After travelling just over half-way along the Hummingbird Highway toward the east coast, it became evident that this Stann Creek District part of the country was home to numerous large citrus groves. Along both sides of the highway, orange (mostly) and grapefruit trees stretched off into the distance, partially climbing the slopes of the nearby Maya Mountains.
Both driving to and while in the Hopkins area, we saw many large truck loads of fruit trundling down the highway to the two juice concentrator plants that are located in this part of Belize. Because of the poor port infrastructure in Belize, they had to turn to juice plants because it was too expensive to export the raw fruit to the large but distant European and American markets. It turns out that the citrus industry was introduced to the country in 1926 and has grown significantly since then. Although the production (80% oranges and 20% grapefruit) is small in terms of world output, these locally owned and managed groves and concentrators provide a major source of income for the country, worth about US$50 million.
In additions to the trucks and trailers hauling heavy loads of the fruit (shown here), every so often along the highway, you will pass large ramps where the oranges are deposited before they are then loaded onto the trailers that drive up beside them. The strange thing about the orange juice is that so much of it is transformed into frozen concentrate for export, we had very little in the way of fresh orange juice served to us in our entire 3 weeks in Belize! The second photo shows one of the typical orange groves that cover the fields and hillsides in this part of Belize.
Someone described Hopkins as a place that is "halfway between Paradise and poverty", and it is not a bad observation. For the most part, this is still a quiet back-water with most of the infrastructure owned by the locals and, perhaps, not receiving the full amount of maintenance attention that it should. Things at the Whistling Seas were a bit rough around the edges, but it suited our purposes and definitely had location. Locally-owned places like it dot the long beachfront, interspersed with local 'stilt' houses like this one beside our cabana. Speaking to one of the long-time return visitors who was staying where we were, he mentioned that there is growing local opposition to an attempt by new American land-owners to buy property in order to develop the coast here in typical resort style. There are already some quite fancy places along the beach just south of where we stayed, but we never made it that far for a look. It was actually fun just hanging out on our ramshackle beach!!