Sunday, December 4, 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Living in an archeological site

As kids in NJ, we always kept our eyes open for Lenape artifacts such as arrowheads, and because we rarely found them, it was always very exciting to find something. Here, our house is in the shadow of a Maya ruin - which we actually use as a water tower! - and we often find artifacts such as these just turned up in the dirt.  Despite the fact that all of Belize is covered with artifacts and ruins, we still get super excited when we find something. 
#mayaarcheology #belizeadventure









Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How our guests find us...or we find them

Since we added the new Cohune Camping Casitas, we have been doing a lot of research about how our guests find us.  A few years ago, the answer was almost always "TripAdvisor," but TripAdvisor seems to have misplaced us and thinks we are in southern Belize, so we aren't getting many visitors who find us that way.  We have put listings on booking.com, airbnb.com, glampinghub.com, and are working to keep our Google pages up to date.  Recent guests have found us through a number of non-traditional ways such as ebird.org when they are looking for a particular bird which happens to have sightings near us, random YouTube videos that mention us, referrals from other local businesses, or luckily having us triangulate into the center of various sites a guest wants to see.

This past weekend, we did it differently; we found the guests!

We had blocked out Thanksgiving Day and the day after so we could do a rare overnight and spend some time with friends in the Mountain Pine Ridge.  We had a great holiday despite the torrential rain, and decided on Friday afternoon that we should try to get home so we didn't have to drive on the slippery, muddy, rain-drenched roads in the dark.  As we were coming through the gate to the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, a couple of very wet, obviously in distress tourists flagged us down.  We stopped to see if we could help, and they explained that they were stuck in the mud on the fire road, about ten minutes' walk from the gate.

We always carry our tow rope, and we have decent tires and four wheel drive, and we had a pretty good idea of where they were stuck, so Dan and Catherine hopped in the pan of the truck and we headed down the fire road.  The friends we had been visiting had said that they had taken the fire road fairly recently, and that it had been cleared and improved since Hurricane Earl, and that it was very passable...but they had done it in the dry weather.  On the flat, the road wasn't too bad, but as we came around a turn and could see where they were stuck, we realized that they were on a slight incline, and that the road had been recently "improved." This improvement resulted in lots of loose dirt forming small banks on either side of the road, which had turned into deep mud pits which sucked their vehicle off the road and into what became a fairly deep ditch.  Jeff and Janese, the other couple in the car, jumped out as they saw us approach and warned us not to get too close.



We found out that they had already been stuck once, but by the time they realized how bad the road was they were down a hill that would have been impossible to climb in their vehicle in those road conditions.  They had taken the fire road rather than the Chiquibul Road because their GPS made both roads look like the same type of road, and the fire road route is shorter.  Lesson learned in how much you should trust a GPS!

We stayed as far from them as the length of our towrope allowed, and hooked up.  Our truck was on a flat enough spot that we could get some traction and managed to move them forward, but they were too far down the muddy bank for our truck to pull them back up to the firm part of the road.  Tom decided to unhook and head home to get another tow chain so we could be on a firmer and flatter part of the road to pull.  It was a good theory, but as he started to back up to a place where we could turn around, the mud created by our spinning tires pulled our truck into the mud bank.  Not wanting to end up as deeply in the ditch as the first car, we decided to walk out and get back to Moonracer to get the tools needed for the extraction of both vehicles.

We were lucky, and got a ride from the gate, despite being wet and muddy.  We loaded picks and shovels, a come-along, and more chain into the Honda, and headed back up the road.  We parked the Honda at the gate - we didn't need three stuck vehicles! - and carried our tools in to the mudpit with the intention of winching our truck out and back to the flat and then trying to pull their car out of the mud.

It was a good plan, except the cable in the come-along, which we hadn't used in a while, had somehow become jammed and wouldn't pull off the spool.  We did a quick bit of brainstorming to figure out how to get out, but it was raining harder and harder, and rapidly changing from gloomy dusk to full-on dark of night.  Tom asked if they had anywhere they had to be that night or the next morning, and if they had whatever they needed to spend the night, and offered to cram everybody in the Honda and overnight at Moonracer, and worry about getting the trucks out of the mud in the morning.  The offer was eagerly accepted, and the six of us waded through the mud, getting deeper by the minute, and back to the Honda.

Each couple took a casita, and really appreciated the hot shower.  We were glad we had made a decision to add the water heater to the shared shower!  I threw together a quick dinner, which wasn't the normal Moonracer Farm fine dining experience we try to deliver, but a hot meal was much appreciated, and was far superior to spending the night in a stuck-in-the-mud XTerra eating granola bars for dinner.  We called the hotel where they had planned to stay and said not to expect them.  Best of all, we all made new friends and sat around the table talking until after 10PM, with them fascinated by our life in Belize, and us equally fascinated by their life on a ranch in Utah.

Saturday morning, the rain had stopped, and Tom got on the phone and tracked down a tractor.  One of our neighbors, Edgar, was more than up for an adventure, and met Tom and Jeff at the end of our driveway shortly after 8AM.  Tom and Jeff jumped on the tractor and headed up the road, while the rest of us stayed at Moonracer and ate breakfast.  Tom said getting our truck out was relatively simple, but even the tractor had a little trouble with the XTerra, which validated our decision to admit defeat and retire to Moonracer the night before.  Even with the difficulty, Tom and Jeff were back within an hour, so they were also able to enjoy a hot breakfast.  Tom, Jeff, and Dan hosed the bulk of the mud off the XTerra, we exchanged contact information so we can keep in touch, the the four of them loaded up and headed out to continue their Belize adventure.


Friday, November 25, 2016

The other kind of toucan

We have had a lot of toucans around the property lately, including these aricaris, which are smaller than the keel-billed toucans...although they make more noise!

#belizewildlife


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Our national bird...in trouble!

Made an unplanned trip to the Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic this afternoon to deliver this unfortunate toucan found on the ground under our banana trees.  It was alert - and biting! - but its legs didn't work and it couldn't fly. We threw a towel over it, wrapped it and put it in a box for the trip. The toucan was asleep when we got there, but woke up and started snapping again when the vets tried to take a look.  They didn't find any immediate problems, but we left it there, in good hands, getting ready for X-rays and a full exam. Hoping for the best, and updates to follow. 

#belizewildlife #nationalbirdofbelize #remotejunglelodge


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Just a mile down the road...Green Hills Butterfly Ranch

The Green Hills Butterfly Ranch is just a mile down the road from us, so it's easy to get there early enough to watch the butterflies emerge and dry their wings, as well get the whole butterfly tour and see the hummingbirds. It's a good start to a day of adventure!

www.green-hills.net

#belizenature #belizeadventuretravel #remotejunglelodge






Sunday, November 13, 2016

Subtle Beauties

We are surrounded by so much stunning beauty every day, we sometimes forget to look at the less blatantly beautiful things. 

#belizenature











Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Glampinghub.com...a new to us booking platform

In addition to adding budget cabins and making improvements to the property, we are making some changes to how we advertise and where we are accessible on the Internet. We have been listed on Airbnb for over a year, but we have just recently added glampinghub.com to our online booking platforms.  We have not received any bookings through them yet, but they were extremely responsive and helpful in getting attractive listings on line.  Take a look at our listings, and see what else they have to offer.  They showcase properties that I think would appeal to a lot of our friends and guests (which are not mutually exclusive categories!).

https://glampinghub.com/belize/cayodistrict/sanignacio/cabin-rental-jungle-views-belize/

https://glampinghub.com/belize/cayodistrict/sanignacio/cabin-rental-san-antonio-belize/

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Ka'ax Tun, a real jungle experience

Ka'ax Tun is a small, privately owned park behind the Village of 7 Miles, less than 5 miles from Moonracer Farm.  It is not on the tourist track for Cayo tours, but is an exclusive tour for Moonracer Farm guests and a few other select visitors.  

It is an area of broadleaf jungle with karst limestone formations, where a half day hike will give you an introductory course on geology, natural history of the area, and Maya archeology.  You can explore jungle trails, small caves complete with Maya artifacts, and even do some rock climbing.  It's a great tour for groups because the more adventurous can climb on the rocks and crawl through small caves, while the less adventurous can still see everything there is to see.

When our guests take the tour, we usually also add on lunch with Julio's family.  Janeth is an excellent Belizean cook, so guests can see how Belizeans live in our local village, eat their delicious food, and visit with the family.

Ka'ax Tun was another area that took a pretty hard hit from Hurricane Earl in the beginning of August.  Tom and Julio just now finished cleaning it up so our guests will be able to enjoy it this busy season.

#KaaxTun #belizeadventuretours #remotejunglelodge #belizetravel



The center of Ka'ax Tun is something like a cave without a roof.

The truly adventurous can climb the vines to get to the top.
Even if you don't climb, you can enjoy the filtered light of the jungle overhead.

Many artifacts can be found in the caves.

Most pots remain as the Maya left them.
Many of the caves and passages to the caves are easily accessible.

While much wildlife is sighted in the jungle, you have to go in the caves to see the bats.


After Hurricane Earl, this is what Tom and Julio were faced with clearing.

It looks daunting...

...but branch by branch...

...the trail becomes passable.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Breakfast Guest

This red-lored parrot joined us for breakfast in the orange tree just outside our dining palapa. 

#belizewildlife #remotejunglelodge


Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Provenance of Food

Since the provenance of our food is a big deal to me here, this is what went into a Caprese salad: 

Fresh cheese from 7 Miles, delivered wrapped in a banana leaf, made by our neighbor's mother with milk from the cows which Tom helped the Mennonite's horses tow up the hill when they were being returned from having run away.

Fresh basil from our neighbor's garden.

And, local tomatoes purchased from Gloria with the new shelves.

Delicious!

#belizefood




Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sincuya

In our ongoing Hurricane Earl cleanup, we are finding a few things, and one of them is a fruit tree that not only we didn't know we had, but we also didn't even know that this type of fruit existed.  This is a sincuya...I think, at least according to Google. I'm not sure if it has an English name.  It's sort of like a sour sop, but the flesh is orange, and it tastes and smells very sweet and pleasant.

When Moonracer Farm was first titled, it was an orchard.  Through the jungle, we find rows of fruit trees of all sorts: citrus, mango, avocado, sour sop, custard apple, sapodilla, and, obviously, things we've never heard of like sincuya.  I don't know if this tree never fruited before, or if we just never looked at the right time of the year until now, when we were cleaning hurricane deadfall from around the tree and Julio made us aware that the fruit on the ground was tasty. 

#belizefood #tropicalfruit






Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hand cranked car ferry

Yesterday we went shopping in Spanish Lookout, which meant a ride across the Belize River on the Baking Pot hand cranked ferry. It goes back and forth all day, three cars at a time. We also bought some of the avocados on the cranking platform!
#lifeinbelize #travelbelize




Sunday, October 23, 2016

Chicken update

I know I said a month or so ago that we were getting great enjoyment out of watching all the pretty chickens and roosters, but as the roosters have matured, the balance between the value of having pretty roosters around and getting a good night's sleep has tipped, and the good night's sleep is winning.

We started with 11 roosters, and we are down to eight.  Two went into the village to become "seed roosters," as the locals call them, because they are big and beautiful and very interested in the hens.  The third went into a frying pan and then our stomachs, and was delicious.


One of the things that makes it possible for me to eat the roosters, besides removing annoyances that crow around the clock, is the fact that "local chicken" tastes better than chicken purchased at the store, or even than the broilers we have raised specifically for meat.  The meat is slightly chewier, but that is actually a good thing since the texture matches the stronger flavor.  This means cooking them differently, and simply throwing one in the oven to roast doesn't really work, but with so many other ways to cook a chicken, I don't think we will have any problem eating our way through the remainder of the roosters, most of which are now destined for the pot.

Now, instead of wondering if I can eat them, I am developing my requirements for deciding the order of go into the pot.  The really loud roosters are going to go first.  They will be quickly followed by the roosters who are really hard on the hens, and fortunately some of the worst crowing offenders are also the worst hen offenders, which makes the decision easy.  One rooster, who is big, relatively quiet, and relatively easy on the hens will probably remain to be my seed rooster.  We have two other small roosters who might make the cut because they are quiet, pretty, and, in the case of one of them, actually comes to the defense of the hens, even though I know that might change as the pecking order changes.  The order will be somewhat determined by how many people I am feeding, and the size of the roosters.  However it works out, I am not planning on buying chicken from a store in the near future!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Different perspectives...

The vet came this morning to do annual shots for all - 4 horses, 2 dogs, 1 cat.  $202.50US.  Usually I crow over how cheap this is compared to the US, but this morning the vet told us that there is a rabies epidemic killing horses and cows because most Belizeans can't afford to immunize their livestock.  So now I am sad and don't want to crow.

This worries me on a few of different levels.  First, it is sad for the livestock that they die a painful death from a very preventable disease.  Second, it is a public health threat.  Third, people who can't afford to immunize their livestock will start killing bats to alleviate the problem, which will create a bunch of new problems.

It is frustrating, because I can't even think of a solution, besides, perhaps, the government offering free immunizations to those who can't afford it...but then perhaps those people can't really afford to have the livestock, so why enable them?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Surf & Turf, Belize Style

Surf and turf, Belize style...all gone before a photo...marinated skirt steak from #RunningW, #BelizeAquacultureLimited shrimp sautéed in local garlic and homemade butter from #WesternDairies cream, with zucchini and onion sautéed in #GloriousBelize coconut oil.  You can't really blame us for eating it before the camera came out!


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Still helping with Hurricane Earl cleanup...

When we first moved to Belize, we would go to the market and buy a little bit here, and a little bit there.  Very quickly, we realized that one of the vendors was more friendly to us, and was giving us better prices, so we started shopping almost exclusively with her.  I soon realized that if Tom goes to the market without me or a detailed list, Gloria knows exactly what I want and makes sure Tom brings it home.  She also saves things she knows I like under the counter, and presents them to me with a twinkle in her eye when I stop in to shop. Needless to say, we've become friends over the years.

When Hurricane Earl hit our area in the beginning of August, the entire market flooded.  The river came up fast, and Gloria got her refrigerator out with a few small things, but didn't have time to get her display shelves out and they floated away.  She has been displaying her produce in wooden crates since then, but mentioned a few weeks ago that she really needed new shelves.  Tom, who loves a good project, offered to help build some for her.

Last Sunday afternoon Tom took the necessary lumber down to the market and built these display shelves for Gloria, with the help of Gloria and her partner Blad. Tom and Blad had fun, and Gloria got exactly what she wanted. And I can't wait for my next trip to the market to see them loaded with produce!
#lifeinbelize #belizetravel #hurricaneearl

Yup, it was dark by the time they finished.

Let the loading begin!


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Huge Road Improvements

Moonracer Farm is at Mile 9 on the Chiquibul Road, which means we are nine miles south of the Western Highway at Georgeville via bad dirt road, occasionally impassable with anything other than a high clearance 4WD vehicle.  We are also very near the junction with the road that runs directly into Santa Elena through San Antonio and Cristo Rey, which until this summer, was about twelve miles of bad dirt road with short paved portions in the two villages.  If we were going to San Ignacio or points west, we would take the road through San Antonio; if we were going to points east, we would take the Chiquibul Road.  We chewed up a lot of tires, had a lot of maintenance bills, and got really used to driving vehicles with lots of bangs and rattles. 

Just this summer, the government paved the road between Cristo Rey and San Antonio. We still have three miles of dirt between Moonracer and San Antonio, and there are still a couple of miles of dirt between Cristo Rey and Santa Elena, but the paved, improved road between the two villages is really, really nice. I never thought I would say that; when we bought this place ten years ago, we liked the privacy and isolation fostered by the bad roads, and actually spoke out against paving when it was brought up six or eight years ago. 

But, with many hefty vehicle maintenance bills, not to mention aging bodies, we really like the paving and use that road almost exclusively to drive to the Western Highway, no matter which way we are heading.  We also recommend the San Antonio/Cristo Rey road to our guests, and we are happy to not be greeting literally rattled guests when they arrive. With the three remaining miles of dirt between here and San Antonio, we still have the remote jungle feel, but we are much more accessible.  So, for once, here's to progress!

This is where the pavement used to end outside of San Antonio.

If you look closely, you can see red lines in the road, like it might eventually even have a center stripe!

Road improvements included big ditches that will, with any luck, keep the road from washing out as it did when it was dirt...complete with big, heavy concrete bridges for driveways.

Project isn't quite done...but it's close!




Wednesday, October 12, 2016

If you want a Belize map...

One of the most frequent questions we get from future guests is what map of Belize they should get for their visit.  We used to refer them to a fairly expensive paper map, until we were referred to the maps.me app.  It's a free app you can download on your devices, and it works as a GPS whether or not you are online. It is also crowd sourced and frequently updated, so it is as complete and accurate as any map we have found, including both roads and hiking trails.  Just make sure you download the Belize map while you have Internet access. Moonracer Farm is already on the map, so you can get driving directions from the airport!
#belizetravel #belizejunglelodge




Monday, October 10, 2016

It never gets old

Despite having lived here almost 10 years and having a keel billed toucan nest over the house, we still run outside to see them when we hear them croaking.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Yum!

At Moonracer Farm, I tend to focus on serving wholesome, healthy, vegetable based meals. But it's hard to argue with bacon pizza. 




Friday, October 7, 2016

Small, small world

We had some drive up guests the other day, a man from Colorado with his 13 year old son, and his mother from New Hampshire. Shortly after they arrived, we started to chat, and found that Susan, the mother, has horses and drives.  After a few more minutes of chatting, we realized that we have a mutual friend in NH.

After just another minute or so, Susan's face suddenly lit up, and she looked at Tom, and said, "I know you...you had bouncy shafts but won anyway at Lorenzo!"  She then described Shawn, the horse, Tom's turnout, and a few other details from that show, which showed that she was who she said she was, even though Tom didn't remember the bouncy shafts!

We then proceeded to bore her son and grandson while we relived the glory days of Tom's driving, and developed a long list of mutual acquaintances, human and equine.

You never know whom you will meet at Moonracer Farm!

Shawn and Tom at Walnut Hill in 2004, after the bouncy shaft incident.  


#smallworld #travelbelize