We headed west from Guatemala into Belize. Belize is geographically in Central America, but culturally it's very much a Caribbean country.
Entering this country is a joy, the Belizian Tourist Office employ people to welcome tourists as they enter the country. A big burley fellow welcomed us with a grin plastered across his face and he seemed genuinely thrilled that we'd done his country the honour of our presence. This is a distinctly different border crossing experience to those we've had with Mexican officials.
Formally known as British Honduras, Belize has numerous languages in use but it was a relief to me to find that the major language in Belize is English. The other languages widely used are Creole and Spanish.
Creole is a funny language which sounds a rather lot like butchered English, but academics are generally in agreement that it isn't a pidgin language but rather a distinct language in its own right. Here are a couple of Creole phrases that I rather enjoy:
- Gud maanin - Good morning
- Weh taim yu gat? - What time is it?
- Humoch dis kaas? - How much does this cost?
- Aarait - Fine, thank you
After our bus and water taxi we stepped off the boat onto the public pier of Caye Caulker, our first destination in laid back Belize. Caye Caulker is a sleepy little island that can be walked in an hour or so, and yet after five days there Em and I still were finding little gems to satiate our want for new experiences.
Being the wiser, older, more boring travellers that we are these days, we decided to book a little beach front cabana (Colinda Cabanas) that had very favourable reviews on tripadvisor.com. It turned out to be an excellent decision - as a direct consequence of this decision the second phase of our Belizian adventure revealed itself to us along with a trio of travellers that were excellent compatriots (but more on that, and them, in the next blog).
Whilst Caye Caulker is an island in the Caribbean Sea, it isn't a pure beach destination. The beach floor in the vicinity is mostly covered in a fine sea grass, that whilst deliciously tasty to the Manatees, is less than delicious to swim in. However, what Caye Caulker loses as a pure beach destination it more than makes up for in charm elsewhere. The people on Caye Caulker, and more broadly in Belize, are a pleasure to spend time with, they really do ooze a rastafarian charm. The people here are mostly not of Mestizo (a mix of Spanish and Indigenous Central Americans) background, as in Mexico and Guatemala, instead most Belizians can trace their roots back to Africa via the Caribbean islands, due the slave trade.
Another of the many benefits of travelling in low season was that we were lucky enough to be there in lobster and conch season. As a lover of lobster, Emily indulged more than once on the less than $10 AUD lobster dishes that were so widely offered. Lobster season is strictly enforced by the Belizian government so any fears that we were eating the last local lobsters were allayed by the locals (unless they are very gifted liars).
Food was a central theme of our Caye Caulker experience. I got along especially well with a rather rotund fellow that walked the streets selling fresh baked goods such as banana bread and lemon curd tarts. Not wanting to play favourites though, I also became good friends with another street seller whose speciality was little spiced meat pies. Em loved the 'exotic fruit man'. Emily also had the good sense to ask her diving instructor where the locals eat and they gave us a stellar reference. Chan's fast food (I uploaded a picture of me savour the delights) was a little hole in the wall that seemed to produced food for the whole island, and yet did it with such skill that it quickly became Em and my favourite eatery on the island - oh, that baked chicken, rice, beans and salad!
Caye Caulker is a Mecca for divers as it has the second biggest reef in the world, no prize for guessing the biggest. That said, second aint bad and the Belizians aren't one to sulk. Besides, it does have the Blue Hole, which is a deep hole in the middle of a lagoon that has amazing diving down to nerverakingly deep depths. As Em has her PADI licence she went out and savoured the sights of a number of the many reefs that bring so many people to Belize - the underwater world more than impressed her.
Off on a Caribbean sailing trip next.