The beach recently beckoned me and when the beach beckons, this beach bum heeds the call.
I decided last weekend it was time for some changes in attitude, changes in latitude.
So I took off for Caye Caulker, one of Belize’s two most popular islands, the other being San Pedro (Ambergris Caye), nine miles north of the Caulker by water taxi.
I stayed at the Lazy Iguana Bed & Breakfast, owned by my Austin, TX, expat friends Mo and Irene Miller. They sailed the high seas back in the eighties and fell in love with Caye Caulker and went all in with the B&B. They now live near me in San Ignacio on the mainland, however, in a sprawling and gorgeous mountaintop house. A Belizean couple manage the B&B, which I had all to myself this week.
Fortunately I had my camera in hand when this Belizean took off walking on the water at Caye Caulker! The camera never lies, you know.
This is the so-called “low season” (rainy season) in Belize, when the tourists stay away in droves. The islands are not so crowded and the prices at the touristy resorts, hotels and restaurants take a big drop.
The good thing is, the rainy season doesn’t necessarily produce rain this time of year. Belize has been sunny for days on end.
The little island of Caye Cauker, with a population of 1,200 of the friendliest and most laid back people on earth, is only five miles long. It’s divided by what’s called “The Split,” a once narrow cut that was expanded in 1961 when Hurricane Hattie wiped out Belize (actually what was then the nation of British Honduras). The Split now divides the sparsely populated north, accessible by boat (or a hard swim of 200 yards or so), from the developed south. The north end of the narrow channel is most inhabited by wealthy Americans.
The south end is little more than a mile long, but what a magical mile of a wonderfully funky beach village it is.
The gorgeous and funky island of Caye Caulker is divided by “The Split,” a channel about 200 yards wide, where party boats and sailboats and fishing boats pass the many swimmers and sun worshipers who hang out around the best beach bar in Belize.
I’ve been to other great Belizean keys, including the far larger San Pedro island that Madonna made famous with her hit song and ode to San Pedro “L’Isla Bonita” (“The Beautiful Island”). Also been to coastal tourist attractions like Hopkins Village and the Placencia Penisula. All those and more keys and atolls make Belize world-renowned for Caribbean fun in the sun.
But in my humble opinion, little Caye Caulker has all the other touristy beaches beat for its wonderful, lazy vibe. It’s commercialized for sure–and it can get crowded. Today (Friday, March 27) it’ll swell up with visitors for its annual three-day Lobster Fest, an endless three-day party.
But as crowded as it gets, Caye Caulker doesn’t feel spoiled at all by the development. It is, in a word or two, lazy, and fun.
You can have the rat race back home, thank you very much. The cost of living in Belize is extremely affordable for somebody like me (little income but no debt); the rich and the poor here mingle and live in close proximity to one another; and there’s a strong, friendly sense of community anywhere you live. (The undercurrent of social ills notwithstanding.)
A $1 million mansion in Belize might have shacks made of bush sticks surrounding it, inhabited by Belizean families that can’t even afford electricity for fans and lights in the shacks. But everybody knows everybody and is on friendly terms, rich or poor.
And then there’s places like Caye Caulker, where there’s no terrible poverty of the sort found even at San Pedro off the beaten tourist paths. Caye Caulker has three modes of transportation: bicycles, golf carts and flip-flops (or bare footing makes four, I guess). The only motorized vehicle you’ll see is a garbage truck. (Even San Pedro and other beach sites have a number of cars and trucks vying for dominance in the streets with the strollers, the golf carts and the bicycles.)
The pace can get so slow and the easy fun so great that sometimes in Belize I feel like time has stopped, a sensation I hadn’t experienced since my kid-hood in a rural Texas town in the fifties and early sixties, or on an occasional vacation from the rat race back in the day.
Riding the water taxi to Caye Caulker Saturday, an American vacationer seated next to me in the boat asked me as we were departing Belize City how long the ride to the island takes.
“I don’t know; just enjoy the ride,” I suggested. “You’re on Belize time.”
I saw him and his wife again today on the beach. “How’s Belize treating you?” I asked.
“We lost track of time sometime Saturday night at dinner,” he said.
So goes the time in Belize.
The best beach bar in Belize, bar none, is the bar down at “The Split,” where the owner flies what looks so much like the wonderful flag of Texas Our Texas (All hale the might-teee state! I thought it was my beloved Lone Star State flag myself the first time I ever saw it here, and bowed down in reverence. (Nobody paid any attention; eccentric behavior at Caye Caulker is the norm) I realized as I was leaving that day that it’s in fact the very similar flag of Chile. The owner is from there, not, sadly for him, from Texas!
Easy boating down at The Split. Why is it that the guys always have to do the paddling? Whatever happened to Women’s Lib?
Good luck bellying up to the bar with the World Cup in full swing in this soccer-crazy part of the world.
“All of those tourists . . . covered with oil.”
Aw man, to be 21 again in Belize.
I was betting he’s either (a) a musician or (b) a philosophy major. Turns out, no kidding, he’s both! Nice kid, from funky Athens, Georgia.
One of the best things about Belize, the massages are wonderful and often really, really cheap, like $30 $40 an hour (except at the more exclusive resorts, of course, though even those are cheaper usually than in the States.
Rented a Jet Ski and sped off into the great blue sea because, well . . . I was just . . . born to be wild.
Until next time, thrill seekers: Keep on Jitterbug dancing in the free world.
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