Okay, anyone remember these guys?
The astute amongst you will recognise Norwegians Magnus and Robert from my Peruvian chapter. We did the gruelling Inca Trail together, an experience that is sure to cement good friendships, and they are definitely high on the ‘travel pals I’d like to hang out with again’ list.
So, on the way to Belize, I am excited for a number of reasons. Firstly, I am to be reunited with them on Caye Caulker, a backpackers Mecca slap bang in the middle of the Caribbean. Shit’s about to get Creole…
Secondly, I get to shelve my woeful efforts at Spanish and speak my first language once more, thanks to Belize having once been part of the British Empire. The Queen still adorns their Belizean dollars, and God Save The Queen is their national anthem. If it wasn’t that, it would likely be Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’ judging by the number of times we heard it…
It is a country of small population, approximately 320,000, and it is a really diverse mix of cultures from Creole, Mestizo and Mayan all the way through to Garifuna. When I land at Belize City’s tiny international airport, I immediately warm to the people and the place. Their unofficial motto is ‘Go Slow’ and I can feel myself immediately dropping down a gear as though a pre-requisite for the rubber stamping of my tourist visa.
I have lost count of the number of wide eyed ex-nomads who have recommended Caye Caulker to me. One of Belize’s selling points is its reef, the second largest in the world, which in turn means a wealth of cayes to visit, but Caye Caulker is the budget traveller’s choice. It’s a beautiful limestone coral sand-covered island, around 20 miles east off the coast from Belize City which I journey in a nippy wee water taxi.
It’s a breeze to navigate the island as it’s so small. Basically everything you need is on one street, Front Street, which runs the length of the island…or the much shorter street that runs parallel behind it, the imaginatively named Back Street. As a result of its meagre breadth, its azure waters glimmer beckoningly at you bookending each street that connects the two.
In 1961, Hurricane Hattie split the island in two and the locals then dug this split out to widen it thus creating a convenient waterway from the east to the west of the island. It is at this spot, nicknamed The Split, where most people swim and lounge around on the sand.
Here on the caye, I decide to cross the line from fan assisted oven to air conditioning in my room, opting to trade up from usual hostel standards to a beautiful cabana with its own private dock. Of course, once you have crossed this line, there is no going back (as I will later learn in the stifling heat of Hopkins.)
The Tropical Paradise Hotel (or Club Tropicana as I like to call it) will be my home for the next seven days.
To complete the convenience of this place, it even has a ridiculously tiny airstrip. Coconut airways anyone?
Once reunited with Norway, we settle well into island life. This is the kind of place where all your action plans melt away, and you can make rather a good effort of doing absolutely nothing. It is bliss. If this place came with an instruction manual, it would mainly read like this…
1. Make sure you catch the sun set as it drops into the Caribbean at least once…but take beer
2. Get a golf cart and slip into such extreme inertia that you refuse to walk anywhere
3. Fill aforementioned golf cart with beer
4. Go snorkelling to Shark Ray Alley on a reggae sail boat, and inadvertently star in your own personal hip hip video (y’know chicks in bikinis, Shaggy pumping from the in board stereo with a rap-a-long from the horizontally laid back captain)
5. Fill your hotel fridge full of enough rum and beer to do you the week, then accidentally have to replenish supplies the very next day…and again the next
6. SEASONAL: Make new friends with random backpackers on St Patrick’s Day, but try to ignore their ridiculous tattoos (yes that is indeed a six pack…what a tosser)
7. Get to know the neighbours
8. Drink rum cocktails…on docks
9. Match the sound bleed of the countless reggae bars by operating a Bring Your Own Disco…cue dancing at all times of the day
10. Become a local in the I and I reggae bar and Oceanside nightclub, virtually shouting “the usual” on entry…and having your own table
11. Indulge in a ridiculous amount of seafood including ceviche, shrimp coconut curries and rum and ginger snapper fillets
12. Spend time surveying the locals and their customs. For example, the man who just walks around shouting ‘sweeeeeeeeeeeeet’ every two minutes, that guy who is out on his bike 24/7 and The Cake Man who sells the most unBelizable banana bread you will ever taste
13. Go slow…that’s an order
14. LOL your little heart out with good friends
All too soon it was time to leave our island paradise, and it was with the heaviest of hearts. With plans afoot for our next hang time at T in the Park, we bid Caye Caulker adieu.
And the soundtrack was:
Woodkid ‘The Golden Age’
Shaggy ‘Sugar Cane’ (you heard)
The Black Kids ‘I’m Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You’
Bob Marley Various
M83 ‘Midnight City’
The True Vaults ‘No Goodbyes’
Beastie Boys ‘Make Some Noise’
Thumpers ‘Dancing’s Done’
Haim ‘Don’t Save Me’
Mos Def Various
Elton John ‘Tony Danza’
The Pixies ‘Where Is My Mind’
Friendly Fires ‘Friendly Fires’
Flight of the Conchords ‘Business Time’
Elbow ‘Open Arms’
Charli XCX ‘Stay Away’
LCD Soundsystem ‘New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’