|Our cabin at Tranquility Lodge|
January 31- February 1, 2012
We left Placencia in the late morning and drove southward toward Punta Gorda. We had a reservation at a jungle lodge called “Tranquility Lodge” but other than reading their website, we had no idea what we were buying into.
The drive was an uneventful one, varying from wooded land made up of thin pine trees to dense-looking jungle. We got to our lodge and were greeted warmly by the owners, Suzanne and Lee. As they were showing us the cabanas we were immediately taken in with the serenity and the feel for the place.
It turns out that Suzanne and Lee were only one month into their tenure as the new owners of the Tranquility Lodge. They are from Canada (Edmonton, Alberta) as so many of the tourists in Belize seem to hail from. Our cabanas were rustic yet very comfortable with views of the dense jungle vegetation. Lee and Suzanne’s attentiveness and friendliness was unparalleled.
|Arriving at Cyrila's|
Our adventures in the area included a visit to Cyrila’s, a cacao farm and to Lubaantun, a unique Mayan site. The tour of the cacao farm was superb. Juan, our host and a cacao farmer, explained to us how the cacao is grown and farmed. Afterwards we sat down at a table as he began to explain the process of how the cacao pod is harvested and made into what we know as chocolate. We cut through the pod, tasted the raw, milky-white looking beans and husked the pod. The process then called for the beans to be roasted. To save time, Juan’s wife had roasted other beans for our tour. He showed us how to crack the casing of the bean and get to the heart of the matter - the cacao bean.
|Juan showing us how to cut open the cacao husk|
After we had cracked and assembled a respectable amount of cacao, we gathered all of our production and put it on a ground stone known as a metate. With a stone in hand, he showed us how you meticulously grind the beans into a grainy paste, over and over until it becomes a very fine paste. We each tried our hand at the grinding technique, but he admitted that his wife was really the best grinder. She began moving the rock to a rhythmic beat that soon turned the mashed cacao beans into a smooth paste. It was then ready to be poured on to a cookie sheet with the shape of small hearts. After placing the cookie sheet in a freezer for a few minutes, we all got a chocolate heart - all made from the fruits of our labor. Pretty neat.
|What the cacao pod looks like inside|
|After the bean is roasted (L), then after we crack it (R)|
|Diane grinding the cacao on the metate|
|Juan's wife shows us how it's really done|
After leaving Cyrila’s, we drove to the Mayan site of Lubaantun, unique because this group of Mayans did not use mortar in their construction techniques. Lubaantun, is nowhere as large as Tikal or Caracol. But it was interesting none-the-less and we were the only tourists at the site, since the road leading to it was a muddy and bumpy mess.
|At the Lubaantun site|
|A spear head found at the site|
|This chiseled head is 1300 years old. The guard just handed it to me.|