Latin America 2011: Day 7: Caye Caulker
Further rain flooded even more bridges in San Ignacio overnight, so we were happy to leave and head to our next destination, Caye Caulker.
Before that, though, we had a delicious breakfast at the same place we had dinner the first night, complete with fry jacks! Delicious slices of fried dough. Nom. We made sure to eat well because it was more than three and a half hours to Belize City on the bus. Crammed in with the locals and with window seats, it actually wasn't too bad. The countryside is wide, flat, and clearly very poor, although there was very brief evidence that things were better in certain areas, including the outskirts of Belmopan (the capital) and Belize City.
Belize City was a study in contradictions. Evidence of wealthy households and resorts on the outskirts, then we were forced to put our cameras away due to high crime and theft risk til we entered the water taxi port, which was walled off with armed guards. The five minute taxi ride between the main bus station and the port was among the most destitute areas I've seen, almost on par with the worst in China.
The 45-minute San Pedro Express water taxi gives a nice semi-open-air ride to Caye Caulker. You go from brown looking water to the cayes that edge the Belize Barrier Reef (part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which stretches from Mexico down to Honduras) to Caye Caulker. The water turns shades of blue and turquoise and islands appear, then you're docked on what looks like a very crowded little island sticking out from the coral reef.
2,000 to 3,000 people live on Caye Caulker, including more Chinese immigrants running the largest hotel in town (naturally, the Chinatown hotel). Due to... cleanilness problems... Sam and I didn't stay there (gross, don't ask). We spent extra time sorting the hotel out with our guide, Josh, while the rest of the group enjoyed a nice lunch.
Due to the hotel SNAFU, we ended up at Rose's Cafe for both lunch and the group dinner, where we had big (if somewhat overcooked) pork chops for lunch and (again, somewhat overcooked) lobster for dinner. Aside from the food and the hotel, Caye Caulker very much gave the impression of a very relaxed beach resort for watersports and sunbathing. The motto of the island? "Go slow."