11 November, 2010

To Another Place And Time

Yesterday, Dianna and I went, along with Doug and Twyla and friends of theirs, Lynn and Larry, who were visiting from Canada, over to see the Shipstern Nature Reserve, Sarteneja Village, and Little Belize.

Just before we left, as we were waiting for them to reach our place (we had to take both cars), Dianna and I noticed  one of our poinsettias, the red one, had started to bloom. So I took a shot of it. It's already looking nice. Once the blooms reach maturity, it'll be really gorgeous.
Red Poinsettia

About 8:00 AM, we all set off on our grand adventure to the lands east of our place.

What a different world from here in Corozal. There's places, the Mennonite settlements, where it seems like farmland in the heartland of the States or Canada - except for the palm trees.

We took the ferry across the New River, always a relaxing voyage, then it was on to Copper Bank. We cruised through Copper Bank, headed to the new ferry, only to find out when we got there, that it was closed. They were doing repairs to it. From the looks of things, it was going to be down for another day or two.

Of course, this meant that we were going to have to backtrack all the way back through Copper Bank and then some to take the old road to Progresso and so on. There's an OK map by the Belize Tourism Board at ( that gives you an idea of our journey. Without the ferry, the trip was roughly twice the distance that we'd planned on.

Part of the way the European Union has paid to refurbish some of the road with more or less proper drainage and sub bed, and a raised roadbed. Unfortunately, a good bit of that improved piece uses white marl, which is very absorbent. So, thanks to this being rainy season still, was like driving on snow-covered roads - slick and sliding all over the place. Thankfully, there wasn't much in the line of traffic in either direction.

So, we finally reached Shipstern Nature Reserve. It's amazing how different the land and plants seem to be from Corozal, about 20-25 miles away, as the crow flies.
 Shipstern Headquarters Sign

Shipstern is a private reserve, run by the International Tropical Conservation Foundation ( and it exists through generosity of several conservation groups worldwide.

The Visitor Center is compact, but is connected to a very cool butterfly aviary. I'm not sure that's the right word, but it'll do.
Shipstern Visitor Center

We were met at the parking lot by our guide, Joel. He's worked for the Reserve for five years. One of the things they do, sort of an extracurricular activity, is to work closely with the Belize Police Department and the Belize Defense Forces to help combat lumber and animal theft. This is on a grand scale. Last year Joel said, they helped confiscate about 200,000 board feet of illegally taken lumber.
Our Guide Joel Showing the Various Areas

Many of the birds frequenting the Reserve can also be found right in our back yard, so there are some similarities.
Animals of the Reserve
 Joel proved to be very knowledgeable about the Reserve, it's programs and features. Here's our crowd listening raptly. Lynn and Larry (on the right in the photo) are friends of Doug and Twyla, visiting from Canada.
 Learning All About the Reserve
The Reserve also has a Mayan ruin, still under investigation by archeologists and not open, as a rule, to the general public, as yet. The Visitor Center has some artifacts from there, along with bones from some of the species inhabiting the Reserve.
 Bones and Stuff (a technical term)
Mahogany used to be a very common tree in the area, but that was long ago. I snapped a picture from the display to show the relative size of the old growth. If you look closely, you can see a bulldozer at the far end of the trunk.
An Old Mahogany Tree

While we were in the Visitor Center, some of the locals were hard at work harvesting leaves. The leafcutter ants were hard at it pretty much the whole time we were there.
Leaf Cutters

Joel took us into the butterfly room or whatever it's called. Pretty amazing place. Very labor intensive.
 The Larvae Nursery

Here is where they care for larval and pupa stage butterflies, protecting them from the army ants, who constantly try to get at them. Must be a delicacy.
 Dianna Holding One Of the Larvae

 Pupa Hanging From Racks

 An Owl Butterfly

 A Whole Rack of Pupae

Each day, the butterfly caretaker inspects all the plants in the aviary for eggs, which he takes and cares for till they reach adulthood.
 Butterfly Eggs

 Enjoying the Fruit

I don't know what these guys are, but they were doing the nasty.
 Nasty Bugs

Here, we're starting off on the walking tour of the forest, after leaving the butterflies at the Visitor Center.
 Joel, Our Tour Guide

One Bad-Ass Tree

 A Small Mahogany Tree

Here we start off on the trail. About a 45 minute walk through the natural habitat.
 The Start of the Trail

The trees and shrubbery is well marked with signs throughout the trail.
Signs Abound

More Signs

Much of the underlying rock here is hard coral, left over from when this area was under water.
 Coral Underfoot

 And More Signs

Looking Up Through the Canopy

Here is a small pond, rainwater fed that pretty much stays in place year round. It's used as a watering hole by most of the wildlife of the Reserve.
The Old Watering Hole

At the end of the walking tour, a neat feature is the observation tower, made from donated items. It takes you up over the canopy, so you get a great view of the surrounding area - from Chetumal, Mexico out to the Caribbean Sea.
 Beginning the Climb

 Looking Over Towards Chetumal

Visitor Center Down Below

Looking Out On the Caribbean

Dianna opted to wait for us and have a smoke. I will admit, my thighs were quite sore after the climb, but it was worth it.
 Straight Down

Steep, Steep

Joel gave us a nice talk about the surrounding area - mostly outside of the reserve, and the fact that the Reserve helps protect some of that area as well.
 Great Cell Reception Up There

 I Noticed This After the Climb

When we left the Reserve, we headed to Sartenja, a small fishing village a bit beyond the Reserve. We had a great lunch of rice and beans with stewed chicken at Miss Perez' house in Sarteneja.

This was not part of the tour. It came about because Doug and Twyla took Larry and Lynn to dinner the night before at RD's Restaurant in Corozal. Doug and Twyla are friends of Rick, the owner. He suggested having lunch at Miss Perez' and made the arrangements for us. A very nice experience.
 Washing Up Before Lunch

Miss Perez' daughters helped serve the meal. We all ate till we were stuffed.
 Serving It Up

After leaving Sarteneja, we wound back on the at times, slippery road, determined to find the fabled hardware store of Little Belize. Doug and Twyla had firm instructions that at the 'lone' house with two buses in the yard, you turn off at the road to the right.

This was fine, but the directions didn't mention turning right again at the church (which looked more like a barn than a church), and then right again, some time later on.

Anyway, finally we found it as the photo blow attests. BTW, the sign over the door is the only sign. No signs for directions or anything. It's very easy to get very lost out there. Thankfully, some of the Mennonites going by in their horse buggies, were helpful as far as directions.
 The Fabled Little Belize Hardware Store

I bought a hand sieve so that I can rinse rice the next time I go to cook it and a jar of Nutella, the chocolate and hazelnut concoction to spread on toast in the mornings. We'd never had it before and had wanted to try it.

After the hardware store, we managed to get back on the road to the ferry, which is where we parted company with our friends. They made it onto the ferry and we had to wait for the next cycle.
 Heading Home
After we rode the ferry, we had about another 5 minutes to go and then we were home. A long, day, a lot of driving, walking, and playing tourist. But a lot of fun and very worthwhile.


JRinSC said...

If you have a chance,next time you go to Sarteneja, you might try eating at the Backpacker's Paradise. You take a real hard right just before entering town and the place is up the road a short distance on the right. It is run by a young french couple and, while it probably is much more "rustic", it is good food and interesting people and surroundings!


Dave Rider said...

Hi Julian,

Good point. Thanks for reminding me. The Corozal Men's Group, shortly after it formed, took a weekend field trip to Sarteneja and stayed there. Hard to believe, a French restaurant out in the hinterlands of Sarteneja. The guys all said they really liked it. Service and food was nice and such a rustic location. Unfortunately, I missed that weekend - construction was still going at a furious pace. We're (the Men's Group are) hoping to resurrect that experience sometime soon. Maybe not to Sarteneja, but someplace just as cool.


Lion Lady said...

D & D:
Thanks for letting ride along w/ you and take the're a great tour guide !

Dave Rider said...

Hi Jeanette,

I'm glad you liked the tour. It turned out to be a long day, but we had a blast doing it.