12.06.2012 - 13.06.2012
A feast of pancakes, banana & coffee set us up for a long day of travel across the Mexican border to Belize. We started with a 3 and a half hour bus journey from Tulum to the Mexican border town of Chetumal. There is a not a lot in Chetumal itself but it is fairly busy as a popular spot for travel by bus or boat into Belize. We were choosing the boat option and travelling by ferry to Caye Caulker, a small island off the coast of Belize. Before leaving we were asked to pay a departure tax for leaving Mexico which we had been warned about and there is some debate about the legality of it. We were previously told that this departure tax was included in our flight price and so we had a polite but firm argument with the border chap. He argued that the rules changed from January 2012 and flights did not include the tax anymore. Bingo... we booked our flights in December 2011. After he called for backup in the form of a lady who spoke more English, we eventually managed to pass through without payment despite holding up a long queue behind us. It turns out that everyone else on the ferry begrudgingly had to pay so we felt pretty happy with our achievement!
Caye Caulker is part of the Northern Cays – a group of islands off the coast of mainland Belize. They are a popular holiday destination due to their close proximity to the second largest barrier reef in the world. We arrived at the Belizean passport control in monsoon conditions amidst a very dramatic thunderstorm. We then took a second ferry to the tiny island of Caye Caulker, popular with backpapers due to it’s cheaper prices.
We are staying in a cabana near the beach – the cabana has an upstairs which is very exciting for us!
For dinner we had some lovely barbecued chicken with coconut rice and coleslaw washed down with a rum cocktail. We are not sure but we belief that is a Belizean dish...! Caye Caulker itself seems an odd mix of holidaymakers, backpackers and locals all clustered together in such a tiny place. It seems quite a poor place but has a nice feel to it. There are large crabs sharing the streets with us.
We awoke to another monsoon so took the opportunity to take our laundry to Maries laundrymart... not normally worth mentioning washing our smalls in the blog but we have just picked them up and they smell incredible. Marie is a star. Washing aside, the weather cleared and we have spent the day on a snorkelling trip to the barrier reef. It was amazing! We had three separate stops with plenty of time to snorkel in each location. The coral is very impressive, surrounded by a lot of tropical fish as you would expect. It was great to get so close to it all as the water is incredibly warm, clear and shallow.
The highlight was the second stop where we anchored as our guide explained we were about to go swimming with stingrays and sharks!! After a moments hesitation we jumped in and it was so special. The stingrays were enormous and were swimming right in amongst us. Some had no barb on their tails and the guides grabbed these so we could have a ‘stroke’ of them – they have a very hard backbone but are like jelly everywhere else in case you are interested... The nurse sharks are big but completely harmless which is nice. It was incredible to swim face to face and side by side with them – for your information they feel more like a cheese grater to the touch. Incredible trip... all for the rough equivalent of £17!!! We are heading to a bar this evening which is advertising a trivia night and snapper burgers. Tomorrow morning we head back to the mainland and inland to the Belizean highlands near the Guatemalan border. We are therefore going to say goodbye to the Caribbean for now with a bottle of Belikin – the local beer which we have been told is delightful.