Monday, March 27, 2000

Dangriga and Tobacco Caye

Originally we had planned to go out to the cayes, most likely Caye Caulker but we had heard that it was becoming a bit touristy so we took other's advice and went to Tobacco Caye, a five-acre coral atoll out on the reef.

The boat out to the caye leaves from Dangriga right near the River
View Café where we had eaten lunch on our previous visit to the town. As soon as we drove up, a young man, Rudolpho directed us where to park and started negotiating to take care of the car while we were gone. We struck a bargain with him that included having him wash the car as it was so covered with dust and mud you could barely tell what color it was. I couldn't even see out of the back window. Not knowing him, I paid him half up front, and promised him the rest when we returned, praying that it would still be there with our belongings intact. I took the cameras and laptop with me - just in case!

The trip out on a panga, a 20-foot fiberglass outboard was exciting. Fermin, the boatman open the throttle and we sped out to the horizon. He obviously knew exactly where he was going although we couldn't see anything to steer toward and he didn't have any sort of navigation instruments. Pretty soon we saw the islands appear on the edge of the glassy water and as we drew nearer, we saw the mangroves growing down to the waters edge. At one stage we appeared to be heading directly into the mangroves but at the last moment, the boat veered left and an opening appeared and we sped through, mangroves kissing the sides of the boat. The water had turned to that glorious, tropical turquoise. And it was warm!

We planned to stay two days and then back to either Dangriga or Belize City for the last night before heading home. Well, again it was "just one more day" as we couldn't drag ourselves away from the island. With six small "resorts" we ended up staying at Gaviota's Coral Reef Lodge. Bert and Marie, the owners call it upscale camping on an island. The rooms are basic but comfortable, and as the other places do too, meals are served family style.

After a full 24-hours and three meals, we decided that we'd like to try the other restaurants and so for the next two days we ate at each place sampling the local food. We had conch soup at Tobacco Caye Lodge, fish panadas at Oceanfront, chicken at Lanas and an absolutely delicious coconut pie at Reef's End. And watermelon, bananas and papayas everywhere.

On Sunday we had the traditional Sunday meal of beans and rice, baked chicken and potato salad. Carbo delight. It takes work there to get a more balanced diet but the locals seem to be healthy!

We spent the rest of our time hanging out in the hammocks and snorkeling the reef. The little camera was great and I had fun with it. The water was heavenly. Just floating and watching the pelicans dive for food was entertainment enough.


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