Seeing Central America at its best
My adventures that led me to Central America began in 1962 when my uncle took me on a day trip to Tijuana. I left for Mexico once again on the day I graduated from high school, exploring the Pacific Coast all the way to Guatemala.
For several years my trips took me deeper into Central America, mostly near the aqua blue waters of the Caribbean. I spent one entire year in Panama, where both the Atlantic and Pacific are but one short hour’s drive apart.
A few weeks ago I visited Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I have an old college friend who has a boat building company in Honduras and someday I will take up the invitation to see his country. That will leave only El Salvador as the final Central American country for me to explore. Only time will tell how or when that will happen.
As I’ve written many tales of Mexico, I would like to introduce you to a segment of life spent offshore of Belize, the country formerly called British Honduras. I took my family to the island of Caye Caulker, where we learned there are two kinds of sharks — the ones from the sea and the invisible ones that come creeping in the night. On our initial night on the island, a land shark cut though our screen door, entered our cabana and made off with a new Yucatan hammock.
No one heard a thing. We were extremely tired that evening, having traveled all day from Merida, Mexico, to Caye Caulker, Belize. With the hypnotic sound of the Caribbean as a backdrop, we fell into deep sleep. Later we realized it was probably best that no one woke up to confront a knife-wielding land shark.
Things dramatically improved on our second day in the country. We rented a boat and guide to take us out to the large barrier reef located several miles offshore. I soon began snorkeling with a rented spear gun. The first fish I shot turned out to be an aquarium sized angel fish.
You know those mirrors that say, “Objects may appear larger than they really are”? The same can be said about the underwater world of the Caribbean. Underwater, my first fish appeared to look like a nice sized crappie. When I surfaced and proudly held up the spear to show off my first kill, I realized this aquarium-sized angel fish was barely large enough for bait. Chocolate, our guide, said in Caribbean-Creole, “Ya wanna go bigger fish, Mon!”
I took Chocolate at his word and quickly found plenty of larger fish to spear, such as grouper, mackerel and even lobster. Soon a problem arose. I had speared so many fish in such a short time that the water became bloody. Bloody water attracts sharks and I had attracted a large one. I spotted the tiger shark and immediately swam to a boat where some locals were anchored. They had a good laugh over this and assured me if this shark wanted me for lunch, he certainly could have caught me. They also joked that what sea sharks really like is small children, like my 3-year-old son sitting in the boat.
Nights were spent with locals like…