Wednesday, March 30, 2016

4 Days On Caye Caulker

Day 1: The journey to Caye (pronounce key) Caulker was a $4 bus ride from San Ignacio to nasty Belize City. The 10 minute walk to the port was a bit, no very sketchy and it was good thing that there was two of us (Anthony from San Ignacio) heading that way. If I am alone when I head back there I will take a cab the 3 blocks. Outside the Boat terminal was a girl selling tacos, .50 a piece. I devoured 8 of the little buggers. The $10 boat ride from Belize City to Caye Caulker was uneventful in its routine. Regardless, we hit the beach, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Cool breezes blew across this little island paradise but but but its Good Friday, the beginning of Semana Santa, and there was no booze sales in Belize, could not get a cold beer in a shop, restaurant or bar. Not the worst thing in the world. I did have a great Jerk Snapper dinner that was certainly spicy after 6 months of bland Nicaraguan fare.

Semana Santa also brought a 3 day party to the island that included incredibly loud double base DJ/Reggae music from noon to midnight that you can hear all over the island. What I do not understand is if Reggae is Jamaican why does every Caribbean island or coastline become Jamaican when they want to throw a party. What is wrong with Calypso or Zydeco?
The Reggae music blasted away until midnight but I was out well before that.

Day 2: The second morning brought an early lustful search for hot coffee  The Ice and Beans was on the beach and they gave you a filled french press for $2.50. An hour later after staring into the ocean and chatting with a the few people around me I was good to go. Walking back to the Pause Hostel ,where I was staying for $15 a night, I found out that the owners brother was taking a group out snorkeling. Ten minutes later I was cruising to the Belizian Barrier Reef with 5 others..well 5 girls.

We were promised sharks, rays, turtles, manatees and fish galore. We were not disappointed although I would have though the colours would have been more vivid. This is the ocean and there are scary creatures that live there, as I was told. I like snorkeling and I have no desire to learn to dive. I wish when I was talking with people who dive that they would understand that. I understand their passion and the response always goes back to "oh it's sooo peaceful", and "you are missing out on so much" .  Truth be told, I snorkel because I am closer to the boat when the Great White or Tiger Shark chooses to say hello with their hungry shark smiles. Divers you can hide but your air tanks do not last forever and you will have to surface. I will watch you from the boat.

The Captain being a funny guy

We were out on the reef all day. The skies were blue, the seas were calm and you knew that along the way you would be overexposed but being idiots you shrug it off. We have 5 stops along the reef. The first was sting ray alley where we swam with spotted rays which we were told had barb-less tails. They were about 6 feet across and not afraid of us. All was good until a massive Black Sting raw with a deadly barbed tail decided to play along. It was about 8 feet across and with its tail 8 feel long. We kept away from that bad boy.

Blue Spotted Ray

Stop number two brought us turtles, big grumpy looking sea turtles who where bored to death of being around tourists. They were fun to watch and well they are turtles, they are awesome.

Stop number 3 we the most intense, swimming with large nurse sharks. We had chased a few along the way but this was going to be up close and personal. I was nervous but game. We pull the boat up to what was called Shark Alley, everything is an Alley here. The captain tosses sardines over the left side of the boat and the feeding frenzy was on. At least 20 Nurse Sharks knowing the routine and a myriad of other fishes went nuts. "Get it on the other side and have fun were were told".  So we did. The absolute second I put my mask in the water and Shark much larger than myself swam towards then under my by about a metre. I peed a little. I swam over to the frenzy and was mesmerized to the point I kept getting closer and closer. I get within inches of a few of the activity and the large mellow sardine eaters. This lasted about 5 minutes and when the sardines ended the sharks sunk to the sea bed and hung out, waiting for the next group. I could care less about the morality of pre-feeding a frenzy, it put all my senses into overload.

Welcome to the ocean human. Do I smell pee?

Swimming with the fishes

Stop 4 was a short trip over an old barge that had sunk and stop 5 was a coral reef that was basically skipped  we were all fairly exhausted by this time. We heading back stopping to watch a family of manatees feed and breech for air and finishing in a mangrove swamp to view small yellow seahorses do their thing.

Fearless Maria. Sharks or no sharks she was first in.
I was in dire need of a beer after all day on the ocean so I hit the local sports bar which oddly enough has a Canadian programmed cable box so I watched the Leafs vs the Bruins. As the game progresses I felt my skin tightening and I knew that feeling. I also swallowed quite a bit of sea water during the day and I know what that brought as well. I did not drink much water so while the Leafs were losing and I was sipping my beer the realization that the next few days were going to be shit hit me. Sunburn, dehydration and my lungs were going to fight back. So I had another beer and thought I would worry about it the next day
Loud Double base DJ/Reggae music from noon to midnight that you can hear all over the island was blaring but I was out cold by 10:00

Day 3:
I knew it was coming and it showed with a vengeance. The shivers, the coughing, the headache, the sweats. The do not take any precautions post snorkeling fun recovery time. I spent the day in a hammock, in the shade reading, drinking as much water as I could stomach and napping. Really not the worst thing in the world. I finished The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut and like the other books of his I read I always remember why I like him as an author.
Loud Double base DJ/Reggae music from noon to midnight that you can hear all over the island was blaring but I was out cold by 8:00
Day 4:
See day 3 but with a few walks in town to get supplies. I started The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. I want to revisit the torment that is Holden Caulfield.
With it being Monday the street party was over. There was no music and it was as quiet as a tropical Island should be. News trickled in that there were quite a few fights between the locals and the boys that came over from Belize City with resulted in 3 stabbings and one woman who was hit by a board an robbed. Its not always Trouble Free in Paradise.

My two day recovery hammocks. It could be worse
I think it would take me quite a bit of time to hit my slow strike on a small tropical island if I was to ever stay for an extended period of time. Everyone I met while shopping, drinking coffee, at the pub or on the street were genuine and helpful. "We need to keep the Belize City trash off the island" was the general consensus of locals and expats alike. Now if that small tropical island had an active volcano well then we would be onto something.

One funny Caye Caulker story / Antedote

I was having a beer with a local expat from the States. He retired here 6 years ago and is living his dream.
EP: Yup, living the dream here in Belize
ME: Nice, what are you doing now to keep busy
EP: I run a few small businesses in town. Coffee shop and a bakery. It busy because of the tourists
ME: Good for you. Are tourists most of your business
EP: Yes, tourists and expats with a few locals
......longish pause
EP: You like it here in Belize
ME: I am enjoying myself, the world is big and there are lots of great places to see
EX: to busy for ya eh. Yeah, the tourist are ruining this place 

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