Monthly Archives: February 2014

Day 29 – Fruits and Spices

Heading back through the “building boom” of Maya Beach we go looking for the world famous Miss Emma’s Kitchen and Farm.  There are no signs for it, but I’ve read about it in travel blogs online.

Down some gravel roads, we pull into a property to ask directions, and we’re told, “You’re here.  That’s Miss Emma over there.”

Miss Emma is a tiny little fireball of a lady from the Phillipines.  She was the cook for the Philipino Embassador to Belize.  During her time in Belize she developed an amazing garden for fruits and vegetables to use in her cooking, and once that appointment finished, the land owner (a commercial shrimp farm) allowed her to stay on to feed his workers.

Today she is much sought after for plants for landscaping around resorts throughout Belize, and for cut flowers for special occasions.  While we toured the gardens with her she took 3 calls for orders of plants.

IMGP4643

Belize’s national flower, the Black Orchid

IMGP4662

Now, a tour with Miss Emma is a whirlwind.  She’s never stops moving, and even though she’s under 5’ tall, you have to really motor to keep up with her.  She had us tasting, touching, and smelling everything in sight.  If it’s exotic in the produce section back home in Canada, she was growing it here!

IMGP4629

Ms. Emma with her gourds

IMGP4624

Star fruit

IMGP4628

Luffa. Never knew it grew as a tree fruit!

Then, after the tour, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch with the best, fresh limonade (with cane juice) I’ve ever had.  We finished 2 pitchers!

IMGP4620

The “autograph” tree

IMGP4664

Miss Emma and I

She recommended on the way to Punta Gorda that we stop at the Belize Spice Farm for a tour, so an hour later we’re stomping around another garden tour.  This one features only a few crops:  Vanilla, Nutmeg, Coffee, and Cinnamon.  Seeing all the steps necessary to produce vanilla it becomes obvious why it is such an expensive food ingredient.  It takes a full year for it to be ready for market, and the whole process, from hand pollination of the orchid plant, to the drying and heating of the beans, is done by hand.

IMGP4681

Nutmeg

IMGP4683

Cinnamon

IMGP4670

Cocoa Tree

IMGP4699

One of the drying rooms

With my horticultural fix satiated, we head into Punta Gorda.  We’ve been warned that it’s a rough and dirty outpost town, and on first impression, I’d agree.

We get horribly lost within minutes.  There are no road signs, and all the roads are deeply potholed sand and gravel.  We ask for directions several times from locals to get to Hickatee Cottages.  Some don’t know the place, and in one instance, we simply couldn’t understand the guy’s directions because his accent was so thick!  Then, lost once more, we stop a young guy (18ish) on a bicycle.  He says that we’re on the wrong road, and to follow him.  He then takes us almost 20 minutes out of his way to ride us all the way out of town to Hickatee Cottages.  Punta Gorda may not be as rough as we were told.

Categories: Belize | 1 Comment

Day 28 – Open Ocean

Last spring Rebecca and I got our Scuba Open Water certifications because we wanted to dive in Belize.  Today is that day!

Now, we had been warned in Mexico that Belize dive shops were notorious for lax rules, broken equipment, and horrible guides.  We head over to Splash dive shop, which has the best rating on TripAdvisor.  They have a dive going out in an hour that we can get with.  They shop is top notch.  All new equipment, helpful staff that size us up properly, and they even inspect our PADI cards and ask about prior experience.

An hour later we’re heading out of the lagoon into the open ocean.  Rebecca doesn’t do well with boat rides or small planes, and gets a bit motion sick, so she takes some Gravol in advance, and sits at the back of the boat where there is less motion.  The first stop is almost 1.5 hours out, and Rebecca is needing to get off the boat and into the water.

Gear on, buddy checks done, and we’re in the ocean.  My ears struggle (as usual) with the descent, but before long we’re at 60’ and cruising along a coral covered ocean wall that drops off another 150’ below us.  We see tons of fish, some lobster, a few invasive lionfish, and even a barracuda.  The visibility is amazing, but before long we’re out of air and head to the surface.

We stop at a small island for lunch, but Rebecca is starting to get a bit more seasick.  Hopefully the island stop will settle her stomach.

IMGP4603

Our little private island for lunch

Then it’s off to the next dive stop.  We get Rebecca in the water first, and then start our dive.  I keep checking on her, but 15 minutes into the dive she motions that her stomach is getting worse.  There are only 3 of us diving, plus our dive master.  He indicates that he will continue with the other diver, and that we should surface together.  We’re at 50’ so we need to do a 3 minute safety stop.  I’m hoping Rebecca can handle it (we are later told that you can, in fact, puke with your regulator in your mouth, and you’ll be just fine).

Once on the surface the dive boat is right there for us, and we get Rebecca on board, with more Gravol.

Our final stop is for some snorkeling in some shallows.  Rebecca isn’t up for it, so I go in with some other snorkelers from a sister boat.  This is the most amazing part of the day for me.  I’m swimming with nurse sharks, sea turtles, and a collection of rays, all within arm’s reach, for almost 30 minutes.  I can now cross swimming with sharks off my NOW list!

Back on solid ground Rebecca starts to feel better with a rest back at the hotel.  I know she’s feeling better because after a light dinner we’re back again at Tutti Frutti’s for more ice cream!

IMGP4605

Categories: Belize | 2 Comments

Day 27 – Tourists found

This morning, after a return trip to Chef Rob’s for breakfast, we head further south to Placencia.  This will be our Scuba Diving portion of the trip.

It’s a quick and easy ride; less than 2 hours.  On the way into Placencia we pass through Maya Beach.  It looks like the entirety of Maya Beach is being built, with new condos, casas, and mansions going into every available spot.  Almost every one of them has a For Sale in front, and every open lot is for sale as well.  Tourists are discovering Belize and buying it up in droves.  We later learn that most of it is speculative sales, and the prices have become incredibly inflated lately.

The road to Placencia ends at the harbour.  We decide the first course of action is to find a hotel for the night so we can get into our street clothes.  The Riding Gear is far too hot for Belize, especially after 1pm.  We soon discover Casa Placencia, just outside of town, and its exhuberant owner Jacki.  Her little garden rooms are cozy, clean, and have AC!

IMGP4599

The end of the road in Placencia

Back on the bike in shorts and T’s, we head back to the beach, and some lunch.  Rumfish is a recommended restaurant, and Rebecca quickly falls in love with their Fish Tacos (after which she is no longer talking about Chef Rob’s sauce!).  We also enjoy some infused fruit vodka drinks, and then venture next door for the legendary, talked about all over Belize, Tutti Frutti’s Ice Cream shop.

OMG.  Probably the best handmade ice cream I’ve ever had.  We both go back in for seconds as they offer 50 flavours (about 20 per day).  We’ll be back tomorrow to try a few more.

As the heat climbs, we head back to our Casa for AC and a siesta.  Later in the evening, we ride back into town for dinner.  Rebecca has been having a runny nose for a couple of days, so we’re heading to the local pharmacy before dinner.  My first aid kit has everything but cold medication.  Didn’t think to pack it for Central America!  The local police have a checkpoint, and we’re told to go back and get our helmets.  We haven’t noticed anyone else wearing them, but we’re not going to argue.

With helmets on we stop at Charo’s, which has always been busy every time we’ve ridden past.  It’s our first bad meal.  The place is noisy, over run by rude, drunk ex-pats, and the food is horrible.  I’m not particularly hungry, so I order Nachos and Salsa.  The nachos are stale, the salsa is watery, and Rebecca can’t finish even a ¼ of her bland, wet fish burrito.  TripAdvisor has been informed!

But we do grab some more ice cream at Tutti Frutti’s!

IMGP4600

Tutti Frutti’s

Categories: Belize | 1 Comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.