Paradise in Belize
Most people access Caye Caulker by taking a water taxi from Belize City.
This is what we did. Only later did we learn that we could have taken a boat from Chetumal, Mexico! Next time…
Caye Caulker is a small island where everything is just a few blocks away. The roads are narrow sandy streets filled with pedestrians, bicyclists, and golf carts: no cars are on the island. There are only three streets: Front Street, Middle Street, and Back Street. You won’t see any street signs; directions are given by landmarks. For example, our hostel was on Back Street, down the road from Bambooze and Pizza Caulker.
I go for a run twice during our stay, and it feels so strange to be moving so quickly. My pace is very slow, but I still feel as if I am flying by the street signs saying “Go Slow.” I pass a golf cart.
We are sleeping in a little shack with four bunk beds, a plethora of honey bees, and something scurrying in the ceiling. As I fall asleep on our first night in Belize, I hear the occasional WHAM of a hard fruit falling from the tree and onto our roof. To say that our hostel is rustic is a bit of an understatement. Amazingly, I sleep soundly all night long.
Caye Caulker doesn’t have a beach, but it does have wonderfully clear water that many people jump into off docks and at “The Split”, which is where the island is split into two.
One day, we splurge on a snorkeling tour with Raggamuffin tours. We end up on a sailboat with our new Minnesota friends and four Scots. It takes me a while to get my mask to not leak profusely, but once I do, the ocean opens up to me. I see so many different kinds of fish. We stop three times to snorkel; the last time at the beautiful Hol Chan Marine Preserve. The day-long adventure is well worth every penny. Plus, the trip ends with rum punch and ceviche – pretty much my favorite.
A carefree island does wonders for my worries.
The night before we leave Caye Caulker, I get an email from the chocolate factory in Guatemala where we are to volunteer for 6 weeks starting in just 5 days. A change of plans. The new factory location isn’t available until January, thus he no longer needs our help.
We spend our last night in Caye Caulker making new plans and within 24 hours we have a new place at which to volunteer for those same 6 weeks.
From Caye Caulker we wanted to go directly to Flores, Guatemala (about 160 miles/250 km). I saw a sign for a bus to Flores when in Belize City waiting for our water taxi to Caye Caulker a few days before and had planned to take that bus for $50 USD. However, it is still the slow season, and the only bus to Flores had left several hours ago.
A eager taxi driver wants to drive us to the border for $100 USD.
We walk 20 minutes to the bus station.
The local “chicken bus” will take us to San Ignacio, Belize for $10 USD. While I’m terrified of getting sick on these hot, stinky, crowded school busses, I also want to ride one. I find some bananas and watermelon at the market. I’m ready. We wait for the next bus to arrive in order to get a front seat. I elbow my way through the crowd while Martin throws our bags in the back. Front seat acquired. Success.
I don’t get sick. Yay! While the bus is uncomfortable, it moves along quickly and gets us to our destination.
We decide to spend the night in San Ignacio, Belize to avoid traveling in Guatemala at night.
I’m glad we did! San Ignacio is a quaint town with a vibrant farmer’s market and a super helpful information center. How refreshing to receive information from someone who doesn’t want to sell me something.
We stay at Bella’s Backpackers Hostel, which is clean and has a kitchen!! I pick up some veggies and make a salad for supper. While walking around town, we discover a free showing of Frozen on an inflatable screen in the middle of the street and watch the whole thing. Only a handful of second graders watch it with us. I wonder if these kids can relate to the cold.
Despite all the fun sounding adventure tours available in San Ignacio, we decide to head to Flores in the morning. Belize is expensive; it’s time to go to Guatemala.
Because of the helpful man at the information desk, we are prepared to leave Belize. We hire a taxi for $17 USD to take us to the border. We pay the $75 Belizian dollar fee to leave and walk a few feet into Spanish-speaking Guatemala. We walk to the bus station and pay $60 quetzal to go to Santa Elena and walk the last mile or so to Flores.