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Belize : Pooks Hill

Pooks Hill

sunny

Belize July 25th – August 7th 2013

25th Flight from Heathrow to New York
26th Flight from New York to Florida/ Florida to Belize City. Drive from Belize
City, via Belmopan and Teakettle to Pooks Hill Lodge. Trail walk. (4 nights) 27th Horse ride from Mountain Equestrian Trails to Barton Creek. Canoe trip
through Barton Creek Cave. Lunch and Greenhills Butterfly Farm
28th Pooks Hill morning rainforest walk; afternoon own walk and swimming 29th Guatemala and Tikal
30th Leave Pooks Hill for a canoe trip on the Macal River. Arrive Hidden Valley Inn (4 nights). Butterfly Falls
31st Hidden Valley. Rio Frio Cave, Caracol, Rio On Pools
1st Hidden Valley reserve. King Vulture Lookout, Tiger Creek, Lake Lolly Folly. 2nd Chechem Ha Cave, Xunantunich, hand cranked ferry, Cahal Pech
3rd Drive Belize City, Greenhills Mall, Maya Air San Pedro, boat Tranquillity Bay. 4th Snorkelling Tranquility Bay
5th Boat trip San Pedro
6th Tranquility Bay, snorkel & kayak
7th Maya Air San Pedro to Belize City/ Belize to Texas/ home.

Thursday 25th July Arrival
We had a very civilized AA flight at mid morning to New York in America. We arrived late evening and used the Sky train to get to a bus to spend the night in a hotel.

Friday 26th July Pook’s Hill Arrival

arrival-in-belize_31125219472_o.jpgWe left New York on an early flight to Miami, Florida (no food), with a quick transfer to the flight for Belize City. It was a short flight over the Caribbean and the sky was very clear, giving us a wonderful view of the sea (window seats are always good) and islands below (including Ambergris Caye).
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We came in along the Belize coast, lower and lower until we landed. It felt weird that we arrived in Belize before left Florida, due to the time differences! The airport was small and we walked from the plane, across the tarmac and into the airport. Ahh, slight problem- we should have filled in two forms, no, three forms (they gave up on us in the end since we were confused). The rep (Issi) from Pook’s Hill was there for us with his placard and as he had no one else to collect we set off in the 4x4 immediately. The car drove along the edge of the airport and almost immediately out of Belize City itself. The drive, along the George Price Highway was straight and we had an excellent view of the Maya Mountains for almost the whole way. As we left the city, at first the terrain was slightly marshy, with a mix of housing types, many built on stilts (though not as high as Cambodian villages along Tonle Sap). Then, as we left the Belize City area the houses and terrain changed. We went through the town of Hattieville, which (we were later told) was originally a tent city, erected when the famous hurricane Hattie destroyed much of Belize City and forced people to move. Over time, houses replaced tents and it became a town.
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MOPAN, MACAL AND BELIZE RIVER
The Macal is a slower river than the Mopan. They join just past Xunantunich to become the Belize River. A cross-country canoe race, La Ruta Maya, goes all the way along it.

BELIZE AND HURRICANES
Belize is in the belt that can be badly affected by tropical storms and hurricanes. Hurricane Janet in 1955 was particularly devastating for Belize City
and Corozal, reducing Corozal to near rubble with winds of 175 mph. The most famous hurricane, however, is Hurricane Hattie (1961), with winds
between 155-200 mph. Several people we met commented on how they remembered it, even though they were just children. It killed over 400
people and nearly half of Belize City was flattened. It was this hurricane that prompted PM George Price to move the capital inland to Belmopan. The islands of Caulker Caye and Turneffe were temporarily submerged by a 12-foot wave and the fishing village of Stann Creek was wiped out. The people were moved to a new tent village, later Hattieville. Our host at HVI said that, although a very young boy, he remembered every minute of this storm. Hurricane Fifi (1974) and Greta (1978) showed how the improved early warning system was saving lives, if not property. Hurricane Iris (2001) was a whooper, destroying nearly 4000 houses and causing nearly $10million worth of damage to agriculture. Soon after, Hurricane Richard reached far inland into Belize, extensively damaging Belmopan, Teakettle, Ontario, Roaring Creek and Unitedville.
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On our way we passed the famous Belize Zoo. It was founded when a film, Raingods of Belize, was shot in Belize in the early 80’s. The biologist who looked after the 17 animals realised they had become too tame to return to the wild, so she began the zoo. It contains animals native to Belize, both as permanent residents and as passing friends.
When the road bifurcated (La Democracia) I decided to move to the front seat for a better view as we joined the Western Highway, and after 11⁄2 hours we arrived at the edge of Belmopan, the (newish) capital of Belize. On the outskirts, which were pleasantly tree-lined, we saw a large market (Friday is market day) with stalls and our first view of the large local Mennonite community, with their horse-drawn buggies filled with produce. We drove into Belmopan itself (surprisingly small) to collect one of the lodge employees from the supermarket. Then off again down the Western Highway for 30 minutes until we reached the village of Teakettle, where we turned off onto an unpaved road/track. Now I understood why the windscreen was covered with chips and cracks- it was inevitable given the roads off the main highways. We travelled through the village with its stilted houses (many with the cars under them), small farmsteads, chickens and happy children (school holidays, of course) and after some 5-10 minutes left most of the village behind. After another 10 minutes we reached a fork- left to ATM cave, right towards Pook’s Hill, which we took. We passed a large plantation of hardwood trees, apparently owned by a Canadian, but managed locally. He certainly was not keen on trespassers- the point was made several times. He had acquired the land some time ago and had planted crops in succession. This meant that the first crop of indigenous mahogany trees (also Belize’s national tree) took 15 years to crop, and the non-indigenous teak took 18-20 years, then it was a rolling programme. Carrying on up and down a rutted road, past some locally constructed houses (palm frond roof), over some streams and down a steeper path, we arrived at the Lodge itself.
The owners (Kat and Ray) came out to welcome us and offered us a drink (a Belikin, the only beer brewed in Belize) in the upstairs open-air part of the lodge (explaining the honour system of helping ourselves to drinks). They had kindly kept a warm lunch for us, so we could have a good meal. We then went to our Bird Walk cabana, which was down the hill, over the bridge (over a river), across a bird walk and to the end cabana (constructed in local style but with a lovely wet room added), which overlooked a small clearing 12-foot below.
We were keen to stretch our legs, so we decided on a walk in the private reserve, using our trail map. We headed back over the bridge and immediately right along a sandy track.
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The noise of the insects was incredible! At first we were under tall palm trees with huge hanging bunches of palm nuts, making it seem quite dim, but soon we climbed up over some roots and along the river edge, over a plank and rope bridge to a small grassy clearing. The twisting strangler figs are amazing in Belize, really spiralling around. The path bifurcated, so we headed straight on first and after climbing over a muddy tyre arrived at the river rock pool. It felt quite hot and sticky, so we took off our shoes and had a paddle in Roaring River, which was not roaring there. Then we backtracked to
the clearing and headed the other way (right), which was lovely as it was, unintentionally, a butterfly meadow. We saw a wonderful variety of butterflies, including Long-tailed Skippers, Euselasia euripus and loads of Banded Peacocks flitting from bush to bush. We even spotted a lizard, which was presumably on a butterfly-eating prowl. We carried on towards to the Roaring River path and found more insects and birds. On the path as we walked a large palm nut tried hard to hit our heads (but missed) before we came across a very popular purple-red fruit smashed on the path with insects and birds relishing it. We saw loads of termite nests, some quite large.
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We finished our walk in the large garden in front of the lodge and discovered we had come full circle, so we went to freshen up for dinner. The Lodge is very friendly and when we went to the veranda we immediately felt at home as everyone happily chatted together. We tried a rum and lime cocktail, which was delicious, so obviously needed a second to check. Dinner, served below was a buffet- staff and guests together.
Then back up to the veranda for drinks, games and general chatting before bed. A local, David, who’d lived there many years, had some interesting stories to tell. I thought his take on Belize hospitals/ doctors particularly interesting. Apparently doctors “on duty” would clock in, go home and wait for someone (probably a nurse) to call an emergency and then go in. I assume Belmopan doesn’t have a lot of patients! As we went across the “Bird Walk” to our room we were unencumbered by light and the Milky Way stood out so well we just sat on out balcony looking at it.

Posted by PetersF 18:52 Archived in Belize Tagged animals birds insects belize butterfly pooks_hill

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