Monday, April 29, 2013

Lebeha Drumming Center

Tuesday night found us on the north end of Hopkins at the Driftwood Beach Bar & Pizza Shack, I had read on other's blogs about this being the "best" pizza in Belize...a challenge we were up for.

Entrance To Driftwood
Beach Side of Driftwood
We arrived about 6:30p.m. just as the crowd was beginning to assemble. Tuesday nights are reserved for Lebeha Drumming Center's performance, that starts around 7:30p.m. We ordered 2 pizzas--one each, as they are 4 slices/pizza and cost $26bze ($13USD) each. I have to admit the pizza dough was out of this world! It was laden with Italian herbs and combined with the sauce---delish!!
Happy Kitchen Crew

As we were eating, the drumming school began to set up. This night would have fewer performers as the school had sent most of the group to Canada to receive their Grammy Award! One primero and one segunda drum were accompanied by a dual tortoise shell necklace drum, a set of maracas, a stand up electric bass and keyboard. Let the drumming begin!

The Band

Tortoise Shell Necklace Drum
The performers are paid by tips only, so we purchased one of their CD's.
I opened my big mouth and asked one of the performer's if he'd teach us to drum..."Yes, come to the school tomorrow morning at 10, I'll teach you." Oh, no....

Lebeha Drumming Center Entrance
We reported to Lebeha Drumming Center,, as requested. For one hour we tortured Shaquille with our rhythm parroting, but actually learned how to Garifuna drum on segundas! We also met Jabbar Lambey, the drum master/owner who is handing down and teaching his skills to the next generation.

Larry, Jabbar, Shaquille, Babs
We were shown how they carve the trunk of a mahogany tree out and spread a deer skin over one end for the drumhead, they then "drum off" the fur. The drum is tuned by tightening the cordage from around the drumhead through holes at the base of the drum's body, some of the drums also have either a fishing line or thin wire strung across the drumhead that creates a buzzing sound (like a snare drum).

Deer Skin Soaking Prior To Becoming A Drumhead

Furry Segunda Drumhead, Drum Being Made

Jabbar told us that when he was a child, he was only permitted to watch the elders drum and could not participate with them-so he would watch from afar and practice in hiding. Lebeha means "the end" in Garifuna, it was to be the end of their culture, but Jabbar and his school keep the positive vibrations going.

School interior
More School Interior

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Serendipity Happens---At Brother's Pizza in Hopkins

Life can be full of wonderful surprises! This is one of ours...

Larry and I had just returned to Hopkins from volunteering at the Belmopan Humane Society's Open House; and knowing we did not have food in the cabana refrigerator, we decided to stop at Brother's Pizza & Italian Restaurant for supper. This restaurant is quickly becoming our favorite-the daily specials are a delectable assault on the taste buds!

Brother's Pizza & Italian Restaurant


As I exited the Jeep, I noticed a man in a red tee shirt reading the sandwich board specials outside the restaurant.
"Excuse me, but do you write a blog?" queried the man.
"Yes," I replied tentatively.
"Are you Babs?" he asked.
"Yes,"--curious-er and curious-er I became.
"We've been reading your blog for a long time," came his response.

We then met Matt, Amy, Liam and Lochlan, from Seattle, WA; they had noticed our white Jeep with the Tennessee license plates (and good driving skills, I might add); acting on their intuition, they stopped and the rest is history! The family has been in the country for almost 2 weeks and have covered a lot of territory, the vacation/research trip has included: Caye Caulker, San Ignacio-with a side trip to Tikal (a major Mayan site in Guatemala), bird watching excursions, beach days and Hopkins.

Liam was excited about the toucans they saw in Tikal and the whole family was looking forward to snorkeling on the reef before they return home in a couple of days. They have had what sounds like a really good experience in Belize and it was a pleasure running in to them in little Hopkins!

Serendipitous as it was--just think, if either of us had been a few moments later, or earlier-this encounter may not have happened!

Liam, Amy, Matt and Lochlan

Liam, Amy, Larry, Matt, Babs and Lochlan
Matt, Amy, Liam and Lochlan:
Thank you for taking the time to say hello, we enjoyed meeting you--what an unexpected delight! 
Your pizza and calzone sure looked good--we'll have to try them soon!

P.S. Thanks for the impromptu glass bottle concert!! :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Barbara, The Hemp Lady

The sand fleas in Hopkins are notorious for feasting on fair- complected tourist flesh. I had read other's blogs touting the hemp based all-natural bug repellent and moisturizer-so, in order to properly research and report, I needed to visit and try the products.

"Sew Much Hemp" the handmade roadside sign reads pointing down the dirt driveway to a retired quasi-Partridge Family school bus.

Sew Much Hemp Road Sign

Barbara And The Hemp Bus
We parked alongside the bus and climbed aboard only to be met by a well versed, ex-Oregonian adorned in dreadlocks. Barbara has been in Belize for over 15 years, she and her husband came down with the primary goal of educating the public about hemp. From food, fuel, oil, building material, clothing, health and beauty products, "Every part of 'her' (the hemp plant) is utilized " claims the proprietor, "and is better than other sources for those products." The front of the bus is dedicated to hemp education and the Crazy Diamond Hemp product line. Barbara makes the products herself, in the kitchen area of the bus; and the back of the bus is reserved as living quarters.

Barbara, The Hemp Lady

The Crazy Diamond Hemp products are:
  • The bug repellent is composed of: 25% hemp oil, aloe, avocado, wheatgerm, grapeseed, rosemary,  6 bug repelling essential oils, shea butter, and beeswax. OK, I'm sold...after slathering this stuff on my legs and arms for the past 2 weeks, I have had absolutely 0 (zero) sand flea bites.
  • The moisturizer is composed of: 25% hemp oil, aloe, avocado, wheatgerm, grapeseed, rosemary, frankincense, sage, shea butter, and beeswax. This moisturizer has a clean, spa-like fragrance, is easy to apply, absorbs well and is claimed to have both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
  • The clothes are made of 60% hemp and 40% silk.
Education and Product Display Area

Barbara and Her Products

Hemp Clothing Line

The products can be shipped worldwide!

You may contact Barbara via email:

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Letter From The Hopkins Sand Flea Colony

Dear Fresh, Pale Tourist:

Hello from Hopkins, Belize! We welcome you to our little paradise with open "arms." 

Please, before you run from the airport to the Caribbean Sea to marinate, take your time, walk around the village and let us hop on for a little welcoming nibble! You are our favorite dish! Because your pasty white skin is thinnest, it is much easier to snack on your lower legs, ankles and feet than someone who visits us with a darker complexion or has prior tanning and salt water exposure-their skin has a thicker epidermis which makes it more difficult for us to bite. As a group, we have an insatiable appetite.

We are tiny, pale white or even brownish colored, wingless arachnids, able to leap 20-40 centimeters (that's 8-16 inches) up those tall legs of yours. So for those of you who like to lay out on a towel or chaise lounge on the beach, all we can say is---BUFFET!! We are parasitic blood suckers and enjoy munching on humans and animals alike. We can also be found hanging out on washed up seaweed along our beautiful beaches. We love to be out and about at dawn and dusk, the calmer the breeze-the better our aim! Besides jumping, we can be found hitchhiking on blowing dust particles, saves us from expending too much energy getting around. So, wherever there's dust--we can be there too!

We dine on you two different ways:
1) Mosquito-like, we bite you, suck your blood and just move on to the next snack.
2) If a female is breeding, she'll bite, burrow under your skin and just hang out for up to 3 weeks and then lay eggs (Tungiasis). She'll make the area swollen, it'll  mound up and you'll see a black spot in the center.
Either way--we got ya!! Pain, swelling, itching, perhaps severe discomfort, fever, allergic reactions and even secondary infections are our handiwork.

We hate it when you're prepared!
DO NOT bring or plan to use:
Deep Woods Off repellant, Calamine lotion, 1% Hydrocortisone cream, aloe vera lotions or petroleum jelly. We hate to be repelled, have our bites treated or suffocate.


Shake out your bed cover every night and leave it in another room! We worked hard to get there and hate to start all over again.
Seek out local bug repellants! Baby oil, coconut oil, those all-natural citronella lotions--they all stink and we don't appreciate the aroma.
Wear full shoes, long pant and sleeves! You'll block our access!

Looking forward to biting you soon!

Oh, and welcome to Hopkins, Belize!

With lots of love,

Sarcopsylla penetrans and Pulex penetrans 

AKA: jigger flea, pico, chigoe flea, nigua, sand flea, chigger flea, bicho de pie, sikka, kuti and piqui.

For more information:

Friday, April 12, 2013

1st Impressions of Hopkins

The main road is asphalt, not a full 2 lanes, not the entire length. The road turns to a light orange dirt road at either end as well as all the side roads. Dust gets kicked up easily, especially from those driving fast. We observed an elderly woman walking along the road and breathing through a towel.
Main Asphalt Road

Main Asphalt Road

Road Turns From Asphalt To Orange Dirt

The building colors are varied and tropical. You will find concrete buildings and homes as well as wooden structures in various degrees of weathering all along the 3 main roads and the many side roads.



Orange, Yellow and Greens

The village is tourist oriented. The businesses reflect the industry: guest houses, hotels, hostels, restaurants, shell carvers, arts and crafts, wooden sculptures, jewelry, and clothing—all types of items to take your tourist “dollah”—both US and Belizean dollars are accepted, “no problem.” There is one ATM in town, it works most days.

Funky DoDo Hostel

Hair and Nails Anyone?

Iris' Restaurant

We’re not seeing many assertive/aggressive panhandlers. There are the children who sell their mother’s baked goods in the evenings door-to-door, meat pies and doughnuts are popular. Veggie/fruit vendors pass by on their bicycles and pick-up trucks too.

Busy streets, many bicycles, a few golf carts, taxis, cars and trucks travel alongside the pedestrians. At about 4pm add the school busses. The tourist season is coming to a close, so a lot of this traffic may subside soon.



Loving the constant breeze from the Caribbean Sea and the warm medium beige sand, the water temperature is perfect—no having to “get used to it” before you go in, the water clarity is exceptional and the various shades of turquoise—just beautiful! Egrets and pelicans scan the shoreline. Sea grass is consumed by the manatee—cannot wait to see them up close and personal.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Greetings From Hopkins, Belize!

Our trip from Corozal to Hopkins was an all day affair. We easily stretched a 4 hour trip out to 7 hours by stopping at the airport to meet the owner of the house we watched, having lunch and filling up with gas. We had been warned to stay away from the Coastal Highway due to the road conditions (rutty and dirt, not paved at all) so we stayed on paved roads as far as we could.

This excursion took us from Corozal south on Northern Highway, and west onto Western Highway. We lunched at Black Orchid Resort near Burrell Boom and continued on to Belmopan where we picked up the Hummingbird Highway. This is a pretty route, through the mountains—some are as high as 3000 feet! Orange groves galore populate this area along with 2 large citrus production plants. Passing Cave’s Branch brought back memories of our 2nd trip to Belize—we went cave tubing with their group and had lunch in the cave, it was a fun day trip! Sorry, I digress; we made a right onto Southern Highway and soon came up on the overhead sign pointing left to Hopkins.

From Southern Highway to Hopkins

Hopkins Ahead!

The road immediately turns to ruts and dirt with hitchhikers at the intersection. We had a full Jeep so could not help them out. About 3 miles down the road a few colorful houses begin to fill the horizon, next thing you know…Hopkins! Fortunately, near the main intersections there is a road map sign marked with accommodations, restaurants, sightseeing/excursion companies and transportation rentals. We found All Season’s Guest House toward the southern end of the village. Our cabana sits about 2 miles farther south in an area near the Sittee River Marina.
Main Intersection 

Welcome Sign/Bus Stop at Intersection

Town Map

Signage at Intersection

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs...
All Season's Guest House  
The cabana is a 20x40 Mennonite structure, sitting about 8 feet off the ground. It is a 1BR/1BA, “full” kitchen-sink, counter, fridge and 4-burner butane stove with oven (all appliances are about ½ the size of those in the US), a futon and dining table/4 chairs. Yes, there is electricity! Hot and cold water (when the instantaneous water heater works). No tv, internet, phone or a/c. One neighbor to the north of us-just returned to Canada and one house under construction to our south, no one to our west and the Caribbean is to our east…nice little beach area with palm trees.
White House is North, We're Orange/Electric Blue, Green House is South

View From The Street/Driveway

View From The Beachside



View To Beach From Doorway

"Our" Beach

The journey continues…