A travel moment in Belize

It’s early as we walk along the white, sandy path to the harbour. The sun, rising and unhindered by cloud, already baking our skin. We pass our friends Stanley, Fredlocks and Chico from the first day on Caye Caulker. They’re local artisans who ply their wares to the various tourists through cheeky and charming tactics. Older than us but young at heart they made for fascinating and endearing drinking partners, coming to embody what we loved about Belize and the Caribbean.

Following hand gestures and a few friendly words we tell them we are going fishing with Eslay, their tour guide recommendation from an evening before. This information brings a smile to their faces, not a scheming smirk but a full and approving smile. An agreement is made, that if we catch a fish big enough to share our friends will skin and butcher the prize, fire a barbeque, provide local beer and wheat bread.

The walk continues with ambitions high and a bounce in our stride. We reach the jetty and look for our fisherman. A number of boats are moored but only one that appears suitable for sea fishing amateurs. There is no skipper to be found. We look out across the perfectly coloured sea with the sun, now higher in the sky, shimmering across the water.

From over our shoulders we hear a whistle and turning around see a man striding towards us, his teeth bearing out from his mouth, giving an over-exaggerated smile. There’s no formality from Eslay, he does not need to check our sales receipts and we do not need to check he is Eslay. We jump into the boat and settle in our seats. Our skipper introduces himself and tells us how we will catch our scaly chase. The motor starts.

Evening is beginning as we return to the jetty; the Caye looks a beautifully inviting host. The motor is cut and as the boat glides into its mooring, my friend and I look at each other and laugh. Sat beside us on a bed of ice is our catch, glassy eyed with cool, shiny skin. After a congratulatory goodbye from Eslay we struggle triumphantly back along the white, sandy path carrying a 13lb barracuda.

Claps and noises of applause greet us from path-side artisanal huts. Stanley emerges and helps us with the catch, guiding us to a small inlet where he will wash and prepare the fish. Fredlocks and Chico sit relaxed smoking in their chairs, they beckon us over. Handshakes and smiles all around, an oil drum barbeque is being tended to by a future friend. The sun is setting.

Now dark our group enjoys the succulent fish and chewy wheat bread, washed down with local Lighthouse beer. I sit in the sand cross-legged gazing at happy faces, lit-up by the dying cooking embers, and on this tiny Caribbean island I have found my perfect travelling moment.

J Armstrong

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