Last Saturday we made the journey to Belize, our first land border crossing since the very stressful one between Malaysia and Singapore. Thankfully this one was trouble-free, even despite our homemade version of a document we needed to avoid paying a fee we’d already paid!
Unavoidably the bus and boat schedules resulted in us spending an unplanned night in Belize City. Not a place I’d particularly recommend; seeing it in the dark, even around 7, was a little intimidating with run-down wooden buildings, very few open shops and lots of people loitering on the streets (though the few we spoke to were really friendly). We stopped briefly at the fast food eatery Blue Bird – the only place open – before retreating to our miniscule, ornament-full room with its mural covered walls.
On Sunday morning, after an hour’s water taxi ride, we reached our beautiful destination, Caye Caulker. The view on our approach was that of a magical island idyll: swathes of white sand met the inviting, turquoise water; lush palm trees swayed in the gentle breeze; ramshackle piers protruded into the sea; and irregular, colourful wooden buildings dotted the shoreline.
Once on land, despite the heat and our heavy bags, we declined the offer of a golf buggy taxi ride in favour of a walk along the beach to our accommodation. Golf buggies and bicycles are the only modes of transport but the island is so small that they’re not even really necessary. With each step I fell in love with the place a little bit more! I was delighted to discover the motto of the island is ‘go slow’: we were happy to oblige!
Belize wasn’t originally on our itinerary but my cousin spoke so highly of it that we thought we’d take a look. Caye Caulker certainly didn’t disappoint! It is the only place we spent time though so I’ve no idea if the rest of the country is the same as what I’m about to describe.
In complete contrast to Mexico, Caye Caulker is a little slice of the Caribbean. Most of the locals are of Afro-Caribbean origin, there are dreadlocks and bare feet everywhere you look, raucously infectious laughter floats on the breeze and bass-heavy reggae music throbs from open-air bars. People speak English as their official language, with that lovely Caribbean lilt, but lapse easily into Creole or Spanish, especially if they’d rather you don’t understand what they’re saying! They’re almost always cheerful, easy-going and even vendors don’t bother hassling you once you’ve said ‘no’. Again it was tricky to photograph the people but here are a few sneaky snaps:
I loved how colourful the place was: the people, the buildings and their signs. Here are some signs that caught my eye:
The wildlife is abundant too. From huge, clumsy pelicans lazing around by the water and streamlined frigate birds gliding eternally to sleepy iguanas soaking up the sun and hummingbirds flitting from one flower to another. Paradise!
(This is a bit gross but we watched this pelican flinging around something that looked very much like a spine!)
(The parrot had a good vocabulary!)
We stayed for three days and on one of them we decided to use our wedding gift from Al Pease and Gill Gillespie to go on a snorkeling expedition to the world’s second largest barrier reef. We spent the day on a sail boat which was a lovely way to make the most of our time at sea.
Although the coral landscape wasn’t as colourful as previous under water adventures, the number of big beasts more than compensated! We saw two green turtles, loads of large, beady-eyed trevallies and stingrays and at least three spotted eagle rays which were so incredibly graceful to watch.
(On the left is our guide coaxing a green moray eel out using a conch.)
But the show-stoppers were the sharks: nurse sharks! When the boat came to a standstill, some of the crew threw sardines into the water and the sharks, along with some rays and trevallies, swarmed around us. We watched them for a few minutes from a safe distance.
Then, enthusiastically, Dean and I were first to enter the water on the opposite side of the boat. It was only as I rounded the stern, swimming through the disturbed water, that my heart rate quickened and I thought about what I was about to do! Nevertheless, I swam on and joined Dean, transfixed by the spectacle of these large creatures competing for their lunch!
A great day all in all, even despite our first really bad sunburn of the trip!
All too soon, our time in Belize drew to a close. Today we arrived in Guatemala. It was another successful border crossing, although expensive due to both Belize’s expected departure tax and the Guatemalan border official’s unofficial fee. Consequently we entered the country with only 3 utterly useless Mexican pesos to our name! Our passports are getting nice and full – hopefully they’ll last the year!
I’ll leave you with photographs from two lovely Belizean sunsets we enjoyed.