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Stann Creek District of Belize
In keeping with our quest to spend time seeing different areas of Belize, we decided to take a short trip to the village of Hopkins in the Stann Creek district during the last week in June.  Since rainy season is officially here, and actually began early this year (May instead of June), we weren't sure if we'd end up getting to do all we wanted to, but as it turned out, we ended up lucking out with a perfect week to travel and only a brief sprinkle of rain the entire time we were away from home.

Hopkins is a small Garifuna fishing village on the coast of the Stann Creek district of Belize, south of Dangriga and north of the Placencia peninsula.  This map shows where we live on Ambergris Caye (just south of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico) in relation to Stann Creek and Hopkins.

Most Belizeans who live in Hopkins were born and raised here, and there is a strong and proud tradition of making music involving drumming, dancing, and rattles.  There are local crafts created in Hopkins such as wood carving, and small restaurants offering traditional Garifuna food.  There are small guest houses, beach cabanas, and upscale resorts catering to tourists.  There aren't any chains -- stores, restaurants, or lodging, which is typical of Belize. 

But let's back up a bit -- first we gotta get there.  Since we try to travel frugally, this journey took a lot longer than the mileage from Ambergris Caye to Hopkins Village would indicate.  We started with the 9:50 am water taxi from Grand Caribe to San Pedro, loaded down with our backpacks and with Paisley and her gear in tow.  After dropping Paisley at Pampered Paws for boarding, we had a little free time before catching the 11:30 ferry to Belize City, so we walked to Lily's Treasure Chest on the beach for a late breakfast.  This is only the second time we've eaten breakfast at Lily's, but we have gotten great meals both times.  Their Huevos Rancheros are the best I've had anywhere.  Yum! 

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Barry's veggie omelet

After breakfast, we headed over to the ferry dock and were pleased to see that they were offering a June Special.  $10 BZD ($5 US) off the normal round-trip fare.  Worked for us!
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My Huevos Rancheros
While waiting for the ferry, a huge stingray appeared in the crystal-clear water beside the dock.  It was fun to hear the local children excitedly checking it out.  We big kids enjoyed it as well!
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Barry walking to the bus station
We ferried to Belize City and since we didn't have a really tight connection, we decided to walk to the bus station.  We've been to the city enough now that we've gotten much more comfortable walking around there than we were on our first visit, and Barry remembered the way to the station.  This saved us the $10 BZD taxi fare, and we knew we'd be sitting so much that we appreciated the exercise.  We didn't even get hassled by panhandlers this time!

We had planned to take a James bus leaving about 30 minutes after we arrived at the terminal, but when we arrived, there was a G-Line bus just about to leave for Dangriga, so we hopped on that one instead.  This worked out just fine.  It's a long journey, stopping in the capital city of Belmopan, then continuing on the scenic Hummingbird Highway over the very pretty Maya Mountains.  This is the same route we took to go south to Placencia in the winter.   

This bus kept us entertained with plenty of music and even a video screen -- that was a first for us.  The bus ride cost us just $10 BZD each ($5 US).

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Most Belize buses are old US-made Blue Bird school buses. Not very luxurious, but cheap!
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Videos provided entertainment for the travelers
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This bus wasn't overly crowded
In Dangriga, we had to catch a different bus to Hopkins.  The Hopkins bus only runs twice a day, once in the morning, and once at 5:15 pm.  We met a nice couple in the bus terminal who were staying in Hopkins as well and chatted with them for awhile -- we ended up seeing them later in the week as we biked around the village. 
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Bus to Hopkins
The bus ride to Hopkins cost $5 BZD each and took under an hour.  The last four miles into Hopkins Village on a mostly unpaved road were quite an adventure.  This road has definitely seen better days, and between potholes, big rocks, and washboarding, took a long time to traverse.  I can only imagine how muddy it is when it is raining.  

After entering the village, the bus driver took a circuitous route dropping locals all over the small Garifuna town, some right at their modest clapboard homes.  What a difference from San Pedro.  Hopkins has nearly all unpaved roads and very little commercialism.  There were a couple of other backpacking tourists getting off at some inexpensive lodging in the north part of town as well.

Tony and Angela, proprietors of Beaches and Dreams, where we were going to be staying, had told us to have the driver let us off at Innie's Restaurant, where they would come pick us up.  Innie's is a small local restaurant serving up authentic Garifuna cooking, and I was excited to try the hudut, which I'd read about beforehand.  This traditional dish consists of a whole fresh red snapper cooked in a delicious homemade coconut milk broth, traditionally served with a soft green plantain dumpling for dipping.  

As we were getting a drink and relaxing at our table, Tony and Angela stopped by our table to let us know they were there, but would be taking a walk and picking us up after dinner.  Right after they left, two van loads of high school students and teachers rolled up.  So much for our quiet dinner!  Actually, they were quite well-behaved considering how many of them there were. 
Barry tried the Belizean stewed chicken with stewed beans and rice, which he loved, and I enjoyed the hudut.  It would be nice to have a few veggies with this meal, but that was all that was missing.  Otherwise, it was delicious! 
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Barry's stew chicken w/stew beans, rice, & salad
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Traditional Garifuna Hudut served with Plantain dumpling
After we finished our dinner, Tony and Angela drove us down to Beaches and Dreams, a couple of miles south of Hopkins Village at False Sittee Point.  It is located in the same area as several upscale, expensive resorts but is a more laid-back, casual place and proved to be a perfect choice for we frugal travelers who didn't want to spend $200 a night for lodging.  There is an excellent restaurant on site, Barracuda Bar & Grill (#1 rated in Hopkins on tripadvisor.com), where Tony is the head chef and Angela bakes all the wonderful desserts, but they told us that it was closing this week for a couple of months during low season.  We were disappointed with this news; however, Tony said we were welcome to attend a Tapas fundraiser the following night (Wednesday) and also offered to cook for us on Thursday night.  That would work!

It was already pitch dark by the time we arrived, so we couldn't see too much of the grounds or the beautiful ocean very well, but here are a few shots of our room, the "Scarlet Macaw" (Room #3 of only five rooms at the inn).  Since we weren't able to see actual Scarlet Macaws when we visited Red Bank, the many brightly colored, painted birds in this room were the next best thing! 
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Comfy king-sized bed
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Neat ceiling and very high made the room feel even larger
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Nice large tile bathroom and a ceiling fan!

The room was quite large and comfortable, with a decent-sized bathroom.  The clothing armoire, water dispenser, and sofa were great additions, as were multiple hooks on the walls for hanging damp clothes.  There was no TV nor A/C, but three fans and lots of slatted windows for ventilation kept it comfortable.  The only addition that would have made it totally perfect would have been a dorm-sized fridge to keep beverages cold, but Angela kindly brought us a small cooler of ice.  I drank about six glasses of ice water that night after all our travel on a warm day! 

We hit the hay early as we were exhausted after our day of travel.  Our reasonable low-season room rate of $75 US included breakfast cooked by Angela, so we looked forward to that in the morning before heading out to Bocawina Mayflower National Park for some hiking and bird-watching.  
[To be continued...]
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Armoire for hanging clothes and more macaws
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Large tile shower
7/2/2012 05:36:36 am

Sounds like your first day got off to a good start. That's a bummer about Barracuda being closed - they have such great food! Hopefully the tapas and personal chef offers turned out to be a good substitute.

So I don't know why, but several of your pictures are not showing up (at least for me). Thanks!

Sharon Hiebing
Expat Relocation Consultant

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BeBelize Emily
7/2/2012 05:59:48 am

Hi Sharon! Sorry about the photos...you might try clicking on the post title to make sure it's only loading the one blog post and not all the ones below it, if you haven't already. They are coming up fine for me.

We were disappointed about the restaurant being closed and thought they should have mentioned it in the confirmation email sine that was one of the reasons I picked Beaches and Dreams! However, since we essentially got to eat there two of our four nights in Hopkins after all, it all worked out fine in the end. :-)

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Charles and Star
7/6/2012 05:13:45 am

Hi former neighbors (and future?)
We are planning to do almost exactly the same as you did!!
We live in High Point and we are planning to move to Belize here in about two years.(However since we BOTH are avid Harley riders and for what we understand there are no motorized trafic on the Cayes?) we are looking at mainland properties right now. Any info or tips to avoid "potholes" on our way to paradise would be GREATELY appreciated! We had no problems with the pics! Might have someth to do with the IP? We would LOVE to hear back from you guys!!

Charles and Star.

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BeBelize Emily
7/6/2012 06:00:54 am

Yeah, you wouldn't be able to bring Harleys to the Cayes, and you wouldn't want to anyway. The roads are not great, and there aren't many of 'em. Lots of traffic, speedbumps, and potholes too. Mainland is definitely better for roads, although there are still many fewer paved roads than in the US. My main word of advice would be to rent a property before you buy so that you can make sure you picked the right place for you. And that Belize is right for you. It's perfect for some, but not right for all. Good luck in your journey!

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