Traveling to the Cayes

Today we traveled from Hopkins on the coastal mainland to Caye Caulker, a small island off the coast of Belize. After a three hour drive and a crowded water taxi ride, we landed on Caye Caulker. Caye Caulker is the southern neighbor of the popular Ambergris Caye. While Ambergris is known for luxury accommodations, Caye Caulker attracts a more laid back, backpacker crowd.

The island has less than 2000 residents and is comprised of three streets: front, middle, and back street.


Traffic in Caye Caulker

The only modes of transportation are walking, biking, or taking a golf cart taxi. We are staying at the Ocean Pearl, which is another basic but clean hotel of 10 rooms. Gertrude, an Austrian lady runs the place, along with the dive shop across the street. She’s been here 26 years and says she’ll never leave.

After lunch at at a place near the water taxi landing we walked the island checking out the bars, restaurants and shops. Our evening was spent at a place called Enjoy that was half Chinese restaurant half beach bar. Two for one rum punch with travelers from all over the world made it a fun evening.

Tomorrow we go snorkeling on the world’s second largest barrier reef. Stay tuned.

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Chillin’ with the Garifuña

We’ve been in the coastal village of Hopkins , Belize for the last two days, enjoying some of this country’s most beautiful beaches. Our time here has been pretty uneventful. We enjoyed the beach, walked through the village, ate some good food, and just chilled out.

Hopkins is a Gaifuña village. The Garifuña are known for their drumming and our group enjoyed a private demonstration around the fire here at the resort. I had a headache so skipped the pounding of the drums. We all need a little downtime. We’ve been staying at a very tired lodge called Jungle Jeanies by the Sea. Jeanie is still running the place despite losing her husband a few months ago.

Our little cabana had a bed, cold shower, and bathroom sink that’s stainless steel with pvc piped in that drains down to the sand. Rustic is a generous way to describe it. The views are fabulous which seems to make up for the bare accommodations. We’re off to the Cayes today where we’ll finish our adventure with four days of reggae. Our last base will be Caye Caulker, so stay tuned for pictures.

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Canoeing & Camping along the Belize River

San Ignacio, Belize
On Christmas morning we set out for our 3 day 2 night canoe and camping trip down the Belize River. This is a highlight of the G Adventures trip we are on and it definitely stretched us to the limits of our comfort zone (well, at least my comfort zone).

On the first day, we had cloudy skies, which meant it was a comfortable temperature for our 2 1/2 hour paddle. There were three of us in each canoe and Steve was our driver. Most everyone else had a guide as their driver but Steve wanted to drive. We only ran into trees along the banks a few times and eventually we were canoeing like pros. Each day Steve and I were joined in the canoe by one of the single women on the trip. Tammy was with us on the first day and Rachel on the other two days. We arrived at our first campsite, unloaded all the gear up a steep and muddy incline, and set up our tents. I guess we picked a good spot because throughout the night it rained heavily, and we were the only ones not to have standing water in our tent in the morning. Even with an additional tarp over most of the tents, everything got soaked.

In the evenings we drank rum and talked. Someone always had tunes playing, usually something reggae, and our group of 13 travelers and 4 guides enjoyed the peacefulness of the jungle. On day two after we dried out, our main canoe guide led us on a nature hike through the jungle. We learned about all the medicinal plants and walked through a self-sustaining farm. Steve was right at home in the corn and bean fields.

We took a little video of the hike with a surprise ending so check it out. After the hike we got back on the river for a three hour paddle with a brief stop at a local village to get more water. We also came across some local children who were swinging into the river from a very high tree. Rachel couldn’t pass it up so we pulled over, let her out of the canoe, and then filmed her swing. Video is attached.

Our campsite on day two was also up a steep, muddy embankment and the guide had to carve steps in the mud to allow us to climb up. Once up there, we set up camp, enjoyed dinner and the box wine we picked up in town. Along the river we saw tons of huge iguanas, howler monkeys in the trees, and beautiful birds. During the second night our campsite was surrounded by howler monkeys, and they woke us all up with their screeching. Very cool! While our time on the Belize River was interesting, it was also wet and dirty.

By the third morning, most of us were more than ready for a shower and proper bed. After another 2 1/2 hour paddle we reached the exit point. With an hour drive to the hotel to go, we could see the finish line. And then the van overheated. We’ve learned to just go with it in Belize. Eventually they got the van running, and we limped back to the Windy Hills Resort in San Ignacio about two hours later than expected. After a warm shower and an evening watching football (Go Devils! Go Huskers!), we are prepared to head east to the coast to Hopkins in the morning. There we’ll chill on the beach and learn about the Garifuña culture. More soon.

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