(water lilies on mainland Belize)
The trip started with 2 connections, 15 hours, and two burritos. I eventually arrived in Belize feeling sleep deprived and exhausted. Unable to find a comfortable position to sleep, I spent the night awake in anticipation for the fun about to be had. The greeting in Belize was loud and colorful. An energetic local band serenading us with what I can only imagine as local Belizean rhythms. A friendly greeting from customs, followed by rush of panicked taxi drivers trying my make a days wage. As Mr. H and I wait in the airport for our families to arrive, we are surround by a group of women looking similar in appearance, with long paisley dresses and hair wrapped in bonnets. Wikipedia tells me that there are close to 10, 000 Mennonites living in Belize, contributing to the economic success of the country through agriculture, carpentry, and engineering. I am intrigued. I gobble down my veggie burger and guzzle my Belikin beer. I pay the waitress what you would imagine a burger and beer costing at home. Planes have landed. We greet our families with smiles and then quickly rush into cabs trying to make the next ferry at 2:00 pm. Current time: 1:45 pm.
(local Caye Caulker surroundings)
I've returned. relaxed, sunned, and content. Belize was dreamy. If you close your eyes and imagine a tropical paradise with turquoise sea, white sand, untouched coral, wildlife, sea creatures, and an endless supply of rice and beans, you're imagining a tiny island off the coast of Belize - Caye Caulker (pronounced Key Caulker).
(Budget Man serving curry rice, vegetables, fried snapper, and plantains)
We pile into a water taxi full to the brim. Luggage was left behind, people were panicky. The luggage eventually arrived, intact. It is Easter weekend, the busiest time of year. Locals flock to the island of Caye Caulker for holiday fun. Our arrival to Caye Caulker during the busiest time of year was definitely not planned. Hotels are booked a year in advance. There are no tourists nor backpackers, just locals filling the streets. Dancing, eating, drinking, and laughing. We are surprised and amused.
Luckily we booked our condo well in advance - Caye Reef. It was painted beautifully with a bright shade of yellow, fitted with a kitchen made for a king. A pristine pool, rooftop patio with hammocks and a hot tub, intended for relaxing with a glass of wine and watching the sun set. We are so close to the water I can hear the tiny waves crashing against the shore. A 365º view of the island, a 1 minute walk to the split (a sandy patch meant for sunning and swimming). Beautiful, romantic, homely, tropical, this place is a dream.
Our first day on the island was meant for relaxing and eating. Lying in the hammock sipping rum punch and snacking on plantain chips, wearing a healthy slather of SPF 35. It's 12:35 pm and I'm feeling peckish. A short walk down Front Street, golf carts slowly creeping by, go slowly is the islands motto. No cars or gas fumes, only rusty old bikes. We pass by a road side stall consisting of a table, 5 or 6 giant metal pots, and a friendly man who goes by the name of Budgetman. His smile runs from ear to ear and his laid back attitude has me mesmerized. He has convinced me of his tasty fare. He is right. Plantains cooked to perfection, fried snapper, curry vegetables and rice. I am in love with his cooking. Everyday at 12:35pm I visit Budgetman for his delicious food.
The rest of the afternoon is spent organizing activities; Mayan ruins, snorkeling the Hol Chan Reserve, diving the Blue Hole, manatee watching, and island hopping. It is now getting close to 5:00 pm. The sun has started to make its descent. It is no longer heating my skin with its warm rays. It's time to wash of the salt and the accumulation of the day. I dry my hair and put on a sweater. The air has cooled.
Dinner on the island is best enjoyed between 6:30 and 7:00 pm. The right time to get the best seafood. Everything on the island is cooked fresh, caught in the morning served at night. When the food runs out, that's it, you better wait until the next day. The island's seafood fare consists of snapper, grouper, barracuda, shrimp, and crab. Lobster is also common, but unfortunately not in season during our visit, although, I did have a chance to see a few whilst snorkeling amongst the corals which lay on top of the ocean floor. Barbecue chicken is always available and never seems to run out. Beef is less common and much pricier. At meals, you often have a choice between rice and beans, potato salad, coleslaw, or mixed vegetables with rum punch on the side.