Part 1…Holy cow!…We had a great day!…Lots of photos!…

Grazing cows on the bumpy road in the cozy town of Hopkins.  Notice how skinny they are as opposed to grain-fed cows.

Tom is an excellent driver, although he tends to be impatient, continually attempting to pass the car or truck in front of us.  Guy thing.  Yesterday, we went on a road trip.

There’s a Laru Beya in Hopkins.  We’re yet to discover if there is a connection to our Laru Beya in Placencia.

With the reputation of the Hummingbird Highway being a “death trap” and after hearing about four tourists dying on the highway a few years ago, I was anxious about traveling on the road. 

Cute flowery house on the main road through the town of Hopkins.

 This style of house is common in Belize when close to the ocean.

The most frightening aspect is the lack of emergency services in this part of Belize. An auto accident victim could easily die, with what wouldn’t have been life-threatening injuries in the US or other countries, during the possible four to six-hour wait to get to evacuated to an emergency hospital. This scares me. Tom, on the other hand, didn’t give it a thought. Another guy thing.

 We stumbled across this restaurant and condo development at the end of the road in Hopkins

Our plan for the day was to travel to Cave’s Branch Jungle Lodge near Belmopan, Belize (the capital city) to visit their gourmet cheese-making factory, perhaps spending an hour. Then we’d travel on to visit a waterfall, ruins, and a few cozy resort towns along the drive taking photos at random.

The laid back beach at the Hopkins Beachside Bistro Restaurant.

Our first stop was in the town of Hopkins about an hour’s drive from Placencia where we had an opportunity to snap a few photos.

The scene was breathtaking.
 We can’t miss a photo op!  We prefer scenery photos but family and friends insist on photos of us.  We comply from time to time.

On February 15th (see the post from February 16th for details of the party) we attended a cheese and wine tasting party at Mathieus Deli across the road from us. During the party, we met Ian Anderson, the owner of Cave’s Branch Jungle Lodge and the cheese-making factory founded by him and his wife, Ella.  Ian invited us to visit the cheese factory and resort in the future. 

The breathtaking canopied drive to the Caves Branch Jungle Lodge Resort
 Entrance to the Cheese Factory at Caves Branch Jungle Lodge.

After tasting and subsequently purchasing a wide array of the extraordinary gourmet cheese weekly at Mathieus Deli, we knew that a visit to the factory, worked by locals, exactly meets our criteria of learning about the work and culture of the local residents of Belize. 

Entrance to the resort.

The waterfall along the walkway toward the main building.

All proceeds from the sale of the cheeses are donated to fund the ‘youth at risk’ programs of the Belize National Youth Chess Foundation.  Ella and Ian Anderson’s commitment to this foundation and their ongoing dedication and hard work add a unique charm to what is according to our taste buds, the most delicious cheese we ever tasted. 

Clara Belle and Clara (yep, two Claras) were busy making cheese.
Purchasing their fresh raw milk products from a local Mennonite farm along with the organic ingredients and the utmost of sanitary hand processing attributes to the fine quality of their cheese.
Ian is an excellent educator taking considerable time with us
to explain the cheese making process.
Mozzarella making in the process!
 The platter of cheeses Ian set up for our tasting.
We could hardly wait to sink our teeth into the delicious cheese but Ian insisted we savor
the texture, aroma, and start with the smallest of bites. 
Although not a wine drinker due to my strict diet, I wanted to toast
Ian for offering us this delightful experience.
Tom and Ian both enjoyed their fine white wine with the exquisite cheese.
Rows and rows of cheese in the cooling room, many still in the aging process.

Roquefort cheese in the aging process.

More cheese in the aging process in the cooling room.  It was refreshing
to cool ourselves in the 52 degree room.

Argus, Ian’s female bull mastiff waited outside for Ian while he was in the cheese factory with us.  The photo is deceiving.  Argus weighs 180 pounds!

After our cheese tasting and cheese making education, Ian arranged a tour of his Cave’s Branch Jungle Lodge with Larry, which gave us an opportunity to yet another of his employees, all locals, all of whom expressed enthusiasm and appreciation for employment at this fine establishment. 

After climbing numerous flights of steps to see a few of the jungle lodges high above the resort, Tom and I both sweating up a storm, panting like dogs, to relax with beverages in the bar, meeting both staff and resort guests. Lively conversation ensued with the delightful staff.

 The inviting pool beckoned us to jump in.  We didn’t.
 The entrance into the main dining area and bar.
 The river running through the 50,000-acre resort.
 The bar in the main dining room. Jason, one of the bartenders is from Placencia, now living near the resort.
The outdoor shower in one of the jungle lodges.  The water runs through a metal bucket with holes in the bottom.  Tom turned it on allowing me to get this photo of the water flowing.
 The screen room in a jungle lodge high above the complex.
Locally crafted wood carvings abound in the resort.
 The screened veranda in a jungle lodge with expansive treetop views.
Another living area in a jungle lodge embraced by the jungle.
Elegant indoor shower.

While at the bar we met a guest from the resort who’d just completed a horseback tour. Toward the end of the event, she ending up removing the horse’s saddle to embark upon a trek across the river that runs through the property while hanging on to the horse’s mane. She was grinning from ear to ear. The resort offers a multitude of unique adventures that meet the abilities of any age guest.

Beautifully appointed fixtures and amenities utilizing natural material.

Stop back tomorrow for Part 2 of our day trip to Cave’s Branch Jungle Lodge including our tour of Caves Branch Botanical Garden and soap making factory.

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