10 THINGS NOT TO DO IN CAYE CAULKER
1. Snorkelling (for us, anyway)
We arrived in Caye Caulker at the same time as a cold front. Overcast first day was fine, we watched Eng v Slovenia in the sports bar and chatted to people, and then enjoyed our beautiful accommodation (Maxhapan Cabanas) and the cheap coconut rum we bought in one of the many Chinese-run supermarkets on the island (strange cornering of the market!). We extended our original 5 night booking to 7, imagining we had plenty of time to get out on a tour. In particular we wanted to go out for the day on a sail boat to Hol Chan, Shark Alley and Coral Gardens.
Second day was full on storm, again not a concern as we were recovering ;-).
Third day was hot but windy – we tried a bit of snorkelling up at “The Split” between North and South islands, but the water was very murky and the current strong so couldn’t really see much.
The remaining days have been either full on storm (when the tours don’t run), or its still too rainy and choppy for us to enjoy one. Seen a good few people using their initiative and simply cycle around in their wet suits.
Weather 1 – Jimily 0
2. Eat expensive food
We’re over-budget. We’re not quite sure by how much because we are in the more expensive countries, but we’re concerned enough to enact some spending cuts (or, as Dan calls it, our “Mozzterity Package”).
2 meals a day are at home (bread + philly cheese + chilli sauce + pringles = fine at any hour!).
Other Budget Choices:
- Breakfast: the only breakfast we’ve eaten out was a Fry Jack – traditional Belizian cuisine and naughty! Fried bread with any combination of eggs, cheese, chicken, beans and ham. You know its bad if your hands get covered in grease as you eat it. Yum. 3.50BLZ (there are 3 BLZ to a pound).
- Lunch: jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese at the Sports Bar (about 12ish BLZ – expensive!), or lovely lamb pitta with herbs and salsa at Alladin’s, up near the Split (13 BLZ) – they also do a lovely fruit smoothie. Highlight, however, was fried chicken at Syds (9 BLZ) – so good we had it two lunchtimes in a row. Delicious quarter chicken in breadcrumb coating, mash and coleslaw. “Pick at the bones way longer than you should” kind of good.
- Snacks: There are a few vendors that cycle or push their carts around a route up and down the island. We’ve heard the Tamales Man (“hot tamales, hot tamales”) from our cabin at the weekend, but never actually tried one. Shame. We’ve also heard (and now tried) the “Meat pie, meat pie” man – he does a meat pie for 1 BLZ each (you’ll need 3), and a lovely banana cake for 4 BLZ. Apparently there are others but we haven’t seen them. Rain might be involved here.
- Dinner: Bit too expensive for us. Most expensive was on our first night at Little Kitchen. We had lobster (Jerk and Creole) with rice and beans and plantain for 25BLZ each. Cute place though, looking at stars. Everything else seemed to be shut and it was only 9pm (eat early here). We also had red snapper (in delicious coconut curry sauce) and barracuda steaks at Enjoy Restaurant for 20 BLZ each. Ostensibly cheap, especially for seafood, especially compared to London – but that tells you the nature of the budget cuts!
3. Celebrate Garifuna
The 19th is a public holiday in Belize to celebrate the arrival and settlement of the Garinagu here. We asked a few people about it and apparently “it is not celebrated by everyone but by some”. We dolled up on the evening prior to see what was going on – our “landlady” had her two friends over and were doing the same – but everything seemed pretty quiet to us, plus it was raining, so we came home. We did have a choice of Pizza Caulker, which looked busy but we’d read terrible reviews of the owner, or I&I Reggae Bar and then Oceanside (the only “party” options it seems). Plied with enough booze we probably would have done all of this – but, alas, sensible Mozzterity terms are in play. Rain might also be involved here.
Our Landlady and her giggling friends rocked up about 2am in the morning so clearly had the inside knowledge!
We heard the music and drums somewhere in the distance all through the night. Nice someone was getting down.
4. Speak Spanish
Belize used to be British Honduras, so yes – everyone speaks English. Its a lovely Caribbean lilt with spanish and local dialect thrown in, in the same sentence it seems! Nice change but our tiny Spanish vocab is already diminished. Hey ho. On to Spanish lessons!
5. Breathe Traffic Fumes
No cars! Everyone cycles bikes, walks or uses golf buggies. No fumes! Sometimes no shoes. Very cool.
6. Hang Out at the Lazy Lizard
This place sounded awesome. A bar right up at the Split. During the day we’ve read how people hang out on the wooden piers and drink a beer, sunbathe and snorkel. And then hang out at night, drink a beer, listen to music and fish. This sounded like the kind of place we could spend a lot of time at and have a laugh. But, alas, Lazy Lizard has been shut down. Why??? A “load of shit” was the reason proffered by a couple we met who work here running tours. The building is still there but no one is allowed to do business in that area now since the land was sold and permission to put up a hotel there was granted. Despite a lease already having been granted to the people running the Lazy Lizard. Lots of palms greased in this part of the world.. and not just because Fry Jacks are a traditional dish.
7. Meet People
I find the lack of going out, going on tours and budget does limit your chances to meet people doing similar. Plus the crowds we see out having dinner or in the sports bar seem to be older tourists rather than, err, backpackers. Not sure we’ve actually qualified as travellers yet.
Oh yes, and one of our Mozzterity cuts is to drink rum at home. Hmmm.
8. Take Photos
I find the lack of going out, going on tours, budget and sunshine does limit the use of your camera. Waiting for that sunny day to show the place and your activities off in a good light? Oh.
9. Miss out on Staying at Maxhapan Cabanas
Thank goodness we are staying somewhere so utterly charming, for 55US per night, with an owner (Louise) who does everything herself and is incredibly sweet.
The cabins are perfect – hot water, good wifi, cable, clean beds, microwave and fridge, plenty of space, verandah with chairs and hammock – its hard to fault. Plates and cutlery would be awesome, but you start to pay more money for ‘full kitchen’ style cabins.
On our first day Louise didn’t just clean our room, but she tidied all our things and hung our clothes up. She says “that’s all part of the service you get here”.
Bikes also included for free and two beach towels for $5.
So, we were able to treat this place like home for a week and take a break from rushing about or moving. Doing lots of research of next steps and future countries, reading, watching films. Lovely.There’s nothing like a tropical rain storm for a bit of introspection and relaxation. We must be the least adventurous backpackers Louise has ever met.
… AND! Yes, you can flush your loo paper down the loo at Maxhapan! Bonus. Took a while to remember :-/
10. Go Fast
Motto here is “go slow”. So I think we’ve achieved something in really immersing ourselves in the culture whilst here. Riiiiight???