Previously on this trip to Belize…. Caye Caulker and a Raggamuffin sailing trip to Dangriga
HOPKINS, November 2018
A man named Furman came with a shuttle boat to pick us all up and take us to Stann Creek, Dangriga. There we negotiated a shuttle to Hopkins where we checked into the Funky Dodo. Everyone is incredibly friendly and helpful! Dinner on the beach up the road at a bar that just looked intriguing and the friendly man inviting us in was amusing so why not? It was great! Fresh grouper, shrimp and even a pineapple jerk pork chop. YUM!
Monday, November 5
One of the advantages to staying in hostels is most have a kitchen which helps reduce the cost of meals. This morning we started with yogurt, granola and bagels we’d purchased the night before then went to arrange for a drumming lesson of some sort. Roy at the Funky DoDo recommended Palmetto Grove so we booked it with them for the afternoon.
Then we hit the beach. You can walk forever along the beach. It was windy and rough so the shoreline was weedy and grubby looking. I was hot so went in anyway. Once past the first 10′ the water was beautiful.
Our search for ice cream was in vain when we found the shop closed so went to the grocery store. Oh well. It was good and cold.
Evan picked us up at the appointed time and drove us to the river where a young man picked us up in a boat. On the other side we were greeted by Amalie who let us choose a Garifuna dress and showed us around and introduced us to the Garifuna culture. Preparing the traditional meal of hudut was a LOT of work, beginning with peeling the coconuts, cracking them open, grinding out the meat and making the milk. It sure was delicious though!
Next we did a drumming lesson. At one point our instructor suggested we sing so I tried a few songs but none worked. Amazing Grace goes with anything so I sang that. It’s pretty ironic to sing it with Garifuna drums as it’s a spiritual thing for their culture. We earned our dessert of casava cake and the best pina colada I’ve ever had.
Back across the river and in town we purchased food for our trip to the Cockscomb basin sanctuary and tried again to get money from the ATM. Nobody was successful so we’re doing lots of high finance.
November 6 Cockscomb Basin Sanctuary
After breakfast at the Funky DoDo hostel, we packed up, checked out and arrived at the bus stop where we waited and chatted with some of the local folks hanging around. The bus was 40 minutes late. I’m pretty sure times here are just guidelines. The fare to Mayan Centre was $3 BZE (less than $2 CAN). It made a few stops. One was so a lady could run to a stand and buy a few tamales for herself and a friend. The driver stopped to chat with someone who gave him tee shirts promoting an electoral candidate. Again we reminded of how friendly, laid back and helpful Belizeans are when a lady said “You don’t worry. We’ll make sure you get off at the right place”
The ladies at the women’s coop sold us Cockscomb Basin park tickets and called a taxi to drive us to the park. That was amidst normal chatter about where we’re from, etc. One lady asked me about my garmin as her husband’s had stopped working. We could walk the 8 km but it was stinking hot and we had 20 lb bags. As it was it took the taxi almost a half hour to drive it. I understood why the fee of $40 BZE after the drive as the road is hard on cars.
Our room wasn’t ready so we left our bags and did one of the easy hikes. Upon return the ranger explained the map, the park and the facilities and showed us our cute cabin; Mujan Haj (or bird house).
We had some lunch and rented inner tubes for $15 BZE for the day. The 20 minute walk with a life jacket and tube was fun on the mushy, muddy path and the cruise down the chilly river even better. The view was beautiful and the ride a lot of fun. After about 30 minutes we came to the “EXIT”, got out, walked a bit and dropped the tubes, then hiked up to a waterfall where we enjoyed another refreshing swim. Back down, we picked up the tubes and hiked back to do it again. Why not?
By then it was past 4 and the jungle was already getting dark so we hoofed it. The howler monkeys were making all kinds of noise and it was getting kind of creepy in there.
Dinner was a smorgasbord of cheese, crackers, peanuts, pringles and for desert….oreos!
I tried to convince the ladies to go for a night hike with me but nobody was having it. The ranger said it was a good time to see jaguars. I wanted to find sleeping birds and tarantulas. I’m not brave enough to go alone though so an evening of reading would have to do. 22,000 steps today. Not bad!
Wednesday. I’d strung a clothesline outside but it rained all night. Looks like we’ll be packing wet stuff. We’d coated ourselves in baby oil and bug spray as that’s what we were told works. Bugs can’t bite through the oil. We’re covered in bites anyway. To be fair, nothing works when you’re in and out of the water all the time.
Breakfast was more cheese, crackers and peanut butter. The kitchen is equipped with two lovely propane stoves but no lighter. The park lady took pity on us and gave us a match after I got annoyed that we’d have to purchase a lighter. When I’d booked it, they said there was a fully equipped kitchen. The fridge doesn’t work and you can’t light the stove? So we finally got a coffee 😉
We asked the ranger what the trail would be like considering last night’s rain. It didn’t rain!That was just condensation in the basin from the surrounding mountains. Wow!
The tiger fern trail is not easy. First you climb over a thousand feet for a spectacular view of the Cockscomb basin, then climb down 800 feet to the first water fall .That trail is down right scary in places or as hikers would say “very technical”. Then it continues up and down a bit to the second waterfall where we jumped in and enjoyed the cool, refreshing water.
Then the climb back up which, although much easier than going down, had us sweating by the time we reached the top. There we met a soldier doing reconnaissance for the British army. He joined us on the trek back down.
We packed up our wet clothes and asked for a taxi. He was 20 minutes early. He dropped us on the highway and we found a lady with a taco stand. Her burritos were delcious! The kids were off school because of a teacher’s strike so her 3 little kids entertained us while we waited for the bus. The bus times are very flexible. We were told to be there for 2. That came and went so we asked a lady. “oh it comes at 2:30” At 2:40 she says “oh, maybe it’s 3”.
Eventually we got to Placencia where the kind driver dropped us off pretty much right in front of Lydia’s Guesthouse.
The beach was covered in sargassum weed. They try to keep it cleaned up but it accumulates quickly and stinks as it decays. I managed to find a spot where it wasn’t too bad to get in and enjoy a swim in the luke warm sea.
After finally finding a bank machine that would give us money, we enjoyed a really nice dinner on the beach at the Barefoot bar. My cilantro lime snapper was delicious.
I was so tired I’m pretty sure I was asleep by 9 pm
Blue Hole National Park
The 6:15 am bus is the only one remotely direct from Placencia but we decided on the 7 am for the “scenic route”. Again, it was entertaining. People getting on and off, good music, and the slower pace as you stop for everything. Teachers must have gone back to work as we even picked up little kids going to school.
The conductor asked me where we were going, so I told him and asked when the next bus for Belmopan would be.
“8.30” he said. Oh crap. It was already 8.40. I said “oh, I guess we missed it”
He pointed down the road and hollered something at the driver. Next thing I know the bus is stopping and the bus speeding towards us is flashing his lights and slowing too! We got off and he grabbed our bags, passed them to the other conductor and the two of them loaded them on the back of the bus while we got on the front! Incredible service. On the Belmopan bus the conductor asked where we were going, told us 2 minutes before the stop and unloaded our bags for us RIGHT in front of the Kantara Ku Jungle Escape. The entire ride, including both buses was $7 BZE (about $5 CAN) It took us about 2.5 hours and would have been just under 2 hours by car and you certainly couldn’t drive for that price!
Bernadine greeted us and when we told her we hadn’t had breakfast, made us an amazing meal of bacon, fry jacks, eggs and watermelon. She showed us around the property and introduced us to the animals, the only other guests here.
We spent the day exploring the property, including the 20 minute hike up to the tower a couple of times to see the view and watch for birds (I saw a couple of toucans) and spent a leisurely afternoon relaxing by the pool.
Dinner by Bernadine was grilled beef, potato salad, rice and beans and pineapple juice. We’re not going hungry.