Continuing our Belizean Odyssey, from the beautiful Belizean coast we headed West by local bus into the jungle interior. We travelled via the bus station at the capital city of Belmopan (we spent quite a lot of time in the Belmopan bus station) and then took the ‘stopping’ Benque bus. This colourful bus stops right outside the end of the Lower Dover access road. Mr JB Small who owns the local hardware store right on the junction, took our cases in his wheelbarrow while he called Madeline Reynolds, the proprietor of Lower Dover, to come and retrieve her latest guests.
While we waited we drank a bottle of water and had a lively debate about the Brexit situation in the UK about which Mr Small had strong opinions.
Porch Life at Lower Dover
Madeline appeared in the pick up truck and we were transported to our cute and colourful bright blue hut on the Lower Dover 100 acre estate. Eight friendly dogs greeted us – they protect the grounds and the guests. You will always find a dog on your porch keeping a lookout just in case.
The office and library are in a delightful purple hut with a thatched roof and all the accommodations at Lower Dover are painted in similarly bright and cheerful hues. There are cabins available in varying sizes which can cater for bigger groups of people, friends or families. We had bunk beds with mosquito nets, an en suite toilet and a ‘sunshine’ shower outside, next to our small cabin. The water is heated by the sun but you are welcome to have a wash in the creek instead if you feel so inclined. There’s no mains drinking water here so you need to drink filtered water but there’s good home cooking with delicious organic vegetables and some extremely tasty soups on offer.
The garden is full of Bougainvillea and chickens and ducks and guinea fowl come trotting by every now and then.
Cabin in the jungle canopy
Lower Dover is a very special place to stay as it situated right on top of the ruins of a once great ancient Mayan city. The site is extensive and only very partially excavated. Students come every summer to continue the excavation, but there is so much still to be uncovered and so many stories still untold. What happened to this once large and thriving city, which was probably a centre of trade and commerce, and what happened to the people who lived there?
Ruins in the rain
Madeline’s son Justin gave us a tour around the ruins pointing out plazas and the outlines of buildings and rooms overgrown with lush jungle. It was raining heavily by now, and things were getting slippy. Good job we had taken umbrellas. You can clearly see the bands of rain advancing across the sky in Belize and locals can predict the rainstorm coming with accuracy. Belize has some amazing Mayan ruins but the country doesn’t always value their heritage as much as you might imagine. Justin proudly showed off his Hibiscus plantation from which he makes his unique Hibiscus wine. I’ve had some varieties of wine in my time, and with a less than thrilling experience of the village banana wine still fresh in the memory, I tasted it with some trepidation. I needn’t have worried – it was absolutely delicious! We purchased a bottle of Justin’s Swirly Head wine for later consumption. This unique vintage is the world’s first Hibiscus champagne and is a very special Belizean treat.
Swirly Head anyone?
The cacao nut was a very valuable crop in ancient Belize. It is still grown today and makes amazing Belizean chocolate – you can buy it from AJAW in the nearby town of St Ignacio. It goes very well indeed with a chilled glass of Vintage Swirly Head wine.
Justin and his Hibiscis plantation
We woke the next morning to the delightful exotic sounds of the Belize rainforest and set out, on the bus again to the famous local Mayan site Xantunich which is not too far away. We got there early to avoid the crowds and had the imposing structures of this amazing site pretty much to ourselves. The recreated Mayan carvings show how elaborate this building would have been in its hey day and it even features in a 1980’s Micheal Bolton pop video ‘Can I Touch You There.’ It’s true!
A lovely Mayan morning at Xunantunich
Madeline and her husband bought the site at Lower Dover in 1985. They wanted to retire in the sun somewhere that wasn’t Florida or Arizona and so the move to Lower Dover Station and Jungle Lodge came to pass.. Lower Dover here in the third world is home now – ‘America seems stranger every day’ said Madeline. We rode to the bar in nearby UnitedVille in the back of the pick up truck, marvelling at how clear the stars were with the milky way fully visible in the dark sky, when there’s no real light pollution to spoil the view. It was an experience I will always remember, bumping along in the back of the truck on a warm star filled tropical night.
The beer of Belize – Belikin
Lower Dover is so called because white rocks at the mouth of the river reminded the early loggers of the White Cliffs of Dover back home. This is the only jungle lodge in Belize which is accessible by bus and amazingly sits right on top of precious original Mayan ruins. It is also surrounded by water, so would have been a good location for an ancient city and is very close to the ATM ( Actun Tunichil Muknal) cave. The cave is a popular trip for visitors who like caving and exploring, and there are Mayan burial remains there too.
Home Sweet Home
Lower Dover Station and Jungle Lodge has been rated #1 Speciality Lodging in the area for three years running and its easy to see why. With its warm friendly welcome and home cooking, Lower Dover is the only hostel and jungle lodge in Central America atop a Maya ruin. It’s a lovely place to stay – I relished the whole jungly environment – plus, they serve Hibiscus Champagne at dinner! Check out the website for prices and offers.