Monday, May 24, 2010

Don't Stop Belize'in

This picture of my husband and I should have a background of Machu Picchu seeing as that's where we were headed a week ago yesterday. However, the life of a standby is an unpredictable one at best and the one direct flight a day from Atlanta to Lima, Peru last Sunday was full. Since I had bought plane tickets from Lima to Cusca to get to Machu Picchu it was pretty pointless for us to try and go if we couldn't get there by Tuesday. The flight Tuesday looked oversold as well and being that it left at 5pm we decided we were done wasting time in the airport. It was time for a backup plan. So we chose the somewhere else on our never ending list of places to visit and that place happened to be Belize.

For my birthday two years ago we had gone to Costa Rica and after we got home I started researching other places in Central America I wanted to go. Belize, with it's laid back people and Caribbean waters and "go slow" attitude on it's cayes seemed like a perfect fit. I even bought a Fodor's book on the place and started saving money for the trip which I planned to take that September. However, my husband asked me, would I rather get engaged or go to Belize? Because we didn't have the money for both at the time. So I put Belize out of my head and never imagined going there again until last Sunday. After talking to customer service and seeing that Peru wasn't an option I had them list us for the flight to Belize City. I hadn't paid for anything but the Taca plane tickets in Peru so we weren't really going to be out any money by switching destinations.

We showed up at the airport Monday morning and were given our boarding passes for Belize City. The sane logical side of my brain was screaming, "What the hell are you doing! You are going to a country you've never been too and have no idea what to do when you get there!" Chad and I had no place lined up to stay and no plans upon arrival except get the hell out of Belize City and head to Caye Caulker. If you have never been to Belize City it's basically like Detroit or a slum of New York City. It's poor and there's a lot of petty crime and it's not a place you dare walk around by yourself at night. While the government says they are trying to clean it up, it still looked pretty bad to me and I was glad we weren't spending any time there.

Upon clearing customs there was a travel center in the airport and Chad went and talked to the lady and asked her about Caye Caulker and where we should stay and if we needed reservations, etc. The lady told Chad that since it was the off season (read: rainy season) that we could walk around the island and have our pick of a place to stay. So we hopped in a cab and headed for the San Pedro Water Taxi pier. Here you buy tickets for $10 per person us one way to Caye Caulker. We were fortunate our plane arrived in enough time to take a cab and get us on the noon boat so we didn't have to sit around until 1:30pm. We boarded up and said goodbye to Belize City and headed out on the water. It was raining when we arrived and I hoped that wouldn't be a sign of the weather for the week to come but at least it was warm!

On Caye Caulker there are no cars, only golf carts to get around. You can rent a golf cart or bike or take a golf cart taxi but the island is only 5 miles long and about 2 miles wide so that's pretty pointless. We declined a golf cart taxi when we arrived because well, we didn't even know where we were going to end up.
(picture: Chad upon our arrival at Caye Caulker)

There are multiple Cayes off the coast of Belize but only Caye Caulker and Ambergris are inhabitable for tourists (there are some smaller ones that have dive huts where avid divers can stay but the water taxi only goes to Ambergris and Caulker) and Caye Caulker is the smallest of the two and also the cheapest. We were told that heading left from the pier we would find cheaper rooms while to the right, down near the Split (pretty much the only area to swim on the island) were more expensive. So we walked all around the island checking out spots that looked suitable until we found The Popeye. The Popeye was right on the beach and looked like a big safe place to stay. It was also close to the pier so when we had to leave it would be a short walk with our backpacks. The cool thing we found out on our travels down here was that the hotel staff always show you the room before you have to buy. So the guy showed us a few rooms and we ended up getting a discount of paying $50us for a waterfront room. This is the bonus to traveling in the off season and also for waiting in person to pay. If you suggest you might look elsewhere they are more likely to bargain with you. Then when you agree to the room they hand you the key, let you get settled in and then you get to go down and pay. A great system for travelers if you ask me!
(picture: the popeye hotel)

(picture: our room at the popeye which was very pink! It had air conditioning and a fridge which was a bonus. The downside, on a really stormy night the rain flooded our room, not terrible but enough to have water all over the front part of the room)

So that's the start of the story about our week in Belize. I will have to break it up over a few blogs because each caye was so different and had so much to offer and I want to focus on both separately. Check back for more of to come!

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