Kilometers Traveled – 40
Hours in Car with Children – 1
Unscheduled Potty Breaks – 0
Belikins Consumed – 2
Current Location – Cahal Pech Resort – on a hill overlooking San Ignacio, BZ
Wireless Internet - at times.

Having such a great time with our new friends in Orange Walk, we got on the road rather late and well past dark. Our destination, Crooked Tree Village, is located just 45 minutes south off of the Northern Highway. The drive was quick and we had no trouble finding the turn-off into town. It was pitch dark when we arrived, starving and without a place to stay. We pulled over to the first lit building we came upon and asked for some direction.

It is times like these in our travels that Rob and I ask each other “WWMD?”…… not “WWJD” (the well known acronym “What Would Jesus Do?”) but rather “WWMD”, meaning “What Would Mike Do?”  (referring to our dear friend Mike who lives in Chicago and thinks that staying in Playacar Phase 2 is….well…. roughing it). At times along our journey, we have taken pause to ask ourselves “WWMD?”….. and then we do it anyway. These are the moments I wish I could just see the look on our friend’s face as he contemplates our exploits and shudders at our dining choices. This was to be just one of many “WWMD” moments along the way. 

Just a few yards away, we found an open pool hall serving up cold Belikin Green Label and some kickass fried chicken.


Fine Dining......


....and entertainment.

Further down the road we were able to secure late night lodging at Sam Tillett’s. We settled in for the night in one of the rooms on the property, gobbled down our fried chicken in bed and set our alarms for an early morning wake up.


G'nite kiddos.


Rooms at Sam Tillett's


The breakfast area


Daddy just waking up


Mmm. Fresh fry jacks with scrambled eggs, beans and orange Kool-Aid!

Sam Tillet had a terrific reputation among the birding set and I was really looking forward to one of his tours of the wildlife sanctuary. Sadly, we were informed by his son, Sam passed away in November.  

Our guide for the day would be Ruben. Lifelong resident of Crooked Tree, Ruben was obviously more accustomed to visits by avid (and perhaps nerdy, less talkative) ornithologists and took some time to warm to our humor and our children’s antics.  He did a great job navigating around the lagoon and was very knowledgeable about the local and migratory birds and where to find them. It was a particularly windy day on the lagoon. This, compounded with Ruben’s thick accent, made it difficult at times to decipher the names of the birds as he called them out to us. I put Rob in charge of keeping track of the various species we encountered and I did my best to take pictures.


A windy morning on the lagoon


Ruben


In the rainy season, the water level of the lagoon is so high, the homes along its banks are accessible only by boat.


A seasonal dock.



The Jaribu Stork is the largest bird in the Western Hemisphere. Ornithologists travel here specifically for a glimpse of these rare creatures. We were lucky today and spotted about a dozen!!

 

After an hour and a half on the water we headed back to Tillet’s in search of some of the powerful Cashew Wine that this village is known for.


Cashews


Natasha helped us at the local tiendita and $8.00 BZ later, we were in possession of 1 liter of Cashew Wine bottled in a recycled plastic water bottle. Excellent.


Birdie and Chelsea


Crooked Tree Bus Stop - Pool Hall - Fried Chicken Shack.


Leaving Crooked Tree - Next Stop the Baboon Sanctuary in Burmudian Landing.

This was to be the highlight of the trip for my husband, a huge fan of monkeys and monkey business. Again, the turn-off for Burrell Boom is well marked and let us straight through some more beautiful countryside to Bermudian Landing and the Baboon Sanctuary.


A coconut palm hybridization project

 
Visitors center at the Baboon Sanctuary

Now all the guide books can tell you that there really are no actual Baboons in Belize. The sanctuary is a co-operate of sorts and is run by the community and the farmers whose land borders and makes the part of the preserve. What they don’t tell you is that they have an essentially tame group of Howler Monkeys waiting just a few steps into the jungle, waiting patiently for the tourists to come in with the one secret banana you are not supposed to have stashed in your bag. For me, who would have gladly trudged through the jungle all afternoon, this was a bit anti-climatic. For my husband and kids, it was a dream come true. So be it.


Into the woods


OK.....maybe they are kinda cute.


Hungry from our Howler Monkey expedition, we set off in search of lunch. A man on a bike pointed us in the direction of the best local cuisine in Burrell Boom.

 

We quickly found Robina’s place. While to the untrained eye, it may not look like much, after three years in Mexico, we have learned that a run-down lean-to on the side of the road could signal great food. (FYI – this is definitely a “WWMD” classic moment) We were not disappointed in the least. Robina and her granddaughters served us up two healthy helpings of stew chicken, rice and beans for Rob and the kids while I chose Robina’s famous cow’s foot stew over rice with the usual accompaniments, plantain and coleslaw.

 
Miss Robina serving up love in a pot


Stew Chicken


Cows Foot Stew


Good homecooked food.
I really can’t say enough about the people here in Belize. They really go out of their way to make you feel welcome and wanted. We left full and happy.



On our way south we passed this sign. Again, I thought to myself “WWMD?”. So, naturally, we made a quick u-turn to check out what a Prison Gift Shop might have to offer. Birdie and Cole played on the swings while Rob and I chatted up Sean, an inmate serving the last few days of his most recent, unfortunate incarceration.


We bought a carved Egret from Sean. How could ‘ya not.

At this point, our plan was to drive straight through to San Ignacio and settle in for the night. However, when we drove by the sign for the Belize Zoo, we just couldn’t help ourselves. Having received high marks from the helpful folks on the www.ambergriscaye.com message board, we had gone back and forth about whether to include the zoo in our itinerary. I am so glad we ultimately chose to make a go of it. The Belize Zoo is small, clean and easy to navigate. The animals are all well kept and have either been brought to the zoo for some kind of rehabilitation or they were born there. Of course, I took about a gazillion photos. Here are some of my favorites.


Read the sign above my son's head.


This is Scotty the Tapir who came out of hiding to pay us a visit.....and projectile urinate on Cole! Not a smell you want to be stuck in the car with for another hour.

Leaving the Belize Zoo. Final stop of the day - San Ignacio.

Go to Road Trip Belize - Day 5