This is the place for photos and reflections of my visits to Latin America beginning in 2012. Previous blogs are linked on the main pages of my photo collections on flickr. HAPPY TRAILS!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

HIGHLIGHTS OF BELIZE - the truncated version

NOTE: I've completed full posts on all our Belize adventures which you can access by choosing the newer and older post links at the bottom or by using the archive on the right. I decided to leave this 1 in for those who prefer a summary to the whole 9 yards.

I've caught up the blog through my time in Guatemala and most of my time in Belize before Mike flew down on August 4th. I'll complete full blog pages of our time together when I'm home and have easier access to internet, but I decided to pick out my favorite photos from each stop to give you a quick run down of our last 2 weeks.

Mike joined me midway through my 6 nights at Hickatee Cottages near Punta Gorda in the far south of Belize. The cottages and surrounding gardens are lovely and the customer service is stellar and includes tea or coffee delivered to your door each morning. There are miles of jungle trails - lots of critters and black howler monkeys.

Punta Gorda is an interesting little town with very few tourists and a local population mix that is mainly Garifuna and Maya. I selected 2 of my favorite town photos - the laundry place that washed my clothes and a colorful house advertising coffins for sale.

1 day I took a local bus from PG heading to the village of San Miguel. I sat next to a sweet old man whose daughter lives in the US; he asked me to write down her name and, if I could talk to her, ask her to phone and tell him when she'll be returning.
I hopped off the bus at the access road for the Lubaantun Maya site and hiked about 3/4 of a mile to get there. The caretaker, Santiago, showed me some of the latest finds, mostly small flutes and figures. He makes replicas from the same clay source the Maya used 1000 years ago; I bought a small pot. The name means "Fallen Stones" which is an accurate description; some of them fell all the way to the village church.

Ian, one of the Hickatee owners, manages Fallen Stones Butterfly Farm so I was able to visit even though it's not open to the public; the 2nd photo is a box of chrysalli being prepared for shipping.

 When Mike flew in we spent our 1st full day together on a Cacao (chocolate) Trail tour - amazing! This fantastic man, Eladio Pop, charged through his jungle property talking a steady stream about his farming practices and spiritual beliefs, whacking all sorts of food bits for us to try from the surrounding growth; that's a cacao pod below and in the next picture Mike is bravely trying the 'beer' Eladio had hidden away in the brush, fermenting.

We went to his home for a nice lunch and then went through the chocolate production process with members of his large, happy family. I got to cuddle the new baby and we drank enough chocolate to sink a ship - happy, fun day.

Here's where you should be seeing photos of our week at Reef Conservation International, diving and fishing our brains out. You don't get to see them because I didn't get to take them because Hurricane Ernesto forced evacuation of the cayes. We spent an extra night at Hickatee to regroup and decided to head early to Placencia where our 3 nights booked at One World Rentals became 6. Our little apartment was the 1 on the lower left, complete with kitchen, air conditioning, and cable television - yay for the Olympics!
Placencia is a popular tourist destination in Belize and it shows - lots of tourists and tourist infrastructure, beautiful flowers and a nice beach. The sidewalk below is Main Street.

There was a good produce stand and a small grocery nearby; we did most of our own cooking and purchased bread from John the Bakerman, below.  In case you can't read the sign, it says, "John the Bakerman is right inside....this door". We bought sticky buns and meat pies there.
On Thursday I headed to Laughing Bird Caye and the reef beyond for a day of snorkeling and diving.
Mike spent the day fishing for bonefish and tarpon with a local guide.
On Sunday we went on a trip to Monkey River with a young man named Jason from that town and 2 people we met by chance in Placencia. He took us through the Placencia Lagoon to the town of Monkey River, then up the Monkey River where he proved his genius at spotting crocodiles, iguanas, and birds. We got out and hiked through watery jungle trails with black howlers roaring overhead, learning about the local flora and fauna and traditions. We stopped back in Monkey River Town for a traditional lunch at Alice's Restaurant and on the boat ride back to Placencia saw manatees in the lagoon - icing on the cake.

Baby tiger heron in a nest
American crocodile
Black howler monkeys - baby on the right hanging by his/her tail
Back on track with our original plans, we flew from Punta Gorda to Ambergris Caye on August 13th, stopped at local produce and grocery stores to stock up for the week, and headed by boat a half hour to the north to Tranquility Bay Resort.

This photo represents our culinary efforts which included lots of fruit and shrimp and world famous Marie Sharp's hot sauce, proud product of Belize.
One day 3 manatees came into the water in front of the bar deck for a private showing
and Friday there was a beautiful wedding on the beach near our cabin (I thought of you, Genna and Nick!).
Although we had some stormy weather mid week, most days Mike headed out at dawn for fishing (that's him in the lower left). He got to cast to permit though didn't land any this time around (they're really tough to convince) but caught lots of bonefish including this 1 and 1 that was too large to hold in 1 hand so he couldn't get a photo. Really.

I spent nearly as much time in the water as out, snorkeling and diving; here are some of my favorite underwater photos, the 1st 3 from snorkeling, the rest from diving.

Scrawled Filefish
 Always a happy surprise, juvenile yellowtail damselfish, like the sparks off a campfire against a night sky; the big 1 was about 2 inches, tail just starting to turn and the small 1 was about 1/2 inch long.
Green Moray Eel
Cool coral at 85 feet
 Lionfish - a poisonous invasive species - in a giant barrel sponge.
1 of my favorite things in the whole world to see, a juvenile spotted drum - like a dancing ribbon with stripey body attached.

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