On Caye Caulker, “Go slow” is beginning to sound like a plea rather than a way of life

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Leaving San Pedro for Caye Caulker. I can't help it but there is an emotional tug every time I leave the shore of Ambergris Caye -- even if I am heading off on a fun adventure, like Monday's.
Leaving San Pedro for Caye Caulker. I can’t help it but there is an emotional tug every time I leave the shore of Ambergris Caye — even if I am heading off on a fun adventure, like Monday’s.  It is not just that I’m leaving home.

 

So Monday was a national holiday — Labor Day. Lots of our favorite places are closed for the day, and some, like The Truck Stop and Casa Picasso for the entire week. And there is family in town.

So, naturally that calls for a water taxi ride to Caye Caulker.

Shockingly, neither Rose nor I have been to that island since last year’s Lobster Festival. And “shockingly” doesn’t begin to sum up the changes that have taken place. The island mantra — Go slow — now feels more like an admonition.

The sign is everywhere. Now though it feels less like a statement of "this is who we are" as a warning to"don't forget who we are."
The sign is everywhere. Now though it feels less like a statement of “this is who we are” as a warning to”don’t forget who we are.”

Hotels and dining spots seem to be popping up everywhere. So do golf carts and testosterone-fueled all-terrain vehicles, more than ever.

Still, for a holiday, the island was refreshingly uncrowded.

The biggest difference from a year ago? Caye Caulker has a real beach front. The island has added tons of sand, turning once-scrubby waterfront into languorous stretches of white sand and palm trees. The vast tracts of beach tend to minimize the impact of rising new concrete bunker hotels, set back well off the shore.

Animal watching can take many forms on Caye Caulker. This is one of my favorites.
Animal watching can take many forms on Caye Caulker. This is one of my favorites.

There remains that fragile balance between laid-back identity and the celebrity of being the Next New Thing.

Buildings are still painted in the brilliant citrus colors of a 12-year-old princess’s bedroom. Signs are still hand-painted and quirky. Rasta lads are still hustling trinkets, conch jewelry and curios and CD’s, paintings and weavings. They still want you to pay them for taking their picture, which I now see as a badge of pride rather than a hustle. You’d grow weary too of a hundred iPhones being pointed at your face every day.

Caye Caulker is preparing for lobster season. Old traps are being refurbished. New ones are being built. It is a waterfront way of life largely unchanged by all the tourism and commerce growing around the fishermen.
Caye Caulker is preparing for lobster season. Old traps are being refurbished. New ones are being built. It is a waterfront way of life largely unchanged by all the tourism and commerce growing around the fishermen.

Backpackers still seem to outnumber Silicon Valley vacationers. The Split is still filled with the languid young and beautiful, lolling on the docks like white beached seals, rapidly morphing from pink to scarlet. The Lazy Lizard has endured just enough spiffing up to stay fresh while keeping its funky vibe. It remains the best place to jump into the water and let the current sweep you away when you are done basting on the dock. Still, it must be feeling the heat from the citrus wonderland that is Mara’s Sip and Dip, just down the beach. And new restaurants like Paradiso and Pizza al Taglio, pressing from within The Split compound.

"I should charge you fro that picture!" the guy shouted at me. "I admire your sense of balance," I called back. Let's call it a draw.
“I should charge you fro that picture!” the guy shouted at me. “I admire your sense of balance,” I called back. Let’s call it a draw.

Farther down the road, The Fair with its hand-held carnival eats and neighboring Margarita Mike’s are the freshest new darlings on the main road.

The farther away you walk from the Split, the less changed the island seems. Many of the same art stores and restaurants and gift shops remain south of the water taxi depot.

On the whole, the Go Slow vibe lives.

Caye Caulker, I really really like what you have done with the place.

The new beachfront on Caye Caulker:

The folowing pictures will try to grasp the scope of change along Caye Caulker's waterfront. So much more space -- carpeted with welcoming white sand!
The folowing pictures will try to grasp the scope of change along Caye Caulker’s waterfront. So much more space — carpeted with welcoming white sand!

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Rose (at right) with her cousin Coco (left) and friend Paty (center) on the beach in Caye Caulker. They are fr"from Philly way" (as they wrote on the wall at the Palapa Bar and Grill in San Pedro after we returned from our day trip to Caye Caulker.
Rose (at right) with her cousin Coco (left) and her friend Paty (center) on the beach in Caye Caulker. They are “from Philly way” (as they wrote on the wall at the Palapa Bar and Grill in San Pedro after we returned from our day trip to Caye Caulker.

Basting in the tropic Caye Caulker sun:

Docks still remain popular places to stretch out in the sun on Caye Caulker, although the beach is now just beyond beautiful.
Docks still remain popular places to stretch out in the sun on Caye Caulker, especially here at The Split, although the beach is now just beyond beautiful.

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Basting on the beach on Caye Caulker.
Basting on the beach on Caye Caulker.

More scenes from Caye Caulker, no words required:

IMG_3218 level-mikes IMG_3215 IMG_3224IMG_3194IMG_3226IMG_3219IMG_3170IMG_3228IMG_3241

Some parts of Caye Caulker remain refreshingly untouched by progress, though ravaged by time.
Some parts of Caye Caulker remain refreshingly untouched by progress, though ravaged by time.
The Lazy Lizard has added bodega tables both in the water and up on land.
The Lazy Lizard has added bodega tables both in the water and up on land.

cc-swimming

People go to many resort area for "the waters"-- their mystical, curative, refreshing, invigorating properties. Well, OK. That's pretty much what I still see in the waters of Caye Caulker.
People go to many resort area for “the waters”– their mystical, curative, refreshing, invigorating properties. Well, OK. That’s pretty much what I still see in the waters of Caye Caulker.
As long as there are crudely drawn and artfully painted signs for commerce on Caye Caulker there is hope that "Go slow" will remain a way of life and not an urgent plea.
As long as there are crudely drawn and artfully painted signs for commerce on Caye Caulker there is hope that “Go slow” will remain a way of life and not an urgent plea.
Back home in San Pedro.
Back home in San Pedro. Kids doing what island kids do best. #islandlove
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8 thoughts on “On Caye Caulker, “Go slow” is beginning to sound like a plea rather than a way of life

    Susan said:
    May 3, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Cold, rainy and grey here so these photos were like drugs to an addict. I feel so much better. Just 30 more days to go and I’ll be in paradise!

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      May 3, 2016 at 1:25 pm

      I just heard we might get one of those days on Thursday! Well, rainy and grey.

      Like

    Diane Klumb said:
    May 3, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Great post as usual…and great chatting with you guys on the ride back! BTW, the answer to the question is Kelly McGuire. 🙂

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      May 3, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      Right, Kelly McGuire! Thank you for remembering! Great meeting and chatting with you guys. See you around this island, or the other!

      Like

    […] out Bound for Belize Blog, Robert and Rose were there yesterday too but I never ran into […]

    Like

    […] On Caye Caulker, on Monday, it was a different sort of dance all together, albeit to the same music: a gentle moist breeze, seed pod dancers twisting and turning. The dancer mobiles were for sale at a little art shop on the main drag. […]

    Like

    Lawrence said:
    May 15, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Just got back from Caye Caulker, we really enjoyed it a lot, went over one day to San Pedro the difference in atmosphere was night and day. Even though we did enjoy the Palapa Bar which I recognized from your blog! Planning to retire but not sure where in Belize yet, we are exploring the different regions.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      May 15, 2016 at 3:19 pm

      Searching for the right spot is part of the fun! Happy hunting, Lawrence.

      Like

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