I have been very disappointed in myself in terms of the frequency in which I have been writing.. But when you meet such a great group of people you seldom want to spend time alone.
I’d like to say I spent the two weeks trekking and participating in daily adventure seeking excursions, so busy, I barely had time to sleep. But the truth is, on Caye Caulker, I didn’t do much of anything except bond with the 5 most incredible people I could have hoped to meet (and my good buddy Matt of course)!
Stepping off the boat, onto the pier Matt, Jac, Reese Corey, Max and I we were thrown into a familiar sight of palm trees, growing wild along white sandy shorelines, surrounding beached bungalow bars. We were greeted by a tour guide who happily led us in the direction of the hostel he recommended called Dirty McNasty’s. Despite the name, we put our faith in him, and allowed him to accompany us on our way, while he gave us an introduction to the island. We opted for a 6 person dorm with fan, and as we had become quite familiar with the Aussies, decided our belongings would be safest if we all shared. Me and 5 guys, in a tiny, shitty ventilated room; 3 bunk beds and one bathroom. – but hey, 10 dollars is fucking cheap, and who am I to be high maintenance, a room is just a place for sleeping, and I am on an extended vacation. What we didn’t know then was that week would coincide with the hottest week of the month, and it was so hot that sleeping wasn’t even possible, and finding solace in shady places while shoving my face with ice cream was the only option. We survived 3 nights before the Aussies jumped ship, finding new digs on the main strip at a place called De Real Macaw, with AC, two beds, a television, bar fridge and coffee machine, for only 10 dollars more. Once I proved that I wasn’t the weakest link (there was no way I was going down as the princess) Matt and I decided that we too, could enjoy this luxury for the week and the 6 of us had 3 rooms with joining hammocks, side by side for the remainder of our time.
Days were spent sleeping in until 9, followed by my favorite meal of the day – now, I wouldn’t call it breakfast time – but, fry-jack time! I swear I woke up every morning and it was the first thing on my mind, my mouth already salivating. I’m not even ashamed to say that I would sometimes go to bed thinking about it. If you EVER go to Caye Caulker and you are on a tight budget, or if it pleases you to start your day off with comfortably delicious greasy food, because hey, your on vacation and deserve it, or because let’s face it your likely hungover, you too will fall in love with a fry-jack! Its quite literally a fried crunchy pita of sorts, and you stuff it! Did I mention, its 2 dollars? My personal daily dose consisted of eggs, ham and cheese. Sometimes, I’d even spice it up local style with some re-fried beans – but never hungover. If it was one of those mornings I got out of bed to eat, just to go back and sleep (these kinds of shameful tendencies are supported on the island) I’d even skip the eggs.
If I did manage to get a good nights rest, which the guys will tell you was way to often (I had perfected the routined nightly “ghost” and disappeared off to bed by 11 most nights), I’d follow fry-jack time with a good read in the hammock (kicking myself now, I realize I should have been writing).
Then, as soon as noon hits, someone is likely summoning you to socialize at the split. Its the place to be, and be seen on Caye Caulker. Its name derived from its positioning on the island, as it’s literally a split between the island, where the water is deep enough to swim, and fisherman are seen catching their living to feed tourists later in the evening. The split is centred around a 2 storied thatched rooftop, contiki styled bar called the Lazy Lizard, surrounded by two docks; one vertical, the other lateral. There is even a shallow bay for you to sit in, and enjoy your beer in waist deep water. You could spend all day at the split, and never tire. Like myself, Steve was an early riser, so him Matt and I would have been hanging out for a couple hours before the Aussies graced us with their presence, and then from there it didn’t matter what the hour, because it turned into beer o’clock anyway. Swimming, drinking, singing, flipping, making and following through on wagers, and down right goofing off were all common things beer o’clock brought on at the split. The days that weren’t liquor fuelled were spent lazing around the Lizard, reading up on and making plans for our future travels. We really just unwounded here and shared stories, getting to really know one another.
Nearing 4 o’clock became exercise time. Four times a week a lovely Canadian woman offers random yoga by donation at sunset. It’s not the most intense yoga I have ever experienced, but certainly the most fulfilling, I even convinced the boys to join from time to time. I found my zen, at days end on a rooftop to beautiful shades of pink, orange, and purple, and as I stared out into the vast distance in mountain pose, pondered the idea that life doesn’t get much better than simple moments such as those. The days yoga wasn’t offered we’d hold our continuous volleyball match amidst the oceans shoreline, and a couple of stray dogs, each team winning a few rounds as a result.
Dinner, usually followed around 7pm, and though we did switch it up from time to time, spent many nights at La Cubana. Cheap beats good when your on vacation and with this place we found a happy medium. Exercise caution obviously, as each of us was sick once.. but for 12.50 you can have an entree (I always opted for the shrimp skewer, I can never get enough veggies on vacation), along with three sides aka rice beans and potatoes accompanied by 4 rum and cokes/punch, whichever you’d prefer.
After we got the bus going, it was time for some more beer, a round of fuck the dealer, and some drunken – way to honest – conversations about things you don’t necessarily share with strangers, but by this point we were so much more than that – we were family. Following conversations only suitable for “never have I ever” we would likely head to the sports bar. It was owned by a great guy named Scott, an American who came to the Island, only to fall in love with it, and never leave a few years ago. It was really the bar to drink at if you weren’t at the Lazy Lizard, the food is amazing and the atmosphere at night beats any other place, and they play sports! Following its 12:00 close, the I&I Reggae Bar is everyones next destination… but like I said, that was usually past my bedtime.
Now before I let you down with my lack of adventure here, I did manage to group many accomplished fears into a day’s excursion. Not the blue hole, as it’s way out of budget for the likes of a backpacker, and not as worth it for a snorkeler, as I am regrettably not yet open water certified. But we did manage, a brilliant full day trek that I recommend highly through Dirty McNasty’s Hostel.
For 60 dollars we started off the day feeding giant fish, holding frozen bait above the water, allowing them to shoot out of the water to grab it. Mind your hands folks, I definitely held my fingers way to close. Braved my first fear, easy, now it was time to hold the frozen fish over my head! Simple, sure, but this didn’t go so well, and every time the giant bird I was trying to feed came at me, I choked and ducked for cover. After a third time, some helpless yelps, and a growing concern that I would soon just be the target for angry birds alike, I managed to stay still long enough to feed one. 2 fears faced and It wasn’t even yet noon.
Next came the snorkelling. Now, If you are an avid hard core snorkeler, I wont lie, the equipment will be a let down. The masks leak from time to time, and you will likely have to force the fins to fit your feet. But, when your swimming next to a wild manatee in open water, who are you to complain – this shit is once in a lifetime.
After the manatee made a few terrorizing faces under water it headed off, as did we, to Hol Chan Bay to see some more beautiful sea life. Spotted eagle rays, and sea turtles were among a few of the magnificent wildlife we had the pleasure of marvelling at. As a person who is normally afraid of open water, I found all I needed to feel right at ease was to be able to see what lay ahead of me. I then found myself swimming with the bait, getting as close a look I possibly could, and even getting slapped in the face by the fins of all the pretty fish.
45 minutes of touring the reef later, we headed to Shark Ray Alley and I was one of the first to jump in. So, they were harmless nursing sharks, but they were still big, beautiful and absolutely majestic creatures, and a ton of them were swimming with us. I crossed another tick off the ol’ bucket list, and was pleased that another of my fears had been faced. If I’m being completely honest though, I’m still terribly afraid of stingrays (thanks Steve Irwin, you crazy man).
We went on to catch lobster and crab for our cook up on tour guide Pap’s private island. (Papa, Daddy, Big Paps all became common nicknames as the night went on and the rum got to our heads) And Matt, Reese, Corey and I stepped up to take on the spear fishing. Swimming in crocodile infested mangroves with a broken snorkel and a baby spear-gun: Check. I’m losing count of all the fears I faced that day.
Ya ya, so we came up empty handed, I mostly choked on water due to sheer panic, and I looked like a complete fool trying to stay above the sea grass, because getting caught in it and drowning is obviously another fear of mine. But I did it!.. er tried… well, sort of.
We watched the sun make way for the stars that evening, and lit a huge bonfire. Ate the fish we caught with a line and bait, and had a massive cook up, drinking coconut rum like Pirates until the end of day before heading back to the Island. The eleventh day on the Island we all nursed nasty hangovers, and decided we had gone slow enough, all of us longing for new adventures.
We set out for Guatemala the next day.