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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Monday, 13 September 2010

September 13th: Caye Caulker

On September 13th 1975 I was on Caye Caulker in Belize.

I spent a week in Belize between Mexico and Guatemala. It's the only bit of Afro-Caribbean life I've seen. I liked the wooden houses on stilts built against hurricanes. I liked the friendliness of the people and the easy-going way of life. I was interested in the British legacy - it was still a colony with self-governance: Barclay's Bank had a very British feel and British foodstuffs were in some of the shops. I also enjoyed the trip to the reef, said to be the second longest in the world, and throughout the time in Belize I was pestered to buy pieces of black coral. I don't deal well with the pressure of a snorkelling mask however. I liked the little houses on the cay and lying on my hammock slung between the coconut palms.  This was still hammock territory, though not as strongly as at Chetumal, the last stop in Mexico, where my room had no bed, just hooks on the wall. I think the bus for the final part of the journey was one of those old-fashioned ones with open sides and a tarpaulin that got pulled down when the tropical rains struck.  One other memory was the toilet over the dock in Caye Caulker which went straight into the sea: I don't imagine that's still there.

From my journal, covering the week I spent in Belize, starting at Chetumal:
Bus to Belize not running today because of yesterday's fiesta, so took 10 am bus to Santa Elena at the frontier and walked across. Mexican guy read my yellow fever stamp for smallpox, no real hassle on the Belize side and got ride in pickup to Corozal. There waited under tree for truck. Drank beer and ate bread and avocado. Got bus at 1pm via Orange Walk, several foreigners. Interesting though bumpy and windy and dusty ride. Most houses built on stilts, well cultivated at first but later jungly and swampy. Spanish influence giving way to black as you go south. Found a pension - Mrs Clarke's - in Eve Street. Very good and friendly people.

Left things at Mrs Clarke's and looked for fisherman to take us to the cay, but settled for the Mermaid of Mr Neil. Directed to Tony Vega's place where we could cook. Walking through the coconuts and past the mangroves and seeing the way the cay is built.

Morning to the reef, interesting snorkelling which I found tiring and got sunburned. Stopped once in the deep and once in the shallows and then they went to dive for conch. Barracuda around and all the life of the reef you see in the movies, though not terrifically colourful coral except for the big fans (it is black coral after all). Zebra fish and blue fish with yellow tails and big purple fish in a bow shape and lots of others. Made a conch stew when we got back. In the evening to Fran's Shack out on the shore away from the houses to drink beer and rum and coke and talk to the sort of men who go to bars. Fran had been a teacher and done something in Vietnam and Korea.

Next day eating off the lobster tails that were being thrown away as too small for the American market. Back day after on a lobster boat, slow easy pace in the hot sun, porpoises and sailing boats.

Some links:  Belize City, Barrier Reef, Caye Caulker History (with information about Tony Vega)

House on Caye Caulker by Claire a Taiwan

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