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Belize : Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley and waterfalls

Tuesday 30th July afternoon Butterfly Falls

We drove out of San Ignacio with Issi from Pook’s Hill, and soon turned onto the usual unpaved road. As we headed upwards we passed the turn to Caracol and the forest gave way to pine trees and red, sandy, rutted tracks. The pines looked poorly, and apparently they had had a pine-beetle infestation, and a huge storm in 2009, which had decimated the area although it was beginning to grow back. The track led across the top of an escarpment and finally up a long hill to Hidden Valley Inn. The beautiful ranch was hidden behind flowers- orchids, bromeliads, ferns, and begonias, to name a few. We were greeted and shown to the main lounge for a greeting and then given an orientation walk. A group of very noisy Chachalacas followed us round the gardens. Our luggage was taken to our room, which was out of the French windows, down the path, through the gardens and past the pond and the end cabana on the left. As lovely touches a little personal welcome note was on our bed and flowers arranged all round the room.
Hidden Valley Inn was built in the 1970’s by Julian “Bull” Headley and stayed in his family until 2001. His grandson (I think) lives on a part of the estate that was not sold to the Roe family. They have done a wonderful job in restoring it in Victorian Plantation style. There was beautiful mahogany furniture everywhere- the bar looked so shiny and polished we could see our faces in it. There was a comfy longue with fireplace, well stocked with books, a quality dining room, a spacious bar and an in-between area where you could get hot drinks, towels, etc. The stone terrace, currently occupied by a resident Chachalaca flock, led to a pool and hot tub. Opposite was the Mantra room for Yoga, with a visiting yoga lady (who we saw in the dining room).
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Out of the lounge French windows down a gravel path, were the cottages, beautifully done with plants outside (orchids) and a box of firewood (which we knew we wouldn’t need). The mahogany and leather furnished rooms had a fireplaces, comfy settee, desk, safe, huge bed and lovely bathroom. There were even complimentary bathrobes, which we made good use of for pool swims. We even managed to pick up the free Lodge Wi-fi.
We were still in time for lunch, so we sat in the dining room to have a chicken salad. As it was only early afternoon, we fancied a walk, so asked for a lift to Butterfly Falls Trail, hoping the waterfall wouldn’t be too busy (it was supposed to be the most romantic of the waterfalls.)
We were dropped off at the trail entrance and we picked up a stout stick each before heading down towards the falls. Up and down roots and over a
small bridge (isn’t that the one with the picture of a jaguar on it?) and along the creek before it opened to the most glorious (and empty) crystal pool with an 80 foot waterfall at the end. Down the walls hung a profusion of bromeliads, hot-lips, ancient tree ferns and orchids. In the clear pool we could see lots of tiny fish in the shallows.

Obviously we’d brought costumes and towels, so we spent a wonderful hour or so relaxing and enjoying it. The shallows had rocks, almost like rock pools, with little fish in who were happy to nibble us. Then striking out into the deeper waterfall pond, cool water but refreshing. As it was empty we didn’t really bother too much with cozzies! Then it felt like it was darkening so we headed back up the hill. We were really surprised to find someone waiting for us at the top so we didn’t need to use the radio to call for a lift. Freddie, the driver, said he knew we’d gone there, so he’d just worked out when we’d sort-of be ready and waited.
When we got back it was pleasant to have a walk around the garden of Inn. It had been beautifully planted with colourful flowers. A friendly Green Jay flitted around the pond, calling out. When we later remarked on the jay to Freddie and how unbothered it was with people he told us its story. It had been orphaned a few years earlier close to Belize Zoo, so they had reared it by hand. When it was old enough they wanted to reintroduce it to the wild, so they asked Hidden Valley to take him and help as a halfway house. This would have probably worked well had the kitchen staff not got a soft spot for him. Every time he strutted around or looked hungry, they’d feed him (in case he starved because he hadn’t yet learnt to forage). Consequently, he had no intention of ever learning to feed himself! F said they needed to be hard-hearted and that he’d soon learn, but I suspect this was never going to happen!
We watched a film before going over to the bar. The special was a Jungle Cocktail (loads of fruit and coconut), yummy, before finding a table for dinner. Gorgeous food, and as we’d prepaid we had a choice of anything. So we had a 5-course meal with wine. Caribbean Snapper baked in Banana Leaves with Banana Salsa (me) with plantain and Lime Mint Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Relish (Steve). The tables are all candlelit and very romantic. This first night had few guests, too. That evening was the most terrific thunderstorm over to the sea with lightning and thunder everywhere.
Hidden Valley Inn is in the unique Mountain Pine Ridge area of Cayo. Unlike the rest of the area (broadleaf jungle) it is a pine forest. The nice thing, for us, about this hotel is it was in the centre of its own private reserve (the oldest park in Belize) with exclusive access to trails, secret waterfalls, creeks, pools, rivers, etc. The reserve covers the sandy red pine forest (above 2000m), the grassy savannah (by the lake) and the tropical rainforest. It is on a huge geological fault line, as Mountain Pine Ridge was probably what is left of a granite volcanic island that hit the mainland aeons ago, with a 1000-foot escarpment (hence the Thousand Foot Falls). A complimentary bird-watching guide was in our room and we began to fill it in. Because the pine ridge is a specific, isolated, eco-system some species (flora and fauna) are unique to the area. We were lucky enough to see in Belize a Keel-billed Toucan (Pooks Hill), Green Jay (HVI), loads of hummingbirds, King Vultures (HVI), Turkey Vultures (everywhere!), Orange-breasted Falcon (near Chechem Ha), coatimundi (Tikal), grey fox (Tikal). The reserve has a total hunting ban.

Posted by PetersF 19:23 Archived in Belize Tagged animals birds river waterfall iguana belize reptiles hidden_valley macal

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