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 is sort of the only real backpacker Mecca around, albeit lacking the centerpiece of any Caribbean island bubble: a beach. Yet, everything else that caters to the hedonistic needs of the rucksack pilgrimage is right in place - party hostels with wicked names, reggae joints, and street stall seafood-barbecues. The mostly Creole population beams friendly rays into the atmosphere to come your way, while the chilled law of the kingdom forbids cars and demands leisure. So golf-carts, hammocks and taking life belizy it is (yes, people actually talk like this).

"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."

Since the island also attracts suitcase vacationers, people from all walks of life are whisked together and mingle day and night at the "Split", which brags 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 chunks and at the strait is where the party's at.

 

So if you don't mind the crowds and are not thrown off by a heavily clichéd Bob-Marley-vibe, a chilled beer already has your name on it. And so you come as they go, before you go as well to keep the bubble in constant inflate-burst-flux. Not much of you or anybody else can stay there in the memories of the locals, 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 you jump into the next bubble, or maybe the journey has something else in store for you, or dare I even say something more real?

There's just no one there.

Everyone is where everyone is.

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Swimming across the Split is rewarded with the pristine mangrove wilderness of the island's larger northern half, which is nearly uninhabited. Venturing towards the southern tip of Caye Caulker also makes for some quiet moments away from the crowds, somewhere between lonely piers and the miniature airport.

"Some of the interaction with animals, however, would give PETA-activists anything from a shiver to a heart attack."

Caye Caulker's main fascination apart from chill-mania lies in its superb location by the way: nestled in the largest reef of the Northern Hemisphere, it neighbors unbeliezable diving and snorkel sites. Nurse sharks, sting and eagle rays, manatees and of course the Blue Hole are merely a couple of the highlights. Some of the interaction with animals, however, would give PETA-activists anything from a shiver to a heart attack, e.g. feeding and touching sharks and rays.

There was also that moment of realizing upon jumping in that it’s almost difficult not to step on a sting ray, 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? I tend to smirk when I witness the lax safety regulations in rural countries around the world. I would say I love the laid-back attitude a solid 90 % of the time, whenever I don’t feel the time-consuming and at times harsh consequences of the same medal’s darker let-down side.

I could have done without Caye Caulker for the most part and 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 couple on its way to Belize, I would have skipped over the whole shebang altogether. But, all my ranting about clichéd tourist hot spots was forgotten the moment two eagle rays decided to play with me - it was a magnificent under-water encounter: like giant dotted blankets they circled around me, coming nearer at their will, but remaining elusive when I would try to reduce their chosen distance. Yet, whenever my keeping up with them left me short on breath, they’d wait for me; then the little game only we were in on could start all 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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