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Gnosis Chocolate/ChocolateLife Chocolate Retreat at Cotton Tree Lodge, Belize in Feb 2010

Event Details

Gnosis Chocolate/ChocolateLife Chocolate Retreat at Cotton Tree Lodge, Belize in Feb 2010

Time: February 20, 2010 to February 27, 2010
Location: Cotton Tree Lodge
City/Town: outside Punta Gorda, Belize
Website or Map: http://www.gnosischocolate.co…
Event Type: education, travel
Created By: Clay Gordon
Latest Activity: Dec 14, 2009

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Event Description

Vanessa Barg, founder of Gnosis Chocolate and a holistic nutrition counselor, will be leading tastings of Gnosis 'raw' chocolate (including a bar made exclusively for this trip!) and will give talks about the benefits of a raw foods diet.

Clay Gordon, founder of TheChocolateLife.com has planned a host of chocolate and cacao-themed activities - including visiting a cacao farm and farm family, starting a fermentation pile, visiting the Toledo Cacao Growers Association (the first co-op in the world to be both organic AND Fairtrade certified), and making chocolate from the bean. In addition, Clay will be hosting tastings (of non-raw chocolate) in the evenings along with talks about the ethnobotany of chocolate.

Single Occupancy: $2400
Double Occupancy: $2200/pp
3 or 4 in a cabana: $1950/pp

LAST CHANCE TO SIGN UP!

Send Clay an e-mail to reserve your spot and send a check (made out to Gnosis Chocolate) for the amount (in full) to:

Gnosis Chocolate
33-10 Crescent St #3E
Astoria, New York 11106

ITINERARY

All activities provide participants with the option to come along and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the Belizean landscape. Simply relaxing at the Cotton Tree Lodge - whether sitting on the dock down by the river or lying in the hammock on the porch of your cabana, or reading a book in the gazebo - is one of the "special activities" that's always available.

Participation in any of the planned activities, is, of course, completely at your discretion and sense of well-being. Some activities involve exercise (the cave swim, for example) and some might be a little more adventurous than you're comfortable with (waterfall jumping, for example).

The following schedule is somewhat weather dependent and so the order may need to be adjusted depending on weather conditions.

Day 1, Saturday, February 20th - Welcome!
Travel Day. Guests arrive at Belize City Airport (code BZE)
Transfer to Punta Gorda (PG) (guides take last flight out)
Arrive in PG, xfer to CTL via boat or car (weather and time if day dependent)
Check in to Cotton Tree Lodge
Unpack, clean up, relax
Orientation Reception (featuring fresh local juices and more)
Welcoming Dinner
Gnosis chocolate tasting for dessert

Day 2, Sunday February 21st - Ease into it... by Making Chocolate!
Tour of CottonTree Lodge's organic garden, cacao trees, medicinal plant walk
Start making chocolate, from bean to nib
Waterfall jumping at Rio Blanco and/or self-guided nature walk

Day 3, Monday February 22nd - Cacao Farm!
Visit Eladio Pop's cacao farm, lunch with the family, return with cacao pods!
Extract seeds from pods, start fermentation
Cacao tea demonstration
Clay Talk: ethnobotanical history of cacao and chocolate

Day 4, Tuesday, February 23rd - Beautiful Belize!
Visit Mayan ruins at Lubantuun
Blue Creek Cave swim

Day 5, Wednesday, February 24th - Sun, Bathe, Relax!
All-day snorkel trip to Snake Caye

Day 6, Thursday, February 25th - Explore the Chocolate Connection!
Tour PG (market, Taino crafts, etc)
Toledo Cacao Grower's Association visit
Finishing the batch of chocolate
Barranco

Day 7, Friday, February 26th - Giving Back & Farewell Festivities!
Sustainable Harvest International activity TBD
Return to CTL after, relax, pack, etc.
Farewell dinner
Garifuna drumming / dancing

Day 8, Saturday, February 27th - Parting is such sweet sorrow...
Check out of CTL
Xfer to PG, fly to BZE, return to US

OTHER COSTS
The cost of the trip is inclusive of all travel within Belize, all meals served at the Lodge, and all activity-related expenses, and taxes pertaining thereto. Not included are your bar bill at the lodge and any personal expenses and associated taxes. It is not required that you leave a tip at the Lodge for the servers, though they are always appreciated. The Lodge does accept credit cards for settling your bill when you check out.

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Comment by Clay Gordon on December 5, 2009 at 5:39am
TRAVEL TO BELIZE
Belize is the former British Honduras and is the smallest country in Central America, with a population of approximately 300,000. Belize City is the largest city in Belize and is the gateway to the northern tourist islands (e.g., the "La Isla Bonita" of Madonna song fame). The capital of Belize, Belmopan, is inland south and east of Belize City almost smack dab in the center of the country.

The official language is English and the official currency is the Belize Dollar, which is pegged at US$.50 (1 US Dollar = 2 Belize Dollars). US dollars are universally accepted at the official rate so changing money is not required.

For more information on Belize, read the Wikipedia WikiTravel articles:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belize
http://wikitravel.org/en/Belize

The Wikipedia article is the more extensive of the two.

Average temperatures in February range from the mid-70s to low 80s though it may seem much hotter when walking (e.g., on the cacao farm trip) and when in the direct sun, in part due to the humidity. While we can expect rain on any day, it is highly unlikely that it will rain all day any day it rains. Rain should not affect most planned activities.

The main airport in Belize is Philip SW Goldson International, located just outside of Belize City. The airport code is BZE. Several US airlines fly into Belize, notably Continental, American, and Delta with connections in the US. If you don't mind connecting elsewhere in Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador), TACA also flies into BZE.

The International airport is very small with immigration and customs taking place in a single hall. Immigration and getting checked luggage and clearing customs rarely takes as long as 30 minutes, even for full flights.

Upon exiting "international arrivals" you'll enter directly into the domestic terminal where you will be met by either Vanessa or me or both of us, and we will help you check in for your flight to Punta Gorda, the largest town in Southern Belize. The facilities at the terminal are not grand. There are a few tourist shops and one restaurant serving native fare. Belize City itself is not known as a tourist destination and leaving the airport grounds to sightsee is not encouraged. Do not expect to find anything that meets the needs of a raw/vegan diet in the airport.

For more information on Philip SW Goldson International Airport (including a list of airlines that fly into it), read the Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_S._W._Goldson_International_Air...
Comment by Clay Gordon on December 5, 2009 at 5:38am
SUN PROTECTION
Wear lightweight clothing with a high SPF factor. Long sleeves and long pants are recommended. Sunscreen/block on exposed skin is very highly recommended, as is a hat or cap. Use whatever type of sunscreen/block you are most comfortable applying to your skin. The day spent snorkeling on Snake Caye is the day with the longest outdoor exposure, at least six hours from mid-morning to mid-late afternoon. The boat is open (no shade) and UV bounces off the surface of the water so covering up is especially important on this day.

CLOTHING
Plan on getting sweaty, dirty, and muddy.

When away from CTL, especially when we will be walking (farm trip, Rio Blanco, SHI activity), long sleeves and long pants are recommended. Lightweight boots (or hiking sneakers) or other closed-toed footwear is absolutely necessary. Around the Lodge, sandals, flip flops, etc., can be worn as all walking is done on elevated boardwalks (it floods in the wet season). When swimming in Blue Creek Cave, footwear, e.g., water shoes) will make the swim a lot more comfortable and can also be worn on the Snake Caye snorkel trip. Bring at least two swim suits/trunks.

It is recommended that your bring three complete changes of clothing that you can wear during the day, not including what you wear to travel to and from Belize. It is recommended that these be lightweight and fast drying, so that you can rinse/wash them in the evening and they can be worn again. (Laundry facilities are available and the CTL staff will be happy to wash clothing for a small additional charge.) We also recommend separate clothing for the evening that can be layered (it can get cool in the evening) with at least one pair of long pants.

Some sort of very lightweight rain protection should also be considered (though umbrellas are not appropriate). Knee-length rubber boots are provided by the Lodge should they be necessary.

ECO-FRIENDLY
CTL is an eco-conscious resort. Construction was done, wherever possible, with sustainable materials, and the Lodge is off the grid and relies heavily on its own solar power generation facility supplemented by a generator. Rather than a central water heating system each cabana is outfitted with its own on-demand water heater powered by a recyclable natural gas cylinder. The toilets are also eco-friendly and one of the more difficult aspects of this for most people to become comfortable with is that bathroom tissue should not be flushed. Instead, it is placed in a container by the toilet and collected daily for separate disposal.
Comment by Clay Gordon on December 5, 2009 at 5:37am
WATER
CTL provides filtered water to guest rooms for washing and bathing and in pitchers for drinking in the guest rooms and in the main lodge, when dining, and at the bar. CTL provides bottled water for all activities away from the Lodge. Guests may, if they prefer, bring water filtration bottles, but this is not strictly necessary. As with travel most places, drinking water that is not bottled or from a bottle whose seal has been broken, or unpeeled fresh fruit that has not been properly washed, is not recommended. All of the food you will be served at CTL has been washed with filtered water and is safe to eat raw.

For official CDC notices on travel to Belize, please visit the following web page:

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/belize.aspx

FOOD
At Belize International Airport you may have several hours between the time your flight arrives and the time of your connection to Punta Gorda. There are no raw/vegan food options in the departure lounge although you will be able to purchase water and the local beer, Belikin, which can be purchased at the restaurant on the observation deck, is quite good (though neither organic nor raw).

Food options at Punta Gorda "airport" are non-existent though the last time I was there there was a cooler with filtered water.

The kitchen at Cotton Tree Lodge is used to catering to a wide variety of diets including strict vegetarian. While the raw/vegan fare may not come out of a gourmet cookbook, CTL does have its own organic garden and meals will feature the Lodge's own produce, fruit picked from the grounds, and other fare for all meals served in the lodge as well as when the group travels. Cashews are a big Belizean crop and so it should be possible to produce fresh cashew milk. On at least one occasion, the group will be visiting with a local farm family and the itinerary includes a lunch prepared and served by the family that will be neither raw nor vegan. In this case, guests who prefer it will have a raw/vegan option prepared and brought with us.

The only food options once you pass through security at BZE airport are of the mass-market junk food variety (e.g., Pringles, Doritos). It may be possible to purchase raw nuts but they will almost certainly not be organic. Local chocolate (e.g., Cotton Tree, Goss) is sold in airport gift shops. There is a full bar and bottled water can be purchased from at least one gift shop.

PHONES, POWER, MOD CONS, and INTERNET ACCESS
Power in Belize is the same as the US (110-120VAC), and the plugs are also the same. Each cabana has a fan, bed-side lamps, and at least two electrical outlets for charging batteries, etc. Your phone may or may not work in Belize. Check with your provider in advance if having phone service is absolutely necessary. There is wireless Internet access in the main lodge building. Internet access and phone service is provided via satellite and is not 100% reliable especially when it rains. One good, inexpensive, option is a computer or smartphone with a Skype account that enables you to place voice calls to "real" phone numbers, not just people with Skype software installed on their computer or phone.
Comment by Clay Gordon on December 5, 2009 at 5:37am
HEALTH CONCERNS
There are several diseases that are common in Central America, among them malaria, typhoid, and hepatitis A & B. I am happy to say that there have been no reported cases of any of these diseases from visitors to Cotton Tree Lodge.

The CDC recommends visiting a specialist in travel medicine or tropical diseases whenever traveling to Central or South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and tropical Asia. Their (the CDC's) recommendation follows classical Western medical tradition: get yourself vaccinated and/or take medicines (e.g., antimalarials) to reduce the likelihood of catching a disease even though taking them won't guarantee that you won't get sick. For example, the medicines used to "prevent" malaria are the same used to treat it with the same toxic effects on the liver. For this reason, many people prefer to avoid taking the medicine unless absolutely necessary.

I have been to Cotton Tree Lodge on three separate occasions over 18 months and did not take any prophylactic medicines and did not experience (nor did any members of the groups I was traveling with) any illness of any kind, food-borne, water-borne, or animal/insect-borne, from my trips to Belize. I have also traveled twice to Ecuador and to Mexico and Venezuela using the techniques outlined below, choosing only to get a Yellow Fever vaccination for my first trip to Ecuador in 2003. Yellow Fever is not a concern in Belize.

INSECT PROTECTION
Wear lightweight protective clothing made from fabric with a plant-based inset repellent woven into it. One brand of this fabric is "Buzz Off" and clothing brands include LL Bean and ExOfficio.The insect repellent used is permethrin, which is extracted from flowers, is effective for more than 20 wash cycles, and is not absorbed into the body even through extended contact with wet skin. Permethrin spray (one brand is called "Permanone") is available from many outdoor stores, including EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports) and can be used on items of clothing - hats, socks, etc. - that cannot be purchased made from a "BuzzOff" fabric. Follow application directions carefully and make sure to let the items dry thoroughly before wearing them.

Permethrin-treated clothing is effective on the areas of skin it covers so it is also recommended that you use the insect repellent of your choice on exposed skin. Plain citronella-based repellents are not entirely effective, so it is recommended that you choose a repellent with multiple active ingredients. The CDC specifically recommends Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus/PMD and cautions that concentrations of active ingredients over 50% DO NOT extend the length of time the repellent is effective and that concentrations under 10% may not be effective at all.

Most beds at CTL also come with mosquito netting. However, it is often warm and humid at night and the netting reduces the effectiveness of the ceiling fans in the rooms. From experience, turning the fans on high will keep you cooler at night and the breeze will keep away most flying biting insects.

ANIMAL CONTACT
Belize is home to more wildlife species than any other country in Central America. Some of the birds and many of the mammals carry infectious diseases and though they are not all that common on the part of the CTL grounds where the lodge is located, there are several species of snake on the property. There is also a colony of howler monkeys on the property and you will see many small lizards and many different species of butterflies. For safety's sake, do not approach wild animals, do not touch dead animals, and walk only on the boardwalks and marked paths, especially if you are wearing open shoes and short pants.
Comment by Clay Gordon on December 5, 2009 at 5:33am
Travel to Belize
Belize is the former British Honduras and is the smallest country in Central America, with a population of approximately 300,000. Belize City is the largest city in Belize and is the gateway to the northern tourist islands (e.g., the "La Isla Bonita" of Madonna song fame). The capital of Belize, Belmopan, is inland south and east of Belize City almost smack dab in the center of the country.

The official language is English and the official currency is the Belize Dollar, which is pegged at US$.50 (1 US Dollar = 2 Belize Dollars). US dollars are universally accepted at the official rate so changing money is not required.

For more information on Belize, read the Wikipedia WikiTravel articles:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belize
http://wikitravel.org/en/Belize

The Wikipedia article is the more extensive of the two.

Average temperatures in February range from the mid-70s to low 80s though it may seem much hotter when walking (e.g., on the cacao farm trip) and when in the direct sun, in part due to the humidity. While we can expect rain on any day, it is highly unlikely that it will rain all day any day it rains. Rain should not affect most planned activities.

The main airport in Belize is Philip SW Goldson International, located just outside of Belize City. The airport code is BZE. Several US airlines fly into Belize, notably Continental, American, and Delta with connections in the US. If you don't mind connecting elsewhere in Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador), TACA also flies into BZE.

The International airport is very small with immigration and customs taking place in a single hall. Immigration and getting checked luggage and clearing customs rarely takes as long as 30 minutes, even for full flights.

Upon exiting "international arrivals" you'll enter directly into the domestic terminal where you will be met by either Vanessa or me or both of us, and we will help you check in for your flight to Punta Gorda, the largest town in Southern Belize. The facilities at the terminal are not grand. There are a few tourist shops and one restaurant serving native fare. Belize City itself is not known as a tourist destination and leaving the airport grounds to sightsee is not encouraged. Do not expect to find anything that meets the needs of a raw/vegan diet in the airport.

For more information on Philip SW Goldson International Airport (including a list of airlines that fly into it), read the Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_S._W._Goldson_International_Air...
Comment by Jamie Jeffries on November 9, 2009 at 6:33pm
Yes, Kristin. Clay is in Europe teaching. I don't know when he will return. His trip was proceeded with a sad event, the death of his father. Under these circumstances, I understand why he's been out of touch.
Best,
Jamie
Comment by Kirsten Tucker on November 9, 2009 at 1:15pm
I've been trying to contact Gnosis and Clay about this trip for several weeks and am not getting a response. Anyone know what is happening with it?
Comment by Jamie Jeffries on September 24, 2009 at 4:41pm
Hi Clay,

I hope I'll be able to join you in Belize. I'm checking it out now. I was with Elaine Gonzales and Susana Trilling last year on their chocolate tours, Elaine's last! It was sooo hot (Tabasco, Villahermosa) eating chocolate melted very quickly. But it was better in Chiapas, not quite as hot (well, until we hiked in the Mayan Highlands near the border with Guatemala...visited an organic cacao cooperativa). I would appreciate any thoughts you have on getting from Belize to San Cristobal de las Casas where I wish to visit with friends. Fly or drive thru Guatemala into Chiapas? By the way, I don't mind sharing a room. If anyone else wants to pair up I'd be interested (possibly even make it a foursome).

Thanks for putting on this trip Sustainable Harvest International. I may drop by to see them when I'm in Maine in a couple of weeks. Good folks.
Best to you...looking forward to meeting you,
Jamie

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