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Cottage gecko

In addition to the great things about Hickatee Cottages I shared in part 1 of this post, there's even more that we loved about being here.  They have this great little dipping pool.  It was cool, refreshing, and just right for lounging around in.  Even though I am bird watching in this photo, I did enjoy this pool daily after our hikes and bike rides.
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Flowers in our cottage
There are cute stone paths around the property, perfect for watching birds and butterflies from.
The paths did get a bit wet after a heavy rain one night, but they didn't take that long to drain.
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Umbrellas outside your door are a thoughtful touch
There's a pretty creek with lily pads.
And the road right outside the property is great for birdwatching too since it's the perfect wood's edge environment.  We spent many an hour here.
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Jacket bulging in front from binoculars, of course!
The office/restaurant/lounge is well equipped with a bar, sitting area, and library, in addition to outdoor dining.  We loved eating meals out on the porch.
This great library full of books on Belize could have occupied us for a couple of months!
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The bar and office
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Great place for a meal

Fantastic food

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the food here is super tasty and beautiful as well.  Kate is a wonderful cook!  Continental breakfast (hot breads, butter, jam) and an excellent French press pot of coffee is included in the daily cottage rate, and a HUGE plate of fresh fruit is just an extra $10 BZ ($5 US) and worth every penny.  We got two of these every morning.  I'm sure we could have split one, but we love fruit!  There's also a hot breakfast available for $15 BZ, but we had eaten so many eggs at Mama Noots that we skipped it.
My favorite breakfast was these hot and melt-in-your-mouth English pancakes (similar to French crepes), served with raw sugar and lime.  Ian explained that these pancakes were historically made before Lent began to use up all the eggs in the kitchen.  Sure enough, a quick glance at Wikipedia under "pancake" says the same. 
And here is the other dinner we enjoyed on our last night at Hickatee.  (Our first night's dinner is documented in a previous blog post.)  It was delicious and healthy to boot.  Dessert was more of the yummy local dark chocolate drops and a shot of "Belizean Bailey's" liqueur.  We did not leave hungry!
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Salad
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My fish cakes
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Zucchini soup
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Barry's chicken breast
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Hot rolls melted in our mouths

Delightful hosts

Ian and Kate were great -- helpful, knowledgeable British expats who positively bubble over with enthusiasm for what they do and where they live.  They seem to be doing exactly what they were born to do, and we enjoyed all they had to offer and share.  From birds, to bats, to butterflies, to howlers, to plants, to spiders, and even to salamanders, there's very little about the natural world that one or both of them don't know.  This makes Hickatee such a delight for nature lovers like ourselves, and very hard to leave!
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Ian and me
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Kate and me
Stay tuned for blog posts on our short trip to Placencia and finally back home to Ambergris Caye.
 
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....
 
After three great days at Mama Noots Eco Resort in Mayflower Bocawina National Park in the Stann Creek District of Belize, Friday morning, July 27, it was time to head even farther south to Punta Gorda (called "PG" by those in the know) in the Toledo District.  This would be our first visit to this district, and we were excited to see it.  From what we'd read, this is the wettest part of Belize, receiving about 160" of rain per year.  As a result, it is lush and green -- a true tropical rainforest.  

We were lucky to catch a ride to the bus terminal in Dangriga with Shacka (sorry if I butchered that spelling!), Mama Noots' manager Liz's spouse, so we avoided a repeat of the 4+ mile hike to the road, plus any risk that the bus would not stop for us along the Southern Highway.  It was a hot and sunny morning, so we were very thankful for the lift.
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Our bus to "PG"
Our bus ride was three and a half hours, and that is plenty of time to spend in an uncomfortable school bus seat in a crowded bus.  We were very glad to arrive in PG, which is situated right along the Caribbean Sea, much like San Pedro.  Unlike San Pedro, however, PG is not a "tourist town".  This meant less traffic, which is always a good thing. 
We had reservations for three nights at Hickatee Cottages southwest of town, but we weren't sure exactly how to get there.  As it turns out, Kate, one of the proprietors, had sent me a lovely map via email, but since I didn't have my laptop with me a couple of days earlier, I hadn't gotten it.  I called and spoke to Ian, her husband, and he gave me directions over the phone.  It was only a couple of miles, so even though he suggested we could catch a cab, we decided to walk it.  We'd been sitting most of the day, so walking felt good, and it wasn't nearly so far as our 4.2-mile hike into Mama Noots.
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Walking the streets of Punta Gorda town
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Town graveyard to my right and Caribbean Sea in the background
After about 2.5 miles of walking, approximately two miles of which was on dirt roads outside of town, we arrived at Hickatee Cottages.
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Entry to Hickatee Cottages
This place is a real gem in the jungle!  Since it was not rented, Kate gave us an upgrade from the small "Hickatee Den" we'd booked for $75 US/night to the Wilby Cottage (normally $100 US/night), giving us more space and privacy.  From their website, I learned that this cottage was recently completed, and it was absolutely perfect and quite upscale, with wood floors; and soothing turquoise, white, and wood decor inside.  There was plenty of space for us, two closet areas, a large and comfortable bathroom, ceiling fans, and a desk and futon.  This accommodation exceeded our expectations in every way!  There was no air-conditioning, but it was cool enough under the trees and with the ceiling fans that we never missed it.
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Wilby Cottage
When Kate's husband Ian got back from town, he called us out to the garden to see a troup of five howler monkeys who were right above us in the trees.  How exciting!  Although it looks like one of the monkeys in the photo is howling, he actually didn't make a sound.
The food (breakfasts and dinners) at Hickatee is all made by Kate, and she is a brilliant cook.  Ian takes orders and serves the food, and offers up interesting and intelligent conversation at the same time.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meals there.  The only slight drawback (for us) is that dinner is served at a set time, 7:30 pm, which is late by our standards.  Barry tends to get heartburn if he eats too late and then goes to bed not long after, so we would have preferred an earlier dinner time, but it was worth a little inconvenience to eat such wonderful food, and so nice being right on the beautiful and serene premises rather than having to take another trip to and from town.

Meals were served on the porch of this attractive office/bar building.
Here are photos of our first dinner, which we inhaled after our busy day of travel.
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One of the best salads we've had in Belize -- with feta and roasted tomatoes. Barry got my olives!
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Fresh-baked whole grain focaccia
There are two choices of entree on the dinner menu each night.  We both chose the shrimp with mashed potatoes and green beans. It was delicious as well as beautifully presented.  No wonder I gained weight on this trip!
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Ian's potent rum punch - delish!
Dessert was organic chocolate drops made right in the Toledo district, and complimentary chocolate liqueur.  Now that's my kinda dessert!
Stay tuned in future days for more on Hickatee Cottages, Punta Gorda, and the Toledo District...