Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Our Caye Caulker Adventure - Part 3

We greeted our third and final day on Caye Caulker with a wonderful treat: Starbucks coffee! There's a little place located right next to the outdoor cinema that sells the real deal, along with an assortment of muffins, bagels, and other on-the-go foods. 

Like the sushi we had on our first day on the island, a cup of Starbucks coffee has been something we haven't had in ages, which made it all the more special.

We were scheduled to take the 11:15 water taxi back to San Pedro, giving us plenty of time to make a final tour of some of the shops. After stowing our bags at the water taxi office, one place we knew we needed to revisit was Cooper's Art Gallery

We had stopped in on Tuesday, and I was immediately smitten with the vibrant paintings and prints. One in particular jumped out at me:

The faces on the fish make me smile and I especially love the spiny lobster. She rather reminds me of a crustacean version of Carmen Miranda.  

Colleen and Bruce didn't come away empty handed and purchased a framed sea turtle painting.

With our purchases wrapped up, we had a cold, refreshing beverage, then headed down to the pier to await the water taxi. Along the way, we heard a gasp from Wanda, who had been fairly quiet that morning. We looked around to see what caught her attention and spied this guy:

Apparently they knew one another and judging by the blush on Wanda's cheeks and the way she was batting her eyes, we could only guess that this could have been one of the reasons for her disappearance the other day. We'll probably never know the whole story, 'cause what happens in Caulker, stays in Caulker, and her lizard lips were sealed.

We lucked out with the weather again by having lots of blue skies, but the wind was still whipping around. As we crossed one intersection, David's hat flew off...again. Seems the whole concept of the chin strap was still for naught, as he thought it made him look dorky. Sigh...

On the other hand, I hadn't perhaps made the best fashion choice that day either. In the same store that David bought his hat and flip-flops, I found the cutest knee-length gauze dress. It was light, airy, and incredibly comfortable. However, when you're trying to walk down a long pier in gusty winds, holding a canvas, and clutching your dress so it doesn't blow up and show the world your panties, well, for a klutz like me it was a challenge. With David's assistance I made it in one piece, the canvas stayed intact, and the circulation to David's hand finally came back from me applying a death grip. But hey, I looked cute.

Our trip back to San Pedro was uneventful and upon our arrival we had to wait for all the luggage to be unloaded. And then this happened:

Yup, the hat flew off again. Fortunately the water is shallow here and the hat hadn't bobbed away too far. But David did get the hem of his shorts a bit wet, which didn't look dorky at all compared to wearing the freakin' chin strap for the hat!!!! Honey, you know I love ya' more than my luggage (name that movie), whether you think you look dorky or not.

But I digress...We decided that instead of carting all our bags around San Pedro we would check them at our respective airport terminals. Tropic Air has a smallish room where they can store your bags for free until they need to be checked right before your flight. 

With bags stowed, we hoofed our way to Super Buy, a grocery store that was recommended to us. The goal was to see if we could score some items not easily found in the stores in Corozal. They do have a really good selection of things and I walked out of there with a bottle of Sriracha (finally!), garam marsala, anchovies packed in oil, and Arborio rice. I was one happy girl.

From there we headed back to the beach in search of some lunch grub dodging golf carts all along the way. It was crazy. We landed at Estel's, which turned out to be an excellent choice. The food was good, the beer was cold, the staff incredibly friendly, and we could clearly hear the oldies music playing nearby. We had just enough time to explore a few more stores after lunch before getting back to the airport.

Just like when we took off from Corozal, we were given our plastic boarding passes. For those of you not familiar with flying on Tropic Air, the colors noted on the passes designate which flight you are on. On our return trip, we had green passes. We also saw white, red, blue, pink, and people walking around with a bunch of other colors. Lots of outbound flights with lots of people. 

As the time came for our 3:00 flight to depart, we were looking around to see how many other green passholders there were. Turns out there weren't any others. Other than the pilot, we were the only passengers. We felt like rock stars!

Turns out that Colleen and Bruce had the same experience with Maya Island Air. But in their case, the pilot was kind enough to humor Wanda...

...and let her be the co-pilot. 

By around 3:40, we were back at home greeted by excited pets. It's nice to be missed, but we are looking forward to many return trips to Caulker. I hope you can tell how much we enjoyed the island, our friends, and even Wanda. We may pause a bit if she plans on joining us on future excursions, but maybe we can bribe her to stay at home with a lovely straw hat -- chin strap included :)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Our Caye Caulker Adventure - Part 2

Our second day on Caye Caulker dawned with a brilliant blue sky and a steady wind, putting David and me in great spirits to continue our island adventure. But a dark cloud came over us when we met up with Colleen and Bruce. It seems Wanda had gone missing.

They last remembered seeing her lounging in the their hammock before we left for dinner the night before.

We had hoped Wanda would join us for dinner, but Colleen said she still seemed to be in recovery mode from the day's travels and the rest time, while we were out, would probably do her a world of good. As a result, when they didn't see her when we got home, it was presumed she had found a snug spot to sleep.

It was only in the morning, after searching their cabin high and low that they realized she was gone. Now I wouldn't say that Wanda was a lizard of loose morals, but she does have a bit of a reputation for being a party animal, especially when adult beverages are around, as we witnessed the day before.

As there wasn't much we could do, we decided to go to breakfast, hope that she would return and hadn't done anything too crazy like getting her tongue pierced or some such thing.

We had heard great things about Amory y Cafe, located on Front Street, so decided to check it out. We were not disappointed. The staff is super friendly, service is great, and the food was really good. One of the different things they offer for breakfast are grilled cheese sandwiches. You can get one straight up or with tomatoes, a fried egg, and a few other options. Colleen, David, and I opted for the sandwich, but Bruce...

...Bruce spied the waffles. As this is a dish not commonly found in Corozal restaurants, he couldn't resist. And he couldn't resist heaping them with all of the fixings including bananas, Cool Whip, and maple syrup. Fortunately, he has the metabolism of a hyperactive hummingbird, so there was little worry about packing on extra weight.

Once we were finished our meal, David needed to go back to our cabin for some bandages. Seems all the walking we had done the prior day had taken a toll on his toes. While he was away, Bruce and I went to the counter to pay our breakfast bills. When we got back to our table, guess what we discovered? Yup, Wanda had returned. Colleen had noticed some movement in her backpack, and when she opened it up, there was Wanda. She did not look penitent at all, but she did look a bit bleary-eyed and there seemed to be more than a hint of alcohol on her breath. Then again, lizard breath is pretty nasty to begin with, so we could have been mistaken.

Anyway, with Wanda back among us and securely ensconced in Colleen's bag, we could continue on with our day. David caught up with us, but due to how uncomfortable his feet were, it was decided that perhaps a pair of flip-flops would be a better shoe choice.

We stopped into a store we had been in the day before and he found not only a pair of flip-flops, but a straw hat.

This dapper chapeau not only would provide some protection from the sun, but it came with a chin strap to prevent it from blowing away. A pretty handy feature considering the gusty winds we were having.

After a few more stops in stores, we decided it was time to get into our bathing suits and spend some quality time by, near, or in the water. We found a great pier over the water with four lounge chairs.

Wasting little time, Bruce got into the water and officially christened his new dive watch that was a birthday present from Colleen.

The water was a bit brisk, enough so that the rest of decided to just hang out on the pier and soak up the views.

Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday morning.

After a bit, a young lady came down the pier with her dogs. This little guy was very friendly.

He sniffed about all of our belongings, licked our fingers, and even christened the brim of David's new hat before his owner shooed him away.

At that point, we all were starting to have growly stomachs and decided to gather our belongings and find some new taste treat for lunch.

David put on his hat, turned to walk down the pier when a big gust of wind hit. Off flew the hat into the drink. So much for using the handy chin strap. He stripped off his T-shirt, got into the water, and successfully retrieved the errant hat. Of course, this now meant that he was soaking wet and made squishing noises with each step of his new flip-flops. On the plus side, the hat was now cleansed of the dog.

Fortunately the wind made the drying time fairly quick, so he was in decent shape when we arrived at our lunch destination, Friend's Restaurant. We noticed this Lebanese place the day before and just had to try their fare. David and I had Falafel, which was delicious. Bruce ordered the fresh pita bread and hummus. How he even had room after that breakfast was beyond me. Colleen ordered the tabbouleh, which she had never had before, and she and Bruce split an order of Falafel. Everything was really good, service was just fine, and with a few cold Belikins to wash everything down with, we were in great shape for the rest of the afternoon.

After such a hectic day(!), we all were in need of a nap, including Wanda who was still looking a bit peaked. We knew she was in sad shape when Colleen announced that the lizard was grounded for the remainder of our stay on Caulker and Wanda didn't bat an eyelash.

That evening we celebrated David's birthday by first going out to dinner at an Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, I have not a shred of recollection as to the name of the place. We then took a stroll down to the beach and stopped into a restaurant/bar for a nightcap. A leisurely walk back to our rooms and our second day on Caulker was a wrap. 

Hopefully our third and final day would be as relaxing and fun, with no wayward lizard issues.

Coming Up: the final installment of our Caye Caulker adventure!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Our Caye Caulker Adventure - Part 1

Last week we made our first trip to Caye Caulker with our friends Colleen and Bruce. It turned out to be a memorable journey for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the opportunity to experience the island with Wanda.

For those of you not familiar with her, Wanda met up with Colleen and Bruce when they made their epic train journey last year. For six weeks she rode the rails for over 10,000 miles and made quite the name for herself. You can (and should) read about her adventures on the blog, aptly named, Lizards on a Train.

Considering how exhausting that trip was, none of us were sure if she could be convinced to come out of her self-imposed travel retirement. But the lure of the Caribbean Sea and waffles (I'll get to that in a bit) was enough for her to pack her bags and bling and hitch a ride with us.

So last Tuesday morning, the five of us arrived at the Corozal airstrip for the first leg of our journey. David and I had booked our flight through Tropic Air, while Colleen, Bruce, and Wanda opted for Maya Island Air. 

Now while it's been almost two years since we have done any air travel, the memories of all the rules, regulations, bag weight limits, security checkpoints, and the like that one needed to adhere to in the States were fresh in our minds. As a result, we weighed our bag, made sure it didn't exceed the size limits, brought our passports for ID purposes, and were at the Tropic Air terminal in more than sufficient time before our departure.

And this is when we got the first of many reminders that travel is way more laid back here. When we entered the Tropic Air building, we presented our receipt for our tickets. The gentleman manning the desk glanced at it and, with no request for our passports or any other means to ID us, handed us our boarding passes.

Large, plastic passes I might add. In the meantime, another Tropic Air employee snagged our bag and put it on the loading cart. No weight check, no zillion questions about what was inside, had we left it unattended at any point, were any liquids in containers bigger than three ounces, or if there was any contraband items like knives, lighters, chainsaws, machetes, etc. 

Shortly thereafter, Colleen and Bruce came by. Seems the Maya terminal was out of coffee and they were instructed to walk across the tarmac to our terminal to get their caffeine fix. After having a good chuckle about our boarding passes, they showed us their tickets.

Apparently the coffee maker wasn't the only thing not working over at Maya Air. Instead of a paper receipt or ticket, the agent hand wrote the confirmation info on the inside of the ticket jacket and that's all Colleen and Bruce needed to board their flight. As I said, a bit more laid back here in Belize.

Our plane arrived right on time...

 ...and we were the first to board.

Sitting right behind the pilot and co-pilot gave us a great view of the cockpit, including this decal:

"This airplane is prohibited from flight in known or forecast icing."

Now I don't know about any of you, but if there ever ends up being a time where there is "known or forecast icing" in Belize, the inability to fly would be the least of my problems.

And you know while surrounded by palm trees, bush, and sugar cane fields is amazing at ground level, I was struck by just how beautiful our area of the country is from the air.

About twenty minutes after takeoff, we landed in San Pedro, which is located on the island of Ambergis Caye.  As we waited to collect our luggage from the outdoor baggage claim area, I was dumbstruck by, what seemed like, hundreds of golf carts whipping by, the hordes of school children, the gaggles of tourists, and the noise. Granted, San Pedro is a top tourist destination, but when you come from a sleepy town like Corozal, it's a bit of culture shock.

Colleen and Bruce's flight landed shortly after ours, so with bags in hand we made our way to the water taxi. You can get a connecting flight with either of the airlines to get to Caulker, but we thought the water taxi might be fun and it gave everyone a chance to catch some breakfast before the taxi pushed off from the dock.

Our dining destination was a place called Licks, located right across from the entrance of the water taxi. The owner, Mario, couldn't have been nicer, and the food was awesome (check them out on Facebook or TripAdvisor).

Wanda was watching her weight and was a tad concerned about getting seasick on the water taxi, so settled for a sip or two of coffee. Colleen and Bruce, on the other hand, tucked into stuffed fry jacks, while David noshed on a fruit plate and I nibbled some toast.

Fry Jacks stuffed with eggs, bacon, cheese, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

Across from Licks was a wood building with this advertisement:

"No working during drinking hours"
The perfect motto for enjoying our holiday.
After everyone was sated with food, we boarded the water taxi for the 20 minute trip to Caulker. 

I think Wanda was feeling a little green around the gills, so to speak, but managed to hold it together.

After collecting our bags, we ambled over to the main drag of Caye Caulker. Unlike the craziness of San Pedro, Caulker is unbelievably laid back and quiet. Yes there are some golf carts and knots of tourists, but dialed back in volume. The streets are covered in sand and you can't help finding yourself walking slower to the relaxed vibe of the place. 

We eventually made our way to our lodgings at Lorraine's Guest House, located at the south end of the island.

After dumping our bags, we were all feeling a bit parched and in need of some cool, refreshing beverages before strolling through town.

We stopped at a hotel that we passed on the way to Lorraine's, just a short walk away (actually, nothing is far away on Caulker).

One of the hotel's drink specials is a bucket of beer. Wanda wasted no time, whatsoever, trying to get dibs on all the bottles.

Little did we know that this behavior was a harbinger for things to come involving this little missy.

Feeling revived, we made our way down the main thoroughfare. There are dozens of shops and boutiques selling everything from clothes, art, and your typical souvenirs. 

There is also the constant view of the sea and all the piers along the way.

As tempting as it was to curl up in one of those hammocks, the wind -- as you can see from the flags blowing -- was quite fierce. We decided to soldier on until arriving at the north end of the island where we came across this place:

The Lazy Lizard - A Sunny Place for Shady People
Wanda was ecstatic! Not only was there a chance to make more friends, but being close to dehydration from the walk, there was an opportunity for her to have another beer or two. And I don't know if you've ever seen a lizard in an excited state, but it's a sight to behold. We couldn't bear to disappoint her, so all of us joined her for a cold one.

The pier and sea wall that runs around this bar is a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. Plenty of room for groups...

...or if a couple just needs some quiet time.

(By the way, I have no clue who these people are, but liked the shot of these two.)

Feeling refreshed from our time at The Lazy Lizard, we made our way back through town, stopping into various shops, making mental notes of ones we wanted to revisit, and feeling peckish, decided it was time for lunch.

On the second floor of this shop, you'll find beautiful crafts, art, jewelry, and...


It's been ages since we've had sushi, which we love. It's just not something you can readily find in Belize and certainly not in Corozal, unless you make it yourself. I can't honestly say it was hands-down the best I've ever had, but it did hit the spot, along with a glass of white wine.

One of the other cool things about this place is that if you sit on the veranda, you can people watch and see things like this...

Yup, that is a hat made from woven palm leaves. Gives a whole new meaning to "fascinator", does it not?

With lunch done, we continued our amble back to Lorraine's for a lovely nap and to give Wanda time to recover from her first day of travel.

That evening we walked down to Syd's Restaurant, located on Back Street, for dinner. A quick aside -- there are only about four streets on Caulker: Front Street, Middle Street, Back Street, and Back Back Street. Maybe not the most inventive naming convention, but when you're talking about an island that's only about five miles long and a mile wide, well, there probably isn't much need to get into fancy naming.

Anyway, back to Syd's. I wish we could say we were amazed by the food, but... All of it was okay at best. I will say there was only one waitress, the place was packed when we got there, and she did have her hands full. However, we left with relatively full tummies and were ready to call it a night. 

Little did we know that Wanda had other plans.

Coming up - Our Adventure to Caye Caulker - Part 2