Final Belize post! Here it is! For reals!
So, the day after our Tikal-touring day, we had a long journey to Caye Caulker, which culminated in an hour-long water taxi ride in the rain. Actually, it stopped raining just before we boarded, luckily. But the water was still super-choppy, which I had been scared to death of, but the Bonine worked its magic. We stepped off the boat and retrieved our luggage from where the sailors had hauled it onto the dock, and we walked a long way to our hotel, Shirley's Guest House. It was very windy and somewhat chilly.
It did not look like this at the time (since this photo was taken at a sunny time), but this is part of Shirley's yard:
I had read that she had a dock you could swim from, like most of the other beach-side hotels. But when I asked Shirley, she non-chalantly said, "after the second time a storm took it down, I decided not to rebuild it again." I was a bit miffed, but what can you do?
Here's the back entrance to Shirley's. When you walked there after dusk, you'd here loud clicking and clacking noises from the huge land crabs walking around in the fallen palm fronds:
I'm just going to sum up our three days on Caye Caulker. It was freakishly cold (which here meant temps down to the 50s at night) with scattered showers and gusty wind for much of the time. We had two full days to work with, so we put off our snorkeling adventure for the second day, which ended up being a good bet. Besides the snorkeling, we spent a lot of time just wandering around the town, up and down the sand streets, then going back to our room for a nap, then going out again to eat. I remember feeling sad that I had to wait a few hours before I could reasonably eat another meal.
We bought some reasonably good sweetened bread at the bakery on the right:
Here's another street, this time in the sun:
Here's the shoreline. Lots of mangroves; a lot of the island is mangrove swamp, though it's slowly being build into. That white blob is a great egret; there were many wading birds about. You can't really swim directly from the shore, as there's a lot of sea grass and stuff you don't want to step on.
On one of the days we rented some crappy bikes, which were guarded by this fierce dog.
The bikes made getting from one end of the island to the other a lot quicker. Shirley's is pretty much at the southern end of the inhabited part. At the northern part is The Split, a channel in the island that was created during Hurricane Hattie. There's still the remains of a cement road there. I think I took this photo from the split, looking south:
We ate a lot of good food there, but I think the best meal was at Rose's. They have the fish (caught that day, of course) all laid out at the entrance, and you choose which one you want:
Shish kabobs were $10, the snapper were $20-30, depending on size, and the lobsters were $30. That's in Belize, so in American dollars, it's half that price. Once you pick your fish, the guy slices it open, rubs some seasoning on it, and throws it on the grill. Meanwhile you sit down and order a couple of side dishes (which are included in the price) and a Belikin beer (if you're smart). It was pouring rain the night we went here, and like most of the restaurants here, all of the seating was open to the air (though covered). But it didn't matter. We got a snapper and a lobster and shared them. So. Fuckin'. Good.
It took us a while to decide upon what snorkeling trip we wanted to do. By "we" I mean "me," because it was not getting any less windy and wavey out there, and I was petrified of being stuck on a boat for several hours while throwing up pretty much non-stop. I came very close to not going at all, figuring the stress wasn't worth it. But I finally got over myself, and we went with a "full day" snorkel trip to Shark-ray Alley, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and the Coral Gardens. "Full day" just means 10 to 4, by the way, and includes an hour or so stop for lunch at the larger Caye to the north, Ambergris.
The boat trip to the reef action was insanely bumpy, but I didn't get sick at all (again, thank you god for Bonine). It was seriously so bumpy that people were laughing at how hard the boat would slam down onto the water when it skipped off the top of a wave. The first stop was Shark-Ray Alley, and there were many huge rays about, but no sharks. The water wasn't very cold, though getting out and being in the wind was no picnic. The second stop was Hol Chan, which had sharks -- nurse sharks, which are like overgrown catfish, really. The tour leader had thoughtfully brought a small container of chum for the sharks, who swam right up to the edge of the boat as soon as he cut the engines. Here's one begging for a treat:
I hopped in soon after taking that photo and got to pet a baby shark, who seemed to actually enjoy the attention, like a slippery puppy. Cute.
We saw many incredible fish and coral, but I don't have an underwater camera, so you'll have to close your eyes and imagine. Or go to YouTube and search for "Hol Chan" or something.
After Hol Chan we motored over to San Pedro, the main city on Ambergris Caye. We docked on "Bottom Time"'s pier:
You can see it's more upscale and built up than Caulker. Here's a San Pedro street scene, on an actual paved road, with two actual yellow-dyed poodles:
We got cheap, greasy (but tasty) tamales at a counter place and ate them on a beautiful deck on the beach. Then we met at the boat and were taken to Coral Gardens, which was pretty much the same as Hol Chan, except no sharks. Apparently there used to be more sharks around but climate change has fucked with their habitat.
Anyway, we returned to Caye Caulker safely, and the day afterwards, we went home to New England. It was a lovely trip.