Yesterday Eric and I awoke in Belize City, grabbed a quick breakfast, and made it to the water-taxi dock by 9:00. The ferry ride out to Caye Caulker was only about an hour. Caye Caulker is one of the many small islands off the coast, and is known for being more of a backpacker island that avoids some of the tourist traffic that islands like San Pedro experience. It reminds me a lot of Kuta Beach in Bali and is also similar to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand.
Caye Caulker is a long, skinny island that was split in half by a hurricane several years ago. It is littered with guest houses, restaurants, and travel agencies. We’re staying in a fairly decent two bedroom hotel, with our own bathroom and cable TV, for about $15 US each. The island is incredibly laid-back and there are only two dirt roads that run the length of it.
Yesterday we rented a couple of bikes from a Chinese grocery and went riding around the entire southern island. (We didn’t bother with the island north of the split as it is very remote and has no electricity.) While exploring the extreme southern tip of the island we discovered a really beautiful old graveyard. It was located right next to a tiny airstrip known as the Caye Caulker airport. “Wouldn’t that be rad if we saw a plane take off?” Eric wondered out loud.
On our way back we passed the airstrip again and, sure enough, a tiny prop plane was loading up two passengers. I didn’t have my camera at the time but Eric thought our position would be perfect to stand, just in front of the end of the airstrip, and take a picture of the plane taking off. We watched in anticipation as it taxied to the end of the strip and started charging our way. Nearby two guys in a wooden shack, known as “The “Airport,” looked on unconcerned. The plane seemed to get closer and closer and closer, and soon we were standing like two dear caught in someone’s headlights. At every second we thought it would pull up and clear us by a mile. As it came within, maybe 10 feet in front of us, Eric ditched his bike to the left side and ducked. Not having time to clear the wheels, I was forced to literally dive to the ground as the plane missed me by maybe 3 feet. You can consider this as life 1 of our 9 on this trip. It was a near-death experience worthy of Most Shocking Video or Maximum Exposure. Now, I know you are all thinking “For Christ’s sake, these clowns are already almost getting themselves killed by a plane they aren’t even on?” Your concerns may be well-founded, but I assure you we are trained professionals. After the plane nearly killed us, the two guys in the air-shack casually said, “You guys should watch out,” then followed up with, “no worries.”
With a new-found respect for our lives, we went and had some excellent fried chicken and fries for only $2.50 US. The food here is mostly seafood and Creole, with a bottle of Marie Sharp’s Habanero pepper sauce (the pride of Belize) on every table. There are two beers in Belize, Belikin and Lighthouse Lager. Both are good and sell for around $1.75 a bottle. The exchange rate here is easy – two Belize dollars to one USD.
In addition to yesterday’s antics at the airport, today Eric lost the key to our bike lock and we ended up having to wheel the two locked bikes back to the shop. We looked like a couple of bike thieves. People just stared and laughed as I started to feel like we were starring in a Vaudeville show about Laurel and Hardy going on vacation in Belize.
After returning the bikes, we went on a 3 hour boat tour to snorkel at the Belize Reef, second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Belize is well known for it’s world-class snorkeling and deep sea diving. We didn’t make it out to the famous Blue Hole, but we went to three different snorkeling spots. We got to see a lot of great flora and fauna, swam with sting rays, and saw sharks and many colorful exotic fish. There were about 8 other people on our boat, who were largely off of cruise ships that proved themselves to be an annoying bunch of babies.
Anyway, so far so good. We’ll be heading out of here tomorrow and going inland to a town near the Guatemalan boarder. So far: Vamos Bien!!