carlos like to sing so got up a few times.

By now the day’s snorkelling had got to me and I was tired.

Saturday:-

Lazy morning. Slept well so felt refreshed. Some time for laundry etc. Carlos was a great host

After updating my blog I ventured out for the day. The room came with a bike so I used that. A little rusty…… But I did OK. Lunch by the sea, a snooze all afternoon and just beer and pizza for dinner before calling it a night

Sunday:-

Last day in Caye Caulker. I woke to a grey morning. It had rained overnight and everything was wet – including the washing I hung up the night before.

I headed out in search of an ATM and breakfast. I found both and within a few paces of each other. Belize had not turned out to be the cheap destination I had hoped for. Let’s hope the finances balance out over time! Cash in pocket I stopped at the fruit shop for a smoothy and the corner cafe hut or a fried jack with ham and eggs. That seems fairly balanced to me.

 

What do you do on a cloudy day in Belize? I took a ride around the main streets – which doesn’t take that long.

  

I found the pharmacy and enquired about the cost and availability for a medical. Evidence of suitable health and fitness is required for the project and since my GP at home had declined to assist with this before I left home I still needed a Drs signature. The Dr was available and so I paid my $30 Belize and was invited into the consultation room. The medical lasted all but 5 minutes and was basically a blood pressure test. But, I got my certificate!

Back on my bike and off to the Split. I met a guy along the way, Jo, who was in a wheelchair. Amazing guy, probably in his 50s, who had spent the day diving. We chatted as we moved down the road. Even more amazing was when we parted and shook hands I realised he only had limited movement in his arm and hand. How wonderful and brave that we could enjoy diving.

I bought a Belizean ice cream and ate it watching the world go by at the Split. You have to eat ice cream quickly here – it melts!!!!

Jamal was at the Split. We decided to rent out a double canoe and paddle around the island. Being local Jamal, not only took me to see the Tarpon – large, fast predator fish which hung out around he caves (I jumped out the canoe to snorkel with them – not so easy getting back in!!), but also to the mangroves in search of seahorses. We found one – awesome!!!

  

We spent the next hour or so paddling around the other separated half of the island. Less developed but it was starting. Getting back in was harder as we were against the tide but with aching shoulders we made it.

By now I was hungry so I stopped at Bamboozed for rice and plantains – delish. Met an interesting guy from the States and convince him to join a Carlos snorkel tour so we walked along to see Carlos. A bought beers from the Chinese supermarket and headed back. Carlos was cooking me dinner tonight. I also needed to start m packing.

Dinner was fabulous. Freshly caught lobster in a green curry. With “brownie” for dessert. Carlos ran a film of the caves I had seen earlier that day. There is an entire cave system under the island and some of it has been explored and mapped.

As it was my last night I headed out I headed out for a few drinks. At the I & I (reggae) bar I met some more yanks and Jamal. We all strutted our funky stuff on the dance floor before heading to the SeaShore bar. I left shortly after as I wanted to catch the 10am water taxi the next morning.

Foot note: I will endeavour to load my updates for the next fives weeks but I’m not sure on internet coverage in the fishing village. Watch this space!

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