off to Belize –72 hours on Caye Caulker

If it were not for the visa requirements, I would never leave the high jinx and drama of Panajachel. But, so forced, I began my 24 hour march to the sea: 3.5 hours to the Capital only to be shuttled to the wrong bus station in the bad part of this rough town at 9PM. But, luckily for me there was one seat left on the all night bus to the frontier. My 20-something seatmate was also heading straight to Caye Caulker for his master’s certification in scuba. This bear of Brit. volunteers as — a nanny for sea turtles. It seems that there is a local myth holding that sea turtle eggs are an aphrodisiac; so, the more than 40,000 eggs got his protection.

His job is to wear a miner’s light, walk along the beach at night and to move the golf ball sized eggs into a fenced “incubator.”

“The Turtles will return to within 500 feet of where they hatch so we have hatcheries spaced out along the beach.”

He added that part of the donations are used to buy the eggs from the local poachers. Born three hours from London, he had begun life as a forester and told me about the mangrove trees that are also threatened in this area.

“When they are first harvested they can be cut but after a short curing period they dry rock solid.”

The upper deck was cold and the double decker wobbled wildly on its shocks so much that it was like shivering on a trampoline all night.

As I was about to take my winter’s nap, he began about the high powered lawyer, who started up this eco-organization, how luxurious is her seaside villa — built entirely of mangrove tree.

Out of habit, I asked how she got away with this and what her name was. And, once he said it I recognized it one of the “ten families” that own everything, here.

I would not shed my fleece until after I had carried my luggage up the Caye’s Front street for several blocks in search of my dream motel.. Meanwhile, I met Charles, the man with lobster tamales…yes, heavenly, as if a souffle..

I would follow that lunch with lobster curry for dinner and lobster scrambled for breakfast before even looking at the exquisite conche cerviche.

My dream room on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the sea was perfect — except for the disco next door. The first night I really didn’t notice.. But, Caye Cauker is noisy everywhere, all the time; so, I decided to snorkel – a good and bad idea…My mask was too big; so, I felt like I was being water-boarded most of the time- I loved the power of the flippers and that I was along a great barrier reef…The fish were electric and played with the captain for a bit of chum but I thought the coral looked menacing and dusty..
dive Captain
I was glad to be clad in my fleece and clutching a Red Stripe when a young man who was studying architecture and wanted to be marine biologist began a conversation. He told me that he had grown up on the island and that his dad was a contractor (as well as our bartender.)

The next morning I would board the ferry cum school bus for the second half of my journey. And, squeezed in with 40 grade school kids making the 45 minute journey to the mainland, I could imagine the early life and ocean dreams of the reluctant architect.

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Author: diane e. dreyfus

on the road until they put the lid down

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