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Published: February 9th 2015
Mayan Chocolate Bar
Made at the Che'il Chocolate Fatory
It's been a few days so I have some catching up to do! I think the last time I posted, it was last Wednesday after our fishing/snorkeling tour and then our boat dive on Tuesday. Wednesday we took the day off and relaxed by the pool. It was somewhat cloudy and the locals said their was a "cool front" coming through from up north, so we stayed close to home.
Thursday was another day of rest and lounging by the pool. Friday we decided to try our hand at being our own inland tour guides and to visit a chocolate factory and a spice farm. These tours are normally about $85 per person when using the local tour guides but since we have access to a vehicle we decided to try the tour on our own. We stopped at the dive shop on the way out of town, and they talked us out of going to the chocolate factory to the south saying it was a long drive (2 hours) and there was another chocolate factory closer, as well as a Maya Museum, and a Mayan Women's craft center. We found our way there winding through banana plantations along the
way. The little town was actually called Maya Center. You know the term people use about small towns, "don't blink or you'll miss it?" Well we blinked, and had to retrace our steps. As luck would have it the chocolate factory and the museum were closed until the afternoon (a guide would have known that) but in reality the term "factory" really exaggerates what Che'il Chocolate Factory represents. We couldn't get in through the wooden door, but I'm guessing the actual size is 1/2 that of a normal kitchen in the U.S. The "showroom" contained wooden shelves with a few Mayan trinkets, but what it did HAVE was a cooler full of Mayan Chocolate Bars, milk, dark, coffee and orange flavored. I don't think I've tasted anything quite like it before. They do not use a lot of sugar or oils when they make their chocolate, but more natural ingredients to achieve a very creamy not quite so sweet flavor. It is decadent, and at $2 US worth every penny.
From the chocolate factory we drove back south to try to find the spice farm. We blinked again, this time at our turn off and ended up in a
little town called Independence. By this time we were hungry for lunch, so took the advice of a local and stopped at M Kee Diner, which as it turned out was Chinese food, served with french fries? The food was great, (less the fries) and came with cake and ice cream for desert. By the time I get home, I'll have to paint stripes on myself to tell if I'm walking or rolling!! We finally had to admit we are not good tour guides, and decided to head back to the condo. So basically we ate our way through Friday!
Saturday Jim and I walked to the beach with our snorkel gear, and spent the late morning and early afternoon lying in the sun, snorkeling and swimming in the beautiful turquoise waters of the Caribbean, working off the food from the previous day. It was heavenly, and so relaxing. For those of you who have visited the beaches in Central America, you know there are several local vendors who walk up and down the beach selling their wares. Jim and I only had $30 Belize ($15 U.S.) with us when we hit the beach, and we were broke by
The best kind of Lion Fish...................Dead.
the time we left! The first lucky vendor was William Walton, who approached us about the bracelets he made. (Picture attached) What is so unique about his bracelets is he makes them out of recycled bags he picks up on the beach or along the street or wherever he can find them. He showed us the entire process, how he stretches and twists the plastic bag (that he has tied off to his big toe), and then weaves in pieces of plastic bags of various colors to come up with the design "that he thinks up in his head" while he is stretching and twisting. The process takes about a 1/2 day per bracelet and no two bracelets are alike. He sells them for $5 US. Had I had more money I probably would have bought the entire satchel he was carrying, he was such a nice engaging man. If anyone wants a recycled trash bag bracelet from the artist William Walton let me know. I will hunt him down and buy everyone he has. The next lucky vendor was a cashew vendor. He carried a basket around his neck much like the beer and peanut hawkers at baseballs games.
Even better Lion Fish ............Cooked!
We felt sorry for him, because the basket he was carrying appeared to be so heavy and it appeared he was straining under the load. Wow, that's deep. Actually we just wanted some freshly baked cashews! The last ladies that came by had beautiful hardwood bowls, bracelets and necklaces made of everything from fish spine to rocks and gems from the surrounding mountains. They had traveled to Placencia Village by bus and by ferry from Punta Gorda a small town about 70 miles south of the Placencia Peninsula to sell their trinkets. I felt so bad I didn't have enough money to buy anything from them, but at the same time grateful, as I probably would have given them every dime I had.
Yesterday, was Lion Fish Hunting Sunday. What a day, what a day!!!! We left the dive shop with a boat full of divers, but Splash gave us our own dive master to take us hunting. Once we were in the water they handed 3 of us (Donna was an interested observer) a "hawaiian sling" spear gun, and off we went. The dive master pulls a 5 gallon pail behind him on a rope with slits cut in the cover, so when someone spears a lion fish he shoves them in through the top of the bucket, and when he pulls the spear out the fish stays in the bucket. You do not want to touch a lion fish! They have 14 venomous spines that make up their top dorsal fin. If they sting you, it feels like you have been stung by an "African Killer Bee" and you must submerge your body part in hot water. Shortly after, wherever you were stung will begin to swell and ache, the pain severe enough "to make a grown man cry like a little baby", again, another local euphemism. The first dive we were only able to spear 8 fish. However, our second dive was a virtual bounty! We speared 18 lion fish for a total of 26 for the day. The dive master cleaned enough for us to cook for dinner, and it was the best fish I have ever eaten. To me even tastier than the lobster we had a few days before. For those of you not familiar with Lion Fish, they are venomous fish that have invaded the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans. The thought is they escaped out of someone's salt water aquarium during one of the destructive hurricanes, and once they hit the open ocean begin multiplying. They lay approximately 30,000 eggs a month, and can cross genders. So if there are too many males, they can become females, kind of like Bruce Jenner! (oops did I say that out loud) They eat the fry (baby fish) right after they hatch, so they are endangering the other Caribbean reef fish. 10 years ago, you would have only found these predators in the Indo-China Sea, they were not indigenous to our oceans. Now they are so plentiful, you will never do a dive where you will not see several lion fish. As the owner of Splash Dives says, "it is our moral and ethical obligation as a diver, to kill every lion fish you see."
Today................you guessed is another day of rest. The days of 4-5 dives a day are behind me, especially when it involves an hour and a half boat ride to get to the dive site. More later.
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