Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I get around - Part 3

Clearly, you've already read I get around Part 1, where I focus on my time in the Mountain Pine Ridge area, and I get around Part 2, where I focus on the ruins of Altun Ha and Lamanai, as well as the Coastal Highway and some stops along the Hummingbird Highway.

Moving right along, down the coast from Dangriga..
One great place to stop while traveling down the Southern Highway (towards Hopkins, Placencia, and Punta Gorda) is the Mayflower Bocawina National Park - which is over 700 acres of beautiful, mountainous jungle land and has three main waterfalls (they offer waterfall rappelling, which sounds fun as hell to me) unexcavated Maya ruins, and the longest zip-line in Belize. 
A cute little restaurant, Mama Noots, is also on the property, as well as over 200 species of birds! 

Antelope Falls



very cute, rentable huts on  the property!

 Hopkins:

that's a long, long road if you're on foot, and you might end up hitchhiking in Belize



king cassava




Placencia...



 


Punta Gorda is one place that I have NOT spent much time (yet) but I did get down there for one afternoon visit a few years ago, and I will be there for a few days in the beginning of April, so I'll be sure to get more pictures than just this one:


Look for I get around, parts 4 and 5 over the next few days - I still have so much to show you!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

I get around, Part 2

Working on these posts totally, totally makes me miss living on the mainland, but here's the follow up to I get around - Part 1...

Ok.... starting with more ruins -
I've been to Altun Ha twice (the last time was when my parents were here - A week with the 'rents)
and to Lamanai once (I have a second trip planned for next week)




Altun Ha is one of the smaller Maya ruins sites - but it's pretty easy to climb and totally easy to get to, either on your own or with a tour guide.
Don't quote me on this (because I'm a horrible judge of time) but I think it only took an hour, hour and a half to get there (31 miles north) from Belize City.
(email me if you're looking for a guide, I know some good dudes.)

 from below

from above

It has to have been at least four years since I've been to Lamanai - which is why I'm planning on going again at the end of the week - but I remember taking a water taxi from San Pedro over to a cute little village called Bomba, where we caught a bus and took a ridiculously long ride to get to another boat that ended up at Lamanai.

Bomba


The ruins, I thought, were pretty impressive.... this sign, though, not so much.
Maybe it's been replaced by now.

the first time I saw, and HEARD Howler monkeys, was here at Lamanai.
They don't look very big, but they sound like they could rip your head right off if they wanted to.

Oh man.... the High Temple.
I don't remember if I was just too afraid to climb it (which is totally possible) or if I bailed out because I had just had my first experience with Leaf Cutter ants, which SUCK.
I will climb it next week, though..... I think. Maybe even more than once, since I'll be testing out all of my flip-flops

I've taken the Coastal Highway - which connects the middle of the Western Highway with the end of the Hummingbird Highway, making it unnecessary to go all the way to Belmopan. 



That doesn't sound like a big deal, and it really isn't.... but not a lot of people have bothered taking the Coastal Highway once they read about how horrible it can be - 
36 miles of gravel road that has rickety old, wooden bridges that get washed away and potholes the size of elephants during the rainy season. 


During the dry season, it's just dusty as hell and super bumpy, and, you know, it isn't safe to drive fast on gravel... so it doesn't end up being much of a short cut. At all. 
You're way better off going to Belmopan to jump on the Hummingbird Highway, which is a more scenic drive, anyway. (My favorite highway in Belize)

There are so many places you can stop at along the Hummingbird Highway, too - waterfalls, little roadside restaurants and bars, parked wagons with Mennonites selling watermelons out of their horse-drawn wagons

Davis Falls in Alta Vista

you don't cross the river 7 times and have to use the winch to pull the truck out of at least four situations (this link should take you to the youtube video) and NOT get in that chilly water.





Cafe De Amor in Steadfast

homemade ice cream (and cheese, sour cream, chocolate milk, etc) from the Mennonite owned and operated country barn


And there are the bigger attractions along the Hummingbird Highway - like Ian Anderson's Cave's Branch, The Inland Blue Hole, and St. Herman's Cave...

the awesome jungle pool at Cave's Branch



So, apparently, there's a trail that leads you through da bush and up this huge ass mountain and, eventually, to some kind of cool observation tower above the rainforest canopy, from where you can see a panoramic view of the entire 575 acre park.

One day, when I'm better prepared, I'd like to try to make it all the way there... but I believe I put in a damn good effort the first time!
I must have climbed up and through the rainforest for a good two and a half hours before I had to turn around and complete the scarier task of climbing back down...
It was probably only 3pm or so when I gave up (I suggest getting an early start if you want to do it) but it was already starting to get dark in there and, since it was the rainforest, it was completely humid, everything was super slippery and the mosquitoes had been feasting on me the whole time.

the easiest part of the hike, and it was, like, straight up the side of a mountain.
after this I had to put the camera away and dedicate two hands to the mission

way easier to get to, the Inland Blue Hole-
a pretty, sapphire blue, 25 foot pool filled by an underground source

 so clear and beautiful

The Hummingbird Highway comes to an end in Dangriga - and if you've been following my blog for a little while then you've probably seen a lot of pictures from down there.... but here there are, anyway.
I really, really miss it there.






Time to lay this post to rest - I get around Parts 3 AND 4 (maybe even 5??) coming soon!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I get around - Part 1

It's funny to me how many people have lived here (in San Pedro) for a while, but have never really explored the rest of the country.
And it's super annoying when it's implied that, since I haven't lived here as long as them, I must not know as much about Belize....HA!!
Check out My list of Random Belize info that I've never seen in a guide book.

The mainland is so different than San Pedro - if you haven't spent any time there then, I'm sorry, my friend, but YOU are the one who doesn't "know Belize."

We'll start with the Mountain Pine Ridge area...




The 1,000 Foot Falls, which is actually more like 1,600 feet, is considered the highest waterfall in all of Central America!



Also in the Pine Ridge area....


The Pine Ridge Lodge - is FOR SALE


a cozy little hammock hut

Little Vaqueros Creek

 falls behind the resort



We were warned not to stop at the Rio Frio Cave without a tour guide because a lot of people apparently get robbed in there... but some people (like me) just don't listen. 


"Everything is big in this cave! The two 65-foot arched entryways leave you in awe. Huge stalactites hang from the massive cathedral-like vault, which is part of a cave system the Maya used to bury their dead. Room size boulders are strewn throughout the cave and a stream flows through, forming pools with cascading falls."



Here is Rio on Pools - a continuous series of pools formed by large, granite boulders that are connected by small waterfalls:



I've been to the old 5 Sisters Lodge for dinner and drinks (it is now called the Gaïa Riverlodge)


The lodge is "perched atop the edge of a valley overlooking the Five Sisters Waterfalls," and the views are amazing - if you stay here you can choose between a garden view, mountain view, or waterfall view, and I'm sure you won't be disappointed by any of them.


Also in the Mountain Pine Ridge, I took a 2 and a half hour horseback ride through the jungle with Moonracer Farms and wound up at Big Rock Falls.
I remember being sick as hell that day, but having a great time, anyway.



 Big Rock Falls

The largest archeological site, and the most extensive Maya site known in Belize - Caracol, is also in the Mountain Pine Ridge area... and getting there is a BITCH.

 I know.... it doesn't look so bad from this picture.... 

But it IS pretty rough...

 believe me now?



One last spot I recommend going, if you want to spend some time in the MPR... find a tour guide named Bol and have him show you his property - he has all kinds of artifacts and an incredible view of Belize and Guatemala from the top of his land...

steep climb...

but worth it

That's all I have time to post today - but be sure to check out "I get around, Part 2 and 3" later in the week to see where else I've been... and as always, if you've been somewhere cool in Belize, let me know about it so I can try to go check it out!