Belize

Sarteneja, Belize

Posted on by Erica Duncan in Belize | Comments Off on Sarteneja, Belize

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We only meant to stay in Caye Caulker for three days, but our visit quickly grew longer and before we knew it, a week had passed. We got our first pings of island fever after 10 days there, and decided it was time to move on. Our destination was Sarteneja in Northern Belize.

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One important lesson we learned from this experience is to not make any travel arrangements on Sundays, as many businesses are closed and the bus schedules (which are impossible to find as is,) decrease by about half. Once we caught the water taxi back to Belize City, we were lucky to get on a Blue Bird bus headed in the right direction. And I do mean lucky– there is absolutely no method to the madness here and in order to get a seat you have to wriggle your way through the crowds and box out children without hesitation.

We weren’t even sure where the bus was headed but we were thankful to all have boarded the same vehicle. They pack the bus so full that people are not only shoved back, standing in the aisles, but the door was open and someone was standing on the steps half in, half out. After talking to the people sitting near me, I realized that the bus was heading to Orange Walk (because on Sunday there is no direct bus to Sarteneja.) Most people seemed to think we would have to stay the night there and head to Sarteneja in the morning, but a man sitting a seat ahead called his cousin who works at a bus station and found out that the last bus left from another depot about 10 minutes from where we were arriving at 5:30 (we were due to arrive at 5); another woman offered to walk us over there. I was grateful for and somewhat surprised by how kind and helpful everyone was. One woman leaned over and said “don’t worry, we all know what it’s like to be a foreigner.”

sartEverything was right on schedule, if not a couple minutes behind, and we hopped on the 5:30 bus to our final destination. Theroad– if you can call it that– ran through a field of plants 10 f

eet high and was so riddled with potholes that the driver was basically swerving through, zigzagging from one side to the other to avoid crater catastrophe. Hilarious Christmas music was blaring through the speakers and we were so exhausted and powerless in the situation, all we could do was sit back and laugh.

We arrived at the Backpackers Paradise after sundown and couldn’t see much on the dimly lit pathway. After a delicious meal from Nathalie, one of the owners of the property, we headed to our cabins which were pretty much tiny little shacks, just big enough for a bed, and a tin roof.

In the daylight, we were able to see much more of the Backpackers Paradise– a quaint property meant, obviously, for travelers. You could camp out in a tent or sleep in the cabins, which is what we chose to do. It proved to be a perfect opportunity for us to decompress as well as concentrate on making future plans, away from all the hustle and bustle.

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They’ve got three dogs and a few horses (and lizards and spiders!) and the property is mostly shaded by large trees, which was hugely important because it was scorching outside. As soon as we stepped foot on the main road to walk into town I was drenched in sweat.

We walked into the quiet fishing village– followed closely by the property’s three dogs, which we realized later was not allowed– and found a breathtaking view of the Caribbean. It was ridiculously hot, with no marked beaches or swimming areas that we could see along the shoreline in our efforts. The town was almost eerily vacant, with only a handful of shops and restaurants.

Before we knew it, days had passed and at 5:45AM on Tuesday, the three of us stood out by the welcome sign, ready to board another Blue Bird bus for the journey to Playa del Carmen…

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Caye Caulker, Belize (2)

Posted on by Erica Duncan in Belize | Comments Off on Caye Caulker, Belize (2)

 …Still in Caye Caulker, still “going slow”. After just one week here we are already dark brown, bright blonde, and severely bug bitten. We woke up to torrential downpour yesterday morning, which was alright with us because we’ve all had a bit too much sun lately and were already planning on a shade day. Megs and I went swimming in the rain– the Caribbean water was still as warm as a bath so it felt nice to dive in and swim laps against the current at the Split. We picked up some fresh papaya juice and hot coffee before retreating back to the room until the sun came out.

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We met two awesome Canadian chicks, (Brenley and Krystle,) at Fran’s Grill the other night  and shared some good conversation and a lot of laughs over dinner. The five of us decided to join forces for a little food crawl the next day to check out some of the restaurant recommendations we’d gathered from tourists and locals alike. We met up just before noon on Friday and walked to an inconspicuous house near the airport where we ate some of the best ceviche we’d ever tasted. It came out in a goblet, which was more than enough to feed all five of us for only $9 US! From there we checked out Syd’s, which is said to have unparalleled fried chicken, and then came back to the room for a little afternoon R&R.

Brenley is a musician and mentioned that she might be playing with a friend at the Barrier Reef Sports Bar around 4PM so we decided to swing by after we’d digested our afternoon feast. We walked into a lively scene and sure enough, Brenley and Danny took over the stage for an extraordinary jam session. After a few songs, other people started getting involved, claiming whatever instruments were momentarily unused, or simply dancing and singing along. Much to our surprise, Kyle got up there and laid down the beat on the drums– we were so impressed and felt like proud parents watching him on stage!

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Danny, like Brenley, is an exceptional musician from Canada. When recording an album in Belize with the Garifuna tribe, he got involved in fundraising for the local non-profit community high school here in Caye Caulker. Up until 2008, this island didn’t have a high school. Few children were able to go to Belize City to pursue their education, but the vast majority stopped attending school around age 12. Thanks to some passionate and hardworking individuals, (like Heidi and Haywood Curry who we were fortunate enough to get to know over dinner at Sandro’s,) the Ocean Academy was founded and continues to provide educational opportunities to Caye Caulker’s youth.

Heidi mentioned that they were getting together with some students in the morning to fix up the school– paint the classroom, repair desks and chairs, etc. and seemed thrilled when we offered to come along and help out. We met for breakfast and from there headed over to Ocean Academy to get busy! It was an amazing opportunity to get to know some of the students and witness firsthand the love and dedication that goes into keeping the program alive.

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These students truly are exceptional– listening to the stories of their personal achievements and understanding how education influences their futures, it is clear to us just how important Ocean Academy is… Please, if you can, make a donation of any size to the school and know that by doing so, you are making a big difference in both individual students’ successes as well as the Caye Caulker culture as a whole.

We are physically exhausted and covered in paint but emotionally elated and in love with this island. It is with heavy hearts that we will be leaving tomorrow, but it’s time for us to move onto our next adventure and see what northern Belize has in store!.

Caye Caulker, Belize

Posted on by Erica Duncan in Belize | Comments Off on Caye Caulker, Belize

 

photo 1-4Trying to describe our experiences so far is like attempting to explain a dream. Words can’t begin to do justice, but we promised to keep this blog updated so we have to at least try. These past few days have easily been some of the best of our lives. We have completely immersed ourselves into this life and we seem to fit right in. We’re getting along with all the locals, walking everywhere barefoot and washing our dishes in ocean water. For some reason nothing seems out of the ordinary or gross. I watched Meghan eat an entire fish with her hands, just pulling the meat off skin and bones, while we talked about the days of sitting at a computer in a cubicle, and it seemed completely natural.We left San Diego at 7AM on Wednesday, December 5th. Missed our first two trolleys but from there it was smooth sailing– cabs, planes, buses, water taxis… And just over 24 hours later we arrived at our first stop: the Tropical Paradise Hotel on Caye Caulker, Belize.The island is small and it only takes about 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other. It’s surrounded by teal water, crystal clear and full of pretty little critters. Friendly dogs roam about and all the locals are healthy and happy. The vibe is very Carribean– most people speak a mix of Creole, English and Spanish– and reggae Christmas songs flow out from the boom boxes perched on decks throughout the town. The island motto is “Go Slow” and they seem to take that pretty seriously. 

On our first night we met Brandon (aka Dice) and made an awesome friend who greatly influenced the next few days of our journey. Dice is a fisherman who grew up in Belize but has been living in Denmark for the past several years. We got along so well he offered to take us out on his boat the next day for a private tour of the cayes and teach us how to catch our own food!

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Dice knows these waters like the back of his hand, and he deftly guided us through all the sweet spots where we could check out nurse sharks, stingrays and eaglerays and where we could pick up our own conch and catch fish like Snapper and Grunt with nothing but a hook at the end of a line. Dice taught Kyle how to dive down and pick up lobster traps and I learned how to drive the boat. We drank coconut rum and pineapple juice together and had a blast. He took us out to a private island where we prepared our catches and ate a delicious lunch before heading back out for more. That night he navigated through the pitch black ocean and we brought the rest of what we caught to Terry’s to cook up dinner and hang out with some cool people.

Dice took us out on the boat again yesterday so we could check out the manatees and dolphins since we didn’t have time to get there the day before. We caught some more lobster and stone crab and went to another private island to make lunch. At this camp, there is a 100 year old house inhabited by Noel and his dogs, Chiquita and Toronto. It’s impossible to describe this part so I think we just have to keep this memory to ourselves.

We went night fishing and got so caught up that before we knew it it was already about 9PM so we had to go back in, but all the restaurants were already closed so we saved our fish to cook up today for lunch.

Today we are about to stroll into town to check out the used book store and take a swim at the Split. We might go out deep sea fishing for tuna or just lay around and take it easy. Stay tuned!

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