Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hungry in Belize

I was enjoying my deep drooling nap on my $15 - 5 hour bus ride from Flores to Belize City, when all of a sudden our bus driver yelled out, "GET OFF BUS. CARRY BAGS OVER BORDER." Wiping my crusty eyes, I scurried off the bus and shuffled through the cargo underneath trying to find my backpack. Then all of us scrambled through cars and money exchangers and tried to make our way to the Guatemala Border Patrol. I stood in line, paid "seedy" money to get out of the country, and exchanged my Guatemalan Quetzales for Belizean dollars through border money exchangers (some of whom are nice and legit) and I was finally on my way to Belize.

Hanging off the edge of the Caribbean Sea, Belize has more in common with its Rasta neighbors than it does with politically/economically unstable neighbors in Central America. Belize has been pretty much drama free for centuries and it's English colonization makes this country English speaking with a currency that flaunts the dear Queen. The country of Belize enjoys a very diverse poplulation for being such a tiny country. Creole (descendants of British loggers, colonists, and African slaves) and Mestizos (mixed Spanish and Native American descent) make up the majority of the population. While the Garifuna (aka Black Caribs), the Chinese, and Mennonites make up the rest of the population.

Anyways, once our bus arrived to Belize City, I had to wait another hour before taking my $10 water taxi, a covered speedboat transporting about 40 people on hard uncomfortable wood benches. The loading dock at the water taxi station was more chaotic than a Tokyo rush hour train. Everyone filed aboard from the crowded and chaotic boat terminal. Pushing their way through, about 2/3 of the people were budget tourists like me with our huge and grimy backpacks, and the rest were locals bringing large cargo like baby cribs and bbq's. Once we arrived to Caye Caulker, a small island only 4 miles long, rasta hustlers were already waiting for our arrival, "Hay man, need a hotel???"

I heard a lot about Caye Caulker (pronounced 'Key' Caulker) from backpackers roaming around Central America. Although they warned that prices weren't comparable to it's neighbors in Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras, everyone agreed that Caye Caulker was the ideal place for sun and low-key and anti-resorty fun. Caye Caulker used to be the backpacker hangout for those traveling around Central America. D's work partner even bragged about finding shoreline huts for $5/night. Those days are no longer. Budget accomodations in Caye Caulker run about $20-30/night. Jeez!

My days in Caye Caulker were my laziest of all during this three week adventure.

Lay out, swim, eat, and nap. Repeat for the next 6 days.

Most of my time in laying out and sleeping in Caye Caulker was spent at the Split. If you are looking for white sandy beaches, Caye Caulker is not the place for you. There are no "beaches" in Caye Caulker, instead everyone chills at the Split, a hurricane-made portion of the island where the island was split into two.

The water at Caye Caulker was impeccable. There were several times I needed to "use it" real bad. Now before you start judging, I'm pretty sure everyone has pee'd in a swimming pool. I used to have a great method. Stand still, pee, kick, kick, kick. So many times I wanted to pee in the big blue sea, but I just couldn't. The water was way too clear. My kick kick kick method wouldn't work in Caye Caulker. Sorry.

After a couple days of my Lay out, swim, eat, and nap routine, I was getting bored and knew I needed to change things up a bit. I decided to treat myself to an all-day snorkeling trip where we snorkeled Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize's oldest and most populated marine reserve and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world. We saw nurse sharks, sting rays, groupers, barracudas, but nothing really compared to my after-snorkel lunch. Belizean BBQ is the bomb. This particular man BBQ'd beautiful creole chicken along with sides of coconut rice and beans. In a couple quick bites, I devoured my super tender chicken, gnawed on the tendons, and threw my bones to some wild dogs scrounging around for some good eats. Lucky dogs.

I made to Caye Caulker Bakery every morning for their super delicious cinnamon rolls and superb patas (sweet rolls). A dollar (US) a day would buy me enough carbs for my lazy day in the sun. Their patas were incredible!

Lonely Planet never cease to surprise me with an overrated food recommendation. My LP suggested to make a dinner stop at Habanero's, Caulker's hottest restaurant. I could of done without Habanero's. The only good thing going on at Habanero's was watching their cooks work the kitchen.

Now, Marla's Kitchen is a place I wanna talk about. Marla and family run this small outdoor restaurant between the front and middle street and serves consistently homey meals every night all for under $10.

I leave you with this last picture of two very good friends I made on the bus to Belize City. Matius, the husband, lawyer by day -- rockstar by night, and his sweet sweet wife Veronica. They kept me company on the bus ride from Flores and eventually became great friends in Caye Caulker. I enjoyed my three weeks of alone time, but sometimes it's really nice to have like-minded friends to enjoy good eats and sights. Cheers to Central America!

South America in the summer???


Passionate Eater said...

Too bad there is no sandy beach to lie on there, because those waters are gorgeous blue and pristine! And did I pee in the swimming pool? Err.. NO! It was always the guy or girl "next to me!"

Christine D. said...

Wow, lots of color in these photos! They're really nice.

This looks like a nice, relaxing end to your vacation. Hopefully your "fangs" got worn down after eating all that BBQ.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

This sounds so relaxing. I'm always like that on vacation. Raring to go in the beginning and then I just want to hang out and do nothing the rest. I vote for going to Argentina, you never know when you'll get another opportunity.

Tokyoastrogirl said...

I love your pee/kick/kick/kick method. Very clever. That chicken looks OISHII YO!

Deb said...

Wow...what a great time, I am jealous! Everyday should be such an adventure, yes?

KirkK said...

Hi Jeni - Remind me not to be your general vicinity when you're in a pool, ok? ;o) I love your travelogues.....the writing is lively, and the photos are so vibrant and full of life. Thanks for sharing!

elmomonster said...

I second Kirk. Your travelogues are such a treat to read. I'm going to read about your adventures in SB now.

Jeni said...

Passionate Eater...I looooovved peeing in my pool. It felt so good as I kicked it in my Chinatown floatie. Aaaaah!

Christine D...I really needed this time to do nothing and kick it by the clear caribbean. Work life is harsh. Thanks for tagging along!

Wandering Chopsticks...I agree. I do the crazy stuff in the beginning and then rest at the end. It was perfect. I'm pretty set on Argentina as one of the S. America countries this summer. The Buenos Aires friends I made are so sweet and I'd love to see them again.

TAG...no one ever knew. I recently told my brother that I used to pee in the pool...he was pretty disgusted. I seriously thought everyone did it. Apparently not.

Deb..yes...everyday should be an adventure!

Kirkk..I'm realizing that people are pretty fixated with my pool peeing. Warm yello pee and cold clear water is such a great pairing. Please try it...at least in the ocean...it's quite liberating!

Thanks Elmomonster...I'm glad you enjoyed the fun. I really love Central America. Latin America is definitely my new playground.

Joel said...

Hey, D's work partner here. Someone's exaggerating. I said I got a beachfront place in Caye Caulker for $15/night, not $5!! I wish. that was at a place called Ignacio's towards the airport side of town. Not sure if it's still there. This was about 5-6 years ago.

Honeymoon bed breakfast said...

Altun Ha is the most extensively-excavated Maya site in Belize. The core site includes thirteen structures clustered within two Classic period plazas.

It was here that archeologist discovered a carved jade head of Kinich Ahau, the Maya sun god. At 15cm high, it is the largest carved jade piece to be found anywhere in the Maya world.


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