Vincent in the Lesser Antilles had recently been settled by people from the South American mainland who had subdued the previous inhabitants, the Arawaks. Then in , two Spanish ships carrying slaves from Nigeria to Spanish colonies in America were wrecked off St. Vincent and the survivors took refuge on the island.
The Caribs and Africans instantly clashed, but over the centuries, the descendants figured out how to live together peacefully, married, raised children and became jointly known as Garifuna. According to tradition, the first Garifuna arrived in Belize, then British Honduras, on November 19th, This day is now a national holiday in Belize celebrated with drumming, dancing and pageantry.
The village of Hopkins and surrounding towns are also home to many Mayans. All the inhabitants of this region seem to have adapted well to living with each other and we witnessed no discrimination. Everyone seemed happy, healthy, and eager to make our visit as pleasant as possible. A little about our accommodations in Hopkins. Vicki had done a lot or reading beforehand and suggested that we book only one accommodation for our entire stay.
We all agreed on Hopkins because the places and things we were most interested in seeing and doing were fairly close. None of us were scuba divers or had any desire to spend all our time lying on a beach applying sun screen every 30 minutes. So staying on one of the tourist islands in the barrier reef was totally out of the question.
As I stated above, we wanted to expose ourselves to the culture of the country.follow link
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So Hopkins, with its central location and cultural heritage was the perfect place for us. So we rented a 2 bedroom suite with a full kitchen. The kitchen was actually quite well appointed. Our only surprise in our rented unit was the air conditioning situation. The air conditioning units were operated automatically, and only offered us relief from the oppressive humidity from pm to am. Apparently electricity is very costly in Belize.
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But none of us had enough experience with heat and humidity and were too tired when we checked in to make the decision to pay the extra charge. Knowing what I know now, I would have paid the additional charge in the time it took to swat a sand fly. Just as an example of how hot and muggy it was; when we got out of our nice air conditioned car, our glasses would steam up! Since these bumps were everywhere along the road and every vehicle had to approach and cross the bumps at low speed, small merchandise stands set up right next to the bumps festooned the countryside.
At these stands you could buy everything from coconut water and fresh corn, to fresh fruit and homemade tamales. Talk about curbside service! Also, it was not at all uncommon to see men walking along the roads with machetes in their hands or hanging from their belts. Or to see the men using their machetes out in the fields or even just in their front yards. And even though machetes can be used as lethal weapons, I felt no fear seeing them being carried about.
In Belize they were merely a necessary tool, not an overt weapon.
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Note to self: add extra air to your list of lessons learned for the next time you visit a tropical country! And on many of the secondary roads, pavement was apparently forbidden, while huge numbers of potholes were obviously encouraged. And on every road, lots of pedestrians who appeared to suffer from late stage death wishes, truck drivers with gambling inclinations they loved to pass on curves , suicidal bus drivers, and as already stated, speed bumps designed to insure that shock absorber shop owners could easily send their children to college!
And every contrivance known to man was to be found on the motorways, including horse drawn wagons belonging to the Mennonites. Now at this point, I must defend our choice of renting a car, regardless of all the trials and tribulations associated with said action.
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We were free to go anywhere we chose. We estimate that we drove about miles while we were in Belize. Not on purpose I assure you! Not really a town as much as a village. Real people living in real homes. Lots of kids and everyone smiling and saying hello. Restaurants which, in many cases, were nothing more than converted home porches remodeled into service kitchens.
The dining areas were often just an extension with open sides and a thatch roof. Very casual, but serving fresh food in a very inviting environment. Every dish was prepared as needed. And always fresh juices on the menu — orange, lime, watermelon, pineapple, and even sorrel at one restaurant. Sorrel juice is made from the flowers of a member of the hibiscus family. The taste is best described as a unique sweet-sour, mellow pleasant, cranberry-like. Our first evening in Hopkins we decided to dine at a small restaurant The Gecko , owned and operated by a Canadian couple from Toronto.
There were only 5 tables outdoors, and the small indoor area was comprised of just a tiny bar with a few bar stools. The outdoor area patrons were all tourists or ex-pats, eating quietly and displaying their best manners. The real fun seemed to be coming from the bar!
And they were obviously having a great time. Much laughter was heard. The balls were deep fried coconut rice balls served with a BBQ sauce. Absolutely delicious. Very much like an Italian Arancini only with coconut as one of the ingredients. Then it was home to an early bedtime since none of us had been able to get any quality sleep on the flights down. Woke up around am desperately needing a cup of coffee.
OK, every morning I awaken desperately needing a cup of coffee, but I was especially in need this morning. While all of us were drinking our coffee on our own private lanai, Matthew, one of the resort workers came by to offer us each our own fresh coconut. Well, when in Rome, or in Belize, of course we said yes.
So we watched while he climbed a coconut tree yes climbed the tree, bare feet and all in the back yard of the guest house.
Then back down on the ground he explained about the different uses of immature and mature coconuts as he was using his machete to lop off the top and bottom of 4 immature coconuts. Immature coconuts are a light caramel color, whereas mature coconuts are a dark brown and smaller. Mature coconuts are used in cooking, while the immature coconuts are cut for the water.
And Mr. In other words, he took one for the team! I, in all my naivety, thought the coconut would be filled with coconut milk.
The grated coconut that we buy in stores has not been used to make coconut milk, so therefore it still retains its flavor and oil. So we had a chance to witness this process in person. The close proximity to our lodging and the fact that the sign board outside the restaurant advertised Fry Jack were both compelling reasons to let this lovely Garifuna woman cook for us.
It was highly touted as one of the food items we simply had to try while we were in Belize. So of course, we really wanted to experience Fry Jack. Fry Jack is basically fried bread dough, not unlike Navaho fry bread, and every bit as delicious. And even though the breakfast hour was officially over when we arrived at the restaurant, Tina fixed us breakfast regardless. And it was absolutely delicious. I ordered one of the standard items off the breakfast menu — 4 pieces of Fry Jack, fried fresh barracuda fillets with salsa, and refried beans.
BTW — US dollars were gladly accepted everywhere we went. The exchange rate was 2 to 1. And worth every penny I might add. While we were finishing our breakfast a pickup truck stopped in front of the restaurant.
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