In mid-June, Lori and I returned for our fourth time to Caye Caulker to introduce my parents to the Isle of Go-Slow and to bid farewell (for now) to the caye that started it all for us here in Belize.
For more on Caye Caulker, and perhaps a bit of background, see our August introductory post on Caye Caulker, our December post with Lori’s brother, Caye Caulker II, and our February post with Lori’s parents, Caye Caulker III.
The most fun thing about my parents’ visit (aside from seeing them, of course), was that they had no idea what they would be doing for their three-week visit in Belize. Following a few Skype chats earlier in the year in which we attempted to gauge their level of interest regarding a variety of activities, they agreed to let us plan the whole thing — and when we finally had a set itinerary, they told us to surprise them…so we did.
They’re flight from the U.S. arrived in Belize City shortly after 6am. We told them to pack a separate bag with a few days of clothes and a bathing suit. First stop? Caye Caulker! But they didn’t know that until we pulled up to the Caye Caulker dock, of course.
Unusual for the ride out to Caye Caulker (and for the mighty boats of the CCWT fleet), the ride took an hour. Previous trips had taken between 30-45 minutes, but the winds had shifted and the seas had become a bit rough in June. I began to second-guess our decision to schedule five round trip boat rides across open seas during my parents’ three week stay — but they did tell us they wanted a bit of adventure — so left it at that.
Yet, even in rough seas, a ride on the large and enclosed (yet breezy!) CCWT is still quite pleasant — and in fact, my parents ended up sleeping most of the way anyway. But they did encounter a bit of an adventurous disembarkation from the get-go, when they were forced to walk the plank! I’m not sure if they wouldn’t have done it if the promise of a tropical paradise and a cold drink didn’t beckon them on the other side.
(Above) Dock renovation…Belize style — dozens of passengers disembark over wobbly planks over an eight foot drop into shallow water. Go slow!
But eventually, we did make it to our destination for the weekend — Ignacio’s Beach Cabins! There’s a bit of nostalgia attached to Ignacio’s, as it was the first place Lori and I stayed back in August. As we were riding into Caye Caulker the first time around, the row of semi-dilapidated bungalows on stilts caught my eye and reminded me of so many places Lori and I stayed in Southeast Asia. Ignacio’s seemed like a perfect fit for us at the time, and the price was right. In the weeks following our first visit to Caye Caulker, we liked to joke how the Homestead (our original home in Eldridgeville) wasn’t much of a step up from one of Ignacio’s cabins.
My parents also share our appreciation for rustic digs, even though they might not have realized it at first… My mom, in particular, later shared that she had a few reservations upon arriving at Ignacio’s (owing to their — shall we say, rustic — appearance) and I suppose the dead iguana greeting the two of them on the steps up had something to do with it as well. But after a few hours laying on the hammock, taking in the view, feeling da breeze of da sea, she was sold.
When we visited Caulker with Dan, Lori’s brother, we stayed at Mara’s Place on the north side of the village in an effort to be closer to the action. When Lori’s parents came to Belize, we stayed at the Anchorage Resort, largely due to the fact that it was high season and most other places were booked. But Ignacio’s siren-song of rickety shabby-chic eventually lured us back, and Ignacio’s bargain basement prices allowed us to each have our own abode on stilts for two nights overlooking da sea.
One of the coolest things about staying at Ignacio’s was that Lori and I happened to get the same beach cabin as we had in August! And, with a fresh coat of purple paint to boot!
My parents really seemed to take the island’s “Go Slow” motto to heart, maximizing their hammock and stroll time, which was fine by Lori and me. Our morning and evening strolls took us around the island, from the northern Split, to the mosquito infested southern tip, even spending some quality time on the calmer, mangrove-dotted western shore.
One of our first stops was Bambooze (or Bamboozle as it is also known) for some lunch and some…booze.
…and a couple of burritos bigger than Lori’s forearm!
Then it was time to cruise the strip, slowly making our way up to da Split.
Kayaking the Leeward Side
On our second day in Caye Caulker, we rented kayaks from Sea Dreams Hotel up near the Split — this is a great place to rent from because they’ll let you put in on the calmer western shore and all proceeds go to support activities at a local technical school. The lady at the front desk was very knowledgable and gave us some good tips for where to go. It was a particularly rough day on the windward side, but the leeward side was calm and tranquil, save for a slight tidal current preventing us from venturing out too far.
It was suggested that we head left toward a white marker to see schools of Tarpon. We weren’t quite sure what we were looking for, until it became very obvious.
BIG FISH! Lots and lots of big fish — Tarpon! — in crystal clear water circling right below us.
The Coco Loco Incident
After a very nice kayak around the inner bay, it was time to head back to Ignacio’s for a nap…but not before this sign caught my mom’s eye. She read it as “Coco Loco: $5,” and if this had been Thailand or India, Lori and I would have been very skeptical and asked a barrage of questions before requesting one of the tasty rum-filled coconuts. However, this is Belize where people are generally pretty good about not trying to rip off visitors, so we didn’t think much of it. The coco loco dude was very friendly initially, and very generous with his rum pour (again, usually a red flag, but this is Belize…). We ordered two. My mom goes to pick it up, I reach for my wallet, and the dude yells: “$25 US!” (BZ$50!)
Lori happened to snap a pic at the exact moment (you can see the expression on my mom’s face).
Meanwhile, I nearly flipped.
In other countries, I would have kept my cool and played the game a bit more — he can’t be serious. But having spent the previous ten months living in Belize where people are generally fair and honest, this unflinching, unapologetic and blatant act of deceit and duplicity felt liked a big fat slap in the face by a freight train, and triggered something deep down inside.
Maybe it was owing to the fact that this dude was trying to cheat my own mother, maybe it was something deeper like a loss of innocence, a tainting of such a happy place for Lori and I, or peering into the future of tourism in Belize. Whatever it was, it unleashed my inner Rasta self — not sure where it came from, but I suspect it’s what happens when you spend enough time in PG breathing in the Caribbean air, listening to the Garifuna beats and chatting with Kreol speakers.
My knee-jerk fury seemed to catch the dude off guard, but only brought the price down to US$12, which was still ridiculous given that any self-respecting person couldn’t get away with selling a coconut for more than a few bucks (BZD) and a 325ml bottle of local rum costs next to nothing. I gave the dude BZ$12 — which was more than enough for two coconuts and a few shots of mystery rum poured from a repurposed beer bottle — and walked away. He told us not to come back. I don’t think that’ll be a problem.
A few sips later, we forgot about the whole thing.
As usual, Caye Caulker’s culinary delights did not disappoint. For dinner, we hit up two old favorites: Rose’s Bar & Grill — which grills up the most fantabulous snapper (with two delicious sides and an appetizer), though I do miss their old setup where they had the big grill out front, pumping out mouthwatering aromas to unsuspecting passersby — and of course, our old standby, Enjoy Bar! And we couldn’t have planned it better, given that Sunday was the opening day of lobster season! Enjoy Bar really isn’t the same without lobster, and the place cooks up some of the best in Belize for a great price.
For breakfast, we visited another old favorite, Amor y Cafe, which seems to be the go-to place in town for visitors’ and tourists’ pre-noon feeding. While the food is excellent, we’ve found the portions a bit wimpy for the price and have looked for alternatives. While it’s hard to pass up Amor’s delicious toast, we gave Glenda’s Cafe, a more ‘local’ place on Back Street, a try, and weren’t disappointed. We managed to feed the four of us (including coffee) for US$8.00! (compared with US$26 at Amor y Cafe, which still left us a bit hungry the previous morning).
We bid farewell to our little slice of Belizean paradise that Monday morning and headed out on the CCWT for the next leg of our adventure.
Where to next?