Wednesday, 30th July
Our bus to Belize City was overnight but with leaving Playa del Carmen around midnight and arriving at the border around 4am before heading onto our final destination we didn’t get much sleep, snatching a few hours here and there. Leaving Mexico, at the border, we were ushered into an office one by one and told that we had to an ‘exit fee’ of 306 pesos. This is entirely a scam but with a border officer wielding the power to either let you pass or not you don’t argue so we paid for our exit stamp and went on to the Belizean border. He even gave us some faux receipt that on close inspection makes absolutely no sense. At the Belizean border we had to carry our bags and go through the rigmarole of our intentions for visiting. They were quite friendly and we got our stamp for 30 days. The official language here in Belize is English so no problems understanding what was being said.
We arrived at ‘Novelo’s Bus Terminal’ around 7am and after grabbing our bags jumped in a taxi for the short ride to the water taxi terminal bound for Caye Caulker. Sorting out our onward travel to Caye Caulker was easy enough once we figured out the dual currency system. Basically, both the Belizean dollar and the US dollar are used here and you can pay with either but also you can get change in either or both. The catch is that there are two Belizean dollars to one US dollar so working out if you’ve been given the correct change can be confusing. For the cab ride I paid in Belizean dollars and got my change in US and Belizean dollars. We would be staying on Caye Caulker for three nights, keen for some island relaxation. Caye Caulker is a small limestone coral island off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea measuring about 5 miles (north to south) by less than 1 mile (east to west). It’s located about 20 miles northeast of Belize City from where we were coming from. We were on the island by 9am and feeling a little too early to check-in we found a breakfast place called ‘The Spot’ that looked nice for a breakfast with an ocean view. Everywhere on this island pretty much looks idyllic; ocean views, blue skies, blue oceans, water lapping at the shore ten yards from where you are eating etc. We had a typically Belizean breakfast of eggs, bacon, refried beans and fry-jacks (deep fried dough). It was tasty but certainly greasy.
We had no directions or address for our hotel, ‘Barefoot Beach Hotel’, so Kirsty stayed with the bags and I went looking. The island is tiny so I found the place in ten minutes and half hour later we were checked into our ‘mini-hut’. Our hotel is very nice, away from the main strip, right on the waters edge it has it’s own pier, hammocks (on the pier under a straw roof) and sun loungers. It seems as though we’re going to enjoy ourselves here! Knackered from the journey and lack of sleep we had a couple of hours kip, then went for a wander and some lunch. Staying on an island there is abundance of seafood so we shared a plate of shrimp and a Belizean beer (‘Belikin’). We then tended to some laundry (i.e. paid someone else to do it for us), then lay back in the hammocks for some rest and relaxation. The hammocks are over the water so you get a great sense of tranquility.
In the evening we headed out to check out the sunset and afterwards had dinner at a place called ‘Cubanas’. We had seen them roasting a pig leg over a barbecue pit all afternoon so that’s what we had for dinner along with four complimentary rum punches. Everything costs more here than in Mexico but you do get bigger portions and free drinks. Exhausted from the long day we retired to bed and the comfort of our air-conditioned mini-hut.
Thursday, 31st July
Our second day on the island paradise of Caye Caulker began with a budget breakfast of store-bought cornflakes covered in juice from a can. You do what you can to keep the daily costs down and eating breakfast in is one easy way. We then went to check out the north end of the island to a body of water known as the ‘split’. This was initially a natural and then man-made water channel splitting the island in two which is good for swimming and snorkelling, the water being deeper than most of the water around the island. There is also less of the seagrass here which surrounds most of the island, making it nicer to swim around in. We spent a couple of hours swimming here, there are no real waves due to the reef protecting the island so the water is nice and calm. Perfect for floating around and bobbing up and down in. We then went back to the hotel to do some reading on where next in Belize we might head to (most likely Hopkins via Dangriga) then we had some jerk chicken for lunch from ’Terry’ cooked on a barbecue by the side of the road. It was amazing, some of the best jerk chicken we’ve had. The food here seems to be more influenced by the Caribbean than anywhere else. We then wandered back up to the ‘split’ to grab a drink at the bar by the water before heading back to the hotel and a couple of hours reading.
For dinner we went in search of somewhere with a sunset view whilst eating our dinner. We found such a place at ‘Terry’s Grill’. It was stunning to see the sun go down whilst drinking a couple of rum punches. For dinner I opted for the jerk chicken again. ‘Terry’s Grill’ is operated by the same Terry that cooked our lunch on the roadside barbecue so I knew it was good. I also had been told to lay off the seafood by the doctor, something to do with contributing to gout. Not sure if that is the case but it has made me more conscious of what I eat… somewhat. Kirsty had the lobster coconut curry, having tasted some I can say that Terry knows his stuff and is a great cook. By this point it was around 7pm and if you’re not out drinking then to be honest there’s not a whole lot to do on this island once the sun goes down, so, on a budget, we headed back to our hotel satisfied by our day of relaxing, swimming and eating good food, with another full day on Caye Caulker to come. Paying for air-conditioning also makes you keen to get decent usage out of it!
Friday, 1st August
After getting up and having our budget breakfast of cornflakes and juice from a can (coconut and pineapple), we headed out to the end of the ‘Barefoot Beach Hotel’ pier where we found the two hammocks free. We were hoping to get some hammock time yesterday but alas they were in use all afternoon. We hopped into the hammocks and did some relaxing as is the norm here. Some American folk on the pier were playing some country music whilst sunning themselves but this did little do disturb our relaxation. It’s hard not to feel peaceful when swinging in a hammock with the sound of the sea underneath you and a cooling breeze rolling over you. Being so close to the sea, over it actually, we decided to have a dip so after dosing up on more suncream we went for a swim. The water here is much warmer than over at the ‘split’ with the water much shallower but there is seagrass everywhere so we had to find a sandy area to stand up in. The seagrass is kind of slimy and not that pleasant to stand on. After a swim that wasn’t so much cooling, more like swimming around in a bath, we jumped out and got ready for dinner.
Our last night on the island and we had yet to get one of the whole grilled lobsters that are being hawked everywhere so we set out to find a place that gave a good deal. We ended up sharing a large lobster with sides (rice and beans, jacket potato) and drinks for only BZ$70 (US$35). It was cooked right in front of the restaurant on a barrel barbecue and tasted delicious with a spicy lemon butter sauce. We are definitely going to miss the food on this island, so fresh and tasty. On the way home I got a Belizean fudge ice-cream for the walk before heading to our ‘mini-hut’ to pack and get to bed, checking out tomorrow. We have really enjoyed Caye Caulker, it was just as I had imagined it to be, totally relaxing and laid back with great food and a warm sea to swim in.