Sunday, February 5, 2012


January 28-30, 2012

We picked up our car rental in San Ignacio and had an easy drive east to Balmopan. There we turned south on what’s called the Hummingbird Highway, on our way to Dangriga, Hopkins and our destination, Placencia.

The Hummingbird Highway was nice, though not what I would term spectacular. It was verdant and at times jungle-like with not too many potholes.

Our first stop was Dangriga, a town mostly made up of Garifuna folks. Garifunas are descendants of Arawak Indians and West Africans brought over to the Caribbean Islands during the slave trade. We made a couple of passes through the shanty town trying to find something of interest to entice us to stop and eat. But it all looked just a bit too derelict to tempt us in the door for lunch. So much for Garifuna culture. Lunch ended up being a stop at the ubiquitous Chinese grocery store for crackers, cheese, potato chips and beers.

On our way to Placencia, we made a brief diversion to Hopkins to verify that the hotel we reserved was what we expected. Satisfied with our choice, we continued south and arrived in Placencia late in the afternoon. Our room at the Seaspray was spartan and plain, but we figured we weren’t going to be in the room a lot anyway.

Placencia is at the very southern end of a long and narrow peninsula. It’s a low-keyed village with a mix of colorful, clapboard stilt cottages, a narrow street and a walkway that runs between houses, bars, restaurants and shops that sell everything from carved wooden parrots to shell necklaces. 

The narrow walkway through town.

One of a number of shops along the walkway.

Beach front living

Dinner at the Rumfish

We got up early the following morning to go on an all day tour of Monkey River. We met our guide, Lenny, and followed him via the walkway to the town’s dock. After getting situated, Lenny throttled the boat to full speed and soon we were zipping across the water, first in an open bay and later in through narrow inlets lined with mangroves.

After a brief stop at Monkey River village to pick up a local guide, we were on our way up the jungle river. We encountered a variety of wild life, including crocodiles, a boa constrictor, large iguanas, bats, pelicans, ospreys, herons, egrets, ibis, and more. At the furthest point up the river, Lenny drove the boat onto the riverside. We got off and took a hike through the jungle mainly looking for Howler monkeys. The two guides called out and banged on lots of trees to locate the monkeys and eventually were successful in finding a family hanging out in the tree tops, munching on leaves. 

Boarding the boat for Monkey River. 

Three small bats on a tree.

A small, suspicious crocodile.

A Howler monkey swinging around the canopy.

Boarding to go home.

Armed with our cameras, we clicked away, always being sure not to stand directly under the monkeys - they like to make their presence known by pooping on those who stand below them. On our walk, our guide also showed us several plants and trees that are used in medicinal ways by shamans and local healers. There was even a tree that had bark that’s effective in treating impotence in men - he called the Viagra tree!

On the return to Placencia, we tried to find manatees in several spots, but it was to no avail. Our guide told us that the closest kin to a manatee is an elephant. I have no idea, but that’s probably worth checking in to. 

In the evening, we were sitting around the hotel, when we heard the sounds of drums beating. One of the bars near us were hosting Garifuna drummers. It was an amazing display of talent. I’m not one to appreciate long, drawn out drummer solos. But this was different. Four drummers playing different types of drums all beating out a rhythm. It was electrifying to listen to them. 

All in all it had been a pretty good, yet long day. Next on the agenda is further south to Punta Gorda. 

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