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!

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Here's where you should be seeing photos of our week at Reef Conservation International, diving and fishing our brains out in the Sapodilla Cayes. 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 to Placencia. We enjoyed the trip between Punta Gorda and Placencia, a combination of James bus to Independencia and Hokey Pokey ferry to Placencia.

This decision meant 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! We were very comfortable there and appreciated the advice and support of the owner, Claudia; there's a nice book exchange and laundry facilities.

And really, how often do you get to stay on a street with such a charming name?
It was nice in Punta Gorda to be in a jungly, secluded setting but we loved being right in the heart of the village in Placencia with easy access to produce and groceries for preparing most of our own meals - lots of coconuts, fresh fruit, and shrimp. We thought it might be a loud location, but it wasn't, even over the weekend.

We enjoyed the company and food at Brenda's on the beach

and at Dawn's Grill and Go.

Above Grounds coffee shop was a nice stop for an iced mocha and internet.
We purchased bread and delicious little meat pies from John the Bakerman, below.  In case you can't read the sign, it says, "John the Bakerman is right inside....this door".

We heard a rumor that the woman here, Mercle (sp?) was the go-to gal for boxed lunches for local fisherman. The rumor was true - Mike ordered the evening before and picked up 3 pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and plantains packaged to go at 6am.
Bright and early Thursday morning Mike headed out for a day of fishing with an excellent guide from Monkey River Town named Wayne Castellanos (thanks to Katie Valk for the recommendation).

Success! The tarpon don't look as happy Mike does.

Meanwhile, I was able to round up a big enough group to head out to Laughing Bird Caye and the reef for a day of snorkeling and diving (I met David at Brenda's restaurant and Mariana and her husband overlapped stays at Hickatee with me and we crossed paths again in Placencia). The boat ride out and back was a bit rocky and took nearly 3 hours round trip. The diving was good but not fabulous, better on the reef than near Laughing Bird imo. I dove with Seahorse: nice boat, good captain and dive master Devon, delicious lunch on Laughing Bird Caye during our surface interval. Highlights were adult spotted drums and some nice eels. All in all a day well spent but I personally wouldn't head to Placencia if diving was a priority.

The laughing gulls in the photo below lived up to their name.

Proof I was there
Placencia is a popular tourist destination in Belize and it shows - lots of tourists and tourist infrastructure (even though it was low season), bright colors, good food, beautiful flowers, and a nice beach. 

The sidewalk below is Main Street.

On Sunday we went on a trip up the Monkey River with an excellent young guide named Jason Williams - - and 2 people we met by chance in Placencia (David from my dive group and his friend Ieva). Jason took us through the Placencia Lagoon to his home 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 Monkey River 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.

Heading in to place our order at Alice's Restaurant; there was no menu or choice involved - we just gave the heads up we'd be back.

Baby tiger heron in a riverside nest
American crocodiles

Green iguana

Oropendola nests
Blue crab

Cohune palm nuts

Termite nest

Black howler monkeys

Enormous bamboo stands
Jason told us he thought they invented velcro after seeing these leaves.

Another blue crab in its burrow
Young ceiba tree
Huge ceiba in the distance
Proboscis bats

In Monkey River Town Mike ran in to his fishing guide, Wayne Castellanos.
Lunch at Alice's Restaurant; Jason told us the locals call the rice and beans, 'sand and gravel'.
A captive gibnut; locally they're called "royal rodents" because it was a dish served to the Queen of England when she visited Belize.

Heading back through the Placencia Lagoon, Jason spotted manatees! You can see them coming up for air near the bottom of the 2nd photo.

When Monday rolled around we were ready to move on. We taxied to the Placencia airport for our flights to Ambergris Caye. Flying through the municipal airport was cheaper than through BZE, the international airport, but our flights stopped at both anyway.
Our driver explained that there's a difference in shape between speed bumps and speed humps but he calls them all 'sleeping policeman'.
Goodbye to the mainland!

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