Caye Caulker, Belize

Trip Start Apr 07, 2006
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Trip End Aug 18, 2006


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Tuesday, July 4, 2006

50! Yip, almost 7 1/2 years after leaving South Africa, Belize is the 50th country I have travelled to. Something to tell the grandkids. I always hoped that Cuba would be the 50th, but my unplanned trip to El Salvador and my insistence that the Vatican City is a separate country means it will have to be Belize. Then again I know some people who reckon if you go within 3km of a border but you forgot your passport then you can count that country, so maybe I've even been to more. Anyway I'd like to thank all my travel partners (you know who you are) who helped me along the way and made every country memorable!

I knew I was going to like Belize the minute the immigration officer said to me (use your best Jamaican accent here): ¨Welcome to Belize Ryan, how long will you be staying with us?¨ and an old lady got on the bus and greeted everyone with a smile. On the bus ride from the Guatemala border to Belize City I noticed that Belize was alot more orderly than anywhere else in Central America (unfortunately for me this translates into everything being abt 3 times more expensive). I was looking forward to Belize for many reasons, but one of them was that it is the only English speaking country in CA (the British robbed the Spanish to get it). However my first problem was that I didn't understand a bloody word anyone was saying! They speak a mixture of Creole, English, Garifuna here, and when they speak their accent is so strong it doesn't even sound like English. I had a ¨conversation¨ with a little kid while waiting for the water taxi and didn't understand a word. I wished that Belize was Spanish speaking because I understood more of what was going on in Spanish.

I arrived in Belize City quite apprehensively because it has a reputation for being very dangerous, but I found everyone really friendly and helpful as I looked for the water taxi to Caye Caulker. In fact it isn't like a city at all - quite spread out and not many big buildings. Caye Caulker is an island abt 45 minutes from the mainland. The minute I arrived in Caye Caulker I wished I was there with a girlfriend, because as the local pick-up line goes (heard many times by the girls), (use best Jamaican accent again) ¨This is the island of love¨. Fortunately that didn't last long as there was a good bunch of people at the hostel and we had a pretty big party that night.

The next day I booked a snorkelling tour and this proved to be the highlight of the stay in Caye Caulker. Not that the reef (the second biggest reef in the world) was out of this world, but because I got to swim with sharks! Now I know they were only Nurse sharks (they don't have any teeth and are harmless), but it goes against your every instinct to jump into water when there are sharks and sting rays circling. Anyway I did and it was pretty exciting!

That afternoon when I got back there was a note on my bed from Zack of all people, who coincidentally ended up on the same island, in the same hostel, and in the same dorm room. The next day was a bit overcast so Zack and I set abt improving and building a hammock city, upgrading the garden of the hostel from 2 hammocks to 5. It was a tough 1/2 days work, but somebody had to do it. By this time I was getting right into the swing of island life. Walking really slow (the locals ride bikes so slowly I don't know how they don't fall over), saying hello to everyone on the island (I think by the end I knew half the tourists and half the locals), swimming and generally doing as little as possible. Now I reckon I'm relaxed on the average weekend in Manly, but the Belizeans certainly take relaxation to a new level. One night Zack and I were walking along Front Street (guess what? - its the street at the front of the island) and this local guy starts talking to himself / us about love and hate, dark and light, war and peace etc. I don't thing I have ever seen anyone so stoned / drunk in my life. Anyway he came up with one of the funniest quotes I've heard: He opens up his very empty wallet and shows us he has no money and then says (use your best Jamaican accent again) ¨I am financially embarrassed, will you boys buy me a beer?¨. Maybe you had to be there.....

Probably the next best highlight of Caye Caulker was one night after my BBQ lobster dinner on the beach (OK, that was a highlight in itself) when a local-born-and-bred started talking to me and Zack and was telling us abt the island. The next minute he runs off, climbs a tree and brings back some coconuts and starts cutting them open so we could all share some coconut milk. Now just to allay some peoples fears that I have lost it and like all Americans, here is the part that proves there are still annoying Americans around: An American girl comes up to Joseph and tells him that the coconuts he's cutting aren't ripe and that there wont be any milk inside (shed been on the island for 2 days, him for 49 years). Needless to say the coconuts had plenty of milk.

Alas after 5 nights (all of them turned out to be big party nights) on Caye Caulker, it was time for me to carry on heading north and into Mexico. Let me just say that Belize is well worthy of being anyone's number 1 country, let alone 50.
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