, Crooked Tree
We were greeted into Belize in English, Spanish, Creole, Q'eqchi' and several other Mayan languages. As we got off a somewhat overcrowded ex-American yellow school bus in Orange Walk a nice gentleman with his wife and daughter ask us if we were looking for somewhere cheap to stay and offered us a ride to his friends hotel. He dropped us off and wished us happy travels. This kind of encounter has happened several times in almost every place we've been in this small nation. F.Y.I., The Hotel in Orange Walk was indeed very cheap (and clean), but 'basic' barely touches the edges when trying to describe this place... we especially will have fond memories of the sink built under the shower and we will remember our special stance so as to not get our feet full of toothpaste when brushing our teeth. Our thanks to the plumber for allowing us the appreciation of good plumbing in our next places to come...
We really treated ourselves for Christmas though! Birds Eye View Lodge in Crooked Tree was a lovely treat and quite a fancy place with great food and nice rooms. We
About 4 ft long.
had three great days of bird/wildlife watching, whilst canoeing and hiking in the area! Some of the highlights were spotting a small crocodile from the canoe, watching orange iguanas bask in the sun in the tree-tops and drinking delicious cashew wine at night at the lodge. The bird life was amazing all the time! We spent a few hours at the visitors centre for this national wildlife sanctuary where we spoke with Steve, the ranger. He told us stories about the cashew festival where they harvest the cashew fruit and nuts in May under extreme temperatures. They pick and roast the cashew nuts when it is so hot, people faint from heat exhaustion, and during the roasting in a very hot fire, people get heat exhaustion again. He says it is very hard work but the money is worth it. So the next time you eat cashews think of the very hard work these people put into harvesting...
We relaxed for a few days on the coast in Hopkins, swimming in the Carribean and seeking shade from the furious sun and eating only bread, cheese and fruit juice before moving southwards to Big Falls. Did we mention some of
This was amazing. This little croc was only a few inches long and we managed to spot it from our canoe.
the fantastic Garifuna drumming one night? That was pretty good entertainment. Mix that in with an extremely rum-filled Rastafarian guy who sang and played the guitar, and our night was definitely complete.
Upon arrival in Big Falls, where we were instructed to get off at the "farm road" (which, by the way, the bus driver knew where to stop), we again lucked out with a ride down the road by some lovely locals-- to our new home for a glorious 6 days of lush rainforest in a cabin. Surrounded by an orchestra of bird songs, insect sounds, and the odd howler monkey grunt in the distance, we experienced the outdoor life and learned about how our neighbours (or shall we say our adopted Q'eqchi'-Maya family) live in the jungle. We exchanged a few recipes (corn tortillas for stove-top bannock), and Theresa even lent a bit of her pharmacy knowledge with one of the kids' visit to the doctor. Our home was about a mile from the main road in town, then another 1-2 miles to the internet, a local restaurant, and other places to get supplies. We definitely got our excercise! So we were emersed in Nature for bringing
Birds Eye View Lodge,
Our Home for the Christmas Holiday.
in the New Year and were able to cook our own food after eating in restaurants and eating road food. We just wanted to mention that we felt awfully privileged to be spending this holiday time in amongst one of the most beautiful areas of our planet. A big thanks to Mike and Fran for this opportunity.
By the end of our visit, we were getting hugs from all the local kids (still on school holidays) each time we passed by their houses. And our family, well, we will miss them dearly. One interesting thing that occured is when Andres was macheteeing and maintaining the property, he accidently chopped a fer-de-lance snake in half. So we got to see one of the most dangerous snakes in the world up close... not alive.
We are now in Punta Gorda in the far south of the country and we have found a gem - Cotton Tree Chocolate Factory - which is allegedly ran by a Mrs Wilma Wonka? The small, organic Chocolate Factory offers FREE tours showing the whole process from picking the cacao pods to drying and roasting the beans and then eventually onto grinding the beans, separating out
, An amazing canoe trip through the mangrove swamps on the Crooked Tree Lagoon.
the cacao powder and cocoa butter and finally making the chocolate. The free tour is, of course, a cleverly thought out plan to lure people inside - once inside you WILL buy chocolate! Oh my goodness - yummy! We are under the power of the smell each time we pass by, that we are seriously contemplating a third visit!
D and T