Adventure in Hopkins: So what finally happened?

“This was not quite the adventure I had in mind when I started this whole move-to-Belize-and-explore thing…Staci and I still only had a few dollars to our name…”

Staci and a very cute puppy.

So what did finally happen in Hopkins for Staci and I? We arrived in the small village after hitchhiking in the back of a truck (not by much choice) and barely finding a hotel that fit our dwindling budget which we could not replenish for three more days. I honestly had no idea what was going to happen next. Not sure what we are talking about? Be sure to read parts one and two to see the craziness we went through.

Sunday: We meet the nicest people ever

At this point in time Staci and I are down to $108 and really considering skipping all the Garifuna celebrations so we can cut our losses and head back early. But we decided to stick around and try making it work. We left our beach cabana knowing we needed to seek new accommodations that was either dirt cheap or accepts credit cards. We remember there was one inn in the area that accepted credit cards and was affordable called Palmento Grove Garifuna Lodge. Determined to give this weekend at least one more shot before we threw in the towel, we gathered our things and trekked in search of this lodge.

Palmento Grove Garifuna Lodge Sign

It didn’t take long before we found signs to help guide us in the right direction towards the lodge. At the end of  a long road was a beautiful compound that was quiet and secluded. The owner, Mel, was present and we told her we were the couple who emailed her earlier in the week interested in staying a few days. She said she still had some open lodging and gave us a tour. We liked what we saw. But again, we had no cash so the big question finally came up when I asked, if she accepted credit cards. It was a tense second as I asked but Mel said she did take cards so we were out of the broke 20-Somethings woods for at least another night.

The Palmento Grove ended up being one of the best places Staci and I have ever had the pleasure of staying. The Palmento Grove is a  “Eco Cultural Lodge” that is similar to the type of living quarters a Garifuna person native to Belize would live. Their Facebook page explains the Palmento Grove  as “Private Cabanas build [sic] from a mixture of native and contemporary material [that] offers a unique cultural experience.”  Shortly after arriving I mentioned to the owner’s cousin, Tony, that we were hungry and curious to know where to eat near by for cheap. He would not have such a thing. He immediately went into the kitchen with the owner’s son and started making a great pasta and fish dish. It was great because Staci and I had so little money that we thought we would only be able to eat crackers and peanuts for the holiday weekend.

The food was great, but the atmosphere of the Palmento Grove was perfect. Mel and her cousin, Tony, made Staci and I feel like family members the entire time. They talked with us about growing up in the area and the rich history of the Garifuna people. We spent a lot of time sitting around this big table in front of their office where their internet connection was the strongest talking about anything and everything. Plus they had this super small puppy that was only a month old that Staci wanted to kidnap. I honestly, couldn’t blame her, this puppy was cute and cuddly. It was great to meet such great people and feel so immediately comfortable.

Swim trying to learn how to make Fry Jacks

One of the best parts about staying at the Palmetto Grove was when Mel and Tony willingly taught us how to make Fry Jacks. Fry Jacks are delicious fried pockets of dough most similar to beignet’s you would find in New Orleans, but not as sweet. It was neat learning to make a new cuisine and made for the start of a great laugh-filled night. Not only did we make Fry Jacks, but Tony and Mel made us (and a group of four sisters visiting Belize who were staying for the night) a wonderful fish and beans meals that was to die for. It was obvious these were the nicest people ever!

Monday: Garifuna Settlement Day and the purpose of life

The next morning was the Garifuna Settlement day and we were thrilled to have a stress free time to just enjoy the sights, drumming and celebrations without worrying about money. But the darnedest thing happened. We missed every celebration happening in the village. In the morning we missed the reenactment of the Garifuna people from Africa arriving to the Belize shore. We never saw the massive Garifuna drumming that was taking place because we could not find it. Staci and I were so tired from getting up so early in the morning that we took a mid-afternoon nap. When we woke up we were told the parade had just walked through town, we missed it. We were not catching a break all day. That was until we meet a man named Yunis.

Garifuna Drumming

While walking along the main road we heard some drumming coming from the beach only a few steps a way. We set ourselves underneath a nice, huge covered tent, finding a group of about six people playing drums. We listened for a few minutes. Yunis was one of the loudest playing members of the group yet he never said a single word while everyone around him laughed and shared stories. His silence disappeared after he finished his set. He walked right over to us and just started talking. Yunis was born and raised right in the Hopkins village. He had a family composed of three children, two boys and a girl. It was kind of surprising to me how much he could talk after not seeing his mouth move once during the drum circle.

After a few minutes of talking while standing above us he invited us to sit closer to the beach in order to share some secrets about life. We accepted not knowing where his talks were going to take us. He began, in full detail, to talk about the Garifuna people and the rich history behind it. It was fascinating to learn. He also shared with us his life story, the real reasons behind racism and the real purpose of life. Yunis believed life was meant to be continuously questioned. He believed people were not really living life because they never questioned why they ate certain foods or connected with particular people. Most profound was when he said most people never question themselves as people or what they really want out of the daily activities they do.

Philosopher Yunis showing his new student Staci the purpose of life

Yunis’ words really struck a cord with me because I honestly believe that people are living day-to-day without even thinking about it. For Staci and I we want to let other 20-Somethings know that living a mundane life is not their only option in life. 20-Somethings may feel they have little to no options beyond a terrible job or continuous education (i.e. grad, law school), but like Yunis they can question the direction their life is going and, like Staci and I, trek their own path.

Yunis was a great person to talk with and overall a funny person. I learned a great deal from him in a short period of time. We departed ways with him after about 90 minutes and headed back to our lodge to relax a little. Up to this point, Staci and I have not spent more than a few bucks since arriving on our first day and we are feeling pretty good. Later in the evening we went out to a small restaurant and simply enjoyed time with each other knowing that we were going to be leaving the next morning.

The Garifuna lodge where we stayed.

Tuesday: The final day, dun, dun, doooommm

On our final day we were sad to leave the Palmento Grove, Mel, Tony and, of course, the little puppy. On the flip side, we were excited to head back to the place we had been calling home for the past five weeks. We said our final farewells to the awesome family knowing we would not forget them any time soon. Staci and I grabbed some breakfast and tried to leave early so we could catch the same bus that dropped us off at the start of a dirt road, leaving us to hitch hike 3.5 miles. We now had to hitch hike or catch a cab back up the 3.5 mile road in order to catch an 11:00am bus. The 11 o’ clock deadline came and went with no one willing to give us a lift. A taxi would ride by every 30 minutes or so but it usually had someone inside. We admitted to ourselves we had missed our bus but that we would try and get the 2:30pm bus instead.

Finally, after waiting more than a hour after missing our bus, a taxi was riding by with no one inside. I felt like a thirsty man finding water in the desert. I attempted to flag it down, but my tries went unnoticed. Feeling desperate, I ran to the road, jumping in front of the taxi forcing the driver to stop. I told him we were going to the end of the road and he reluctantly said hop in. Staci and I landed in the back seat with another woman that wanted in on the ride while another person claimed the front passenger seat. While riding in the taxi the two other passengers told us that the next bus we needed would not come for another two hours, but that we could, instead, take the bus to a nearby town arriving in a few minutes and catch the water taxi from there. We appreciated their advice and said we would give it a try.

Because you love the puppy so much

After getting out of the taxi we paid a small fare and, sure enough, ten minutes later the bus going to the nearby town arrived. After the 30 minute ride ended we took a water taxi to Placencia with two people we met from Vancouver, Canada. We were back where we started and all smiles. So after paying cash for a hotel, meeting a great family, learning a semi-philosophers take on the purpose of life, hitch hiking, taking a taxi, two buses, a water taxi and lots of walking we ended our adventure with $11 to our name. We started with $238. I guess when you are having a true adventure you take many risks, but gain many rewards.

Rapid Conclusion

  • Hopkins Belize is nice, but I would not recommend visiting unless you really have a good mode of transportation whether it be a car or constant shuttles.
  • Be sure to bring lots of cash AND a debit card so you can extract money from the newly installed ATM in case you need it.
  • Stay at the Palmento Grove Garifuna Lodge because they are the nicest people in town.

Hopkins, Belize at sunset.

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