A fabulous day at Caye Caulker LobsterFest . . . but what a surprise finish

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The hurricane-created Split on Caye Caulker in Belize. To the right is north, to the left is the southern, more populated portion of the island.
The hurricane-created Split on Caye Caulker in Belize. To the right is north, to the left is the southern, more-populated part of the island.

We were idling a few hundred yards off Ambergris Caye late Sunday morning, passing out beers and waters from the cooler and pouring wine into little plastic cups.

The Newt rocked back and forth in the choppy, brilliant blue waters.

The happy crew of the good ship Newt, with captain Carl at the helm. This is actually at the end of  the day on Caye Caulker.
The happy crew of the good ship Newt, with captain Carl Sawazo at the helm. This is actually at the end of the day on Caye Caulker. And, yeah,  I think we had fun …

Captain Carl Sawazo pointed the bow south,  toward LobsterFest on Caye Caulker and threw the throttle wide open. The Newt leaped across a couple of low rollers and then the bow launched up like a rocket, crashing down on the backside of a wave.

All of us rose involuntarily in our seats,and abruptly followed the downward trajectory of the the boat. We were all greeted — not so much by a brisk salty sea spray as by a hefty serving of Chardonnay.

And that, my friends, is what you call a tropical ice breaker.

The greeting committee when we pulled into Caye Caulker on Sunday for the LobsterFest ....
The greeting committee when we pulled into Caye Caulker on Sunday for the LobsterFest ….

Once baptized, the mood shifted up a notch as we made a beeline for the Caye Caulker LobsterFest.

Our trip to Caulker actually started the day before at Zen Arcade after yoga. A group of us were talking about spending Sunday on the nearby island. I mentioned that Rose and I were taking the water taxi over.

Jackie and Adam Feldman had a better idea. “Come with us.”

Walter and Peggy behind the counter at their shop, Ice 'n' Beans where a delicious cup of French-press coffee can be had with a bag of freshly made mini-donuts on Caye Caulker. Walter says their San Pedro shop could be open in three months!
Walter and Peggy behind the counter in their Caye Caulker shop, Ice ‘n’ Beans where a delicious cup of French-press coffee can be had with a bag of freshly made mini-donuts. Walter says their San Pedro shop in the Boca del Rio neighborhood could be open in three months! That means we would be passing — or not passing by — those donuts almost every day. Good thing? Or the reason I will weigh 300 pounds by Christmas?

The Casa Picasso restaurant owners put together a group with Carl and Lynn Sawazo, owners of the Newt and Imagine  Tours Belize, that included San Pedro Scoop author Rebecca Coutant, who was on her third LobsterFest in two weeks, and Coco Loco bar owner Steve Blair.

Perfect. Some of our favorite people on Ambergris Caye.

(By the way, Rebecca, Carl and Lynn slipped away in The Newt and went swimming with a manatee at the north end of Caye Caulker. As if fresh lobster weren’t enough … Read Rebecca’s blog on LobsterFest and the manatee here. Of course I’m jealous. A manatee!)

That's our gang on the dock and the Lazy Lizard is to the left. That's me, the photographer,  being carried out to sea by a moderately strong current.
That’s our gang on the dock and the Lazy Lizard is to the left. That’s me, the photographer, being carried out to sea by a moderately strong current.

Carl eased us into Caye Caulker by way of the western, calmer, side of the island, through the waterway known as the Split, and into a dock in almost no time at all. Moments after stepping off the boat we ran into our neighbors, Ed and Shirley who tipped us off to a great shop with French-press coffee, Ice ‘n’ Beans.

Actually we were primed for this tip, as Rebecca raves about their mini-donuts every time she visits the island!

And with good reason!

We'll take a break in the story here to assault your senses with a series of images of crazily delicious lobster -- starting with this the most popular way to eat a lobster, barbecued on the grill.
We’ll take a break in the story here to assault your senses with a series of images of crazily delicious lobster — starting with this the most popular way to eat a lobster, barbecued on the grill.
The lobster kebab is a pretty close second. Great way to get all your veggies in along with big slithery hunks of lobster meat.
The lobster kebab is a pretty close second. Great way to get all your veggies in along with big slithery hunks of lobster meat.
Here's a close-up of the lobster kebab, just so you understand what I'm talking about. In a word: "Delicious!"
Here’s a close-up of the lobster kebab, just so you understand what I’m talking about. In a word: “Delicious.”
This guy had a grill fired up near the southern-most end of the island, well away from BBQ Ground Zero. Smart. He had the whole southside market to himself.
This guy had a grill fired up near the southern-most end of the island, well away from BBQ Ground Zero. Smart. He had the whole southside market to himself.

I know this is supposed to be  day of lobster but I had to start off with a bag of mini-D’s and a cup of dark roast. And it was heaven. All of it. Every last cinnamon sugar-coated morsel. And the French Press coffee? If it were a bottomless cup, I’d sit on Walter and Peg’s porch and drink it all day — let the lobster live a few hours more ….

But there were things to do, like watch the end of the Mexico-Netherlands World Cup game at a nearby bar, and then walk to the south end of the island along the tranquil beach path. Rose and I could see the crowd building up north, gathering like a voracious cloud of locusts around the lobster-filled barbecue grills. We were in no hurry to join in.

Besides, there were some serious donuts to walk off first.

Tranquility reigned Sunday along the beachwalk toward the south end of Caye Caulker.
Tranquility reigned Sunday along the beachwalk toward the south end of Caye Caulker.

If you have read anything about Caye Caulker, you probably have heard that is it like San Pedro twenty years ago. Well, it is (usually) quieter, cleaner, prettier and has thousands fewer people, and no paved roads, only hard packed sand. The island’s ad hoc motto is “Go slow” and there is a Reggae-Rasta Mon spin to just about everything. It the island had a flag its colors would be red-green-yellow-black.

San Pedro is more like a mad sprawling frontier city — by comparison. Actually, neither is a city and both are, in their own ways, beautiful and charming Caribbean island towns.

Heading north, toward the LobsterFest, the main street was still pretty quiet -- until right after those palm trees.
Heading north, toward the LobsterFest, the main street was still pretty quiet — until right after those palm trees.

It seems that no matter what your plans on Caye Caulker, visitors are inevitably drawn north to the area known as the Split and the two-story bar that anchors this spot, the Lazy Lizard.

That’s where we ultimately found our companions and a few other friends from San Pedro. Everyone was relaxing on the dock that runs parallel to the channel (created in the early 1960’s by a ferocious hurricane) that divides the island into two pieces.

This is not a lobster. This is the much-loathed Lion Fish. I believe this is the front of the Lion Fish, although, who is to say. Yes, it is unusual looking. It also has a voracious appetite and it is eating everything it can out on the barrier reef. Therefore, you are invited to catch, kill and eat -- yes, eat -- as many Lion Fish as you can, when you can. This one was not for eating. It was on display at the Caye Caulker LobsterFest. Some day it will be lunch.
This is not a lobster. This is the much-loathed Lion Fish —  photobombing my picture of a lobster. And I believe this is the front of the Lion Fish, although, who is to say. Yes, it is unusual looking. It also has a voracious appetite and multiplies like rabbits and it is eating everything it can out on the barrier reef. Therefore, you are invited to catch, kill and eat — yes, eat — as many Lion Fish as you can, when you can. This one was not for eating. It was on display at the Caye Caulker LobsterFest. Some day it will be lunch.

You could tell who had already tried the Lazy Lizard’s signature drink by the green tongues. But  mostly it was periodic rounds of cold Belikin beers and rum drinks in the hot sun, interspersed with periodic leaps into the cool blue-green water to be whisked eastward by the moderately strong current.

It was all pretty, well, relaxing. I guess all the crazy stuff we’d heard about the Caye Caulker LobsterFest went on the day before. Oh, the Split was packed with people but they were all — young and old — doing what we were doing: digging on the music, enjoying some refreshing drinks, soaking us some sun and saltwater and privately asking themselves, “Can you freaking believe that we are here?”

Caye Caulker LobsterFest fans sought cover in the shade of palm trees during the mid-day heat.
Caye Caulker LobsterFest fans sought cover in the shade of palm  and mango trees during the mid-day heat.

Well, we were — and we even ended up eating our share of the lobster. For Rose and I, that meant a couple of lobster-veggie kebabs and some long skewers of garlic-buttered lobster pieces.

That was plenty.

We got back to Ambergris Caye just in time to see the penalty-kick shootout between Costa Rica and Greece at the Corona Del Mar resort’s beach bar. Afterward, Rose and I walked up the beach to Crazy Canuck’s where our LobsterFest companions had reassembled and a live band was keeping the dance floor full.

Eventually, though, you have to tell yourself that enough is enough. Even a day that you never want to end.

Carl maneuvers The Newt into a space along the Split, a sure sign that it is time to head for home.
Carl  and Lynn maneuver The Newt into a space along the Split, a sure sign that it is time to head for home.

So Rose and I got on our bikes and began pedaling home.

We were loving it.

Right up until the moment the golf cart swerved across the road and ran into me head-on

That was somewhere near Super Buy, our go-to market for most packaged foods and drygoods. I think she was trying to get in there just before they closed the doors.

I didn’t exactly end up like a bug on her windshield. In fact, my big old beach tires kind of bounced off the front of her cart and I managed to stay upright. Her eyes, as I recall were the biggest that I’ve ever seen on the island.

Farewell to Caye Caulker, Lazy Lizard, The Split and all that. What a glorious day of friends, food, beverages and gorgeous weather.
Farewell to Caye Caulker, Lazy Lizard, The Split and all that. What a glorious day of friends, food, beverages and gorgeous weather.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“Everyone else OK?” I added, looking at the child and young man in the passenger seats.

They nodded. I started to laugh.

“Have a good night, then.” We pedaled away.

Nothing, not even a homicidal golf cart was going to spoil this day.

***    ***    ***

AND ALL THE REST

Three times I have visited Caye Caulker, each offering an entirely different and equally satisfying experience.

The first was last September, on our first visit to the country of Belize. I made a solo trip by water taxi as Rose went in search the best massage in San Pedro and some shopping.

The second was in April, a birthday sailing and snorkeling trip aboard the catamaran Lady Leslie with our friends Chunky and Ruthie.

And now, with Carl and Linda aboard The Newt, with a whole bunch of great friends.

So here are some more photos from Caye Caulker.

They are more about the quirky and lovely island than the big crowds we saw there Sunday. Those crowds are long gone and Caye Caulker is back to doing what it does best: Go slow, man. Go slow.

Do what the sign says ... and nobody gets hurt.
Do what the sign says … and nobody gets hurt.
People lways say, "Remember 'Gilligan's Island'? What ever happened to that show?" Now you know.
People lways say, “Remember ‘Giligan’s Island’? What ever happened to that show?” Now you know. Caye Caulker does have that made-for-TV paradise island feel …. but it is very real, indeed.
Homemade wine for sale on the main avenue in Caye Caulker. So tempted, but ....
Homemade wine for sale on the main avenue in Caye Caulker. So tempted, but …. just a little too homemade for my tastes.
Tranquility reigns south of the main town on Caye Caulker, even during LobsterFest.
Tranquility reigns south of the main town on Caye Caulker, even during LobsterFest.
I call this "Still life with lobster traps."
I call this “Still life with lobster traps.”
Without these there would be no lobster festivals ...
Without these there would be no lobster festivals …
Clearly not his first LobsterFest. This guy patrolled the edge of the fest, looking for a few scraps.
Clearly not his first LobsterFest. This guy patrolled the edge of the Caye Caulker festival, looking for a few scraps.
Heading toward the Split, a very popular swimming spot on the island -- as well s partying, picnicking and sunbathing!
Heading toward the Split, a very popular swimming spot on the island — as well s partying, picnicking and sunbathing!
One of a number of civic organizations with booths.
One of a number of civic organizations with booths.
A classic Caye Caulker vessel. Represent!
A classic Caye Caulker vessel. Old School! Represent!
Some of the crowd at the Split on Sunday afternoon during Cay Caulker's LobsterFest.
Some of the crowd at the Split on Sunday afternoon during Cay Caulker’s LobsterFest.
The Lazy Lizard, one busy busy bar on Sunday during the Caye Caulker LobsterFest.
The Lazy Lizard, one busy busy bar on Sunday during the Caye Caulker LobsterFest.
If you don't see the name Belikin plastered all over the place, chances are you are not really attending a real event in Belize. perhaps it is a dream or a mirage. The national beer raises its banners where ever Belizeans gather to celebrate, what ever they are celebrating. Belikin beer is there or it isn't really happening.
If you don’t see the name Belikin plastered all over the place, chances are you are not really attending a real event in Belize. Perhaps it is a dream or a mirage. The national beer raises its banners where ever Belizeans gather to celebrate, what ever they are celebrating. Belikin beer is there or it isn’t really happening.
One last time in case all the stuff sidetracked us from the main reason for being on Caye Caulker on Sunday. It was all about the lobster. Go slow, my friend.
One last time in case all the stuff sidetracked us from the main reason for being on Caye Caulker on Sunday. It was all about the lobster. Go slow, my friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on “A fabulous day at Caye Caulker LobsterFest . . . but what a surprise finish

    Susan said:
    July 1, 2014 at 6:44 am

    Robert, you always make me feel like I’m right in the action. Love all the photos you provide. Randy and I are so looking forward to our visit this August to scout out Ambergris Caye and the surrounding area. In the meantime, keep those posts and photos coming!

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      July 1, 2014 at 7:37 am

      Thanks, Susan! that’s about as nice a compliment as ever. We’re leaving next week for a wedding then back to San Francisco for a few weeks. Should be back on Ambergris Caye the second week in August. Have a fun and successful scouting trip here!

      Like

    Lorenzo Gonzalez said:
    July 1, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Great write up! You made me feel as if I was right there.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      July 2, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Lorenzo, thank you. That is a lovely compliment.

      Like

    Emily said:
    July 2, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Ouch! Glad you were okay…those golf cart drivers are crazy, no? And you asked her if *she* was okay!?! You’re quite the guy, Bob! Not sure I would have been so generous…

    Like

    Paul Baudry said:
    July 3, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Great synopsis of the Caye Caulker Lobsterfest.

    Like

    Jan B. said:
    July 3, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Hi Bob! Looks like we will have to check out the CC lobster Fest next year….the lobsters appear larger than the ones in San Pedro…LOL! We will be back on the island beginning Aug. 20th for 2 weeks before the big move in October so hope to see you and Rose again while we are there….Wine de Vine on Friday night! Enjoy your trip!
    Jan and Clive

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      July 3, 2014 at 8:57 am

      Great Jan! We’ll definitely be back in San Pedro before the 20th. See you and Clive then!

      As for the size of the lobsters … I think I just got my camera closer to the little buggers on Caye caulker. 🙂

      Like

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