I keep updating on the previous country in the next one, the last one I wrote on Mexico from Belize, and today I am going to tell you about Belize from Guatemala!
We spent the trip from Playa to Caye Caulker (pronounced Key Caulker) hungover, after dancing the night away at The Blue Parrot. First was a 4 hour bus ride to Chetumal, then a quick taxi to the ferry port where we walked out onto a pontoon in order to go through “passport control” – a guy sat behind a wooden box, and “customs” – a labrador -which, by the way got excited and pawed my bag to my horror (just for bread I assure you) but, they just laughed and let me through. For all they knew I was carrying 10 kilos of crack.
The boat ride wasn´t great for our backs, especially after the previous day´s bumpy roads; the sea was beautifully azure, as they all are around there, but very choppy and we were thrown around for the whole hour and a half long journey. Arriving in “passport control” and “customs” on San Pedro island was even more amusing than Mexico´s farewell and also, the most picturesque I have ever seen, it was such a shame we couldn´t take photographs. We pulled up beside this beautiful tropical island of lush vegetation and white sand landing on small jetty poking out into the beatiful clear waters. One by one we filed onto the pontoon, which had dangrously large, passport-swallowing gaps between the slats which lead straight into the water. We saw 5 stingrays within the first 5 minutes of being there, the water is so rich with life. All set out in the open, it felt very strange as we went up and showed a man our passports in order to be stamped into the country. He then directed us to collect out bags, and walk 5 metres down the jetty to “customs.” A man was stood there beneath the sign, he asked me if I had any weapons or, curiously, fruit in my bags. I said that I didn´t, “okay,” he said in Creole tinged English, “welcome to Belize.” And that was that.
Another 20 minute boat ride to Caye Caulker, and the mood changed, as if our captain had been waiting until that point, to ensure we were let into his country first. He cranked up the tunes, none younger than 10 years old, my favourite being Cher´s ‘I Believe in Life After Love,’ and we arrived just as the sun was setting over the island. Caye Caulker is a tiny spit of land, and only the very far western edge has any civilisation, the rest is mangrove swamps and palm trees. We could see the whole island as we approached, 90% in darkness, with only a few twinkling lights to the far left.
We spent a magical day and a half there, which wasn´t enough time at all. We went snorkelling on a tiny boat belonging to a friend of our tour guide, Chad, the sail boat we had been promised was being repainted at the time, so it was a squeeze getting 17 people into a boat meant for 10. I did things that day I thought I could never do, such as swimming with huge fish and sea creatures – the first time we leapt in I was terrified, and it took working up to take the leap. Once in, the first site of the bottom was a little off putting, as I realised it wasn´t sand as I had thought from above, but a conch graveyard – thousands and thousands of huge shells piled one top of another, it reminded me of the skull scene from the beginning of The Terminator
My first view of the gigantic stingrays also freaked me out, but I got more corageous and eventually eeked my way forward. As one body, our whole group was doing the same, and it was amusing to watch a stingray change direction, majestically gliding its way straight towards someone, only to have them scarper as quick as their flippers could carry them, screaming silently into their masks.
There was also an enormous, 4 ft long, sea turtle, with huge gentle eyes and soft brown features, which swam with soft gentle flapping movements, looking very docile. We had been warned by our guide however, that this specific turtle had once bitten off the heel of a man, who was dangling his feet off a boat, thus, whenever it made a bee-line for anyone, it was a scary moment. At one point, he did just that to me, in a particularly shallow strech of water, I thought I’d had it and I would be flying home from an infected turtle bite. He carried on underneath me however, gentlely rubbing his shell on my stomach as I barely dared to breath, before gliding off into the ocean. We had been told strictly no touching of the marine life, but that I couldn´t really have helped that one!
Next we arrived in a stretch of water renouned for being a good place to see nurse sharks. Sure enough, some chum thrown into the water, brought a sudden mass of 10 – 15 of the creatures up to about 4-5ft in length. When our guide said we could leap right in, we laughed at first, until we realised he was completely serious. Thinking you only live once I did just that – I can tell you it is a funny experience swimming with a dangerous animal that is well over half your size, just as it is in a feeding frenzy. Their little mouths look very innocent, as they are similar to their cousins the stingrays in their diets, but apparently they aren’t as harmless as they look. It was amazing, but nerve wracking to say the least!
Our hunt for manatees that day was scarpered by the choppy waters, and we returned to land at dusk once more, drinking rum punch from litre cartons.
That night I was beetroot red all over, and as I lay dousing myself in half a bottle of aloe vera, although I was in pain, I didn´t regret the day in the least.
Caveat – more suncream, that was the by far the most dangerous thing that day that I experienced, but was the one I feared the least!!
More Belize to come!