Tag Archives: local life

The people of Caye Caulker

My first impression of the people of Caye Caulker was: everyone looks Jamaican and is a rastafarian. A striking difference from mainland Mexico, from which I had arrived.

In my few days on the island I got to know a few locals, most of whom hung around the crafts market along Playa Asuncion.

There I met Coco Loco, with his Santa hat. He sells giant seashells. He refused to have a photo taken until I mentioned that I could put the photo online and make him famous. At that point his attitude changed and after eagerly asking “Are you going to put me on YouTube?”, Coco Loco was more than happy to pose. So here’s to you, man: it’s not YouTube but only my humble blog, yet you are now on the internet!

Then there were Debra and Rootsman. They live in the north island and sail to the south island everyday (10 minutes or so) to set up their stall at the crafts market. Debra makes jewellery out of shells, seeds and motherpearl. She explained to me her choice of material and added that most pieces she makes are unique, all different from one another. Rootsman handpaints t-shirts. I had a long chat with them about their crafts as well as Caye Caulker. They expressed their fears about the island becoming increasingly touristy and heading towards what nearby San Pedro has become. It will be very sad if/when it happens.

There was a guy from a stall advertising diving/snorkelling who had spotted me because of my camera and my photography activity around the market, and had therefore nicknamed me “the photographer”. He’d call me everytime I walked past so I’d always greet him in return.

belizephotogallery_064Another artist asked me to have his photo taken, then complained that he looked like his brother!

As a woman you also get a lot of unsolicited  attention from the local guys. As they walk past you they will greet you with “Hello beautiful”, “Hi baby, come over here” and so on. After a couple of days on the island, most of these guys will know you and remember you, they will greet you by name when you bump into them. Because you will, and many times: Caye Caulker village is very small. It can be annoying or fun, depending on your mood. I chatted to a few because I wanted to hear stories about Caye Caulker but always walked away quickly if they became annoying.

One last interesting fact is that there is a high presence of Chinese/Asian people on the island: they run all convenience stores and cheap supermarkets in Caye Caulker village. Quite unexpected for me to be honest!

I didn’t take as many photos of people as I would have liked, for various reasons, including the fact that many refused. Here’s some more random shots though:

Negombo – the last stop

Negombo is strategically located close to the Bandaranaike international airport and is an almost mandatory stopover for most tourists arriving to/leaving Sri Lanka.
For me Negombo became the last stop of my Sri Lanka trip, after swapping Colombo (where I had originally booked for the night) for this smaller town 30Km north of the capital.
And on my last morning I set out to explore the town, braving the sun and the excruciating heat – I wanted to see the Dutch Canal, the beach and the main fish market.

The Dutch Canal stretches from Negombo all the way to Colombo and some sections are relatively pictoresque because of the moored boats. But don’t expect anything reminiscent of Amsterdam: think more of canals in Vietnam or Thailand! Also there is a lot of garbage dumped along the banks, as well as piles of fishing nets everywhere, so walking along the path is at times not possible (and if your presence upsets the local dogs, you may have to retrace your steps and find an alternative route for different reasons!).

My favourite sight in Negombo was, though, the main fish market.
Spread over a very large area and stretching to the beach, it was very lively. It was chaotic. It was smelly and dirty. But it was authentic. It had all I was looking for!
I walked around for almost two hours, splitting my time between the market itself and the beach, taking photos of fish drying on the sand, men and women emptying the nets and folding them away, and a few more fishermen keeping busy with some line fishing. In the distance, several traditional Sri Lankan boats would enter the sea from the lagoon.

I was totally fascinated, this is the Sri Lanka I wanted to experience and I wish I could have stayed there all day!

On the way back to my guesthouse I walked past the lagoon, full of boats on their way to the open sea.

Then I stopped for my last fresh coconut, bought from one of the many roadside stalls. I sat there chatting with the coconut man for at least half an hour, while sipping coconut water and then eating the refreshing coconut flesh – savouring my last few moments in Sri Lanka.

Selfie with a local kid
Selfie with a local kid

Sri Lanka, a country so beautiful and with so much to see and do that I hope I will be able to visit again soon for more!

Sri Lanka: south-west beaches

The south-west coast of Sri Lanka has been for some time the most popular with tourists. Beautiful sandy beaches lined with palm trees, blue water and amazing sunsets attracts tourists in flocks. Fancy staying in boutique hotels and get pampered all day? Head to Bentota. Are you a fan of backpacker hangouts and just want to surf and party? Try Hikkaduwa or Ahangama.

I did it differently and based myself in Unawatuna because of its closeness to Galle, then split my beach time between Rumassala and Mirissa.

Rumassala beach, in Unawatuna, is nothing to write home about in terms of sand and sea. Yet if you enjoy experiencing local life, you will end up stuck for hours watching the fishermen pulling their nets in at the end of the day. Like I did. For over 1.5 hours I watched at least 15 men pulling their long nets up the beach, singing and encouraging each other, their muscles all tensed in the huge effort required. It was fascinating! The sun setting on the horizon gave a very atmospheric touch to the scene.
It was almost dark when the last bit of the net made it to the beach. Fishermen, locals and tourists all gathered around the disappointingly small catch, hoping in better luck for the next time.

Mirissa beach will not disappoint your expectations of a typical tropical beach. Located about 1-hour bus ride away from Unawatuna (Rs 60), Mirissa beach is a long strip of golden sand with beautiful clear blue waters, strong winds and powerful waves.  A rocky outcrop on the eastern end of the beach can be easily reached at low tide and you will see tourists walking up to its top to enjoy the view from above.
On my only full day as beach bum, I did a good job at lying in the sun to top up my still poor tan, cooling down at various beach restaurants/cafes sipping coconut water from a fresh coconut, and dipping in and out of the ocean at the western end of the beach, the quieter one.

Later in the afternoon I hopped on a bus to Koggala and headed to the beach there, where I caught the most beautiful sunset of my entire two weeks in Sri Lanka! The sun fired up the sky with amazing red and orange colours and I watched in awe until darkness started settling in.

I rushed to the bus stop to catch a bus back to Rumassala before full darkness, while breathing in my last night in southern Sri Lanka.