Every hillside, every valley, was brushed with the vivid, appealing colors of nature…crimson and orange flamed hues of flamboyant trees in full bloom contrasted with the soft blue and mauve blossoms of what appeared to be jacaranda trees…
The entire countryside of Belize’s Cayo District was bursting with color. A recent trip to this area reminded me how much it has to offer. I relish living on the country’s Caribbean coast but every now and then I love to escape and indulge in the Cayo’s raw, bold beauty.
On my last visit to the area, I was invited to stay with friends at their recently finished home. Expats living here want for little.
Driving up to their home, the first thing I noticed were the series of solar panels lining the roof. The abundant Cayo sunshine recharges the solar batteries that power their indoor, and outdoor kitchens, lights, air conditioning, and swimming pool pumps. They have no utility bills and they seldom use their air conditioning, since their home has been designed to take advantage of the breezes blowing from the hills towards the river.
A highlight of a trip to the Cayo is San Ignacio’s lively Saturday morning market, set on the edge of the town center, above the Macal River. This is the largest fresh produce market in the country.
Here you’ll find fragrant yellow-skinned mangoes, ripe watermelons, papayas, pineapples, firm avocados, and crisp green beans. I always haul at least one bag of fresh produce back to my home on the island of Ambergris Caye. In addition to fruit and veggies, other vendors sell spices, fresh virgin coconut oil, soaps…even clothing and housing goods are sold, as well as live chickens, roosters, and chicks.
For about $15 I can stock up on crisp green beans, peppers, tomatoes, mangoes, papayas, and limes. If I have room, I’ll add a pineapple for $1.25. At those prices, it’s not hard to see how you can live comfortably here on a budget of $1,200.
The Cayo is the heart of the Mennonite farming community. The sight of Mennonite farmers in horse-drawn wagons, wearing long pants and suspenders, with long beards and hats is not uncommon here. These farmers play a key role in Belize’s agricultural sector.
Driving along the roads of Spanish Lookout in the Cayo always takes me back to a simple bygone era, when my family spent summer vacations on the farm where my dad grew up. The rolling hills, sprawling barns, massive metallic silos, and cows peacefully grazing on rolling pastureland elicit nostalgic flashbacks of the Pennsylvania Amish country.
I love my life on Ambergris Caye with its stunning reef and Caribbean seascape but whenever it becomes a bit too crowded, an escape to the rolling hills, lush jungle and Mennonite farmland of the Cayo is a welcome break.
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