29 November, 2012

We've Been On Holiday!

This seems like an appropriate tune to start things off even though we're heading into winter. Going to Caye Caulker, with sand-filled streets and palm trees, it just felt like summer.

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N in the summer sun
Put away the books, we're out of school
The weather's warm but we'll play it cool
We're on vacation, havin' lots of fun
V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N in the summer sun
-- Connie Francis - 1962 single which was her last top ten hit in the US and the UK.
Everybody's So Excited
So, we (that is, Dianna and me, Bruce and Colleen, friends of ours also from Corozal) got started with a ride on the Thunderbolt - first time either Dianna or myself had ridden the beast. We had a smooth ride all the way to Ambergris Caye and San Pedro, which was our transfer point to another water taxi over to Caye Caulker.
Thunderbolt Pilot House
The Thunderbolt is a largish six-hundred horsepower outboard motor propelled water taxi. It has fairly comfortable seats for all the passengers, with room for some freight, dogs (in kennels), and assorted other stuff. The view isn't much since the windows are all high enough that you have to stand to be able to see out of.
Thunderbolt Passenger Cabin
We were all in a festive mood, ready to take off at 7:00 AM on our grand adventure. We were joined by Bruce's sister, Maria and her travel friend, Tank.
Bruce and Colleen Ready for Adventure
Dave Ready to Go
With the appropriate Belizean delay of getting underway, we were finally on our way about fifteen or twenty minutes late. As soon as we cleared the pier, the crew kicked it up into high gear and there we stayed for the rest of the journey - smooth water all the way, along with plenty of sunshine. We were excited enough that I don't think any of the six of us dozed on the trip.
Away From the Corozal Pier
Actually On Our Way
We pulled into San Pedro, on what is called the 'lagoon side', next to the Sunset Bar and Grill. In fact, the normal Thunderbolt pier was unusable. Extensive rehabbing of the whole waterfront area around the Sunset Bar appeared to be going on, so the Thunderbolt nosed its way to the dock and as we disembarked, we walked right through the bar area.

For our next task, we hunted up a breakfast joint. With Estelle's (our favorite beach-front breakfast establishment) being closed for the Garifuna Settlement Day holiday, we opted for another place a little further north, also on the beach. It was good, but it wasn't Estelle's.

Once we got that out of the way, we turned to finding the location of the Caye Caulker water taxi. There's actually a couple of water taxi associations that provide service. We ended up with the one that also operates the Chetumal/San Pedro Express, the high-speed boat that goes directly from Chet to San Pedro. I don't know what it has under the hood but it certainly sounded powerful enough. Lotsa turbine noise outside. Again, a comfortable ride, very similar to the Thunderbolt. It didn't even get up to half speed for the trip over to Caye Caulker.
Our Ticket to Caye Caulker
Before we knew it, we were ghosting in to the pier at Caye Caulker. I was a bit disapointed as we came into a different pier than the one we have used in the past. I was looking forward to showing everyone the Caye Caulker mosaic at the foot of the pier... The one that says 'Go Slow'.

Our first time at Caye Caulker several years ago, we couldn't appreciate it. We were still too connected to the speed of life up north. We really hadn't learned to follow their motto and go slow. We can easily now. What a relief. It was a really nice and relaxing visit this time.

This is just a great little island - it's only five miles long and about a quarter to a half mile wide. There's only 2,000 year-round residents on the island. Sand streets, and lots of palms and plenty of flowers, and even in the middle of the day, it's quiet. Wow!
Exploring Caye Caulker
So, we ambled south on Front Street. There's three streets on the southern end of the island that run north and south - Front, Middle, and Back. Now, if you can't keep those straight, you've slowed down just a tad too much.
South On Front Street
Dianna and Colleen spied several shops that would warrant further investigation as the time went on.
Lulu Our Dependable Cabby
Oh, I almost forgot. Our host at Lorraine's Guest House, Orlando Alamilla, had taken it upon himself to send a cabby or taximan, as they're called here, Lulu, to pick us up at the landing. But, we had decided long before we got there that we were looking forward to a nice, leisurely stroll down the 'main drag'.
North on Front Street
Turns out that Lulu more or less kept an eye on us the whole time we were walking up to Lorraine's. We also ran into Lulu several times during our stay and used his services to haul ourselves to the airstrip when it was finally time to depart.
Marta and Orlando
It only took us about ten or fifteen minutes to walk from the landing to Lorraine's. Orlando had first called us as we were heading to breakfast at San Pedro. He called again just after we landed at Caye Caulker, and he was ready to show us our cabanas at Lorraine's when we came into the yard.
Loraine's Guest House
Dianna Relaxing on the Veranda
Everything was pristine, clean and functional. Each of the rooms had ceiling fans and a couple of portable fans, more than adequate. Each room also had a small fridge, just right for munchies and a couple of six-packs of Belikin or other beverage of choice. The verandas of each cabana also had a table and a couple of chairs along with a double-sized hammock for relaxation.
The Other Two Cabanas
Our Veranda
Did I mention how quiet the island is? Well, it is. Very quiet. It was wonderful. At Lorraine's, it seemed to be even quieter. Just so relaxing. In fact, about the only noise each day was around 8:00 AM and 3:00 PM - when the children came and went from the Roman Catholic school just south of Lorraine's. It's a huge school too. Bigger than any school in Corozal. There's about 400 students who attend this school. Easy to tell if school is in session. The building is ringed with row after row of bicycles.

Most of our first afternoon we spent just lazing around. Oh sure, we made a couple of short trips to nearby grocery stores for necessary supplies, but other than that, we just kicked back and took things easy.
Lucky is Orlando and Marta's long-suffering watch dog. Not that they mistreat him. He's very well taken care of. His suffering comes from pigeons (flying rats) that have taken to bothering him every morning, stealing whatever is left in his food bowl and just generally making a nuisance of themselves and disturbing his early morning shuteye.
Looking Down Front Street
We walked around the south part of the island for a while. We saw this one little lizard (well, maybe not small - he was about 12" to 14" long under a counter at a juice bar or something, looking like he was trying to place an order.
Trying to Buy Something
Dianna told me that she'd said to the proprietor that he had a customer waiting and pointed to the lizard. The guy laughed, and with actions that showed he was familiar with the lizard, said "He bites".
Children's School Parade Sound System
Of course, we were just in time to have a small parade too. It was a children's parade from the school. Complete with a truck-mounted sound system, all the kids paraded behind throughout the town.
Mario's Snorkel Tours
Along the way, we spied a snorkel shop, Mario's Snorkeling Tours, run by Mario Verde. We set up a half-day trip for 8:00 AM on Tuesday, our second day.

After getting back to Lorraine's, reading and napping occupied a good part of the afternoon.
Toward evening, we started to get a touch hungry, so around six-ish, if I remember right, we all headed off to find a likely place to put on the feed bag, as it were.
Our Meal on the Grill
The first likely looking place had some fish, under plastic wrap, and on ice, that looked very tempting. One of the fish was a huge snapper, that the proprietor said would feed four people. We perused their menu and prices, which seemed very reasonable and decided to take a chance.
Dos Caballeros
It turned out to be a fortuitous choice to make. It's a little place run by a Cuban couple, Anna and Francisco Marquez, D' La Bodequita del Medio ( It's located on Front Street, and their specialty is seafood.
Anna At Work
They came to Belize first as tourists and in 2011 decided Caye Caulker was for them. They sold everything, quit their jobs, and moved, purchasing the then Serendib Restaurant, keeping the same menu and pricing structure. They also kept the original chef, 'Letisia'.
The Chef At Work
What a treat the evening was. Not only was the food outstanding, but so was the entertainment. Francisco and Anna are excellent musicians. Anna's singing, accompanied by Francisco's guitar work was nothing short of spectacular. We all highly recommend you give D' La Bodequita a try. You won't regret it a bit.
Anna and Francisco Entertaining
A Good Laugh After Dinner
We had breakfast there the following day. It was good and tasty and set us up for the days coming activities.
Breakfast At the Cuban Restaurant
Mario, Sr. Our Tour Guide
We eventually made our way back to Mario's for our snorkel trip. We strolled down to the waterfront and made it to our boat, meeting our tour guide and captain, also named Mario. Turns out it was Mario Senior. His son is the owner of the tour company and Mario Sr., works for him.
Colleen and Bruce Ready to Go
Colleen Trying Her Mask Out
Dianna Ready for the Water
Mario was an excellent tour guide. We headed out to Shark and Ray Alley, along with a British couple from London. I didn't catch their names.
Dianna Talking With the Brits
We had a great morning. It was sunny and warm. The water was about 84 degrees or so, and the viewing of the fish was as advertised, simply spectacular.
In the Water At Last
Bruce Going In
Bruce was a bit of a showoff as we went into the water. He sat on the edge of the boat and did a back-flip into the drink. It looked pretty authentic till he surfaced and had to spend some time putting his mask back on as he had forgotten to place a hand over it to hold the mask in place as he entered the water.
Bruce Putting His Mask Back On
The Water Does Something To Your Teeth
Coming Back Aboard
After each of our three sessions at three different locations, Mario made sure we had plenty of fresh fruit to eat. It was really refreshing and took the salt taste right away.
Refreshing Fruit After Snorkeling
Another Boat Took Our Place
It's Too Much Fun
Life is Good
Between the rays and the nurse sharks, that alone would have been worth the price of admission, but then you throw in hundreds of small and medium fish that we had only every seen before in aquariums, it becomes just a visual wonderland. The water was quite calm and as clear as could be. Just a wonderful time. Incidentally, it was Colleen's first time snorkeling. Quite a good introduction to the sport for her.
Syds Sign
Lunch at Syds
That afternoon, after returning from the snorkel tour, we lunched at Syds, located on Middle Street (
Lunch At Syds
Syds Patio Pergola
Syds was another place that we just happened to stumble upon. It's run by Tom and Meldy. Their patio is just the most shady and relaxing place to have a tasty lunch.
Bruce and Maria At Syds
Working House Cat At Syds
Uh Huh
Our host, Orlando told us that the two restaurants we had picked were his top recommendations for great food and reasonable prices on the island, so we just had this uncanny knack for choosing the best places to eat.
Flower Along the Way
We were really too stuffed and too pooped to think about going out for supper. So, we basically lounged and had a couple of beers, read for a while and hit the sack.
Relaxing After Snorkeling
It would have been a relaxing night, except I woke up about 1:30 AM, salivating like crazy and swallowing a lot. "Uh-oh, someone's going to be sick", I thought. I got out of bed and went to the bathroom. Standing in the doorway, I managed to get things under control, so I went back to bed.

No sooner did my head hit the pillow, then it was back up and heading for the bathroom. I just barely made it in time where I spent the next several minutes praying to O'Rourke. I did this several more times... in fact, more than several times as it turned out. I also managed to log some tremendous amounts of rack time (time in bed for those uninitiated).

Since misery loves company, I found out that Bruce had also joined me in the sicker than a dog club. Only he was going from the opposite end. I'm not sure who got the better part of this deal.
I've Felt Better
The closer it came to be time for us to depart to fly back to Corozal, it became readily apparent that I was in no condition to fly. Thankfully, Orlando was able to let Dianna and me stay over one more night. Bruce and Colleen had to get back to Corozal as they had a 20 lb. turkey to prepare and about fifteen or sixteen people looking forward to a traditional thanksgiving dinner with them at their place. So, Wednesday afternoon, off they went to complete that mission.

I stayed in bed for the most part with occasional trips to see my friend, O'Rourke. Altogether, I managed to log an impressive 28 or so hours in bed. Finally, my stomach quit rebelling and I began to feel human, although, my appetite didn't return to normal for a couple more days.
Truth in Advertising
Thursday morning, our flight from Caye Caulker was due to depart at 9:45 AM. Lulu met us at Lorraine's and he took us to the airstrip, which like everything else in Caye Caulker, is paved with sand.
Caye Caulker Terminal
Power Pack Departing
Sure Could Have Used These
The flight barely had time to get airborne and we were prepping for touchdown at San Pedro. The flight was barely five minutes. Then we had about an hour layover at San Pedro. Dianna and I went across the street from the Tropic Air terminal to a little bar where we had a couple of ham sandwiches, which was filling. Remember, my appetite wasn't back yet. I was beginning to drink a lot more water, and the really cool bit, was that everything was staying down. Life was good once again.
Dianna Settling In
Approaching San Pedro
We made it back to the Tropic terminal and in a few minutes our plane was announced for the trip to Corozal. Seventeen minutes later, we disembarked. Oh yes, I forgot. Orlando had given us a box (ostensibly containing a coffee maker) for his brother-in-law Cody. It was full of conch and lobster. We got that to Cody the following day. We didn't even pilfer any of the contents - that's how bad my appetite was at the time.

We caught a ride with a taxi from the Corozal airstrip to Casa Winjama where we were met by some excited doggies and a couple cats who barely noticed that we had even been gone. Of course, by then it was time for another nap. Geez, it feels good to sleep in one's own bed, y'know?

All in all, we had a spectacular vacation, even if it was only for three or four days. Wow! Hard to believe that you need a vacation even when you already live in paradise. But you do. And, well other than being sick for a part of it, we knew it was a successful vacation because we were dead tired and it was a relief to get back home to recuperate - just the way a vacation is supposed to be.


Unknown said...

Best vacation we have been on in years. So fun we r doing it again in 2 weeks with Chuck and Jamie. Interested????

Dave Rider said...

Hi Colleen,

Wow, you guys really got the bug! Yeh, we're interested but we've got people coming and all that.
Besides we need to replenish the piggy bank.
You wild kids have fun.