Now that the Holidays are over and the year is winding down, I thought I’d better finish up my honeymoon recap before we aren’t even in the same year anymore. After spending 5 nights on Ambergris Caye, we rented a car and headed inland for the last 4 nights of our trip. I had come across the Hidden Valley Inn duringmy online research, and it looked amazing. It is situated in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Preserve, about a 3 hour drive from Belize City. Here is our pimp car:
It’s a Suzuki Jimny, and it was about the puniest little thing I have ever seen. It was a tough little guy though, and it could take a beating. We asked for directions at the rental company, and the lady behind the counter produced a map. She highlighted the roads we were to take, and showed us the road not to take to the inn. She told us she had just heard from some travellers that the one particular “road” was in really bad shape, and we should take an alternate route. There is a reason that the word “road” is in quotation marks, and the term will be used loosely from here on out. So you can get an idea of where we were, here is a map:
You can see Belize City on the coast, and Hidden Valley Inn just to the left of center. The black lines are actual highways, much like here, except that every time you go through a town there are massive speed bumps every hundred yards or so. Apparently they are serious about speed control, but really it’s necessary for safety, as many of the locals get around on foot or by bike. To get an idea of the distance, it took about an hour and a half to get from Belize City to San Ignacio. It took us that same amount of time to get from San Ignacio to the Inn on those little brown “roads” you see on the map.
We knew from the get go that we would have a bumpy ride, as we were advised that a four wheel drive vehicle was a necessity. We soon learned that “bumpy” didn’t quite cover it. The roads were unpaved, narrow, and sometimes steep. Here is a shot of a pretty good section of the road, before we really got up into the forest:
It’s hard to see, but there are giant potholes everywhere, and the only way to drive is just to go wherever it looks best and not worry about whether you are on your own side or not. This shot was taken higher up into the forest on an amazingly smooth section of road that had just been graded:
You may find it odd to see so many pine trees, as most people think of Belize as more of a tropical rain forest type climate. The very unique thing about this area is that it has both. If you notice the redness of the road here, that is because it is limestone clay. The Caribbean pine trees grow really well in it. As you will see later, much of the area is also broad leaf jungle, which grows best in the granite clay that is also present in the area. (End geology lesson).
We got to the inn around 3 in the afternoon, and were greeted by the friendliest staff I have encountered anywhere. We were given fresh limeade and face towels while we sat on the couch in the main lodge area and were told about what to expect during our stay. Turns out that the first few nights, it was just us and one other couple (also on their honeymoon) staying there. They have 12 cottages in all, so this was a nice surprise. We went to our cottage and just relaxed for a while before dinner. Here is our cozy little cottage:
We headed over to the main building before dinner and sat at the bar for a while, chatting with the bartender and the managers. Everyone was so nice, and they gave us ideas and suggestions for our next day’s adventure. By 7pm when dinner started, we were starving because we hadn’t eaten lunch. There were always three choices for dinner, and a different menu each day. The tables were set up all cute with candles and flowers:
My dinner the first night was shrimp with veggies and rice – yum!
After dinner we went back to our cottage and made a fire. It was unseasonably cold during our stay, so the fireplace came in very handy.
We got to bed fairly early to rest up for our big day of hiking. Since this already turned into a rather lengthy post, I am going to separate our time at Hidden Valley into posts for each day. We did a lot while we were there, and I have tons of pictures, so stay tuned!