Jungle Ride

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Horse - On Our Way

Our adventure today took us on a ride through the jungle – via horseback!

Most of the other guests at our lodge think nothing of hopping on a horse, crossing a river, and galloping through the woods.  So we weren’t so sure we were ready for a group jaunt.  Instead, we arranged a private (and easy) trail ride.  We warned the tour planner that we were total beginners – Frank rode when he was 20, and I last rode at camp when I was in high school. But we were excited and ready for adventure.

We were paired with Isaiah again (from the canoe trip) – who probably shook his head and said, “What are these two crazy fools into now?!” But he just smiled good-naturedly and introduced us to our rides – Ginger for me and Bose for Frank.

Horse - CAT

I’m sure these were the two tamest horses they had – which we thought was a good idea, too!

They had a platform to help us mount – our first challenge.

Horse - Mount

Horse - Mount 2

Once settled in, we trotted off.

Horse - Path

We were instantly met with a steep, muddy downhill. I realized that this was not like camp.

Then my horse ran smack dab into the rump of Frank’s, which quickly spun around to nip at Ginger.  (I had not quite figured out how to steer.)

Frank cried, “Whoa!” and my only thought was, “Thank goodness we bought the travel insurance!”

But we soon settled into our saddles and mastered the reins (for me – after running into a couple of trees – I think Ginger did it on purpose to prove she was in charge).

With Isaiah in the lead, we explored the jungle floor and crossed sun-dappled fields.  A very unique vantage point far off the beaten path.

Horse - Path 2

We successfully made it home (and dismounted – more of a challenge than I thought with stiff legs).

And celebrated our equestrian triumph back at the lodge with lunch and a glass of wine.

Life is good.

CAT - Lodge

Frank - Lodge

Editor’s Note: We are back in the States, but have a few more blogs to post.  Keep traveling with us!


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Xunantunich - Us 2

Today we took a trip back in time to explore the mysteries of the Mayans. Our guide, Noel (who is Mayan), picked us up for a private tour.  He suggested that we get there early to beat the crowds – there were a few cruise ships set to dock in Belize City today.

The site we were to visit is Xunantunich (pronounced shoo-nan-too-nitch). The entire area had been rolling hills covered over in jungle, when two hunters stumbled upon a giant mound topped in stone in the late 1800s.  Supposedly, a beautiful lady in white was on the top calling to them, but when they investigated, she was gone.  They mentioned this to the local priest, who said this had happened before.  They named the site Xunantunich (meaning “Stone Maiden” in Mayan).

Xunantunich Sign

To reach the ruin, we had to take a hand-cranked ferry across the Mopan River. This was because there are so many other ruins on the site that they didn’t want to build a bridge and road or they would disturb these ancient treasures.


Ferry Man

In 1924, a British archeological team started excavation and unearthed a whole plaza of about a dozen dwellings dating from 200-900 AD. They think Mayans lived in this area as early as 1000 BC.  Today, only a small portion of what was the village is excavated.

Xunantunich - Plaza

It was magical and mysterious to witness all of this with only a handful of other people.

Xunantunich - Plaza 2

And then for the big climb up El Castillo. Noel explained that the tower is 130 feet tall and where they believe the royals resided, protected from the public.  It took over 15 years to excavate.   (To get a sense of how tall it is, see the teeny people on top?  That’s where we are heading!)

Xunantunich from bottom

We slowly climbed up the original stone steps – some very steep and with no guardrails!

On the side of the ruin, archeologists uncovered well-preserved carvings representing the solstice and seasons.


Finally – to the top! What a view!  (See those teeny little people back on the ground?)

Top of X

CAT on X

If you see the little white road in the distance, that is Guatemala! We are right on the border – 5 miles away.

Top of X - Guatemala

To celebrate our climb, Noel took us to one of his favorite spots for lunch – a local institution called Benny’s Kitchen. Noel recommended the classic Mayan dish of pilbil (pil-BILL), which is pork cooked underground.  It was like pulled pork – but on a tortilla.  Delicious!


We definitely have a new appreciation for ancient Mayan engineering, history, and culture – and modern-day Mayan people and food.

Christy & Frank - Top of X

Canoes, Butterflies & Prince Harry

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Hammock House

At duPlooy’s, you know you are in the jungle. There are elevated walkways cut through the dense palm trees, and the most coveted spot is the hammock in the pavilion overlooking the river.  There is no AC, TV, or cell service – we’re pretty much off the grid.

But today we took a field trip to the fancy lodge next door – the one Prince Harry stayed at when he visited Belize.

Since we are jungle people now, we didn’t go by car – naturally, we decided to travel by canoe!


Our guide, Isaiah, helped us navigate our canoe down the Macal River. Luckily, I got to just sit in the middle and take pictures, while Frank and Isaiah paddled.

Frank Canoe

Christy Canoe

About half an hour later, we arrived at Chaa Creek.

Chaa Creek Sign

Chaa Creek Canoe

Most of the guests at duPlooys are hard-core adventurers – they regale each other with stories of swimming through caves and crossing the border to Guatemala.

We were a little embarrassed to say we just wanted to sneak into the fancy lodge next door and check it out, so we traveled under the guise of a tour – to visit their butterfly breeding program.

Butterfly Farm

Isaiah looked at us doubtfully, but just said, “Follow me.” Oh my gosh – we hiked up, up, up.  Finally, we made it to a beautifully manicured lawn with an infinity pool.

Chaa Creek Pool 3

But I could hardly take a picture because we continued right on past the pool and up, up, up some more.

Trail at Chaa Creek

Frank and I were almost doubled over panting. We hope these butterflies are worth it!

And my goodness – they certainly were.

Butterfly Guide

The guide above is showing us the underside of a butterfly – camouflaged to look like an owl (clever!).

The breeding program here features 3 species, which were endangered, including the beautiful blue morpho – it is hard to capture them – they were all over this enclosure (you can catch glimpses of intense blue).


They breed the eggs through caterpillar stage, then place the cocoon into the butterfly house and wait.

We got to watch a just-hatched butterfly emerge from the chrysalis and remain attached while drying its wings. We were speechless – and had forgotten all about the fancy pool.

Just hatched butterfly

Once the butterflies hatch, they swarm around looking for food.

Butterfly Feeding 2

Once they have their fill, they mate and lay eggs, but only live for a few days more.

Butterfly Feeding

I watched a beautiful blue butterfly zig-zag down, close its wings, and bow its head. The guide said this is natural – the end of life.  I stayed with it until it was gone, with tears in my eyes.  A special moment – the birth and death of a butterfly.

Frank and I slowly made our way back down knowing we had just witnessed something truly remarkable and not quite ready to join the rest of the world again.

After all that, we decided it was time to treat ourselves to lunch (Isaiah had given up on us by then and said to call when we were ready to leave Chaa Creek).

Chaa Creek Lunch

They have a gorgeous dining room – we even had dessert – we didn’t want it to end!

Chaa Creek Lunch 2

Chaa Creek Lunch 3

Finally, we called Isaiah, who came around in the duPlooy pick-up truck to fetch us. And so we left the fancy life behind.

This morning, we woke up to giant palm trees shrouded in mist for our walk to breakfast, which included grilled-to-order tortillas (very Mayan).

duPlooys Grill

Chaa Creek was lovely (and I would highly recommend) – but maybe we are jungle people after all.

Walkways Mist 2

The Jungle!

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We have arrived in the jungle! What a change from the Caribbean Sea!  We are right on the border with Guatemala in a dense foliage of palm trees and vines with very steep terrain – and literally in the middle of nowhere!

We have no cell service and WIFI only at the bar – we are of the grid!

duPlooys Bar

We are at duPlooy’s Jungle Lodge near San Ignacio. It is like a semi-fancy camp for grown-ups.  Frank and I have our own cabin (called a bungalow) with lots of privacy – we can’t see anyone through the thick trees.


We have a studio-type suite with bedroom, seating area, kitchen, bathroom.  No air-conditioning so we can hear the sounds of the jungle all around us.

Room 2

Room 3


And best of all – a front porch with a hammock.


Also – some pretty cool local art.

Room - art

We walk out our door to a series of elevated catwalks that take us to the dining room and bar – also open-air.


There are 36 guests at the lodge, and since we are so remote, we all pretty much eat here.

They have a grill where they toast the tortillas – which smell wonderful in the morning at breakfast.

duPlooys Grill

The 3-course menu each evening is written on a chalk board.  here is even a buffet for the birds right off the deck, and kinkajous stop by to eat bananas out of our hands at dinner.


duPlooys Birdfeeder

This is an ecolodge, which means they strike to be as ecologically friendly as possible. They only use solar power and a back-up generator.  They even have a candle-lit lantern in our bungalow to encourage conservation after dark.  And it gets DARK here!  Thankfully, we also brought flashlights.  They also do not use plastic straws and instead, use a bucatini noodle (according to Frank) – so you have a crunch snack at the end of your cocktail!

We are armed with LOTS of bug spray (and have already gotten bitten so know we need to do a better job).

But we are ready for adventure!

Catwalk Frank

Our Last Day in Hopkins

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House from Backyard 2.jpg

It is our last full day in Hopkins – we are getting sad.

Frank spent his last day at his favorite spot – fishing on the end of the local dock.

Frank Fishing

There is a little wooden bench where he can spend hours at a time.  He uses frozen shrimp as bait (he microwaves before he goes) and has made friends all up and down the beach with fellow fishermen.

Frank Fishing Bench

I also spent time on one of MY favorite activities – shopping! There is an amazing store called GariMaya, which is owned by a married couple – the husband is Garifuna (African) and the wife is Mayan.

Garimaya 2

They showcase all kinds of products made by local artisans. Frank and I stopped by there one day and I could tell this unique spot warranted a much longer excursion – one that Frank and I both agreed it would be better to leave him at home!  So I took the golf cart by myself and spent an hour or so – they even gave me a little gift to thank me.  (Some of you may be getting gifts from GariMaya this year!)


We really have loved our time in this little village.

When we first arrived, we saw the muddy pot-holed road and thought, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”

But as we putt-putted our way home from our last dinner in town tonight,  we got tears in our eyes

– and relished every bump along the way.

Our Street

Next Stop: The Jungle!!

Our Belizean Community

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Hopkins has stunning Caribbean views, delicious lobster caught daily, and a balmy sea breezes – but our favorite part of this trip has been the people we’ve met. By staying a month in a house – rather than a resort – we have had to live like a local.  And we have loved it.

On my work days, Frank says his “job” is to take the golf cart and run around town.

  • He stops at the local gym (owned by the same people who own Lucky Lobster) for coffee, which they have flown in from Guatemala.
  • He runs to the Chinese market for any groceries we need.
  • And he checks in on our property manager Janette (pictured below). She runs a trading post of sorts, where everyone in town gathers at some point during the day.  Her refrigerator is stocked with beer and wine – you just grab what you want and write your name in the book.  Around 5 o’clock, the community starts gathering on the picnic tables for drinks to talk about their day.


We also have a whole crew helping us. Gregorio rakes the beach – he has 15 kids, and his wife makes beautiful hand-sewn bracelets and headbands (we bought a few).


Alex and Franz work with Janette and do a little bit of everything. They live at Maya Center, which is where the chocolate factory was (their brother has the chocolate farm!).  Their dad is a pastor and they have a gospel band.  To thank them, we asked them out to lunch and let them choose the place.  They chose the new Chinese restaurant in town.  How is that for a unique experience?  Chinese food in Central America with the family of a Mayan chocolate farmer!  We had a great time.

Alex &F Franz

And Alicia helps with our house –s he is a bundle of energy, and we’ve enjoyed getting to know her. Her husband is an amazing gardener and sends different tropical flowers each week.


We took her family to dinner at Lucky Lobster – so fun to meet her husband (from El Salvador) and 14-year old son. We learned that there is a local primary school in Hopkins and also Sittee River (we are in between the two), but students must go to high school in Dangriga, about an hour away.  Alicia’s son likes math and wants to go into the tourism industry he thinks.


And our first friend in Belize was Adam, who drove us here and introduced us around. He is from South Africa and moved here with his sister to start a business transferring tourists.  He bought a lot of land right outside Hopkins and is building it up.  His sister makes really delicious Indian samosas, which she sells at Janette’s outpost.  We buy them every Thursday.  We told Adam how good they were, and he delivered a whole bag of them as a good-bye gift.

Hopkins has gotten into our hearts – we are going to really miss this place!