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#15456 - 11/27/02 01:28 AM trip report/San Ignacio, Hopkins,AC
tincup Offline
Part 1 - The Cayo
Just returned from my 6th trip to Belize. Each time I go I try to see some new areas as well as returning to my favorite, Ambergris Caye.
Our group of 3(myself, husband and a long time friend) did our now traditional pre-flight/ pre-breakfast visit to AM Dave's (Banana Joe's) in Ft Lauderdale for an early morning Bloody Mary. A quick stop for a MacDonald's breakfast and we were on our way to Miami for the American flight to Belize.
Upon arrival we were greeted at the airport by Lenny from the Aguada Hotel in Santa Elena. Lenny (last name unknown) is the manager at the Aguada. He can also act as driver, tour guide and general organizer for your time in the San Ignacio/Santa Elena area. Drove from International to the Belize Zoo where Lenny did the tour. I had not been there in 8 years, and was glad to be able to see it again (with numerous additions and improvements). Warning: the male tapirs have a habit of marking their territory....and this includes tourists standing close to the enclosure, so keep your distance!
From the Zoo we proceeded directly to JB's for a few beers. What we didn't know was that as we were enjoying our libations, some small biting insects were chewing on our exposed body parts. These were not the same no-seeums that we encountered later which inflicted temporary discomfort. The bites at JB's got red and swollen, hot, painful and itchy and stayed that way for the week (note to self - remember to apply repellant before you get off the plane). Once again I forgot to buy a JB's bumper sticker. Another reason to visit again.
On to Santa Elena and the Aguada Hotel. The Aguada is a nice friendly place owned by the Butcher's, Americans now living permanently in Belize. We found the staff particularly enjoyable. They were always fun and friendly, a real pleasure. When booking with the Aguada we decided to go with a meal plan since the on-site restaurant had good reviews. They did not disappoint. Nice menu, excellent meals. Our evening activity consisted of making the rounds of bars with music in San Ignacio (Santa Elena is the sister town of San Ignacio, just a few minutes taxi ride away). After visiting several spots that didn't look particularly active that night we settled into the World Culture Club for the rest of the evening. There were plenty of willing dancers and we all had a chance to work on our Punta.
Next morning we were scheduled to do the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave trip, an all day event. We were picked up at the hotel after breakfast and drove to the cave area. Had to ford a fairly rapidly moving river with the vehicles which caused some concern on the part of the drivers. With rain the previous two days it was determined that the river was still rising and it would be too dangerous to attempt the cave tour. The tour operators expained that this rarely happens, but we all felt better that they heeded to caution.
Instead, they offered us another tour (and a price reduction) to Boll's cave. Not for the claustrophobic! We hiked up to the cave entrance where there was a nice little awning (I thought, how considerate!) Turns out the cave entrance is beneath the awning, that's right, straight down!
It's a small cave but has lots of artifacts. After the cave adventure we stopped at the Garcia Sisters in San Antonio to purchase reproductions of Mayan carvings and to see their small museum.
This was plenty for our group of 50 year olds for one day. It was back to the hotel, dinner and bed.
The next day we had an AM tour of Xunantunich. Our official guide Raul was excellent, quite proficient in the archeology of the site. He kept the pace moderate in consideration of our bad knees and hips. The dancing from the WCC had taken its toll and our thigh muscles hurt too.
It was a beautiful day and the views from the top of the temple were outstanding.
Running a little late we got on the road (Lenny from the Aguada did the driving) and headed on to our next stop, Hopkins. The drive to Hopkins takes you back along the Western Highway toward Belmopan where you get on the Hummingbird Highway, undeniably One of the prettier drives in the country. This takes you to the Southern Highway where you take the turnoff for Hopkins. To be continued......

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#15457 - 11/27/02 02:51 AM Re: trip report/San Ignacio, Hopkins,AC
SanHam Offline
I hate cliffhangers....
Was this before lily's or after? How hard was the climb up to the caves? When are you posting again?

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#15458 - 11/27/02 03:15 AM Re: trip report/San Ignacio, Hopkins,AC
tincup Offline
This was before Lily's. We always do Ambergris Caye last on a trip. The climb to the cave we did was not difficult, but I hear that there is A LOT of hiking (and some climbing) on the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave tour. All of this is relative of course, depends if you are 8 or 80.
We are 50ish, two with desk jobs, one with a bad hip. Considering, I think we did quite well.
Will post the next installment tomorrow. For a preview, all I can say is that Garifuna Settlement Day in Hopkins was probably the highlight of our trip. We specifically came during the holiday to participate in the activities, and participate we did! More tomorrow.

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#15459 - 11/27/02 09:28 AM Re: trip report/San Ignacio, Hopkins,AC
rickcheri Offline
Too cool, Keep going!!!!!
Rick eek eek wink laugh laugh wink

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#15460 - 11/27/02 05:15 PM Re: trip report/San Ignacio, Hopkins,AC
Mexicana Offline
Hola Tincup,

Loved the travel log...any photos to post? Also if you could give any other advice like the insect repellent BEFORE leaving the plane kind of thing we are open to hear stuff like that! I CANNOT WAIT FOR PART2!!! laugh

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#15461 - 11/27/02 05:51 PM Re: trip report/San Ignacio, Hopkins,AC
tincup Offline
Part 2 - Hopkins
We arrived in Hopkins the afternoon of Nov. 18th, the day before Settlement Day. Hopkins is a coastal Garifuna village just south of Dangriga. Our group was in San Pedro last year for the Garifuna Cultural Pagent which we really enjoyed. People we met there suggested that we go to Hopkins to better experience the culture and celebration of the holiday (Dangriga is the epicenter of the celebration but it is much more crowded). Our preference was to stay in town in order to be in walking distance of the events, so we booked our stay with Tipple Tree Beya, a small beachfront hotel run by Tricia Sturman. Tricia made arrangements for us to have an early dinner at the home of Terese Castillo, who on request prepared the traditional Garifuna meal 'Hudut' for us. We dined in Terese's yard under a tree surrounded by children, dogs, chickens and ducks. It was perfect.
The evening activities started with a cultural dance presentation given by a group of Garifuna women and male drummers from the village and held at the Hamanasi Resort (our new friend Terese was part of the group). The major events of the celeration were held under a large thatched shed in the center of town. Here the drummers set up for an all night dance with traditional drumming. In the adjacent vacant schoohouse the Griga Boyz performed for the enjoyment of the younger set. We danced to the drummers, we danced to the Griga Boyz, we danced til we couldn't dance any more.
The next morning there was a reenactment of the landing of the boats carrying the original settlers and their provisions as they were deported by the British from the island of St Vincent to Roatan in 1797. This was followed by a church service, then more drumming and dancing, and finally a parade.
The village of Hopkins is culturally intact. The Garifuna language is spoken at home, young children are taught and encouraged to participate in their cultural activities, townspeople wear traditional Garifuna dress, and the entire town comes out to celebrate their history. It was a joy to behold. For more about Hopkins see: www.hopkinsbelize.com
The next day we had a fishing trip with Noel Nunez a local guide. The boats in Hopkins are run right up on the beach, so launching becomes a group activity. Getting the boat out of the water is even more interesting! We did some near shore bottom fishing for snapper and loaded the boat with about 12 good sized fish. Then we did a river tour and stopped to cast for small tarpon along the banks. Our day ended with our catch cooked by Noel's wife Judith who runs the Watering Hole Restaurant and Bar. Their bar is a great place to hang out and meet locals.
By day three we were moving to the rhythm of the village....you awake to the sounds of roosters crowing, children playing outside and the ever present backbeat of the music from the radio next door. Occasionally there is the middle of the night town-wide dog bark. I found the feel of the village around me absolutely delightful, but for those of you who prefer a more serene environment you might want to consider staying just outside of town in one of the resorts.
Our stay in Hopkins was over (but I am sure we will be back next year), and we were driven to the airport in Dangriga by Tricia for our flights to Belize City/San Pedro. The Southern Highway is now paved which is a great improvment for the towns and villages south of Dangriga. Travel is faster and cleaner (no road dust) once you get on the main road. We will do a rental car next year.
Next installment (maybe this evening?)....San Pedro.

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#15462 - 11/27/02 08:15 PM Re: trip report/San Ignacio, Hopkins,AC
NYgal Offline
You got the feel of what we feel as we stay in their area. Hopkins is our base when we travel in Belize. It's a 'do not miss' part of the country, as far as we are concerned. Loads of love and family there.
Thanks so much for adding this part too. We will be there again soon and love each new persons view of the area.
smile

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#15463 - 12/02/02 07:35 PM Re: trip report/San Ignacio, Hopkins,AC
karin Offline
I was in Hopkins last year at the same time, your story reminded me all those beautiful moments; supper with Therese, a Belikin at the Watering Hole with Jude; the waiting on the beach on 19th Nov early, the drumming all night long... Thanks for bringing back alive all those memories.

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#15464 - 12/08/02 07:16 AM Re: trip report/San Ignacio, Hopkins,AC
sunsmile Offline
Your knowledge of Belize is awesome. Did you see the sleeping Giant on the hummingbird highway? It's part of the Maya Mountains along the hummingbird highway that appears to be an enormous sleeping giant in the mountains- Interesting, breath taking archaeology.

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#15465 - 12/08/02 04:07 PM Re: trip report/San Ignacio, Hopkins,AC
NYgal Offline
I saw that sleeping giant. We had to stop the truck, I needed pictures. It is a beautiful area and that giant stands out so vividly.
smile

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