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Belize Cayes – A World Away From Reality

As the roar of the engine turned into a kitten’s purr and our boat huddled against Caye Caulker’s pier, we took a quick inventory. Dancing palms, tick. Sun-bleached beach, tick. The island’s motto, “Go Slow,” lazily painted on a sign planted in the sand, ticks. I offered a private smile to my accomplice. This was the place. We had escaped…for now.

Rising and falling against a small Belizean island in the Caribbean Sea was not in the original script. The plan had been to fly to Belize for a taste of eco-adventure before crossing the Guatemalan border. But we had gotten greedy, and four days later we were still there with our hands caught in the pot of action. Jungle treks, eco-tours, jaguar watching, cave tubing, Mayan ruins and mountain biking. Where would it end? The equatorial heat was there. We needed a place to lay low for a few days. Somewhere a man could find a secluded beach and lay back and think of England, or anywhere else he’d rather not be. After a few discreet investigations, we knew there was only one place to hide, and only one man powerful enough to help us get there. The man known only as “The Marine Terminal Ticket Guy”.

So we paid for our passes in small, unmarked bills, hopped on the first ship bound for the islands, and left the spoils of continental adventure in our wake. Not that the warm blue waters off the coast fooled us. Home to over one hundred and seventy islands, or cays, and the second largest barrier reef in the world, it wouldn’t be easy to keep our hands off an abundance of aquatic fun that has tempted travelers ever since Blackbeard and his group of Buccaneer sailed these waters way back in the 1600s. Yet as we stood on this unassuming wharf and watched our getaway ship pull away from the dock, the captain turned to us with some reassuring advice: “Relax- you my. You’re on Caye Caulker time now”.

If Gilligan had ever gotten into real estate development, the town of Caye Caulker would have been his Big Apple. Doze peacefully on this sliver of the island, the cluster of brightly painted ramshackle beach hideaways, deserted beaches, scattered fishing boats, palm trees, sand-floored restaurants, dive shacks and salty old sailors backing bars at 11am, makes for the perfect hideaway for a getaway.

Caye Caulker’s crown jewels are its minimalist pleasures. No international resorts, flashy nightclubs or rush hour traffic. Remember the motto? Go slowly. Our mission, and yes we chose to accept it, was to find a bungalow for as little as forty dollars a night on a tranquil stretch of creaky white sand, to delight our palates with an array of seafood delights, then to debrief over a drink in a beach bar while watching the sun slip under a sheet of blue Caribbean sea. This message will be self-indulgent in five seconds.

Before long, we slipped into the “no shoes, no shirt, no problem” and “pareo, bathing suit, smile” dress code, and immersed ourselves among the welcoming band of eclectic castaways. It soon became apparent that the local brew of Creoles, Central Americans and Europeans posed little threat to our relaxation plans. However, we’ll have to keep an eye out for retired North Americans roaming the streets in rickety old golf carts, sending dogs, children and strolling tourists running for safety.

For three perfect days we hid behind sunglasses, cocktail umbrellas and lobster menus, wondering if maybe, just maybe, there would be no more calls to action. , and life really was a beach after all. Then one evening, while we were minding our own business with two big Panty Rippers at Popeye’s Bar and Restaurant, the bartender told us that a man had asked questions. “Did he know anyone who would like to explore the reef?” “Had he seen tourists dancing so badly to the reggae band that they couldn’t show their faces around the island? The next morning we went to see a man about a snorkeling trip.

While experienced divers prefer the more exciting sites in the waters off Caye Ambergris, the calm, beautiful reefs of Caye Caulker provided the perfect setting for novice submariners like my nervous companion, a Canadian mountaineer, much more to comfortable in a set of skis than a pair of flippers.

After the initial disappointment of learning that it was not my chance to wear a tight rubber suit in public, the reef snorkeling trip turned out to be a fantastic experience. We admired and admired the amazing array of fish, eels and spectacular coral formations. The highlight of the three-hour tour was Shark Ray Alley, where nurse sharks circled our wary group from a distance before sneaking in for closer examination, and Southern Ray stingrays glided their expansive wings over our bodies. . The two turned out to be pretty harmless, though maybe a little chilly for a first date.

For the rest of the day hardly a word was spoken. A mountain girl and I adjourned in our secluded waterfront paradise, soaked up the afternoon sun, and flipped through old issues of Mexican celebrity gossip magazines found in our bedroom — anything to keep us entertained. because our days of laziness were numbered. Back at the bungalow, we made our plan. We did not give up our leisure life so easily. We were going down to party. Caye Ambergris was expecting me and I had a birthday to celebrate.

As the largest, most developed and most expensive of the Belizean islands, Caye Ambergris is ideal for first-class vacationers, with a range of villas, luxury residences and resorts to choose from. To prepare for our last stand, we settled into the mysterious Sun Breeze Beach Hotel, near the main town of San Pedro, to be pampered and enjoy creature comforts. The spacious rooms, resort-style pool, hot tub, massage studio, chic outdoor bar, and restaurant with international flavors were a far cry from Caye Caulker’s gilliganism, but at just $125 a night my interior Thurston Howell the third was calling.

Spoiled, satisfied and fed in a way only money can buy, we climbed to the gazebo above the hotel bar. As we slid into the hammock, we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets the Caribbean has to offer. Rocking back and forth with a birthday cocktail in hand, I could truly appreciate how deliciously far we were from anything resembling an office cubicle. Contemplation over, I made my last charge in the night. Crazy Canucks Bar, Crazy Canadian in tow, we drank, laughed and danced embarrassingly to reggae music until sunrise.

The following days we gorged on water sports as fast as Caye Ambergris could. There was snorkeling among some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, sailing trips around the island, deep sea fishing for sailfish and barracuda, jet skiing and paragliding off sunny beaches. . Oh we had fun!

Our thirst for aquatic adventure was finally quenched, we cruised around town, dunked our butts on the nearest rental bikes and peddled to the far reaches of the island. Crossing a small river by a high-powered, human-powered ferry to the less populated north island, we cycled along remote dirt tracks lined with palm trees. Emerging from the bush on the beach at the edge of the Caribbean blue lapping, it was a leisurely ride along long stretches of creaking white sand to the “silver” end of town.

The North Beach hosts luxurious resort bungalows and private beach villas. I thought ambitiously about the For Sale sign that stood in front of a particularly hedonistic home. Apparently the previous owner wasn’t happy driving his 80ft cruiser around all that coral nonsense to moor in front of his beach palace. Being the enterprising type, he had used a few sticks of dynamite to blow up a nice little walkway through the reef. Unfortunately, the government didn’t see it that way and sent him a large enough fine to erase Belize’s national debt. He was last seen paddling in a canoe heading for Cuba.

Further afield we came across Captain Morgan’s Retreat, setting of the original Temptation Island show. As we stood in front of the mecca of TV drama, so many touching memories came flooding back. Amber and Troy whispering under a palm tree, presumably discussing the effects of global warming. Shawana ditches Gary and confesses to Chad “you had me at” are these things real? I turned to the Skier Bunny and told her she had a smile so beautiful it could almost pass for a cosmetic enhancement.

Crossing the beach towards town for the last time before heading back to the mainland, we said goodbye to all the things we loved about the cays. The lazy palms, the ivory white sand, the aqua blue waters, the hammocks swaying in the breeze, the friendly faces, the plastic whale and the dolphin fountain splashing Jesus outside the pink Jehovah’s Witnesses mansion. . the what ? Anyway, for a few repeat adventure travel offenders, this was definitely a nice place for a day pass or two.

Some said that I spent too much time living in an imaginary world, that I needed to grasp reality. Sometimes I think they are right. But then again, they’ve probably never been to the Belizean cays.

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