A drive on the slow lane- Roseville to San Ignacio, BelizeApril 20, 2020
The Mennonites are an essential ingredient to Belize’s harmonious melting pot, contributing their unique flavour and character, along with Creole, Mestizo, Maya, Garifuna, European, North American, Asian and other cultures.
And the Mennonite’s influence spreads well beyond that pleasant pastoral community. For example, Belizeans eat a lot of chicken and have the Mennonites to thank for their abundance and reasonable prices. In addition, the farms produce most dairy products such as fresh milk, cheese, and ice cream.
Simplicity boils down to two things: identify the essential and eliminate the rest…
After a fantastic time in Punta Gorda, it was time to drive north and continue to explore the tiny country of Belize. The first stop is Roseville, a Mennonite community in the district of Stann Creek.
We heard that the scarlet macaws and toucans have a favoured hangout on the hillside behind the community. We were not expecting a river crossing with the LuvShk to get to Roseville. Unfortunately, the river was too high to cross with the LuvShk. We walked across to the other side of the riverbank and spotted homemade waterwheel driving a belt-driven sawmill.
There was also a sign at the entrance to the town which said: “Come Well Dressed.” Unfortunately, the community was quite far from the river, and we decided to return across the river to TheLuvShk . We found the ” zip line ” or gondola as we headed up the road along the river.
People here use zip lines to get to and from Roseville as a shortcut or when the water in the river is too high to cross. Of course, we had to try this out.
The gondola is hand-cranked. The first half is by gravity, but you have to pull yourself across for the second half of your crossing. It was hard work and a little scary ( at least I was scared. Cliff worked too hard to be afraid.)
“Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.”- George Washington
As we were heading to Spanish Lookout out of Santa Elena on the Western Highway about 6 miles, we saw a gravel road on the left with a hand-made sign which directed us to a ferry about a mile and a half to the north. The road goes past a pig farm, then through some rolling pastures with herds of big white Brahmas. At the end of the road, we found. one of the Hand Cranked Ferries in Belize. Although most people don’t know it, the official name of the old hand-cranked ferry is the Baking Pot Ferry. Built by the Mennonites to connect Spanish Lookout to the Cayo side of the river, and was once the only access route. The Macal River is about 150’ wide where the ferry crosses, and it takes about 8-10 minutes for the man cranking the wheel to make the crossing. (If you ask, he might let you crank). Only three cars can fit on the ferry. The best part is it’s free! Unfortunately, the river was too low, and the LuvShk too heavy, and we had to turn around and continue east along the Western Highway for six miles to the roundabout and exit to Spanish Lookout.
Despite its name, Spanish Lookout is a community inhabited mostly by Mennonites who speak Plattdeutsch and whose ancestors immigrated from Europe. Unlike other Mennonite communities, most residents of Spanish Lookout use modern conveniences, including electricity, computers, and cars. As soon as we entered city limits, we felt transported to a North American farm community. As we originate from Canada, we felt we were in Alberta instantly. There was the farmers trading Center, a large Farm and Grocery store in North American style but run by Mennonites. Outside was a fried chicken fast food restaurant and a fantastic Icecream store. Spanish Lookout felt like this tiny island of home.
Baking Pot Ferry
Spanish Lookout- The Mennonite Community
Spanish Lookout- The farm community
Farmer Trading Center
Western Dairies Icecream
Belizeans travel from all over to have a scoop of this delicious Icecream
No call haligetta big mouth til yo done corss di ribba
Translation: Don’t call the alligator a big mouth until you have crossed the river.
This means to remain respectful to those who have power over you, even if it’s temporary!
San Ignacio, also known as “Cayo,” is a town in the Cayo District of western Belize on the banks of the Macal River. It’s linked with the village of Santa Elena by the metal suspension Hawksworth Bridge and is known as a popular gateway to cross to and from Guatemala.
Many travellers explore the lush jungles, pyramids and wildlife. We planned to stay here for a week and found the Mana Kai camping and cabin to park with many other overlanders from all over the world.
The family who ran the campground gave us a tour of their gardens and showed us toucans in the trees.
The hosts had a family wedding coming up, and all the campers had an invitation to join the event and dinner. There were 10 of us in shorts, T-shirts and sandals, feeling so welcomed by their family with kids everywhere and, of course, the traditional Maya Roasted chicken rice and beans. The music played most of the night, and love was in the air. It was a beautiful night.
The following days we explored San Ignacio.
Our location was within walking distance to downtown, especially the town’s busy market on the river banks.
The market is open every day. Farmers from all over the Cayo District come here to sell fresh fruit, vegetables, and dairy products. Other vendors sell crafts, artwork, and even medicinal herbs. The Cayo District includes many different groups, including the Maya, Creole, Mennonites, Chinese. Hence, the market turns into a whirlwind of activity as the locals come together to share gossip and news.
Across the market, we found a great breakfast place packed with locals; Mikes Kitchen.
Suddenly a group of locals invited us to sit with them at a long table. The recommendation was Fry jacks made fresh every morning with scrambled eggs and Chaya, beans, cheese and strong coffee for 6.00 BZE dollars. Very affordable. We ended up visiting for 3 hours with our new friends at the table, learning about Belizean politics and everyday gossip.
Even though San Ignazio is a tourist hub, it never lost its local flair.