Monday, January 31, 2011

Where to Live in Belize? Orange Walk

The Orange Walk District, with an area of 1790 square miles is located beside the New River and between Corozal and Belize City on the Northern Highway and is the second largest district of Belize.  The name Orange Walk comes from the orange groves in the area.  There is a formal plaza and the town hall is called Palacio Municipal. 

The strong Spanish influence here is unmistakable.  Old fashionsed totilla factories, mission churches and Spanish-styled homes are everywhere.  There are approximately 16,000 people living in Orange Walk District.  The main source of income before the 19th century was mahogany logging, which has now been replaced with sugar can fields lining the Northern Highway.

Although the Orange Walk District has no coast because it is locked inland, it has the remains of two forts, Mundy and Cairns that were the scene of battles between earlier Mayan inhabitants of the district and settlers. It offers some of the most natural  areas of Belize, with excellent birding and wildlife viewing.

Sights and Recreation in the Area:
1.  Banquitas House of Culture-exhibit of history, culture and industry of Orange Walk.
2.  New River and New River Lagoon-chance to see Morelet's Crocodiles and iguanas.
3.  Honey Camp Lagoon-white sandy beaches and coconut trees.

Other posts you may be interested in:
Where to Live in Belize?  Placencia
Where to Live in Belize? Belmopan

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Grocery Shopping on an Island in Belize

Super Buy Grocery

During our stay on Ambergris Caye, we decided to visit some of the grocery stores to check out the prices and things that would be available to us there.  The island has many grocery stores to choose from located throughout the island, most of which are very small and cater to the specific area on the island.

We found most of the stores carried similar items that we were familiar with back in the U.S.  There was Oscar Mayer Luncheon Meat, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Nabisco Chocolate Chip cookies, Del Monte canned vegetables, Charmin Tissue, Criso Oil, Jif Peanut Butter, Pedigree dogfood and Patron Tequila.  However, these items can be quite expensive due to having to be shipped into the country. 

We checked out prices and talked to people in the stores...all of the comments that we got were.."You Gotta Shop Around".  The prices vary from store to store, sometimes maybe going to as many as 5 different stores to get everything that you need.  But, hey we figure we are going to be retired, so we will have lots of time to shop and compare prices and I really like going and looking around in grocery stores just to see what they have. 

Rou Rou Supermarket

Check out the price on the Patron Tequila - $184.95BZD/$92.50US

Of course if you eat like the "Belizeans" and buy authentic Belizean groceries, you can really eat pretty cheap.  There were many open markets that we visited and we were able to buy fresh produce, homemade sweets and tamales, all at the same place.  The only thing that I would definitely advise, would be to just buy a small amount and try it first to see if you like the item.  We found that even though it may be called the same, it may not taste the same.  We learned this lesson when we bought several dozen hot tamales.  Bill loves hot tamales, but the Belizean hot tamales we got were very very sweet tasting and they were full of chicken bones, yuck.  So to say the least, we did not eat them.  We gave them to some starving backpackers at our hotel and warned them about the bones. 

The other thing that we found, you really had to check the expiration dates on food items such as milk, cheese and the sandwich meat, many had already expired by about a month. 

Local Grocery Store

There are several bakeries on the island and I found all of them to have wonderful looking breads, cookies, cakes and sweet rolls.  They tasted yummy too.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Belizean Betty Friday - The "B" Turns 2


The "B", also known as Belizean Betty is turning 2 years old this weekend, so we will be gearing up for the big birthday party bash.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Photo of the Week - The Hogfish

The "Hogfish"

Belize has so many beautiful fish, this is the Hogfish.  They are very popular with spear fishers, because they taste really good.  They look too pretty to eat to me, but here is a recipe anyway.

Hog Fish Recipe

2 fillets of Hogfish
1 bottle of Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing
Romain lettuce
Old Bay seasoning
Grated Parmesan cheese

Marinate fillets of hogfish in dressing for one hour. Throw on a hot grill and cook untill done. Sprinkle a little Old Bay seasoning on them for an extra kick. Chop lettuce for salad and cut hogfish into pieces.  Top hogfish on the salad. Pour a little more dressing on top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  ENJOY!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Can you Drive to Belize from the U.S.?

Sure you can, the road from Brownsville, Texas, to the border of Belize is just under 1400 miles.  You can make the drive in about 3 days, maybe more depending on customs.  The roads are paved and the shortest route through Mexico is by way of Tampico, Veracruz, Villahermosa, Escarega, and Chetumal.  Lodging is available along the way, especially in the bigger cities.  If you decide to drive to Belize, you will need a valid drivers license, a valid credit card, Mexican Liability insurance (you can purchase at the border and is cheap), and a passport.  You will need all original documents and one copy.

Would I drive to Belize from the U.S.?  NO.  First of all, I never have liked long road trips and driving 1400 miles any where does not appeal to me.  I am also a big baby and I don't speak Spanish and can only understand some words in Spanish.  So I will be taking a plane and having my things shipped in a container.

An encounter from a recent Expat that drove to Belize in 2010:

On the toll road to VillaHermosa, we came across a large 4x4 piece of lumber, lying in the road. Since it almost spanned the width of the road, we had no choice but to go over it. We figured one of the large trucks had lost it from its load. Almost immediately, the back right tire went flat. So I pulled over and proceeded to get the jack and spare tire out from the truck. As I was changing the tire, suddenly a couple of men came out of the bushes, looking to rob us. It had been a set up and we were the victims. It now fell into place. The 4x4 was not there by accident, but was planted by these robbers to take advantage of the shock of the blow out and the surprise of the ambush. Give us money, they said in broken English. As one of the robbers took a swing at Mischelle, she hit him hard with the police type mag flashlight we were using, when we changing the tire. That sent him back a few feet. That's when I grabbed the flashlight from Mischelle and went after these guys like the gringo from hell. I don't think they were expecting any resistance, as they both ran back into the bush. I went back to the truck and did my best imitation of a NASCAR tire change and we were out of there within 5 minutes. Mischelle all the time, scanning the bushes, fully expecting them to be back. But their element of surprise was gone, we had the dogs and we were gone before they could regroup.

You think you are safer on the auto pista, rather than the local road or highways, but unfortunately, things like this are happening all over Mexico.

Here is another Expat experience of driving to Belize in 2009.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thru Mexico to Belize

The photo on the far right shows the Honda & Land Rover's & roads in Mexico. Wish Belize's were so good!

I have to make a couple of points first.
1. We’re caravanning with a wonderful friend, Roy Pascascio, his son Marlon and nephew, Champ. Roy is driving a Land Rover which he’s taking down for a customer and Champ is driving a little Honda CRV, which Roy bo’t at the request of a lady in Corozal. We’re following the pack in our Toyota Tundra pickup, loaded to the gunnels with good “stuff” which we felt we couldn’t leave behind.

2. I also want to remind myself about how tired we are at this point. We left Oregon three weeks ago, delivered a few items to Roy in LA, to be shipped in the container along with all our other stuff for our new house. We all tho’t that the container would ship within the next week, but not to be. We ended up wandering around Arizona, waiting for the container to be packed so that Roy could leave. We had now been gone from Oregon for nearly three weeks.

The point to this is that we’re starting out really tired and trying not to be discouraged.
At Roy’s request, we sent him the title to our pickup ahead of time. It was hard to trust it to the mail, but in the long run it saved us time. Roy sent it ahead to his broker, so it was cleared by the time we arrived. I think they’re checking for clear titles, etc.

We met Roy Saturday morning in Pharr, TX, at the American ?? Brokers. Roy has used them for years. Actually, we arrived on Friday evening and had them inspect our pickup and go thru and inventory our entire load. I had already done it, but they must check everything themselves, and the biggy is that it must be in Spanish and of course, I don’t speak or write it. Our load is a real mess of foodstuff, kitchen items, clothing, dog paraphernalia, a couple of wooden chairs, tools, oil for the car and ? So glad that we got that done before Roy got there, as it took quite a while to accomplish and then repack. Something else I forgot to mention is that the whole west is suffering from a record breaking heat wave. It was 111 in Laredo on Friday and nearly that hot in Pharr.

On Friday morning we met Roy and the boys and completed the pedimento listing all our good stuff, the paperwork, for all three vehicles and headed for the border. We had to wait a short while there for the title for the Land Rover that Roy was transporting to catch up with us. We then headed for the crossing at McAllen, Tx. There you wait and head for the terminal in a group. Here you have to wait in line to apply for your Mexican VISA, fill out the papers and wait in line again for it to be issued, buy your Mexican insurance and here we also changed US dollars into Pesos. We changed $500US into 6500 pesos. I will say right now that that was a lucky guess. We probably paid about $5oo pesos in tolls and the rest in motels and food. It took us the better part of three days to cross Mexico.

Warning – At one of the most expensive toll booths, the toll was 140pesos. We gave him a 500. They will return your change with the receipt wrapped around the bills. We drove on as there was a string of cars behind and we didn’t want to lose our caravan. WRONG! Always count your change before leaving. We were only given 260 change. He shorted us 100. He was chatty, but of course in Spanish, smiling all the time, actually laughing at us.

Warning #2 – At the fuel pumps, be sure that they roll the starting $$s to zero. That’s the good thing about a locking cap. You can get out and ask them to roll it back before you open the cap. Otherwise they might jamb the nozzle in and start pumping and you’re total will be yours plus what was already on the meter. Of course it’s not everyone, but I did have to tell one fellow to start with zero and he just grinned like “it was worth a try”.

If you feel like you must drive to Belize, you can always hire a Spanish speaking guide, someone that knows the route and how to deal with getting through customs. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Lesson in Heat: Touring Marie Sharp's Factory in Belize

We love hot sauce

We love hot sauces and we really like Marie Sharp's hot sauce.  Looking forward to checking out the Marie Sharp's factory in Belize.

A Lesson in Heat: Touring Marie Sharp's Factory in Belize

by kelly on
marie sharp's hot sauce belize
Hi, my name is Kelly, and I'm addicted to hot sauce.
When I left for Belize in early December, I didn't anticipate bringing home anything with me other than a suntan. Instead, by the end of the week, I found myself with a huge crush on the habanero, particularly in the form of hot sauce made by Marie Sharp. Good thing a visit to the factory was on my itinerary.
As our van bumped steadily through the fields, we saw small habanero plants as far as the eye could see. I peered out the window to see if I could spot an orange or purple pepper on the vine, just like the ones I had seen in piles the day before at the farmer's market. But, we passed by too quickly and before I knew it we had pulled up to the front of the Marie Sharp's Hot Sauce factory. I soon learned, that my eyes had not deceived me and that Hurricane Richard has taken care of the harvesting the month before. Not to fear, I was assured, there was still plenty of hot sauce to be had and the warm Belizean climate would soon remedy the pepper shortage. I wasn't sure what to expect when we walked through the door's of the factory and an unassuming woman greeted us with a handshake and said "Hi, welcome, I'm Marie Sharp, it's so nice to meet you!"

marie sharp hot sauce belize dangriga
"Marie Sharp?" I wondered to myself. "There's really a Marie Sharp? It's not some fictional character made up by a corporation to sell hot sauce?" Marie Sharp's hot sauce had been on every table I'd encountered since arriving in Belize four days prior. I'd sprinkled it over my eggs, into a hot bowl of shrimp soup and timidly to the side of our chicken when I first encountered the "fiery hot" variety. With a presence like that, I expected big business. I never expected to meet the woman responsible for concocting the hot sauce recipes that have become Belize's national condiment.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Where to live in Belize? San Ignacio

San Ignacio and it's sister town of Santa Elena make up Belize's second largest urban area.  San Ignacio and Santa Elena are separated by the Macal River and Belize's only suspension bridge, the one lane Hawksworth Bridge which was built in 1949.

San Ignacio is very close to the Mountain Pine Ridge region where you can see some of the most beautiful waterfalls that Belize has to offer.  It also is a popular tourist destination in Belize with backpackers visiting and the Cayo District offers a wide variety of outdoor activities for those seeking some adventure.

San Ignacio is known by locals as the "Cayo" district and is located long the Western Highway and is approximately 70 miles or about a 90 minute drive from Belize City and only 9 miles east from the Guatemalan border.

Burns Avenue is the "Main Drag" in town and has many shops, hotels and places to eat. 
San Ignacio was originally names "El Cayo"  before being changed in the 1960's. El Cayo survived two major fires. The first fire was in 1966 and the second fire was 1972. The entire Burns Avenue was destroyed.

Getting to San Ignacio from Belize City:

Plane - All of the major tour operators offer airport shuttles, but they generally do not run with fewer than 4 passengers.

Bus - Bus services run approximately every half hour between 5:00 to 8:00pm.  The bus trip generally takes about 2 1/2.

Car - You can rent a car and take the Western Highway from Belize City.  You will go through the town of Santa Elena first and across the Macal River is where San Ignacio is located. 

Things to do and see in the Cayo Area:

1.  Xunantunich Archaeological Site-Ancient Maya City
2.  Chechem Ha Cave and Vaca Plateau-
3.  Caracol Archaeological Site
4.  Medicinal Jungle Trail and Iguana Exhibit
5.  Actun Tunichi Muknal
6.  Thousand Foot Falls-Central America's Highest Waterfall
7.  Belize Botanic Gardens-Lots of Hiking Trails-Learn about the Medicinal and Ritual Plants of the Maya
8.  Cahal Pech Archaeological Site-Discovered in the early 1950's

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Best Places to Retire Abroad, Belize - AARP The Magazine

Best Places to Retire Abroad


A Central American paradise that offers beaches, beauty and a fast track to residency status.

Let’s fast-forward to Belize’s unique appeal to U.S. retirees: It's the only south-of-the-border country whose official language is English. Until 1973 it was called British Honduras, and was a crown colony of the U.K.; it was granted full independence in 1981 (although Queen Elizabeth II is still head of state). Another goodie: It’s catching up to Panama and Costa Rica's retiree perks. Its Qualified Retired Persons program, known as the QRP, offers benefits and a fast track to residency status.

Squeezed between Mexico’s Yucatan coast and Guatemala to the south, sparsely populated Belize is a Central American paradise, with tropical jungle flora, endless white beaches, an aquamarine Caribbean sea, some of the world’s best reefs for snorkelers, fishing to die for, Mayan ruins, and even casinos. Most expats settle either on the largest island, Ambergris Caye, or in Corazol Town on the mainland’s northern tip. Ambergris Caye has the fancy restaurants and condos, including million-dollar properties. It can be as expensive as South Florida (Leonardo Di Caprio bought an island west of Ambergris Caye). The Corozal district, a few miles’ drive from the Mexican border, is far more affordable. Corozal expats live a laid-back life, with year-round outdoor play (boating, hiking, swimming, diving), but are still only 20 minutes from the malls and cineplexes of Chetumal, the capital of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.

After many visits to Belize, Atlantans Walter and Terri Fisher, 55 and 49, built a "concrete ranch house" with a water view for $125,000, including the lot. "The house was finished in 2007," Walter reports. "Last year we sold our house in the States, got off the corporate treadmill, and moved here. I drove down in my truck on my own, and Terri—and five cats—flew down. We're completely happy, though it’s tough being this far from family."

A former educator, Audrey Shabbas, 68, moved to Corozal from Berkeley, California, with two of her four children three years ago. "We looked at Nicaragua, but Belize had what we wanted—water all around," she says. "We bought a home with one-third of what we got for our Berkeley house—and it’s three times as wonderful. I'm very blessed to be here."

Best Places to Retire Abroad, Belize - AARP The Magazine

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Bike to Brazil" Cyclist in Belize | Ambergris Today

Biking Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons

Paul Joseph Park, a cyclist is biking from the United States of America all the way down to Brazil in South America, and he is currently going through Belize. 

He’s a resident of Mt. Rainier, MD, on the Northeastern border of Washington, DC, and he fell in love with Brazil on his very first trip there in 1999. After his next few visits he knew that he wanted to live in Brazil some day. Paul Joseph Park even got a job at a Brazilian restaurant, practiced Portuguese and is now on a Bike Trip that left from the US destined to Brazil. Yes he is biking from the United States of America all the way down to Brazil in South America.

And Paul is blogging his adventures all along his way. His most recent blog already has him here in Belize.

I love riding my road bike and I have had some long road trips, but I cannot imagine biking from the US to South America.  My first long bike ride was September 2009, I road 62 miles in Cyclist Curing Cancer Century Ride.  I rode in memory of my mother Betty Gannon who passed away from Cancer in 1995.  September 2009 I biked 150 miles in two days from Clinton, MS. to Vicksburg, MS. in the MS150.  It was very hilly and there is one hill on the way back that I hope I never have to see again.  Then in October, 2009 I  biked 84 miles in one day on the Long Leaf Trail in Hattiesburg, MS.

MS150 Miles-Clinton to Vicksburg, Mississippi

84 Miles on the Longleaf Trail-Hattiesburg, Mississippi

62 Miles-Cancer Century Ride

In June 2010, I went with 3 of my favorite biker babes and we biked for a week through 4 states, Idaho, Arizona, Montana and and Wyoming.  Cycling through Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons was definitely a dream vacation.

To read more about Paul's biking adventure:

"Bike to Brazil" Cyclist in Belize Ambergris Today

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Belizean Betty" Friday

"Belizean Betty", Artist

Betty is an artist in the making and she loves to paint.  Here Betty is trying out her new finger paints she got from her Poppie and Grammie for Christmas.

"Belize Hands" Street Art

You may see hands painted on walls or the back of car windows throughout Belize - This refers to "NO More Hate" or "Hate go Away" in Belize.  We took the picture above on a concrete wall in San Pedro, Belize. 

"Belizean Betty's" Hand Art