OK, I see this board is in need of a trip report and I'm happy to oblige.
Arrival/On the Road to San Ignacio
After arriving in Belize via Detroit/North Carolina, I proceed to rent a 4x4 and phone. My best friend, Karen, arrives an hour later, from Atlanta and we head off in search of San Ignacio/Santa Elena. I tried to heed a lot of advise given on this board especially from Lan about driving belize. As he said, it is a little confusing getting to the Western Highway (especially since there isn't really a sign that says "western highway"). But let me state that me and my friend are "directionly challenged". These words will come in handy later in my post. Its a good 1 1/2 to 2 hour drive. It was nice passing all the sights I had read about. We stopped for a nice lunch and belikins at JB's (fish and chips) and found this was a good stop to unwind and relax as we still seemed to be a bit wound up and tight. Relax, Relate, Release seemed to be our mantra. We push on and smile at a sign at a roadside eatery that says the special of the day is Cowfoot soup (we had to get a picture of that). We finally get to the town of Santa Elena and proceed to go across a one lane bridge. Yep, we were going the wrong way and caused a few cars to back up as they all shouted that we were going the wrong way. Remember the phrase I used earlier, lets just call it "DC" for short as it will show up again. We make our way up a few steep hills to Cahal Pech. Boy are we glad to get there, check in and relax. CP is a great place. You are actually looking down on the towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena. We chose the Cabanas. I recommend this highly, if you want to be close to a town. The view is great and the Cabanas stay nice and cool because you're up high. Big ups to the Staff of Cahal Pech. We relax all the way now. (aaaaahhhh). We order dinner and decide to eat in our rooms. We had the pork chop dinner and it was absolutely wonderful. Karen takes the dishes back up and tells the cook that the food was great. The staff and the cook stare at our empty plates and says "yeah, we know". I guess there's no need to wash those plates (lol).
Mountain Pine Ridge
The next morning, we have breakfast and discover those fry jacks (oh those wonderful fry jacks). Today, we are driving to the Mountain Pine Ridge area in seach of 1000 foot falls and rio on pools. After going quite a few miles out our way (DC), we finally turn onto the Mountain Pine Road. Let me tell you, who needs a massage when you can drive this road. I knew it would be rough, but man they weren't kidding. This road is bumpy bumpy bumpy and I see why they advise a 4x4 for this road. At times, your whole body shakes, rattles and rolls. It is beautiful I have to say as your going up in the mountains. About an hour in, we stop for a guy on the road whose 4x4 has overturned in a ditch/revine. His truck is scary but the guy is fine. He says someone is coming for him and advise us to take our time and pay attention (we do). We pass the turn off to 1000 foot falls and decide to stop for lunch at five sisters. WOW, this place is just plain beautiful. OH MY, the waterfalls on this property is breathtaking, the cabanas are nice and the porches are screened in with a hammock on them. The grounds and lush, and it seems nice and romantic for couples. We talk to a couple that just arrived and says a crane came for the overturned truck. They had to punch out the windows on the truck and lift it out of the ravine. Well, after relaxing a little too much, we push on to find rio on pools, which we hear is near by. Well, about halfway to Caracol (DC) we figure we've gone too far and turn back around. We decide to turn off into 1000 foot falls. (We never did find rio on pools). However, 1000 foot falls was breathtaking. We talk with the caretaker up there and I give some toys to his little girl. He shows us some of the other views and after a while we decide to head back down. We pass other lodges I've read about on the board but didn't get a chance to turn into them. We get back to the Western Highway and boy am I glad for smoooooooth pavement. We stop at Eva's in town to arrange a cave trip. I spoke with bob and he just can't believe we didn't find rio on pools. He says he passed us coming out of the road from five sisters and says we were practically right there. Oh well.
The next day I decide to go on the Barton Creek Cave exploring trip. Karen decides to just laze around for the day. Everyone meets up at Evas and the guide loads us into his truck. He then proceeds to tell us about our adventure. I didn't hear a word he said after "We'll start our journey travelling on the Mountain Pine Ridge Road". Oh nooooooooooo, not that road again. Luckily, it wasn't that long but the off roads we went on were worse. I swear I don't think some of those were roads at all. We do pass the Mennonite area and some beautiful areas. And just when it looks like the road has ended at a stream/pond, yep we go across it in the truck. Onward and upward. We finally get to the stream leading to the cave and hop into two canoes. We round a bend and there it is. My mouth drops. The cave opening is magnificent and I am just giddy with what lies ahead. Our guide gives me and another lady sitting up front the spot lights to guide our way and I feel kinda special. (hey, I get to work the spot lights I think to myself like a big kid). This cave is great, the formations, stalagmites, stalagtites, fish,the quietness of it all. Our guide points out things of interests and then we head into a gaggle of bats. Our guide says they aren't harmless and that they will fly inches from you but veer off. He tells us with the spotlights to not shine it in one spot too long (lol), well we start moving those lights around like we're working a rock concert(lol). We all squeal and get through this section. At times we even have to do the limbo to duck low formations. We even cut out the lights to get a feel of the darkness and quiet. Way cool. We get to a point where we can't go any further and those that want to tube back can do so. This was a great adventure and now I see how people love cave exploring. I highly recommend this one, especially if you're not into a lot of hiking.
Nightlife is pretty much non-existant we find. Not sure if this is because of the time of year or what. Unfortunately for us, we find that the club next to Cahal Pech burned down two weeks ago. This was one of the reasons I booked at CP. I hear that this was the place to go. We hear mexican like music from our cabana but every time we go back down into town in search of it - All quiet on the western front. We head back up and hear the music again from our cabana. We give up.
PLACES IN TOWN
Serendib - I can't say enough about the great food at this place. Of all the lobster I eat all week, this place has the MOST, the BEST, and the CHEAPEAST of all. The lobster is tender and believe it not I couldn't eat it all. Deliteful, Dewonderful, Delicious.
Marthas - We got here late when the kitchen was closing so the only thing available was a hamburger and fries. While it was great, I shouldn't have eaten this so late and I don't eat a lot of beef. I paid for this all night.
Evas - Nice place to hang out, meet people and arrange trips, talk to bob too.
Dragon Health store - quite an interesting place. They sell books, have health concoctions and a bar. This is such a relaxing place from the minute you walk in. Like someone just gave you a group hug. hard to explain, but it has a nice aura about it. We have smoothies and but books and health stuff for Karen. she is the type that makes her own soaps and vitamins, so she is just in heaven in this place.
Well the next day is time to drive back to BC and take the puddle jumper to San Pedro. On the road back, we stop at the belize zoo. Definitely a must see. I love the way it will shower for 10-15 minutes and then move on. This made the zoo extra special for some reason. I think I kept my hands at my sides at all times at the zoo. Those of you who've been there know why I say this (lol).
Well, here's my list of things that fall into the "regrets/next time category"
1) Find that damn rio on pools
2) Do more cave exploring
3) Visit other jungle lodges
4) Go to outdoor market in town earlier before everything is gone
5) Find a reggae club or any club for that matter
I will post later about the second half of my trip to San Pedro (entitled "finally, the rock has come back to san pedro"). Please forgive all typos and thanks for reading.