Memories of Belize
March 16, 2005. Arriving soon into Belize. Trip uneventful thus far-that's good. Looking below I see thin strings of white roads twisting without connectors. How do the people connect? Occasionally, small squared communities appear. Now the landscape is taking on the look of Kansas. Large patches of different earth colors. More white strings, more signs of people. Then-the Caribbean Sea!!
We land, walk across the tarmac. The day is bright, sunny and warm!! We meet up with Nora and Preston Larimer from St. Louis. We will be traveling together for a part of the trip. Miraculously, all the gear, suitcases, packs, rods, coolers are squeezed into the 4 wheeled Tracker. The local drivers were laughing and amazed everything fits in and there's room for us. . Belize City is multiculture with fast paced vehicles darting in and out, men riding bicycles, women walking.
Our first destination is The Maya Center. This is a community of Mayan people. There is a school, small meager homes, a restaurant, the Women's Cooperative, a butterfly farm, a river, and a resort. We stay for two days at the resort of Aurelia and Ernesto.We have a private cabin with toilet facilities. Life is very simple here. Meals are in a screened lodge were there is a cabinet sink set to the side for one to wash before eating. Meals were always delicious, of Aurelia's choice, and served by delightful, charming, young Brendacita. The time was spent visiting, hiking and floating through the rain forest. Preston delivers gifts from his Principia students to their friends at The Maya Center.Since there are few vehicles there is no need for "streets". Instead, we walked a grassy wide path dividing the houses. A tiny woman, hunched over a hydrant rising from the ground, is washing her clothes in a small metal bowl. A woman Preston visits pulls forth a simple wooden chair should one want to sit. She offers us each a banana. Such a generous gift! Have you ever eaten a freshly picked banana? Hiking later through the Jaguar Preserve, Preston, birder, biology teacher and ornithologist, is our guide. Bugs, birds, leaves, plants, hills, holes and water are explored. To cool off afterwards, we pick up 4 inner tubes from the Preserve Officer and float the river. Eat your heart out Disney World! On Friday we leave to drive the red graveled road to Palcencia. Two and a half hours later, over the single runway of Palcencia Airport and into the City.
Here we have reserved a comfortable apartment. This means warm, abundant water, mirror at my height (Mayan people are short) nice towels and A SHOWER! Water is very drinkable but not always plentiful. Lunch was at the Purple Space Monkey, named for the monkey in the space capsule. A large open sided thatched roofed structure. A stop at the local grocery store we bought local coffee, fresh pineapple, coconut milk and rum. Life is good.
Saturday began at 5:30. Best fishing is at high tide. The day was overcast and stayed that way until the afternoon. We fished in the lagoons away from the winds. This style of fly fishing demands upper body strength and being able to cast for great distances. Oh, did I mention stamina? All of which I was not prepared for. Nora and Preston left for their destination at Glover's Cay in the evening.
Sunday started a little later. Our guide this day was a young man of 23 with high enthusiasum, and expectations. The day was good. We searched the flats for permit but they spooked and avoided us. The fishing improved when we fished a cove filled with bonefish. We returned at 4:00 and shared a few beers with our guide, Dermin. Zen requires being in tune and then it will flow. I feel the fishing is beginning to flow.
Monday was a day off. Nice not to have to get up. The elementary school is just outside the bedroom window. The children arrive early and play baseball. The bell rings and they disappear.These buildings are raised off the ground by long stilts. In the afternoon, they move to the cooler space beneath the wooden building. Lessons continue. This morning we walk across the sand to the Sea. We relax underneath a coconut tree and read. I venture into the sun for some rays. In preparation for the sun I went to the tanning booths before this trip so I haven't burned. After lunch we walk The Millennium Street, listed in Guinness for being the narrowest street, which it is. Wide enough for walking only. We stop at Tutti-Frutti ice-cream shop and then make our way to the water. Here we sit to watch the boats returning with fishers and divers. The water taxis leave with daily workers for a 5-minute ride to their home in Independence. Brenda, a buxom woman in chartreuse, formfitting pants and top, serves her daily fare of fish meal at the shore.
Dinners are always delicious. Restaurants are simple. Napkins are paper and the size of cocktail napkins. Omar's is a screen veranda. His kitchen consists of a kitchen style stove and refrigerator,Conch, shrimps, fish, chicken, fried bread, fresh pineapple and orange juice are the usual offerings.
Tuesday morning we are up and on the boat by 6:15. The sky is clear and the water is azure blue, dark blue, turquoises blue---blue---blue. We fish the flats and then move to the barrier reef. Lunch is conch pasta made by Derman with conch he dove for the day before. The barrier reef is an amazing place. It is 170 miles long - the longest in the Western Hemisphere and second only to the Great Barrier Reef in length. I highly recommend it. The high waves crash over the reef onto the flats, while the drop off on the ocean side is over several hundred feet. Fishing was good for yellow fin, jacks, grouper and snapper. A white lightweight cotton shirt, dipped into the water and worn to cool off is a must. That night there is no dinner...too spent. Just a cool shower and a glass filledwith ice, pineapple juice, coconut milk and rum.
Wednesday morning we leave for a trip through the high mountain rain forest. This is grapefruit, orange and banana country as far as the eye can see. A town smells of oranges. It is a juice refinery. The 18 wheelers are filled to overflowing. When an on coming truck takes a curve too fast grapefruits go flying hitting and smashing on our Tracker. We stop, turn around to collect the fruit.
part of Belize is very different from the seashore city of Palcencia.
The road to our destination of Five Sisters Lodge is very rocky
and rough. It is in a National Forest. We are stopped at a closed
gate by an armed guard who wants to know the nature of our business
and how long we will stay. He looks over the inside of the vehicle
and then raises the pole gate to let us continue. Five Sister Lodge
is an oasis of flowers, wild parrots, cabanas with screened verandas
hanging over the forested mountains. The restaurant overlooks the
Five Sisters Waterfall a hundred feet below.
Thursday is the day of leaving. If I were in Kansas I would be waking up to the cacophonies of spring birds in the meadow. This day, instead the morning starts with the sounds of the Pine Ridge Rain Forest in San Ignacio Cayo, Belize. Miles apart but the wildlife is just as demanding of attention. Breakfast was served on the veranda. This world is a beautiful planet!! We leave and make out way back down the granite, rough road, past the same armed guard at the gate who again wants to know where we were and why we were there. We are okay so he lifts the gate. In the town of San Ignacio we drive onto the hand-operated pulley ferry to get to ancient Maya ruins. The day is hot but we explore the mounds and pyramids.We imagine a life ions ago when deities and human sacrifice was the custom. Back at the Tracker we enjoy a cold bottle of orange mango pop and those juicy grapefruits. Watch for flying grapefruit and pick them up. They are awesome.
Getting back to Kansas was quite a culture shock. I'm back in the groove but my thoughts and attitude about the demands of our life style will never be the same.