Caye Caulker – Day 3

Had a gorgeous day! Awoke at 5.30am again, got up and read some of the short stories by the Belizean women. So fascinating, touching, sad, and informative. Excited by it. Also hugely aware that Britain is about 50-60 years behind this country in its understanding and practice of multi-ethnicity. It feels almost a non issue here.  No doubt it is, and the signals are subtle and there will be a hierarchy ..

Caught the 8am water taxi to Caye Caulker. Took about an hour, through a sea which gradually became less contaminated by the river and sewage, a deep blue with splashes of kingfisher blue and turquoise. We passed myriads of islands, atolls, small clumps of trees emerging out of the sea, isolated, extraordinary….and all surrounded by surf on the horizons, as the sea passed over the barrier reef.

Stepping off the boat, we entered the Belize of our imagination, of Hemingway, an idyll. The tiny narrow island, about the size of Papa Westray in Orkney, is just lovely. Palm trees fringe the shore line – much like the Scots pines around a loch, but oh so different, and the spirit of the sea breeze revealed itself through a constant tic tic tic in the palms. Conch shells adorn the sand as if they belong there, and occasional spines protrude through the sandy bed of the sea. Lanes criss-cross the island like a chequer board, each revealing more shops, bars, restaurants, B&Bs, houses for rent….some new with shiny multicoloured frontages, others on stilts, weathered and wooden, in varying stages of repair or decay. Wandering down one we spied a large, magnificent tree, large palmate clusters of leaves with huge fruits dangling like monster Christmas baubles. The skin was rough as if it had a monster dose of goose pimples. We asked a man nearby, who had lifeguard written on his tee shirt, what it was – bread fruit.

Like in the City, every possible ethnic combination seems to live together without noticing. As we sat drinking our coffee and eating delicious hot banana bread – my first bread like food since arriving – we watched others arriving off boats, carrying their rucksacks, and sporting the same expressions of wonder that we felt. Somehow this place has become a tourist island, a Belizean Blackpool, yet managed to retain most of its charm. We wondered if we would be able to find other places without all the tourist paraphernalia once we know Belize better – but no doubt others will be looking for that too.

 Looking pleased!

We moved on to a swim in the sea…the nearest to a beach is at the top of the island – most of the shore line is a sea grass bed, with boat moorings. Shallows were protected by an old sea wall, which had a bright orange star fish patiently creeping up its side only to be knocked down from the top by a passing wave. The sea over the wall was deeper in places, then shallow again – Conor stood up saying he had suddenly become taller! A narrow channel separated Caulker from its small neighbour, and the tide that morning was racing through the deep channel, sending strange patterns of water scouring along stretches of the sea bed where we were swimming. Oh, and it was warm! Gloriously warm. Later in the day, after the tide had turned, the strange eddies had calmed. We noticed that the local kids and dogs began diving and jumping into the deep channel and swimming to the other island and back, virtual water babies, and obviously very certain about when to avoid that channel, and when to play.

As well as father’s day, the first time that Belize had ever played against Mexico in football, it was also the first day of the lobster season. We shared a freshly barbecued one for lunch, for the sum of BZ 25 – about £6! Fresh watermelon and pineapple juice to accompany it…

We wandered down to the far end of the island, much better preserved, less touristy less inhabited, before returning in the water taxi to Belize City. It seemed such a far cry from the idyll! Unfortunately we discovered that the washing machine is not plumbed in. Lots of things to address tomorrow – my first day!