It's the last day of my trip, and I'm sitting at an upper balcony, overlooking the "street" on Caye Caulker. Ola has gone for a dive and I'm spending the morning relaxing, sunning, reading and now enjoying a coffee and writing. I can't believe we're actually heading home tomorrow. While of course I miss my pets and am looking forward to a fuzzy welcome home, I'm none too pleased about returning to winter. Ahhh, the plight of a Canadian girl who loves home but constantly wants to escape it.
Caye Caulker is a beautiful but strange little island. There's white coral sand everywhere, but to call it a beach would be incredibly generous. The water is a lovely turquoise colour, but trying to swim requires walking out quite a distance (usually off a very long dock) to avoid the sea grass and sinking, muddy bottom. The expense has frustrated me and thrown me for quite a tailspin; I think I've spent as much here in five days, as I did elsewhere over two and a half weeks. But there are certainly wonderful things about this place, too.
Our accommodations are very comfortable, and set up across street, which is really more of a sandy path, is a little stall run by a man named Charles who likes to refer to himself as The Budgetman. I think he's been one of the highlights of Belize for me. He cooks and sells the most delicious lunches anyone could hope for- coconut curry shrimp, jerk pork, lemon garlic chicken. Every day is an affordable, culinary adventure. Ola's been loving the seafood and I've found myself eating a lot of tasty grilled shrimp and whole pig-roast pork.
Yesterday we went for a full day snorkel trip over to the Hol Chan Marine Park. My mind was officially blown by the place. We made three different stops along the second biggest reef in the world. The first was at a part of the reef near San Pedro (the Isla Bonita of Madonna fame). We got to snorkel over giant sea turtles playing (those were my favourite), huge fish that were almost as big as me, and spotted eagle rays. The second stop was the location I'd feared and determined months ago that I was going to snorkel- shark-ray alley. This is an area of the reef where fishermen traditionally went to clean their catch, attracting a large number of stingrays and sharks. The sharks started following our boat as soon as we got near. They were bigger than I had anticipated which made it challenging for me get myself into the water. One of the nearby sailboats started tossing food into the sea and created a huge gathering of both sharks and stingrays…and I managed to make myself swim right into the middle of the commotion! Yay me!!! I got to touch a shark, which was much scalier than I expected, and a stingray, which was considerably slimier than it looked.
We had lunch on the boat and then the last stop was at an area called the Coral Garden filled with various types of beautiful coral and lots of small, colourful fish. Overall it was an excellent day, and the things we saw justified the price we paid. Tonight we have our fingers crossed for decent weather as we've booked ourselves a night snorkel trip to see the nocturnal sea creatures. It's a good thing it's after dark since certain parts of my backside are reluctant to be exposed to the sun again for a little while- the drawback of a good long snorkel on a sunny day!
And so I'll continue the last of this entry later tonight. For now I'm going to enjoy my coffee and watch the geckos climb the walls.
I spent the afternoon with a lovely couple from Toronto of all places chatting and having beer while sewing all my new patches onto my backpack. I've come to the point where I actually had to start moving the old ones over in order to make room. Poor planning on my part, but I've already discussed my issue with sight and behinds. They're all on there now and at some point perhaps I'll write an Ode to my backpack, but for now I was talking about Belize.
The evening's outing was a go despite a very rainy afternoon! We got to wear wet suits and headed out to a much closer part of the reef by the South Channel. I was freaked out at the low visibility, but there were things I wanted to see. I'm sorry to say that the octopi were shy and we didn't come across any, but the bioluminescence was super cool! Little sparkly stars in the water everywhere we swam. We also saw a lot of lobsters, sea urchins and a happy little squid that danced around in front of us darting up and down.
We went for dinner and drinks with a large group of people we met, a large number of them Torontonian, and then came back and spent a couple of hours trying to jigsaw my pack together in some order that would be airline appropriate. I think I've finally accomplished that, but I guess the test will come tomorrow at check-in.
So off to sleep now; tomorrow night I'll be in my own comfy bed!!