Published: June 4th 2009February 15th 2009
By morning, our water bottle still hasn’t arrived so I decide to go in search of Haywood. As promised, I find him easily. Before I can even say “hi”, he launches into apologies and springs into action “Hey!, sorry about that, I’ve got your water right up here, just haven’t had a chance to get down there yet. I just need to get this crew started. Ill run it down for you right now, sorry about that!”. As he is talking, he is grabbing a bottle from a line of about six water bottles on the porch and loading it onto his bike. As I watch and listen, I imagine five other houses in Caye Caulker wondering where there water is too. “No problem”, I finally squeeze in, “I can take it, you don’t need to run it down.” Haywood won’t hear of it. “Well, as long as you’re coming down, can I get some flies too?” I ask. “Sure”, says Haywood.
Over the next 40 minutes, Haywood has me in his flyshop, to his house, to the split, on his dock, and in his boat. He sells me five flies and two liters. He takes me to the good
spots which are close by and tells me about others that aren’t. He gives me tips on reading the water and tells me which flies to use and when. He shows me some amazing pictures of fish he has caught on flygear including a 250lb tarpon. He even tells me about intentionally catching a small crocodile on his flyrod once. When he finally takes a breath, I ask him again about the canoe. “Right this way” he says sheepishly as we hurry along.
We arrive at the dock and I’m not exactly sure what to say. It certainly isn’t what I was expecting. The canoe appears to be made from the same plywood as our house. It is small and run-down. Sun-faded yellow and red paint is chipping from the rotted wood. There are two splintery bench seats in the middle. A puddle of water has formed in the one end, but Haywood assures me it is seaworthy. I am trying unsuccessfully to imagine a configuration where all four of us would fit comfortably. Finally, he runs up to the corner of his yard and grabs two homemade oars that look so decrepit that even he has to laugh
as he shows them to me. I’m all for a good adventure, but there’s no way we’re going to pile into this thing for a daylong paddle. I’m somewhat disappointed in the canoe, but part of me can’t wait to see Karin’s reaction when she sees “our boat”.
Upon return, I run to the store for cereal and coffee. It’s interesting to note that here on the island, just like in the rest Belize; all of the stores are run by the Chinese. They speak broken English, show you your total on a calculator, and always seem to have their eyes glued to a movie playing on their laptop screen behind the counter.
After breakfast we go for a walk. Our goal today is to make it the length of the island. It’s only a couple of miles. We slather ourselves in 45spf and head out. We make our way down the street slowly, stopping to chat with street vendors and looking at their colorful crafts. The sun is once again blinding. By noon we are noticing that several of the shops are starting to close down. Apparently the locals head home for lunch and a siesta around
this time of day; any excuse for getting out of the harsh heat of the midday. We continue walking down the street of shops and stands until we are about 2/3 of the way down the island. By now the heat is stifling and we are basically hopping from one shade spot to the next in an attempt to stay out of the sun. The girls are hot. Their faces are flushed and they’ve had enough. They want to be carried. We hoist them on our backs and begin the long, hot trek back. We’re exhausted when we return and collapse into the hammocks. We vow not to get caught out in the midday sun again. From now on, we’ll do as the locals and retire to the shade of our porch hammocks for an afternoon siesta.
When the intense heat finally subsides, we walk up to the split for a swim. It’s Saturday and all the local kids have the day off from school. There is a shallow pool area that is filled with children of all ages. Their parents congregate on the wall overlooking this area. It’s funny, there was no one swimming here yesterday and we
didn’t even notice the area, but now we see that it’s perfect for the girls. Rylee and Paige jump right in and begin to play a game of tag. It doesn’t take them long for the some of the other kids to join in. I walk up to the Lazy Lizard and get a Beliken for myself and a Baily’s Colada for Karin. When I return, I see a group of kids gathered around Karin. She has become the most popular person at the pool as she passes out our snorkeling masks to the local kids. Rylee and Paige make friends with two kids in particular. The girls laugh and splash, play tag, do handstands, and have tea parties with their new friends.
A short, skinny local man is sitting on the wall next to me. He sees the children playing together and extends his hand, “Hi. My name is Filipe, and those are my children” he says. It becomes pretty obvious right away that Filipe likes to talk. Eventually a sailboat goes cruising by and as Filipe watches the boat longingly as he begins to tell me his story in his choppy english. “Long ago my employer had a boat which caused him great headache. He just wanted to get rid of it, so he sold it to me for $400. I spent lots of time and money fixing the boat. I loved to sail. I would take the kids all day long, and we would drop anchor anywhere. We would fish and swim.” He paused long enough to take a long slug of his rum-punch that he was drinking out of a plastic water bottle. “It was the fastest sailboat on the island and every year there would be a race. We would start at the far end of the island and race to a post in the water where we would turn around and do it again. We did this two times, down and back, down and back” he said pointing out to the imaginary start and finish lines. With great pride and a giant smile, he held five fingers in the air and declared “I was the winner of the race for five straight years! And all the people, they would say, FILIPE IS THE CHAMPION!”. He was standing triumphantly as if ready to accept the trophy when suddenly his mood got very somber and he took another deep swig from his homemade concoction in the plastic water bottle. “Then I sold my house and bought some land back by the dump. The man there built me a sewer system, but it fell over after a year. He told me it was $3000 to fix it right. I didn’t have the money so I had to sell my boat”. As if he didn’t want to admit that it was a losing proposition, he added “I sold it for $4000, and got I it fixed.” He shrugged, “It’s not such a bad deal. The man says I can still use the boat when I want.” Suddenly Filipe seems happy again, as if he has just had a great idea, “I can take you and your family on a beautiful sailing trip tomorrow” he smiled. “I’ll give you a very good price. We’ll go all up and down the islands. It will be very nice.” I thanked him for his offer, but declined. Karin has a history of seasickness; and besides, I’d been warned to stick with the bigger operations for tours, and Filipe didn’t even have a boat, let alone a tour company.
Eventually all the kids started heading home. The girls reluctantly get out of the water and we begin to gather our stuff when I see a bike coming our way. It’s Haywood and he’s flagging me down. “Hey Greg, sorry, here’s that change I owe you” he says while stuffing a $10 bill into my hand.” I forgot all about it, really, sorry, didn’t want you to think I did it on purpose” he continues. It was change from the flies I had bought that morning, and truthfully, I had forgotten all about it. He is gone as quick as he came, and as he rides away I hear him apologizing to someone else for forgetting to follow through on something. What an interesting life he must lead on this tiny little island, I thought to myself.
During our walk that day we had spotted a place close by that had pizza and figured the girls would enjoy something a bit more traditional for dinner. It was called “The Herbal Tribe”, and in addition to pizza, they had all sorts of seafood as well. Today is the final day for lobsters, so again my choice is easy. Karin goes with a BBQ’s red snapper fillet and curried rice. I make a mental note that the bar in the back has a laptop with Internet access that customer’s can us for free. Not only is this option cheaper than the Internet café in town, but it’s also a wonderful excuse to have a beer. A lady comes out to take our order. After bringing our drinks she heads back towards the kitchen. She returns and plops a lobster and foil-wrapped packet of fish on the BBQ pit that sits in the dining area. Apparently she’s the cook too.
Our bench seats face the main street lined with vendors and it’s a great place to sit and people watch. My lobster is good, but even with the fancy garnishes; it is still not as good as Willies. Karin’s snapper on the other hand, is incredible. The fish melts in your mouth, the sauce is sweet and tangy, and the rice is perfectly cooked and seasoned. Surprisingly, the pizza is not bad either. After dinner we walk to the ice cream stand and the girls get desert, another perfect day on Caye Caulker.