After an especially eventful week on Ambergris Caye, with the San Pedro LobsterFest, the weeklong feast of Saint Peter, a huge downtown fire, and a firetruck getting stuck in sand responding to another fire, what’s a bunch of blokes to do but grab a boat and cruise on over to the Caye Caulker LobsterFest on Sunday morning.
When you’ve got to get away, Caye Caulker is the place.
Yes, that does sound odd, when you live on a tropical island that thousands of people have marked on their calendars as their dream get-away spot. Even Paradise gets to be too much after a while.
So, Caye Caulker. A smaller, quieter, less-dirty version of Paradise.
Well, quieter most every other day of the year, except this one. And Saturday. And Friday.
Caye Caulker LobsterFest was the original. And from what I can gather, still the best. The third is that young upstart, Placencia LobsterFest, which I imagine to be quite nice but, yeah, that is in Placencia. And that is a bit far away when you’ve already spent two full weeks stuffing yourself full of lobster.
Perhaps some day they (the lobster moguls) will begin handing out medals to LobsterFest attendees, with an extra-large fourth one for people who manage to hit all three in a single season. It works for marathons and half-marathons.
Like I said, Caye Caulker is still my favorite. Mainly because there isn’t much going on — except that a lot of people are grilling lobster, up and down the main road. And people are drinking a lot. And there is a lot of DJ music pumping out all over the island and blending together into a kind of surreal aural patina over the event that transports you into an Other World of dancing lobsters dripping in butter that must be eaten.
And football. Yes, even while eating Lobster Mac & Cheese and drinking Belikins you can not escape the utterly desolate reality that the Cinderella Dream is over for Iceland as a coldly efficient France dismantled their team, one player at a time, until the only figure left on the pitch was a melting snowman guarding the net.
Or some such thing. I honestly stopped paying attention at 4-0, advantage France.
So you stumble out of the sports bar into the brilliant Caribbean light, buy an over-priced but over-sized grilled lobster from Fran who has been shilling spineys on the Caye Caulker midway for a decade and completely miss the lionfish contest, which you hear later is won by the same guy every year. He is either that good, or that clever.
And then you think, “Oh crap. I should be taking pictures with my new camera.”
And then you say, “Oh crap. The camera’s battery is as dead as the hopes of Wales in its UEFA European Championship semifinal.” (Which is Wednesday, against Portugal, my subconscious reminded me….)
So you bring out the trusty iPod, snap off some photos and thank the God Apple for the automatic leveler and magic wand features which restore all of your photos to sobriety long before you get there.
Seriously, Caye Caulker is a most photographable place. A long time ago, the island recognized the irresistible seduction of brightly colored paint on its buildings and cascading dreadlocks on its citizenry. It also recently rediscovered the charm of having actual beaches that expats and tourists can stretch out upon and roast themselves to an orangish-red lobstery hue in the sizzling white sand.
Belizeans wisely choose the safe harbor of shade trees, a cooling breeze and an occasional plunge into the effervescent blue-green sea.
All walks on Caye Caulker lead to The Split which was probably, in retrospect, the greatest marketing tool for a tropical island ever conceived and produced by a hurricane. People gather at the Split to drink, relax, toast in the sun and jump off the dock into the gentle current that sweeps them down to a landing spot so they can crawl out, climb back up and do it all over again.
Try it sometime. It makes a lot of sense when you are there.
In every aspect, Caye Caulker lives up to its civic motto: “Go slow.”
Which makes it a great place to go when you’ve just got to get away.
LobsterFest or not.