Day 4 was really cool! We were originally only planning on checking out some Mayan ruins, but we heard about a local chocolatier who gave tours of his facility and provided lunch, so we decided to do that too. When we arrived at the chocolatier place, we got a quick tour of everything and then we got to make our own chocolate by hand!
The cocao beans were heated in a slow cooker and then we removed the shells by hand. Then we crushed and smoothed them out on a grinding stone. After adding enough sugar to sweeten it up, we finished mixing it up and put it into a chocolate mold and then into the fridge to harden. While waiting for it to harden, we were treated to a delicious lunch of chicken cooked in a sauce made with the cocao, similar to mole. It was so good!
|Sipping some fresh hot chocolate
|Cocao beans with shells
|Deshelling the beans
|Bean without its shell
The chocolatier, Juan, showed us the ropes when it came to grinding up the cocao beans. His shirt says "Chocolate will save the Rainforest" and the message behind that is cocao plants can help prevent jungle destruction. The plants need shade in order to grow. If more of the crop was planted under the jungle canopy, the money made from the chocolate would be enough to negate the need for deforestation of the trees for lumber, etc or to make room for other crops. I loved the shirt, and his little shop sold them, but unfortunately he was sold out. I think it is a great cause to support, and besides, who doesn't want more chocolate? ;)
Juan is Mayan and he told us a lot of interesting things about the Mayans living in Belize. For example, there are 7 tribes in the area and they each have their own language.
|Plain dark chocolate, chocolate with chili powder, chocolate with coconut, and chocolate with cocao nibs
|Delicious chicken in chocolate sauce
|Us with the chocolatier family ~ they made me look tall :)
Next stop were the Mayan ruins. They were fairly small, but still really neat to check out.
On our way out we drove over a hill that had an amazing vista.
I remember waking up a little sad on day 5 knowing we only had two more full days left. A part of me wanted to give up all my comforts back home and move to Belize permanently with reckless abandon. I could give up fashion for the views and peaceful way of living. :)
Up for today was deep sea fishing for the guys and a day of shopping and a massage at the spa for us ladies. We dropped the guys off at the Sittee River Marina, which was just 15 minutes down the road from our resort, and headed to Placencia. Placencia was a town about 1 hour down the coast that had more shopping options than Hopkins. The drive down was gorgeous. The second half of the ride was on a peninsula with gorgeous water views on either side.
We checked out the little shops and bought some fun souvenirs and postcards. There were these little woven turtles that were sold everywhere. I thought they were the cutest thing. They even opened up to reveal a small storage area.
|A couple of the little shops
|Isn't this so cute?
|A perfect little spot to store earrings
While walking around, we came across a funny little place called The Purple Space Monkey. The name alone made it too good to pass up, so we stopped for lunch. The food was pretty good!
Right across the street was a little gelato shop, so of course I had to get a little sweet treat. :) Then we headed back to Hopkins for our spa date.
While Horace, the fishing guide, was filleting the fish and throwing scraps in the river, a crocodile came up to the surface to eat it! We didn't get any pictures, but it was a little bit freaky since we didn't know crocodiles were in the area.
|The day's catch
|Horace filleting the fish for our dinner!
This was probably one of my absolute favorite days! We went ziplining through the jungle and then we hiked up to the top of a waterfall. The zipline had 8 different lines!
|All geared up and ready to go!
|On one of the platforms
Here are a couple videos my hubby took on the ziplines.
Our guides, Roberto and Carlos, were cool. Roberto was born in Belize but grew up in Spain. Carlos was born and grew up in Guatemala. After the 5th zipline, they said they had a little surprise for us ~ turns out we had to "repel" off a platform. Basically we just had to hold onto the rope and Carlos would control the rope to let us down. Well, he was a stinker and decided to give me a little surprise on my way down, haha. Check it out in the video.
We had a blast ziplining with them!
After grabbing a quick bite to eat at the little restaurant in the park, we headed over to the Antelope Falls trail to hike to the top of the waterfall. I was hoping I would be able to make it since I'd heard it was a tough hike and I needed to be careful with my knee.
|Park Map ~ Antelope Falls trail is at the top
|The falls were gorgeous
We had to use ropes for some of the more treacherous, steep parts.
The view was breathtaking at this stopping point! After this we only had to go up a few more hard sections to make it to the very top. Marty was crazy and ventured over closer to the edge. I was too chicken. :)
After trekking through those last few tough parts, we finally made it to the very top! Marty climbed over to the top of the waterfall and jumped into the pool. The water was cold!
Later that evening, for our last dinner, we ventured over to a neighboring resort, Belizean Dreams. Marty had bacon wrapped lobster, which looked amazing. He said it tasted as good as it looked!
Our last night... it was so beautiful.
This was our last morning in the beautiful country of Belize. :(
On our way back up to Belize City, we stopped at a cute little dairy farm we had seen on our way down. We found out the place was run by a Mennonite family and the man who owned it had been born in Belize, but grew up in Oregon. He moved back to Belize in his early 20's and started his farm. He said there are quite a few Mennonites in Belize. In fact, we had seen a Mennonite couple on a date one of our nights at Chef Rob's. I thought it was cool because where I grew up near the New York/Pennsylvania border there were many Amish and Mennonite communities. I mentioned that to him and he said he had relatives in that area ~ small world. Marty's dad got yogurt while the rest of us got ice cream. I must say, it was some of the yummiest ice cream and most definitely the best yogurt that I've ever had. I think I need to find a local dairy farm that makes fresh yogurt. :)
We were headed back during the time that all of the ice/snow storms were hitting most of the US. We were supposed to have a layover in Atlanta, but they had been canceling flights left and right. Long story short, our flight was super delayed and because there was a real possibility of not making it out or getting stuck in Atlanta overnight, our gate agent switched us to another airline and we flew through Miami instead. We made it back onto US soil around 5pm and finally made it home to Houston just after 11pm. It was a long, exhausting day but totally worth it. The vacation was so amazing ~ now I need to plan another one! :)
Thanks for reading about my adventure. It was fun sharing it with you!