Off the shore of Belize lie a number of Cayes, or small islands with their own communities and rich marine life. I took a ferry from Belize City to Caye Caulker, a very small Caye with only one main street.
My time here was mixed. Some of the locals act a bit oddly towards tourists – some of them were high and drunk some of the time and one got very angry when I refused a spliff at two in the afternoon.
The beach is small, but the water is clear and beautiful and very refreshing to swim in. Lots of snorkelling tours go out from the island with chances to sea sharks, dolphins and even manatees among other colourful coral fish.
The island is quite expensive compared to the rest of the country, but I did have a great time going out to the Sports Bar on Saturday – where most of the island seems to go. Furthermore, I met a very hippy, spiritual guy in my hostel room who played a ukelele with whom I stayed up to about 4am talking about everything, from experience of consciousness to how his father reacted when he chose to move to the jungle. Very weird, very surreal, I was somewhat relieved to get back on the mainland and continue my journey north to Mexico.
About 3 hours west of Antigua and you get to Lago de Atitlan, one of the most visited destinations on the Guatemalan backpacking trail. Indeed my guidebook tells me that Aldous Huxley, the author of one of my favourite dystopian novels Brave New World described it as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and coming down the mountainside on a chicken bus from Solala, it is easy to see why.
The lake is vast – there are a number of destinations which one could visit. I found a cheap room in Panajachel, but had I had more time I think I would have ventured further – I have heard good things about San Pedro and hippy things about San Marcos.
The lake itself is not the best for swimming – especially around the town it was quite full of rubbish. But I went on a 20min boat ride from the jetty which gave me good views of the three volcanoes the lake is famous for. As it was Easter Sunday, the place was buzzing with locals and the shore side was filled with vendors – people trying to sell tourist items, but also locals frying up tortillas and various pieces of indescript meats on smoky BBQs.
Kayaks are available for hire on the lake with the morning being advised as the water is less choppy. I also saw paragliders from the boat – if only I were a billionnaire…
A short stay at the lake, but it was time to head north through the highlands to the ancient centre of the Mayas