We woke up this morning to the coolest temperature recorded on our digital thermometer since moving to Ambergris Caye -- 62F.  Yes, that's sixty-two.  COLD by island standards!  The humidity was desert-like for here (which I love), and the wind was blowing fairly hard out of the northwest.  Dressing quickly as I shivered, I got Paisley out for her morning ablutions, and felt just how brisk it was out there.  This would be a much cooler than usual Sunday morning bike ride!

Once we'd had a snack (and a quick cup of coffee for me), we saddled up and headed north on the beach and over to Grand Belizean Estates on our bikes.  It was a bit chilly starting out, and the wind was at our noses as we headed west on the road towards the lagoon side of the island.  It was a slow slog as we fought the fresh breeze, but once we'd hit the most westerly point of the road and made the u-turn, we were flying!  Such fun that is, to be pushed along by the wind.

We continued riding east, then southward, right past our condo and on into town as we had breakfast at Estel's by the Sea on the brain.  We hadn't been there in a long, long time, and were hoping that with high tourist season in full swing, the slight chill in the air would keep at least a few folks away so we'd be able to snag a table on the beach, and fortunately, we were rewarded with a nice one.  
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Long sleeve weather!
Barry got his usual breakfast burrito.  Not for the faint of heart, this thing is huge.  And yes, he ate every bite!
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He added some Marie Sharp's on top before he ate it, naturally
I had been hankering for a cinnamon roll ever since seeing (and smelling!) a tourist eating one outside of The Baker earlier in the week, so I went with two eggs over medium and a warm, gooey cinnamon roll.  It hit the spot just perfectly!  And I too joined the clean plate club.  
Seems like a lot of folks were sitting inside today rather than on the beach.  Wimps!
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You can see just how large my cinnamon roll was in this photo!
After our delicious breakfast, we headed back home.  Barry chose to be brave and venture into the pool for the traditional post-biking "pool down", but I just sat on the pool deck with Paisley and enjoyed the sunshine.   Our pool was bathwater warm a few days ago, but thanks to the cold front has cooled down a bit now.

While enjoying the pool, we caught a glimpse of a Green-Breasted Mango in a tree close by.  We actually had time to run inside for binoculars (to confirm the id) and camera.
It was a good day for the birds as I also noticed that this woodpecker pair were tending their nest-hole in a palm tree right outside our condo.
Despite the "chill", and a high temperature only in the 70s, it was a beautiful day!
 
As many times as we've ridden by this surprising sight on our bikes, we've never stopped to take a photo until today. 
It used to have a sheet metal structure partially enclosing it, but awhile ago, that structure disappeared.  Here's a closer look.
This is the only public toilet north of the bridge that we are aware of -- maybe on the whole island!  Belize is not big on public restrooms.

Quick update.

We rode north to Grand Belizean Estates this morning, and this time the cart path was not booby-trapped.  Aside from a couple of scabs on my skinned knee, I'm all healed up from last week's incident.  Thanks to all who expressed concern and outrage -- your words were much appreciated.
 
See that black fishing line in the photo above?  It looks pretty innocuous, right?  Like it couldn't hurt a flea.  

I can only assume that that is what a prankster thought when he strung it tightly across the cart path up near Indigo and Grand Belizean Estates this morning.

It was a splendid Sunday morning after a cold front passed through Belize yesterday.  Bright sunshine, low humidity, and a moderate north breeze made for a perfect morning for bicycling.  We rode north up the beach in great spirits.  I even sighted and stopped to snap a photo of this Black-Headed Trogan right by the White Sands Dive Shop.  I couldn't believe how close he let me get.  I wish you could see his distinctive light-blue eye in this photo.
With Indigo condominiums up ahead, we turned sharply left and rounded the curve on the cart path, heading to Grand Belizean Estates.  

Before I could even process what was happening, I heard Barry yell out "woah" or something similar.  I was close behind him, and almost right as I heard him yell, I felt something hit me full-on in the face.  It stopped me and my bike immediately in my tracks, and the next thing I knew, I crashed down on my right side (the same side I went down on and fractured my pelvis when road riding in North Carolina in 2005).  

Moments later, we realized what had happened.  Some Darwin-award contender had strung a piece of strong black braided fishing line tautly across the path, a booby-trap for anyone coming by with any speed at all.  Since Barry has flat bars on his bike, he was leaning slightly forward, so he hit the line right above the brim of his ball cap, which thankfully he was wearing or his scalp would have been hit full on.  I, on the other hand, was sitting upright.  And before he could warn me, the line caught me right across the mouth.  It did not break the skin, but it stung like a sonofagun.  And I was banged up from the fall as the sand is very hard there.

After this incident, I was in no shape to continue the ride.  I was angry and hurting.  I tied my bandanna around my leg to catch any bleeding from where I fell and scraped up my right knee, and turned around and rode back home to administer first aid, with Barry close behind me to make sure I was okay.

Taking stock of the damage at home, I have a swollen welt on the right side of my face from where I ran into the line, a badly skinned right knee, a sore and swollen palm on my right hand, and a couple of small scrapes on my left leg.  My shorts got scraped up, and I will certainly have a bruise on my butt tomorrow.  As bad as it was, it could have been a whole lot worse.  Just imagine what could have happened if the line had hit at neck level, or if the jerk who did this had used wire instead of fishing line.

I can only assume that whoever did this was playing a prank and that we were not intentionally targeted.  Maybe the expected a golf cart to hit the line and be startled by the palmetto it was tied to to suddenly rustling towards them as if a madman were jumping out of the bushes.  I'd like to assume they didn't think about a bicyclist getting injured.  Right after I went down, a golf cart came through from the other direction.  If we'd been two minutes later, he would have been the victim, not us.

I write this post not for sympathy; I'm a little sore and banged up but am sure I'll be fine in a few days.  But mostly we wanted to warn others who might ride bikes in that area, just in case the genius who set the trap decides to strike again.  Since the fishing line is virtually invisible, ride or drive very slowly in this area.  Something like this shouldn't happen to anyone on this island, whether it be a tourist, expat, or local.  
 
Merida, in the Yucatan state of Mexico, has an awful lot to recommend it:  the beautiful architecture, the great restaurants, the cultural activities, and the many parks being among its attractions.  And in the winter, the weather is absolutely beautiful. However, one of the Merida traditions we were most excited about was the Bici-Ruta or bicycle route.  This occurs every Sunday morning, when a long stretch of streets, including the Paseo de Montejo, are closed off to motor vehicle traffic, allowing cyclists and pedestrians to take over and cruise up and down more easily.  We were absolutely delighted that our visit would allow us to participate in this fun event since we had a full Sunday in the city.

We rented two cruiser bikes right on the Paseo (between Calle 45 and 47) and joined the other cyclists on the street.  The hourly cost was just $40 MX (approximately $3.20 US) for the two bikes -- a deal.
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Bike Rental place on Paseo de Montejo
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I tried out a lot of bikes before finding one I felt comfortable on.
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Weeeeeh! This pink one was the one.
There were some really interesting human-powered vehicles among the more conventional bicycles.
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Fun family bike, but difficult for the person doing all the work!
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There were several other spots set up along the route to rent bicycles.
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They were playing loud music on speakers near this tent -- I guess the set-up was for an event later.
Near the north end of the route was El Monumento a la Bandera, the Monument to the Flag.
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Monument to the Flag
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Barry looking happy with his red bike
He made me pose at the monument too.  Looking at these photos now, I can't get over how blue the sky was!  It was a perfect day for a bike ride.
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Weeeeeeeeeeh!
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Going round the huge Christmas tree
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Barry and Santa
Although in most of the photos it appears that there weren't many others on the routes, at times we ran into real bottlenecks of meandering cyclists, children on tiny bikes, dog walkers, and people who had obviously not ridden a bike since their own childhood, so we did have to pay attention and stay on our toes.  There were also several places with traffic circles and motor vehicle crossings, so we'd have to stop and leave in a bunch.  Still, it was great fun, and our hats are off to the many volunteers who direct traffic and help out on this event.  It is all the more impressive when you consider that  that they do this every single week, year-round.  In the US, something like this would happen once a year at best.  You have to love a city that holds cyclists and pedestrians in high enough regard to make this a weekly event.  

Merida, we ♥ you!

Please stay tuned for more from this fine city.
 
On our second and last full day in Tulum, we decided to rent cruiser bikes in town and ride to the beach.  At first we thought we might be disappointed as the rental place requires that you leave a photo ID with them, and all I had was my passport, which I would not leave anywhere.  I had not bothered to bring my North Carolina driver's license along on the trip as I had no plans to drive.  Fortunately, Barry had his, and although he was reluctant to leave it, he ended up doing so so that our day's plans wouldn't be dashed.  Yay Barry! 
Once suited up with our new steeds, we rode on the back roads over to the bike path that runs over to the beach.  It is flat and nicely paved so a nice easy ride.
Before we knew it, we were at the intersection with the beach road and hung a right to continue alongside the beach and the resorts along the coastline.  We passed the excellent restaurant where we'd eaten lunch the day before, Puro Corazon, and were soon rewarded with some stunning views.  Here is where we stopped to take photos.
And here's why we stopped.  Can you blame us?
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Looking south
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Looking north
As we rode south, glimpses of the beach became few and far between as fenced resorts lined the shore, along with lots and lots of tropical foliage.  It was very lush and green, and the foliage and trees provided occasional shade on a very sunny, warm day.
Time for a water break...
We finally made it down as far as we could go on the road.  At the very end is a Biosphere/park that looked quite interesting.  Maybe on our next visit we'll check it out, but today we decided to give it a pass as we hadn't brought binoculars for birding and were more into pedaling off some calories.
Barry ventured inside just a short ways to snap this photo looking towards the road we'd just biked down.
Here's Barry on his red bike.  He's always smiling on a bicycle!
Time to turn around and head back the way we came....
Back in Tulum, we had to ride through construction rubble on the access roads adjacent to the main highway through town.  Looks like they had just laid some new drainage and were having to replace the cobblestones.
We both declared that these bikes were less comfortable than our cruiser bikes back home on Ambergris Caye, which we've customized with different saddles and handlebars.  We would not be hanging onto these bikes until 7 pm, the deadline for returning them to the shop, as our bodies couldn't take too much more.  But we still had a blast, and Barry calculated that we rode about 16 miles -- not bad!

We went ahead and turned them back in upon our return to town.  Time for lunch!
Stay tuned for Tulum food Part 2 and more photos from the town itself....
 
Last year was the first time we'd ever been in Belize in the month of October.  It was not our favorite month.  I remember it as being gray and rainy and still, with not nearly enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes and sand flies away.  I remember plowing through deep pond-sized puddles on the road north of the bridge as we traveled from our condo to town and back again, time after time.  I remember washing our bicycles over and over since the puddles were deeper than our bottom brackets.  About the only thing positive I can recall about last October was that it was cooler than the summer months.  October, we were not sorry when you melted away into November.

What a difference a year makes.  This October has been much drier, sunnier, and the breezes a bit more constant.  There have been a few mosquitoes and sand flies, but nothing like last year.  It has been, really, gorgeous and bright, with only a few days that tourists wouldn't love.  Those folks who got cheap low-season rates for October vacations here are no doubt feeling a bit smug.  Hurricanes?  Nope.  Tropical storms?  Not even close.  

The biggest difference in the October of 2012 and the October of 2011, though, is the roads.  Sure, less rain has helped, but thanks to a big effort by the new town council, the road north of the bridge (at least as far as Grand Caribe), was graded and filled with load after load of gravel this summer.  And it's holding up well.  There are a few areas where potholes and "moguls" are developing, but this is nothing even close to the "great lakes" of October '11.  And in a few of the larger holes, more heavy-duty gravel was dumped just in the past week or so, after a few wet days made a bit of a muddy mess in a couple of lower-lying spots.  This rocky gravel isn't the most bike-friendly stuff I've ever seen or ridden on (thank goodness for wide beach cruiser tires), but it certainly beats putting one's legs up and going "wheeeeeee!" through deep, silty puddles you can't see the bottom of.
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This was a big, wide puddle a little over a week ago but was quickly filled!
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Rocky gravel fill
But I'll shut up now and let the photos tell the rest of the story.

October 2011

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Huge puddle behind our condo

October 2012

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Same area behind our condo - dry

October 2011

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At Reef Village looking towards Kama Lounge -- what a mess this made of us and our bikes!
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Same view and a very different road this year thanks to weather and lots of packed fill

October 2011

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Looking south towards Legend's -- tough going for golf carts and bikes

October 2012

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Looking south towards Legend's now -- smooth sailing!

October 2011

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Reef Village -- notorious for having a terrible road out front

October 2012

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Reef Village now -- still some small bumps but the "great lakes" are GONE.

October 2011

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Outside The Cloisters and Funky Monkey Bar & Grill -- cyclist dodging huge puddles

October 2012

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Road is far better and even the telephone & electric wires have been cleaned up!
In addition to changes in the road, the Funky Monkey at the Cloisters is no more, but a new restaurant. Feliz, is busily preparing for opening soon, and we happened by as the new sign was being painted.
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Sign being painted
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Sign for "Feliz"
We also happened to meet the new proprietor, Kevin.  He's currently working on planning the menu and is hoping to keep prices reasonable so ex-pats and locals, as well as tourists, will be able to afford to eat and drink there.  Great idea!  It will be nice to have another choice of eateries in our north of the bridge neighborhood.

All in all, I'd say the changes between this year and last are for the better!
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Emily talking to Kevin
UPDATE October 20:  I was biking by again today, and the Feliz signs are complete.  Very cute and colorful, don't you think?
 
This morning we decided to point our bikes southward.  We usually ride north simply because it means avoiding all the bumpy cobblestone streets in town that make me wish I had never sold my full-suspension mountain bike in the US, but it gets boring always going the same way.  And going south proved to be an excellent choice.  

We were up early and got on the road around 7:30 am, if not a bit earlier (I always forget to look at my watch since I'm on island time!)  This may be the earliest we've ever ridden through town, and it was dead.  I mean, there is never this little traffic!  Most businesses open as usual on Sunday, but not until 8 am or later.  And September is the slowest month of the year for tourism, so some businesses are taking the month off to spruce up and to give employees some time off.  We loved it.

When is Middle Street ever this quiet?  (By the way, I had no idea Barry was snapping all these photos during our ride, although it did cross my mind to wonder why he was staying behind me the entire time!)
And this usually bustling intersection around the Tropic Air terminal -- dead, dead, dead!
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Epic win!
Once you get south of town, it's always quiet, and today was no exception.  The unpaved road was in the best shape we've ever seen it as the low spots had been recently filled, just as they have north of the bridge for a couple of miles.  Hopefully they can stand up to the October rain.  It does rain buckets every October, right?  (I keep hoping last year was a rare exception.)
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Unpaved road ahead
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Field of egrets
Once we got as far south as we could go (finally stopped by puddles across the road that hadn't been filled), we turned around and headed back.  For the first time, we finally stopped in and explored the Marco Gonzalez Maya site, which I'll cover in the future, since it is deserving of a full post.  

After quite a long detour at the site (which we loved), we continued riding back north into a stiff northeastern breeze.  We had only a homemade oatmeal bar to sustain us to this point, and we were starved, so a breakfast in town was in our plans.  Much to our surprise, even the perennially popular Estel's was closed (remember, it's slow season), and as a result, the Cuban place on Front Street I'd wanted to try was packed.  So, we continued north, running on fumes, and stopped in at Ak'Bol, just down the beach from our condo.  It's always one of our favorites.
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Ak'Bol yoga palapa over the sea (right)
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Deciding on our reward
Barry got his usual breakfast burrito, and although the coconut pancakes (the BEST!) tempted me, I saved some dinero and got the less pricey veggie-egg stuffed fry jack.  I figure they're equally fattening, but this was definitely brunch as it was 11 am by this point, so at least I wouldn't be eating another meal before dinner time.
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Barry's breakfast burrito with fresh salsa
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My stuffed fry jack with fresh salsa
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Whatta view!
By the time we finished eating and hopped back on our trusty steeds for the short ride up the beach to our condo, the wind had kicked up even more, and there was actually the slightest bit of a chill in it (I kid you not!)  It looked like it was about to pour.  Although we did get a few drops of rain just after arriving home, the vast majority of the storm stayed out to sea.  September has been quite dry and sunny so far, considering it is the rainy season.  Not that we're complaining, but it was lovely to have a slight cool-off, as it's been very hot since we got back from our trip to the US on August 30.
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Threatening sky when we got home
Stay tuned for our Marco Gonzalez tour, coming soon!
 
While staying at Hickatee Cottages southwest of Punta Gorda, Belize, we decided to grab a couple of the complimentary beach cruiser bikes and explore the unpaved road westward to Boom Creek Village and the Moho River one afternoon.  
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The Hickatee "fleet"
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Ready to hit the road!
Almost zero traffic other than a couple of bikes going the other way made for a really fun ride.   
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Love these empty roads!
We stopped to check out birds many times along the way to the village, so the five-mile ride ended up taking around an hour and a half.
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Birding along the way
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Beautiful scenery along the way
The traditional Maya village of Boom Creek has no electricity and just a few Maya huts.  There are no stores, restaurants, or any other form of commercialism.  The only building we saw other than personal dwellings was a church, or at least what appeared to be one, since there were two crosses on the outside. Looks like the roof needs a bit of work, though.
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Church building
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Traditional Maya dwelling
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Traditional Maya dwelling
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I liked this pink one!
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Maya dwelling with modern metal roof!
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Outhouse!
We passed Boom Creek, at the time not sure if it was the creek or the river, since it's not marked in any way. 
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Emily by Boom Creek
The road ended at a much larger body of water that was obviously the Moho River, confirming that the previous body of water we'd passed had been Boom Creek.  There are no signs marking either.  Nor is there a bridge across the river.  The road just ends.  If you want to get across, you'd have to take a boat.
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THIS is the Moho River!
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Moho River
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Snack break by the river
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Moho River -- quiet and serene
A storm was threatening from the east, so we had to make tracks to get back.  We were pushing those beach cruisers just as fast as we possibly could.  Riding against the wind, this was no easy task!  We did get rained on just a bit, but despite dark clouds, the storm turned out to be much ado about nothing.  At least we got an excellent workout riding into the wind as fast as our legs could carry us!  
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Zipping back to Hickatee Cottages -- no time to take storm photos!
Stay tuned for much more on Hickatee Cottages and travels thereafter!
 
On Saturday and Sunday (July 28-29), we explored the town of Punta Gorda several times, riding beach bikes provided by Hickatee Cottages, where we were staying, and on foot.  Punta Gorda is very different from San Pedro, even though both towns are right on the water. Unlike San Pedro, which caters to divers, fishermen, and tourists from all over the world (including celebrities), "PG" is not touristy.  And since it's not on an island, cars and trucks roam where mostly golf carts and bicycles still travel the streets of San Pedro (though more and more motor vehicles arrive monthly, it seems).  Traffic was lighter than in San Pedro overall, even on a Saturday. There's a great Saturday market we got to check out, and I bought a Maya bag from a local man that probably would have cost me double in San Pedro.
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The PG town clock is stuck at 1:05 forever, but at least it has a toucan!
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Wheeeeeeeee!
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Buying Benedryl at the local pharmacy -- only $2.50 US for 24 tablets, way cheaper than in San Pedro!
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The local chocolatier was closed while we were in town, unfortunately. Heavy sigh!
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Part of the Saturday market
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My new Maya bag from this shop with colorful wares -- only $15 US!
We found this row of distinctively painted Blue Bird buses one street off Main.  There seems to be a bus for each nearby village.  Most Belizeans do not own cars, so this network of local buses provides a hugely valuable service all over the country.
Saturday (and Wednesday) are "cook's night off" at Hickatee, so we knew we'd have to find a place to grab some dinner in town.  We chose to ride bikes back in and use our headlamp to find our way back to the cottage after dark.  There are many fewer restaurants in PG than in San Pedro, and a few of the restaurants with signs were closed, so we didn't have a lot to choose from, but we landed in a little Italian place that had great pizza and a very friendly Belizean staff (not an Italian in sight!)  Unfortunately, the flies chased us in from our table outside, and they didn't have an alcohol license (it's hard to eat pizza without a beer!), but we were glad to get dinner somewhere!
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Our view before the flies forced us inside the restaurant
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Our large veggie pizza -- we ate every bite!
On Sunday, town was absolutely dead.  Most shops and restaurants were closed, and there was no traffic whatsoever.  That's another big difference between PG and San Pedro, which is just as bustling on Sunday as any other day of the week. 
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Loved the colors of this tourist information center -- closed on Sunday
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Cute pink public library, all closed up on Sunday
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Another library with colorful murals
We had planned on eating lunch in town but were striking out on finding anything open.  Just when we were about to give up, we found the Driftwood Cafe, which felt like an oasis in the desert for these two hungry walkers.  It was a real hippy cafe, run by a woman from Ohio (like Barry!) with dreads (a contradiction in terms, you'd think!).  She served coffee, fresh-baked goods, and vegetarian food.  

She was almost out of lunch food, but we split the last plate of vegetarian tamales, veggie chili, and black beans.  Delish!  I had an iced coffee to drink, and Barry had a tropical smoothie.  As if that weren't enough, we also indulged in milkshakes for dessert (Barry got coffee, and I got chocolate), and two peanut butter and jelly muffins.  Barry ate his on the spot, but I saved mine for the next day's bus ride.  
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We started eating before remembering a photo...
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The proprietor's husband is a Garifuna drummer, so the interior of the cafe was filled with drums
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I loved this islandy painted slate and might have bought it, but had no room in my backpack at all
Stay tuned for more from Hickatee Cottages, a great bike ride to the river, and Placencia as our trip continues....
 
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Flower on wall at Beaches & Dreams
This was our third full day in Hopkins and supposed to be a rest day after two tough days of hiking in the heat and humidity, but it didn't turn out to be very restful!  Still, it was a fun day and gave us a chance to see more of Hopkins, finally.

I forgot to mention in yesterday's blog (because we forgot to take a photo) that Angela made us some absolutely melt-in-your-mouth blueberry pancakes for breakfast on Thursday.  We hadn't had pancakes in an awfully long time, so they went down really, really easy.  And she served them with real -- yes real -- maple syrup.  Don't see that too often in Belize. Yum!  

Today we were back to scrambled eggs, English muffins, and fruit, which was excellent as well.  We were delighted to see mango and kiwi on the fruit plate for the first time.  She also served us yogurt every day.  These were really excellent breakfasts, especially for being included in our room rate.  
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Loads of fresh fruit
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A lovely plate
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This guy loves a big breakfast
After breakfast we headed down the road south a bit doing some casual bird-watching.  
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Walking like a local in bare feet
We were joined by a couple of dogs who seemed fierce at first -- a Rottie and a Pittie -- but ended up being friendly and just wanted to walk along with us.
We spotted some excellent birds including this Black-Headed Trogan and a while bunch of chatty Olive-Breasted Parakeets.  We'd seen both before, but we never mind seeing them again.
We also met one of the cutest puppies you'd ever hope to see.  Just tell me this little guy isn't adorable?
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Isn't he precious?
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Flirty puppy
We did relax after our walk -- but only for a few minutes.
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Hanging with the owner's pooch in front of our room -- he LOVED this frisbee!
We knew we wanted to try the pizza at Driftwood Pizza Shack, after reading how good it was on Sharon Hiebing's blog.  Our taxi driver from the previous day, Julian, had given us an idea -- why not take a kayak up?  It seemed like a pretty long way, but the Caribbean was nice and calm in the late morning, so we figured we'd give it a try.  One of the kayaks available at Beaches & Dreams was a tandem, so we grabbed that bad boy and took off.
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View of resorts at False Sittee Point -- so peaceful
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Once we got to Hopkins Village, local boys on a surfboard paddled over to say hi and have their photo taken
When we got north of the village, where we knew the pizza place was, I started looking at any possible places along the shore through my binoculars.  Before too long we spotted the sign and surfed in to the sand.  The wind was up a bit from when we left, and thus the waves were starting to kick up a bit.
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Here 'tis!
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And here we are!
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Driftwood Pizza Shack
It only took us 55 minutes to paddle up there, so we were a little early for lunch.  There were two local ladies working at the shack, and they didn't seem to mind that we arrived before their advertised opening time of noon.  They were happy to take our order and serve us a cold drink.  We had a great place to sit under a palapa.
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Our view
Here's the menu (all prices in Belize dollars, divide by 2 for US dollars):
And here's what we ordered (medium size):
Here are some of the interesting sights around us as we waited for our pizza.
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Belizean version of air hockey, I guess!
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Canoe with stick drive
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LOVED this sign!
It took awhile, but our pizza was worth waiting for.  It had a crispy thin crust and was really, really good.  Thanks, Sharon, for the recommendation!
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Doesn't get much better than this!
As I mentioned, the wind had started kicking up a bit as we finished up our paddle.  During the time we were waiting for and then eating our pizza, it kicked up even more.  By the time we got ready to leave, it was seriously choppy out there.  Even worse, the wind direction was southeast, so we'd be paddling into the wind the entire way back.  I was not looking forward to it.
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The sea was angry that day, my friend...
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Barry snapping photos of the surf with a new friend
I won't lie, it was a TOUGH paddle back.  Very tough.  It's not like we've been paddling a lot lately, though we have been lifting some home-made milk jug & sand weights (mostly Barry) and doing yoga (me).  Still, nothing makes you a stronger paddler than actually paddling, and we just haven't done that much since arriving in Belize.  We actually had to resort to tacking so we wouldn't get buffeted by the swells coming directly abeam (like our sailorly term?!)  So we paddled a lot farther on the way back in addition to fighting the wind and waves.  My shoulders were screaming, and by the end, even Barry was hurting and getting cranky.  

We thought that Beaches & Dreams had the very last dock and palapa in False Sittee Point and had been aiming for that from a long way north.  Just when we thought we couldn't possibly paddle another stroke, Barry looked over and realized we were THERE.  It was the third palapa up from the end, not the last one!  Whew!  Never have I been so glad to be "home".  We wasted no time in making a hard right turn and surfing FAST (no paddling needed in these waves) to the sandy shore.  It had taken about twice as long getting back as it had getting to the pizza place, and I think I'd burned off all the pizza I'd eaten (two slices) by the time we pulled up on the sand.

But we were on a roll now, so why stop and take it easy?  Instead, we decided to walk up the beach a bit on a reconnaissance mission to scout out a place for dinner.  We had read in a Hopkins tourism brochure that the restaurant at Belizean Dreams resort had quesadillas and burritos, which are two of our favorites, so we decided to check it out.  Turns out it was the northernmost resort on False Sittee Point, but still only a short walk for us.
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It was a nice stretch of beach to walk on
We talked with the bartender out by the pool at Belizean Dreams, who told us that the restaurant didn't open until 6:30.  Huh?  That's pretty late for a beach-front restaurant.  We were going to leave, but he insisted on running into the restaurant to see if they could accommodate us earlier.  Since we had an early lunch and so much exercise, we knew we'd be starving well before 6:30.  Sure enough, they could take us at 5:30.  When he told us what they were serving that night, though, lobster pasta, we again were about to pass.  We'd just had seafood pasta the night before, so we were really hoping for a little Tex-Mex.  But once again he insisted on running inside to ask the chef if they could accommodate us with some quesadillas.  The bartender came back out with the news that they could do that.  Very accommodating, that's for sure!  So, we decided to come back later for dinner.

But first, it was now or never if we were going to explore Hopkins Village.  So, it was time to grab a beach bike and go for a ride.  See, I told you this "rest" day wasn't very restful!
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Eat your heart out, bike club friends -- you could be riding this fine steed!
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I was lucky to snag one of the newer -- not yet rusted -- members of the fleet
We rode from False Sittee Point all the way to the north end of Hopkins Village (as far as the road went).  We ran into the couple we'd met at the bus station on Tuesday in the village and stopped to chat with them for a few minutes.  The road was bumpy in places, and my upper body was feeling really fatigued after the tough paddle earlier.  I was kinda glad when the bike ride came to an end and we could truly just relax.  This had certainly been one active vacation.
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The end of the line in north Hopkins Village
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Hopkins Belize Humane Society in False Sittee Point
After the bike ride it was time to clean up and get ready to walk up the beach for our old folks' "early bird special".  But first, a little swing in the hammock.
When we got to the restaurant, they weren't actually ready for us at 5:30.  They said they just needed to sweep the floor, so we ended up going to the bar for a Happy Hour rum punch.  They weren't actually ready for us until nearly 6pm.  That was some thorough floor sweeping!  But, it was okay because there was live music at the pool and bar area, and the weather was great.
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Musician singing and playing keyboard
When we were called into the restaurant, they were already serving our chicken quesadillas, and we were the only ones eating dinner.  There were plenty of guests at the resort, but they were busy drinking and hanging out in the pool.  So we had the restaurant to ourselves.  The food was delicious, but the air-conditioning was way too cold, detracting from the meal a bit.  Service was excellent -- I guess it would be, since we were the only ones there.  Our server even went out to the bar to check on our much-delayed second rum punches.  I guess the bartender had gotten busy and forgotten, but she managed to fetch them up for us!
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Can you tell I'm shivering? Brrrrrrrrrrr....
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Delish quesadillas
They were offering carrot cake as the nightly dessert, so of course we had to indulge.  The cake was warm, moist, and delicious.   Notice the amount of icing compared to what you'd get in the US.  I missed the icing, but I realize this was much better for me!
While we were finishing up dinner, a local Garifuna drumming and dancing group started playing.  These guys were great and very representative of the traditional culture in Hopkins Village, home of the Lebeha Drumming Center, where new generations of village children learn the traditional skills.  We really enjoyed listening to them and were glad we decided to dine at Belizean Dreams, definitely the place to be on a Friday night!
After an easy stroll back down the beach and some good conversation in the Beaches & Dreams palapa over the water, we went back to the room to pack up for our early trip home the next morning.  We'd have to catch the 7 am bus to Dangriga in Hopkins Village, and since we'd missed Tony and Angela, who were heading out to eat right as we got back from our dinner, we left them a note on their gate about morning arrangements and crossed our fingers that they'd find it when they arrived home....

[To be continued]