Caye Caulker, Belikin and $12.50 Lobsters: Un-Belize-able
“Caye Caulker, Go Slow” was one of the first things I saw after getting off the ferry from Belize City.
It turned out to be a very fitting motto. The four days I spent on Caye Caulker were probably four of the most chilled-out days of my life. I’d saunter down the main drag, with a gallon jug of water in one hand, and hear some rasta guy call over, “Hey mon, slow down mon.” Reggae music (Bob Marley being the preferred choice, of course) played all day and night. People loitered in front of their shops doing next to nothing in the hot afternoons. Island life, it seemed, was 1/4 the speed of normal life.
Coming into Caye Caulker, I was pretty gung-ho about diving, seeing the Blue Hole and doing all sorts of day time activities. But by the time I left, I had really just drank a lot of Belikin, ate enough lobster to feed an entire family, and did a lot of nothing. And it was great. Sometimes you just have to slow down and take it easy.
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My daily routine went something like this:
8-9am: Wake up. No matter what time I went to sleep, I’d always wake up around this time. It didn’t help that the beds at Tropical Paradise were shit and I could feel the individual springs digging into my back.
9-930am: Go for a swim or a walk. There’s not many better ways to wake up than jumping into the ocean.
930-1030/11am: Breakfast. After meeting up with the crew, we’d get some breakfast/brunch. Being Caye Caulker, I usually got something with lobster in it.
11-2pm: Head down to the split (a 1961 hurricane literally split the island in half), hang out by our pier, or do some kind of activity like riding/walking around the island. Probably crack open our first beer of the day.
2-330pm: Lunch. Crack open another beer and another lobster.
330-4pm: Pre-naptime hang out. Go to a pier, have a beer, go for a swim, chill out.
4-6pm: Nap time. Awesome.
6-8/9pm: Dinner. Regardless of which restaurant we ate it, it took a long time. There’s no way around it, that’s just how these places worked. While waiting, we’d pop open a few more Belikins and mix our first cuba libres of the night. Obviously, we ate lobsters. And cheap lobsters at that: $12.50.
9-whenever: After dinner was I&I and Oceanside. Caye Caulker was a small enough place that pretty much everyone on the island went to these two spots at night. I&I was a reggae bar with hammocks and a very cool rooftop deck. You could get a good view of the island, especially from the tiny lookout at the very top of a support beam. Downstairs, there was a dance floor that resembled something out of a middle school. 1-2 people would be dancing in the middle while 10 or so rasta guys wallflower’ed the dancing tourists. It was usually our first stop before we made our way to Oceanside.
Oceanside was definitely something else. Jon nailed it with this description:
The best and worst club I have been to. Where you see all the faces on the island that you bumped into that day – plus a few unsavoury extras that save their loitering until after midnight. The rum punch is super charged, the local booties are huge and will grind you into the corner and if you’re lucky you may see a fight. If it all gets too much you can make a rapid exit and skinny dip off the dock. Yes it’s unbelizeable.
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A few of the more memorable stories:
The Conch Shell – A few of us headed to “The Split” to see what the commotion was about. There we found the Lazy Lizard, a bar with reggae music constantly blasting in the background and packed with people downing beers and lazing about. Of course we join in and after a couple, we being men, decide to do the macho thing and swim across The Split. Alcohol and exercise don’t mix and on top of that, there was a decent current running through. By the time I reached the other side, I was pretty tired. As we’re about to head back, I see this gorgeous conch shell half buried in the sand. I pull it out and it’s nearly a foot long, a little pink inside and perfectly coiled. I feel like I’m a five-year old on Christmas morning. Determined to get it back, I decide to hold it in one hand and swim.
If haven’t tried swimming with a shell in your hand, let me tell you: shit is HARD. If I had to swim any longer, I probably would’ve drowned. But I made it, shell intact and alive. So now I’m walking around with the biggest shit-eating grin on my face, showing off my shell to everyone who’ll stop and listen. On the way back to our bungalow, we run into Lindsey who had gotten here the day prior. I pull out my shell and tell her my heroic story.
“Paul… let me show you something.” Lindsey takes us to one of the piers and points to a big jumble of rocks underneath the pier. I look closer and realize they are not rocks but rather… conch shells. Hundreds of conch shells, most of them bigger and better looking than mine. Apparently fisherman catch them in their nets and throw them out beneath the piers. Like being punched in the stomach, my enthusiasm was knocked out cold. I chucked my beloved shell in the ocean.
Ignorance is bliss.
Mishap on the Pier – Later that same night, we met up for a big group dinner at Fran’s, a roadside grill that served up arguably the best food on the island. We knew it was going to take at least an hour but we were prepared and had a bunch of Belikins and ingredients for cuba libres. We headed down to the pier and started drinking. A few deep, Lindsey leans over the pier and I pretend to push her in. In that same motion, I also happen to inadvertently knock her room key through a crack in the pier.
“Oh shitttttttttttt….” Everyone starts freaking out. Lindsey is leaving early next morning and who knows if the guesthouse staff are still in. We’re searching in the water trying to see the little yellow tag but can’t see anything. I run into a grocery store and ask to borrow the biggest flashlight they have. Flashlight in tow, I run back and lo’ and behold, the first place I look is exactly where the key fell.
Caye Caulker’s shoreline extends quite far out so it remains shallow, even hundreds of feet off the coastline. The water was about chest high so getting it the key didn’t end up being that big of a problem. Except for the fact that I wasn’t wearing swim trunks. Being the one who knocked it in, I stripped down to my boxers and jumped in. Despite showering and drying myself, my wet boxers had me walking around with wet shorts the rest of the night.
Nail Polish is Hard to Remove – A lesson I learned the hard way. James, Jon and I ended up partying pretty late one night and ended up at Mary and Lindsey’s bungalow (a couple from Austin, TX). I’m not sure when I passed out but their couch was damn near impossible to resist. Suspecting shenanigans, I made it a point to tell them that my shoes were off and by drunk code, they couldn’t do anything to me.
I woke up sometime later, grumpy as hell and Jon and I made our way back to our bungalow. All was fine until I looked in the mirror. I squinted at the red blob on my forehead and realized someone had drawn a heart pierced with an arrow. God dammit.
I started scrubbing thinking that it’d come off fairly easily. No dice. I rubbed some soap in and went at it again. I started scratching with my nails and my forehead was beginning to turn red. A few bits and flakes started coming off but that was about it. There was really no progress. Already grumpy from having to wake up, I started getting angry. Jon was just laughing at me although I think he realized that I was actually getting legitimately pissed off. To prevent me from literally scratching my skin off, he said I should probably go to sleep and deal with it the next morning.
He was right. I woke up the next morning and over the course of the night, the nail polish hardened and began cracking off. Needless to say, I gave Mary, Lindsey and James shit but all’s well that end’s well.
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Hanging out, drinking, partying, eating lobster, waking up on Christmas morning in flip-flops and board shorts. That was Caye Caulker.
We all planned on leaving the morning of the 26th so the night of the 25th was quite bittersweet.
Caye Caulker, as with all good things, must come to an end.