Posted by: ravensinbelize | January 20, 2010

Break over, back on your heads

It’s hard to think we’ve been back over a week. The flights from Belize to Houston and then to UK were full to the brim and 9 hours overnight in cattle class is no fun -especially as you get older.  We’ve spent the week sleeping, washing clothes and trying to get rid of the blood.

The blog ends here, there will be a movie “Belize – 5 weeks in 5 minutes” – email me if you want a copy.

The old adage is “You can never return” – I’m pleased to say that it’s not true.

Belize was everything it used to be – and more. There are better affordable accommodations, better roads and better choice. But the warmth and friendliness, history, wildlife and scenery are still as fabulous as ever.

Over 3,000 still images & 5 hours of video to be catalogued and sifted. and here’s to 2011.

Thank you for all the emails, phone calls and comments.

Posted by: ravensinbelize | January 10, 2010

The Big Freeze

As the UK & Europe are covered by a blanket of snow and freezing conditions so is most of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere.

80% of North America is snow covered and it is below freezing in Florida and Texas. Belize is getting it too; raining with strong winds from the North, moderate seas with small craft warnings and temperatures around 8C  in the hills and 10C on the coast.

All you can do is hunker down with friends, food, wine and a movie which is what we did yesterday at Steve & Mary-Beth’s house.

Today has started dry and calm but it’s also our last full day in Belize so we have to start the final packing and hope that the Monday Houston to London flight is still going.

Posted by: ravensinbelize | January 8, 2010

Every Good Bar Deserves Favour

A good roadhouse should be halfway between somewhere and someplace else, should serve good food and cold beer.

Back in the day, JB’s filled that bill admirably. Halfway from Belize  City and the mountains and San Ignacio it was a favourite stopping place for the army on their way to and from jungle training and for the BFBS engineers going to service the Cooma Cairn transmitter.

A tradition had been started in the early 80’s of having your regimental board pinned in the thatch and in 1988 BFBS had its sign added to the rest.

The old JB’s was abandoned in the early 90’s and a new incarnation opened up about a mile away, called Cheers. The thatch is now wriggly tin, the wooden walls are now concrete but the old BFBS sign still hangs above the bar.

T-shtrts rather than regimental signs are now the main decoration, but among them  you can chart the history of the station.

Baz & the team back in 92 and Alan & Mark Phillips in 97.

And in this decade Chris Pearson in 2004, and who’s just about to leave for Cyprus.

After a nostalgic lunch and a chat with the owners about old times it was down another 3 miles to the zoo, our home for the night.

The Pond Houses are not in the zoo but across the road in the educational centre.

for US $70 you get a room with a view, supper and breakfast. And it’s a great view.

After supper we headed into the zoo for our night tour. Just 4 of us with a guide and all the nocturnal animals coming out to say hello.

If you get a chance to do it – take it.  We went back in daylight the next day and that was great too, even in the rain.

We’ve handed the car back and are now with David & Debbie for our last four days in Belize.

Posted by: ravensinbelize | January 6, 2010

Another Blues Day

Although the most popular artist in Belize is Jim Reeves – honestly: the blues has followed me around.

At Iguana Junction, Colin is a big blues man and had a good selection playing while we were there.

Hickatee Cottages had blues tinged local music playing all the time and now at Beaches & Dreams, Tony had the Sirius Blues channel playing all yesterday.

“The sky is crying” hour matched the weather as it was a cold grey day. We went to Dangriga and had lunch at the Pelican Beach Hotel where we used to stay 20 years ago.

Back to Hopkins and then relaxed on the beach for the rest of the day. Tony Marsico was a journalist and chef in Iowa, moved to Alasaka where he and Angela owned a restaurant in Fairbanks and they now own Beaches & Dreams.

His new smoker was fabricated by the Mennonites at Spanish Lookout and was in full swing yesterday afternoon.

Another great supper and then bed to the strains of B B King.

Today we drive 100 miles North to the Belize Zoo for a night with the animals.

Posted by: ravensinbelize | January 5, 2010

North to Stann Creek

We had our last breakfast with Ian, Kate and the 3 cats and left Hickatee Cottages. A brief stop in the PG hospital to get some more antibiotics and have the wound checked and then down to the Wilma Wonka chocolate factory.

The first people known to have made chocolate were the ancient cultures of Mexico and The Maya were the first people known to have made chocolate and  mixed ground cacao seeds with various seasonings to make a spicy, frothy drink. Later, the Spanish conquistadors brought the seeds back home to Spain, where new recipes were created. And chocolate, or the growing of cacao is still big business in the Toledo district. Most of the product going to Green And Black’s for their fabulous organic chocolate. To try it in it’s place of origin is special.

Then 100 miles up the Southern highway in the reverse direction to the Stann Creek district where we stopped to look at the water taxi to Placencia at Mango Creek.

And then to the village of Hopkins and our home for the next two days at the beach cabanas of Beaches & Dreams. This is the view from our room.

And this is my new office.

Supper was in the Barracuda Bar & Grill, part of the hotel, and then bed to the sound of the ocean 30 feet away.

Tuesday has dawned cloudy and today could be jaguar’s in the Jaguar Preserve or Ludlum on the beach.

Posted by: ravensinbelize | January 4, 2010

The Queen of Brukdown joins us for supper

The official language of Belize is English although the most common is probably Creole, or in  the local spelling, Kriol. The African/English Belizeans Kriol music has many forms but the most popular is Brukdown which is like calypso with reggae or ska overtones.

When we lived in Belize 20 years ago we used to see Mr Peter’s Boom & Chime every Friday evening. Mr. Peters is the King of Brukdown and Ms. Leeyla Vernon is the Queen and we were privileged to have Leeyla as our guest at dinner at Hickatee Cottages on Saturday night.

She came dressed in a fabulous silk basque with red silk elbow length gloves and a fur stole. After supper she agreed to perform a couple of her songs to all the guests at the lodge.  The video will be available once  I’m back home.

Leeyla letting her hair down

Sunday morning was the Belize annual bird count and we were asked to join in. Melito and Alyssia were our guides and for three hours we tracked over 100 species -even though most of them were LBJ’s to us (Little Brown Jobs)

Lunch in Maryann’s overlooking the sea and then back into the jungle for admin (a lie down) Tonight is our last in the area so we are heading into town.

Posted by: ravensinbelize | January 3, 2010

Best of two falls or a knockout

Saturday we headed off into Mayan & Ketchi village country about 20 miles  north of Punta Gorda.

The first fall was called the No Sus falls

The second fall was  about 10 miles down the road on the Rio Blanco. But it meant crossing a bridge that was way beyond my comfort zone.

On a day when the river was benign rather than in spate, it would have been a great place for a swim.

The return crossing was impassable because of the high river level so in looking  for another way to cross, I slipped on a rock and measured my length on the stone, cracking the back of my head wide open.

We are a mile from the car, 20 miles from tarmac and 90 minutes from town.  All I could do was jam my hat on my head as a kind of tourniquet and head back – over the bridge for a second time !

Into Punta Gorda and after another 90 minutes I emerged from A&E with 6 stitches and a lot less blood than I started the day with.

Tonight will be a quiet night !

BTW  – the treatment I received from the Belize Health Service was magnificent.

Posted by: ravensinbelize | January 2, 2010

A very special day

Ian from Hickatee Cottages had said that it might be possible to meet Paul Nabor, the musician and Garifuna shamen, and that he might perform for us.

So at 12:45 we headed into town to the religious building and met up with Paul and 6 other musicians.

For the next hour we were privileged to witness an authentic Garifuna Paranda with the tenor (primero) and bass (segunda) drums, and the sisera which are hollowed out gourds with seeds inside (very like maracas)  and  Paul on guitar.

It’s all captured on video and I’ll publish it when we get back to the UK

A light lunch and a walk in the sea.

January 1st and no bugs to kiss

Posted by: ravensinbelize | January 1, 2010

New Year’s Eve with the Garifuna

Over 200 years ago the British forcibly removed the Garifuna from the island of St Vincent and dropped them off in this part of the Caribbean. The village of Barranco, an hour’s drive down a washboard track is one of the few pure Garifuna villages remaining in Belize, Honduras & Guatemala.

We drove down to meet Alvin who was to show us round and give us the history.

We were given a traditional lunch of a red snapper cooked in coconut milk and mashed plantain. The flavours were so delicate.

You dip the plantain in the coconut fish soup.

Then into the religious building where the ceremonies are held.

The village has a small museum and we also visited  the cemetery to see the grave of the village’s most famous son; the musician Andy Palacio who died tragically young last year.

Backto the lodge by 6pm to get ready for NYE Punta Gorda style. Supper again in Emery’s (all the other restaurants had closed) and then up to the town square for the music.

At 10:45 the rains came and  we stuck it out until 11:30 and headed back to the lodge. We saw in 2010 with a rum punch.

Finally, proof that diversity is so important in these recessionary times.

Posted by: ravensinbelize | December 31, 2009

Markets, temples and butterflies

Wednesday is market day in PG, so despite the rain we headed into town. The market was colourful but everyone was taking shelter.

We had breakfast of egg, refried beans and fry jacks in Eber Neezers, run by the genial ‘Mar’ and then walked through the wet town.

After taking many images of a tiger heron beside the shore we headed inland to have lunch at Colemans in the village of Big Fall. Tom and his family run a simple but very good restaurant, favoured by locals and tour guides and we had a very good chicken, rice and beans for £3.50.

It had stopped raining so we set off to our next Mayan temple, Lubantuun. So very different from all the others and set in a magnificent location.

At 2:30 we met Ian in the temple car park and he took us in his pickup to the butterfly farm.

There, Santiago showed us how they farm the different species and we were privileged to be allowed into the cages to let them come to taste our sweat.

Back to the lodge and then supper downtown in Emery’s. Through the night we had the hardest rain we’ve had on this trip, 2.5″ in 3 hours with thunder and lightning but today, New Year’s Eve and full moon, has dawned bright and dry.

Today is the Garifuna village of Barranco  on the border with Guatemala – I have a feeling it’ll be rough road.

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