countries

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Central America | Belize

Caye Caulker / Inflate-Burst-Flux of a Clichéd Island Bubble

the bond of a moment's fun

   Right off the coast near Belize City the itsy-bitsy islet Caye Caulker turned out to be the region’s backpacker Mecca despite lacking the centerpiece of any Caribbean island bubble: a beach. Everything else that caters to the hedonistic needs of the rucksack pilgrimage was right in place – party hostels with wicked names, reggae joints, seafood-barbecues at street food stalls that were more food than street. The Creole population was sprinkled with Chinese, South Asian and Caucasian, and beamed friendly rays into the atmosphere to come your way. The chilled law of the kingdom forbade cars and demanded leisure, so golf-carts, hammocks and taking life belizy it was (can’t make these expressions up).

"Not much of you or anybody else can stay there, too little the ripple, too constant the stream. A moment’s fun is the bond and doesn’t ask for any more or less."

As the island attracted suitcase vacationers and backpackers alike, people from all walks of life were whisked together and mingled day and night at the "Split," which bragged with an abundance of Caribbean sunsets. Legend has it that Hurricane Hattie sawed the island in half back in 1961, belieze it or not. Whatever happened, now Caye Caulker is two, and at the strait is where the party's at. Chill-mania.

 

Gravitating towards the crowds and the heavy Bob-Marley-vibes, everyone clumped together in a bundle of joy, and every chilled beer had some lover’s name on it. And so one came as another went, before they went as well to keep the bubble in constant inflate-burst-flux. Not much of you or anybody else can stay there, too little the ripple, too constant the stream. A moment’s fun is the bond and doesn‘t ask for any more or less. Fair enough. And off they hopped into the next bubble, or maybe the journey had something else in store for them, or dare I say something more real?

Swimming across the Split was rewarded with the pristine mangrove wilderness of the island's larger and nearly uninhabited northern half, but punished with fierce mosquito attacks. Venturing towards the southern tip of Caye Caulker made for equally quiet moments between lonely piers and the miniature airport. There is just no one there. Everyone is where everyone is.

"Some of the interaction with the animals would have given PETA-activists anything from a shiver to a heart attack..."

Beyond the chill, everyone was very much infatuated with Caye Caulker as a gateway to the underwater worlds of the Northern Hemisphere’s largest reef with the Blue Hole being an especially singular and unbeliezable dive site. For those who like to keep things shallow, it only took a snorkel to meet nurse sharks, sting rays, eagle rays, and manatees in the crystal waters. Some of the interaction with the animals would have given PETA-activists anything from a shiver to a heart attack, like feeding and touching sharks and rays.

It was difficult not to step on a sting ray upon jumping in, so plentiful they gathered. And wasn’t it a sting ray that had killed Steve Irvin the animal hunter, a relic of my childhood and certainly someone more experienced with these animals than random tourist me stepping on them? The lax safety regulations in many places around the world never fail to make me smile and shudder simultaneously.

All things considered, I could have done without Caye Caulker as much as the island could have done without me. If it hadn’t been for my money troubles in Guatemala and the fact that I gave away my camera as collateral to a lovely British couple on their way to Belize, I might have skipped over the whole shebang. But, all my internal ranting about insipid tourist hot spots was fast forgotten the moment two eagle rays took me for a ride. They were too playful to be old, and too wise to be young, but I guess those are just stiff, human definitions. Like giant dotted blankets they circled around me while staying firm on a deliberate minimum distance. If I would violate it by trying to reduce it, or by not keeping up with them, they would either escape or wait up. We played that game over and over again. It was the prelude to my departure, maintaining the island bubble Caye Caulker in flux to perpetually start over and over time and time again.

 

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elsewhere

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in Central America