The consensus I received about Belize City was that it wouldn’t be worth our time to stay there. This meant I needed to come up with Plan B. Belize was always on my list of countries to do during this trip, literally because I had to take a bus thought it to get to Guatemala but what I was going to do there was never really planned.
My newly download Kindle version of Lonely Planets ‘Central America on a shoestring’ held the answer – Caye Caulker with its tiny population of 1300. After traveling overnight and crossing the border at 0445 (Belize customs didn’t check my bag and I nearly hugged him as the thought of pulling that all out scared the hell out of me as I doubted I could have got it back in) we shared a taxi to the water taxi terminal. Ignasi got to speak Catalan with the guy we shared a taxi with and it is always good to see him speak his native tongue and not have to try to understand my Aussie accent!
45 minutes of the boat slapping the waves and my cup of tea being very insistent that it wanted out now we finally arrived at a tiny island. The directions to our newest crazy hostel were perfect. – Arriving with San Pedro Belize Express, you will make a right at the foot of the dock, walk a couple minutes to the corner of the Bambooze restaurant painted in bright orange & green and make a left, walk straight (NO TURNS) until you reach Sandros Resturant which is painted in orange with beige fence. At the corner of their fence you will make a right and look for gray gate with Beware of the dog sign. Our fence is a wire fence lined with palm leaves. No street names follow the restaurants!
So now let me explain crazy hostel.
I recently checked myself into a flea pit in Playa del Carmen so when I saw this hostel on HostelWorld I knew I was actually setting us up for something different. PAUSE is the only humanitourism accommodation on Caye Caulker that exists solely to fund animal welfare. Madi, the owner and her mother live in a large house on the north side of the island and offer a refuge to 90 (yes I shuddered when she said that) cats and 4 dogs.
She is classed by locals as crazy and anywhere else in the world she would be dubbed the crazy cat lady but Madi loves and cares for her animals with complete devotion. She even remembers all their names! To pay for all their expenses she rents out rooms and cabanas at very reasonable costs.
If you don’t love animals and their welfare don’t stay here. There is a little bit of a urine smell (given the number of cats its actually nowhere near as bad as one would expect) and the facilities are limited because she only rents the rooms to pay for the cats.
Rain almost completely destroyed our first day in Caye Caulker. It was pretty much raining all day and we had very little chance to walk around the small southern island. A fairly fierce night of rain, lightning and thunder made me worried the next day would be horrific. As we woke the sun was just shinning and the day was magical.
First we walked to the top of the south island when ‘The Split‘ is. This split was created when a hurricane split the island in two. This Split is the best part of the island. A trendy little bar with reggae beats provides cold drinks while tourists and local sun themselves on the boardwalks around the end of the water.
The swift currents in this gap were amazing. The water was cool and for a good swimmer this was heaven. Of course my head straight away said, ‘swim to the otherside’. Now in my younger years I even held a record for the 50 meters backstroke but that was over 20 years ago. After watching a local man do it I thought why not I can do this. The swim over I will admit had me panic for just a moment. I didn’t want to land in the mangroves or be swept out to sea but it was fine. The swim back was much easier than I expected though knowing how to do side stroke was a blessing in disguise. Sitting back on the boardwalk I was a little shattered but completely chuffed with myself.
It’s the little things that bring me the greatest satisfaction!!
I was soon to be out done! On the north island a large dog appeared and then walked straight into the water and swam across. Though still shattered from my swim my first thought was I don’t think I can save this dog if it starts to drown. Well that was a wasted thought. The dog happily swam across, climbed out of the water, shook herself and wandered around. Just before we left we found her sunning herself on another part of the boardwalk! As they say its a dogs life sometimes!
The island itself is pretty much all sand with no sign of bitumen anywhere. The sand roads turn to slimy mush and large puddles during the rain but when the sun is out and the roads are partially dry its easy to fall in love with Caye Caulker. I would get island fever after about a week but there is something magical about the signs that say slow down, the Rastafarian culture and the sound of happy people that sucks you in.
A meal of nachos and then spicy lobster for lunch we then strolled slowly around with an ice cream. It was very pleasant and I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude that I am out here living my dream and now sharing it with the most amazing man! Igansi.
Ignasi does however get the giggles. At a fruit stand, Igansi picked up two bananas, flicked them to say we wanted them and they both promptly fell out and onto the floor. The young boy serving burst out in giggles and after we walked away he was still giggling and saying he flicked them on the floor. Yes, we did buy them and I did end up eating a little sand. An afternoon open jam session at Barrier Bar and Grill on a Friday afternoon (the singing was not good but the joy was) topped off the day.
We encountered very few nuisances such as a couple of very unhelpful shop assistants but overall this was a great little spot to rest up before finally making it to Antigua, Guatemala in a few days where I start my TEFL course.
More boats and buses to come!