Though we’re only six days into our adventure, it feels like we’ve already done so much. Jeff and I are both admittedly still in “vacation mode,” continually reminding ourselves that we have many countries, experiences, cuisines, long-haul flights and chicken buses ahead of us (more on the chicken buses in a minute). Anyway, I’ll get right to it:
Our trip officially kicked off last Tuesday in Caye Caulker (pronouned key culker), a tiny island northeast of Belize City. Caye Caulker is about five miles long and one mile wide, but certain parts of the island are so narrow that you can see the Caribbean Sea on both sides. A sign on the island noted the permanent population at 1,500 (but that could be super dated — hard to say). Caye Caulker is the smaller of two primary island destinations north of Belize City; it seems to cater to a younger crowd and is known for its “backpacker” appeal — the perfect first stop on our trip.
Anyway, after a quick cab ride from the Belize City Airport and an hour-long water taxi, we joined the droves of barefoot expats almost immediately. Embracing the island’s ethos, “go slow,” was easy: there are no cars, and most of the island’s action is centered around two main streets. It wasn’t long before we started seeing the same faces virtually everywhere we went — a good indicator that we were consistently finding the cool swimming spot/bar/restaurant.
We celebrated the first night of our trip at a restaurant called Rose’s Grill, where we were enticed the enormous (and still very much alive) lobsters displayed out front. After a delicious seafood dinner, we wandered over to the Salty Parrot sports bar, which was clearly a crowd favorite based on the number of people we vaguely recognized inside. Lots of American, British and German tourists, many of whom were drinking something called “Parrot Piss.” (Jeff and I abstained.)
After sleeping for 12-ish hours (jet laaaag), on Wednesday morning we rented a pair of bicycles and ventured off the beaten path. Like most places I’ve visited in the Caribbean/Central America, the wealth disparity is pretty stark. From what we could tell, many permanent residents lacked running water if not electricity too. A sobering reminder of just how “cushy” our lives are in the States.
Next, we checked out “The Split” — a channel of water that separates Caye Caulker into two land masses. We learned that a nasty hurricane in the early 60s caused the split in the island, which has since become a favorite hang out spot for locals and visitors (it’s also the site of the Lazy Lizard, one of Caye Caulker’s most popular bars). We jumped in the water; I swam to the other side and Jeff was kind enough to snap a photo:
We rounded out the evening with a yoga session on the rooftop of our hotel. We started class with a view of an enormous full-arc rainbow to the east; by the end, we watched the sun go down in the west with a brilliant sunset. If I wasn’t pinching myself already, this experience definitely solidified my bliss!
A few minutes after returning to our hotel following dinner, the power went out. We thought it was just our building, but quickly realized that the surrounding buildings were also dark. So we grabbed our flashlights and skipped up to the roof to survey the scene: virtually the entire island was out of power! It was pretty amazing to see the calm descend over an otherwise loud and vibrant island (the power clicked back on about ten minutes later).
Thursday was our departure day, so we woke up early to rent kayaks and paddle around the island perimeter. (Sadly, the only photos we took were with my iPhone camera, which we later realized was not really working.)
We caught a water taxi back to Belize City, which was substantially more crowded than it was on our journey to Caye Caulker:
From Belize City, we caught a “chicken bus” to journey south towards Placencia. Chicken buses are old American school buses (many still have their USDOT ID numbers painted on), which are used as long(er)-haul public transportation throughout much of Central America. We hopped on the express bus to Dangriga, which in retrospect was probably only consider “express” because the driver was a lunatic. There were several instances in which our bus driver NARROWLY missed oncoming traffic while passing other vehicles.
A few years ago, while attempting to fasten my seat belt aboard a tiny commuter plane in the Bahamas, my mom turned around and said “oh honey, this is an all-or-nothing thing,” as in, “don’t bother, your seat belt is not going to save you if we crash into the ocean in the next 20 minutes.” Suffice it to say that the words “this is an all-or-nothing thing” came to mind many times during our 3.5 hour trip south on the chicken bus.
Anyyyway, we’ve been in Placencia for three days now, so I’m behind on the blog posts! More to come on our Belizean adventures soon :)