Fun in Belize!
by: Kim Worley
The following is the first of a bunch of emails I sent off in late Nov/early Dec to family, parrot head friends & the Texas Mermaid School of Floridays & Feminine Ways. Please excuse any likely inaccuracies as I am, quite frankly, a moron. Thanks! K. (KimBehindDoorNbr3)
Ravishing Beauty...Startling Devastation...
It's just another day in paradise...
Got a surprise first-class bump from Miami to Belize City, so that meant gloriously free shrimp, scallops and champagne for K-Wo!!! Geez, I LOVE how the other half lives!
The prop plane flight from Belize City to Placencia (a tiny, coastal fishing village in southern Belize) was entirely too short...and entirely too beautiful. Some weather was blowing in from the Honduras as we passed the Mayan Mountains (picture the Smokies, but covered with dense jungle growth)...the green peaks were tearing the smoldering clouds and at the furthest point of visibility amid the "smoke" was an incredibly vivid rainbow. Absolutely stunning! (DOH! And some of the best sleeping Robert's done on a plane!)
As the 7 of us deplaned at the block long airstrip (prior to rolling into the impending ocean), Marcia, the innkeeper at Mariposa, stormed the plane and possibly gave me the biggest kiss I've ever received from another woman! She's a Brit...and stitch! Her husband, Peter, is a Yank...and charming, charming, charming. They came down here 8 years ago to dive for two weeks...ended up buying some grossly overgrown oceanfront property...then built their home, Mariposa, from scratch. They are GIFTED!
The inn is breathtaking...our entire bedroom wall has mahogany doors which open out onto fresh, clean and for the most part newly replanted palms, beauganvillas...and lord knows what other incredible ornamentals! A second set of storms blew in after midnight and we were able to leave everything wide open and enjoy the whipping of the palm trees and the crashing waves just outside.
The beach is secluded and Marcia and Peter make it perfectly clear that they'll be around only if you need them...otherwise, you won't see them! We have our own palapa with hammocks right on the water...and the fish are jumping like there's no tomorrow. (Heck, maybe there *is* no tomorrow...maybe it's all about today!) We also have an outdoor shower. PARTY !!!
AND TIKI JO...truly in tribute to you and all the other gorgeous mermaids, I enjoyed the most heartbreakingly beautiful nekkid swim in the pale moonlight! The sky was black due to a recent storm (mentioned below)...except for the moon which was nearly full. The lunar shine changed the ocean colors varying from dozens of deep blues to cool, cool lavendars. All of this as the cranes landed on my beach towel and watched me giggling like a lunatic in the warm water nearby.
Got my first crab "bite" in the afternoon. (Poor little guy, I hope he didn't lose a leg when I sorta sideswiped him!)
And gave Robert his first class in "tormentos"...relatively aggressive storms that blow in out of the southwest. (As in, I'm going to make you peddle into town now, in the dark, so we can buy some spaghetti...but before we can start back, a tormento will blow in so we can peddle through one b*tch of a warm storm in a place we've never seen before--thank god, there's only one road!--oh, and by the way...there are no lights in Placencia. Enjoy!)
It's a blessing that we've got our "boarder" friends as they were invaluable in helping me with the last minute change to Mariposa. See, Mariposa is maybe 2 miles by bike outta Placencia proper. Placencia was hit by Hurricane Iris about this time last year. Unlike when Mitch hit San Pedro (la Isla Bonita y the "party" island) in 2000, I'm guessing that country (et al) has not been able to quickly come to the financial aid of Placencia. One year after Mitch, San Pedro was seemingly thriving bigger and better than ever...one year after Iris, Placencia still looks striken. A stark difference from where we're lodging even so nearby.
When Iris hit, it stuck to the downtown area and it ground...an churned. Scores of what were gem-colored homes are literally shattered and still in piles around the town. Some tumbled cars and boats remain. Currently, small contained fires burn continually to clear all the dead, once dense foliage that consisently made Placencia one of those "top 10 beach" destinations.
As always, the people here are warm, wonderful and funny as all get out! I have no doubt that with their spirit, love and sheer pride in this beautiful land that Placencia will be healed in a year or two. (Come now before she gets rediscovered! You'll love her...she's funky, independant and glorious in her own right...kinda like a beautiful woman with a black eye promenading up a buzy avenue!)
I can hardly wait to do some boating or snorkeling or DEEP SEA FISHING (wish you were here "Flyby"!) tomorrow.
Please consider the following blather as the second installment of the "Kim Chronicles".
It's been a "cold" couple of days in Placencia--maybe in the 70's. The locals are wearing sweatshirts and drinking lots of coffee. (LOL...Robert is logging some of the best sleep of his life, though, 'cuz life has literally some to a stand still down here. We're 2 of SCANT few visitors. Everyone is treating us like visiting dignitaries. Geez, the Placencians are such warm people!)
NOTE: Our room at Miraposa is beautiful. There's glorious Italian and Mexican tile throughout with mahogany and natural woods surrounding your every move. In our living room, Marcia/Peter even thought to bring in a local artist to handpaint Mayan gods/kings/characters around the ceiling (think Placencia's version of crown molding). Toss in some of Marcia's welcoming stew and Peter's banana bread...and no wonder it's such a struggle to get Robert to leave!
A little old man that I keep happening upon each time I ride to town has a bunch of the local littl'uns calling me "Tejas LEEN-da". At first I gently corrected them, but as the old man shook his head smiling yesterday, I think he was maybe paying me a compliment. I think he was teaching the kids to call me roughly, "pretty lady from Texas". So sweet! (Please note: if I'm wrong, it just doesn't matter. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)
Two nights ago, we were enjoying a Belikins by torch light at the Sand Bar (at Kitty's)...a palapa maybe a US block or so up our beach. Around the hut are several windswept palms...the ones that have been battling hurricane season for so long that they seem to be considering laying down on the sand rather than tickling the sky. As I looked at one of them, I realized there were two eraser-sized glowing eyes staring back at me. As I went to investigate, the eyes began a sideways scurry up the tree. Once I got there, there was the most comical fist-sized crab, first challenging me to a standoff...then climbing for cover in the coconuts once he realize that I may be throwing down more bulk than he was. (Of course, he may have spoken to the one I stepped on earlier this eek. "Watch out for the white woman!!! She's big and not particulary bright!")
Went up the Monkey River yesterday, but the weather is calling all of the animals into the greater depths. (Kinda a bummer--we had been looking forward to this one.) Saw several species of birds and two of the howlers...a mom and on adorable baby.
Dad, you'll be pleased to know though, that our first crocodile came within Olympic spitting distance of our boat. He was maybe 5 to 6 feet long, but relatively skinny.
Stopped in Monkey River Town (during the boat trip), where we ate fish balls--yeah, i dunno...but they were good! The local school teacher entrusted me with blank original tests (all hand-written) for the elementary school kids. She wanted them boated back to town, photocopied, then one of the fishermen could ferry them back to the clapboard school later. When she was done talking with us, she rung a giant handheld bell to call the kids back to class from their homes nearby.
Monkey River has a closet-sized police station...with an even smaller jail (which doesn't lock). Unfortunately, they have no police. I guess it's sorta run on the honor system. (I was a very bad girl! ;-)
Last night, Robert and I were walking down the beach back from the store in town...and outta the darkeness from a teen-aged palm in front of us, this raccoon-sized, heavy-bodied, short-legged, snouted, no-tailed creature fell from the tree. It made a sound kinda like I'd make if I fell on my back (HUFFGH!)...and ran off in a rather (similarly) embarrassed manner. That was our first "gibnut"...or "royal rat". Whenever the royal family comes to town they request this delicacy. The locals don't eat it, but if the royals want it, it's all good!
Going snorkling today, then leaving for two days to Ian Anderson's Cave's Branch. After that, it's on to Ek Tun...my expected highlight of the trip. Been waiting for this one since 1999! I doubt that I'll have any contact before Thanksgiving Tuesday, as after tomorrow, our lodging selections won't even have electricity (though maybe the main camps will have connectivity).
Talk to you as soon as I can!
And here's the third installment...
ONE OF THOSE PERFECT MOMENTS...
The weather hasn't cleared here, so snorkeling was canx. Instead I biked home to drag Robert to Siene Bight (SANE bite)...a creole/Garifuna village maybe 3 miles by wide clay road (read as, "a sticky brown Swiss cheese mud on a waffly path"). He had a HUGE time though as we found a great palapa serving up Belikins Stout while we waited out yet another tormento...then road over to Rum Point to wait out more of the same.
Today is Garifuna Settlement Day...a day of thanksgiving and liberation primarily celebrated in Dangriga, Belize. However, the Punta drums (24 hours of drum beating touching you at the most primal level) began at midnight last night and will continue until the wee hours today.
Garifuna Settlement Day is also celebrated in locales such as Sine Bight. The evening hours are definitely an "adults only" affair with the Punta music (picture reggae hopped up on goofballs) becoming more and more (hmmm) instictive.
If I understand correctly, the evening culminates with the "Forbidden Dance". James, our Monkey River tour guide yesterday and a Creole from Sine Bight, thought that I'd really enjoy that! ;-) (Since I was still working off one of my nearly monthly groundings, Robert sequestered us during the late night hours. I SWEAR I've been REALLY good so far! Bubbles, you'd be proud! No Bosco'd strawberries in my navel, no nuttin'!)
At any rate, we peddled to Sine Bight around 10a, and I had my first official Belize tears of this year. To say Sine Bight is impoverished in an economic sense, would be an understatement. Conversely, there are scores beautiful, sometimes naked children in the streets playing with the town's dogs and chickens. Everyone was smiling. Everyone was celebrating life. In the downtown area, the drums continued.
At the point we arrived, the drummers were all adolescent boys with maybe their mothers or sweethearts chanting in some foreign patios (I'm guessing) of thier freedom. (The Belizean blacks are descendents of Caribes who escaped or fled indenture. On this day, the Garifuna celebrate their landing on Belize...and also celebrate the courageous generations before them.)
With the blessing of Wayne the Rasta Man ("we're all the same color on the inside...we're all made of the same things, mon...my people love you!"), I was the only white to join in the festivities--Robt and I seemed to be the only non-locals for MILES around. I didn't sing or dance...somehow it seemed disrespectful...and yet the towns people allowed me into their group as they beat their drums...and as the women chanted...and as the men danced joyously with woven palm fronds upon their heads. Quite shyly, the new "Mrs. Garifuna Settlement Day" even allowed me to take her picture during her special crowning moment.
(Marsha-it was the class you gave me a couple years back on "perfectly perfect moments" that will make me treasure the following forever...)
It was the children who brought on my "so beautiful!" tears. The tiny girls trying to sing like thier mothers...the littlest boys trying to dance on the outskirts of the groups just like thier papas. If the pictures turn out at all, the girls will all be glorious in their fancy bell-shaped, brightly-colored dresses (against a backdrop of such Iris-dampened colors). In this case, though, I'm afraid that my pictures are not worth a thousand words. I doubt that I could ever capture on film everything that filled my heart at that moment!
I was even fortunate enough to follow immediately behind the town people's parade down Sine Bight's "main street". The parade was lead by a flatbed filled with men leading songs and chants...and the rest of the town falling in step and chant right behind it. The singers stopped at each "neighborhood" business--Miss LouLou's, Miss Patty's, Miss Lydia's to perform. So beautiful...so touching...so gosh darn REAL in comparison to my typical day-to-day. When was the last time I smiled and laughed and cried like this for ANYTHING back home?
Even with all of the devastation, I could stay in Placencia for months. There's something here in Belize that speaks to me...it's not just the people, but also land. Placencia has crept up inside of me with her raw, ravaged beauty. I can't wait to see her healthy again. She must have been a goddess prior to October 2001. The people so deserve their country back!
More soon--I hear Omar's and the Pickled Parrot (need my fix of Parrot P*ss) whispering my name. Yunno, if they *really* wanted my attention, maybe they could add a simple yet penetrating drum beat to that whisper...kim....kimkim...kim...kimkim...kim!
Love 'ya, again!
...and yet still another. Looking back at it, I apparently have a lotta words (and my boss would likely argue, "Not too terribly much to say!" ;-)
I think I wrote this one from Eva's in Cayo maybe the Friday before Thanksgiving, though it covers our time prior to reaching Cayo.
K. Pibil, Johnny Cakes & 36 Hours in the Rain Forest
The weather has finally broken here in Belize! It is sunny and maybe 82ish degrees. Our last day in Placencia, we treated ourselves to a native dish of Pibil (pu BILL). It's not so much a dish as a cooking method. (Yepper, you know me, I'm all over those Belizean chefs!)
Bottom line, the meal is cooked IN a pit on the beach. Robert had the pork (sorta jerk-ish in nature)...I, of course...skarfed the fish!
That's my seafood diet! I'm gonna eat fish, lobster & conch every single darn meal I can! It's relatively inexpensive (though food at Kitty's Place is a touch more expensive than I had anticipated)...and in season down here. I'd feel like I'm depriving myself if I didn't. (Can you say 750 crunches a day when I get home!) I actually ALREADY popped the snap on my hiking pants yesterday. Bring on the Belikins and the Panty Rippers.) It just doesn't matter any more!
We couldn't snorkel the reef a couple of days back because of the current, so instead of just cabbing it up to Ian Anderson's Caves Branch, we hitched a ride with a tour "bus". (giggling) Robert has been quite flexible this trip! ;-)
It was maybe 1.5 hours from the southern coast to the approximate area of the jungle. The northern Stann Creek district is phenomenally picturesque with mile upon mile of citrus trees. (Toss in the obligatory Mayan Mountains as a backdrop and you have the most beautiful dreams imagainable.)
Stopped for gas at what has recently become a "Texaco". I was thrilled to find that one of the local ladies was selling her homemade Johnnycakes at the station. (Think Pillsbury-ish dough stuffed with something ham-like and cheddar-ish. YUMMM!)
With a little warning, our tour guide told us that he would have been able to take us to the Marie Sharp's plant. (DANGGIT!!!) Marie Sharp is BZ royalty. Most of you have already had her hot sauce (see last year's care packages), but she's also apparently doing jams and all sorts of other yummy condiments. He said you can do a far share of munching on these tours. I could have been in Blazing Tongue Hog Heaven. Mental note for next year...
Stopped at Herman's Cave for some dry caving (pretty...but YAWN!). My head lamp blew out in a record three minutes, though I'm happy to say that the toilet paper that I've been hauling around has come in terribly handy at this location. (I was considering auctioning by the square to some desperate-looking Norwegian women...maybe fund my Eva's habit in Cayo.)
We ran a few errands in each Belmopan and San Iganacio town...hit the Farmers' Market HARD!(I've been DYING for some fruits and veggies as they were few and far between on the coast. It's simply too expensive to get them down ocean side. I savored some canned mushrooms in some spagooch we made in Placencia...and I think there was BOUND to be a banana in something I drank at Pickled Parrot, but I'm not sure that counts...)
Arrived at Ian's 4pm-ish two days ago. Robert scared the heck outta me at first as it was maybe a bit more primative than I've gotten him accustom to over the past few years. The jungle was *relatively* quite the two nights we were there. Lots of birds and bugs...but virtually no howler monkeys, or unspecified snorts, bumps or grunts. (We've had SO much rain...guess that's why they call it the rain forest!)
DAD DO NOT READ THE FOLLOWING! SKIP TO WHERE I CALL YOU BELOW...
(Hmmm, couldn't help yourself youja!?!)
You'll be happy to know that one of the locals killed a boa constrictor a bit outside of where we were staying. He was easily over 5 feet long (bloody, gory, icky, yuck!)...and Benito, our guide, explained that he was "just a baby"! Actually, the boas are not really an issue. I understand you've gotta watch out for the coral snakes and the Fuer de Lance where we were. That's ok, we were in amazing hands...and even with Robert's original concerns, I wish we would have stayed 3 more days deep inside the jungle.
OK, DAD...WELCOME BACK NOW...
I proudly rented a cabana that had a toilet! Robert was not overwhelmingly impressed at first. However, he immediately fell in love with the outdoor showers (hidden in palapa with water shifted through an aluminum pail).
Our Cave's Branch cabana was really very well appointed. No electricity (I prepared him for that) and we had our own bathroom AND A KING-SIZED BED! I have never been so grateful for sleep in my life. In our household, bedtime is a full-contact sport. Like WWF with pillows. Miraposa had a wonderful queen-size bed which would serve the normal couple just fine, I however sustained multiple contusions from unexpectedly slumberly left-hooks and the such.
The first night at Caves Branch, Robert went on critter patrol before bedtime with my hand-dandy flashlight. I was happy that the only furry thing that he found was a 3" long catepillar! SCORE !!!!
The rain kept the 'skwitos down, though Robt is COVERED head to toe with bites. Robert Worley--the other white meat. By the time they're done with him, they couldn't care the least about me. DOUBLE SCORE !!!
This takes us to our experience with Footprints Cave...a wet cave outside the Caves Branch compound.
CRUD...outta time...more soon! THIS WAS A MEMORY OF A LIFETIME !!!! Gotta get you back here as soon as I can!!!
Love y'all! Bug you most likely Thanksgiving Tuesday...in San Ignacio...heading towards Ek Tun now!
And still more from our amazing 15 days in Nov/Dec.
When last we visited the weary travellers (or the weary traveller and the idiot who can eat, drink and talk endlessly with anyone regardless of whether or not she can speak their language...)
They had just left Xunantunich (the stone maiden temple in Northern Stann Creek--eerily beautiful)...and made it to Ian's (Cave Branch).
Before we begin, I'll mention that a friend in Placencia (outside of earshot of Robt), mentioned that they LOVE Cave's Branch, but cautioned that it's easy to overestimate one's physical ability. Ugh.
Admittedly after our amazing, more-than-somewhat-not-experiences-recommended-by-Dr-Mom events at Ian's...maybe she was right! In fact, I would venture to admit that I was POSSIBLY somewhat lucky that it was a rainy time in the old rain forest...as...even with all the excursion cancellations, Robert wanted to run an MPEG of all the the contusions I now have from head-to-toe. I *AM* Rand McNally, thank you very much! (I think it's my Dad in me! I may be like Bambi on Ice, but gosh darn no one can stop me once I put my mind to something!) I've had the best time here!
Bottom line: due to the rain and the scant few guests, both our night time jungle hike AND my rappelling were canx. DOH !!!! However, to compensate for all of this, the guide who took us on our river cave tubing trip, added a trip into a typically "restricted" cavern of Footprints Cave.
Before each day's excursion begins, Ian's staff feeds you the biggest, heartiest, most American breakfast you can even begin to imagine. After all of the grilled fish...and rice and beans I've joyfully eaten over the past week or so, I could actually hear my arteries clogging as his cooks brought out the open-air buffet each morning. Eggs, bacon, sausage...and just about anything else that would fill the rainforest with aromas that don't exist normally in nature! I gotta admit, it was HEAVENLY.
After that, they pretty much encourage you to put on whatever clothes you're planning to sacrifice to the jungle gods that day. I put on my hiking pants (they already looked like heck from all of the temples,etc we'd been scaling in the rain)...two pairs of socks and a borrowed pair of men's hiking boots. (Mental note: take the time next time to find a pair that fits. Besides, Bozo needs his booties back.)
After jumping into the back of a tall "flat bed" (pls recall we're in a third world country here) filled with tubes and 20-somethings spelunking into a previously unexplored cave, we were hauled through miles and miles of sweet-smelling citrus.
More mountains, more cool breezes, more 4-inch beetles...and voila--we're there! Deep in the jungle in a perfectly clear running river just SCREAMING to be jumped into!
The tubing was glorious and the water cool and crisp. Within 30 minutes, we had each paddled backwards upstream to the enormous cave's mouth. As we approached, (and because I'm so easily impressed), I literally shrieked with delight upon spotting a tyra (think a rock-climbing love child of a large weasil and an ant-eater) scaling the cave's face. We were outfitted with our head lamps and proceeded in.
Early on, life was slow and easy and moving along quite well, even in the inky darkness. Some paddling...some hiking over internal rock formations. No biggy. Of course, we weren't seeing anything too amazing either. Two hours...some pastrami burritos (go figure!)...and 2 rooster eggs later, our guides felt that our tiny group of four was ready for some more significantly treacherous activities. (Of course, this was mentioned *after* the point I finished congratulating myself on not adding any fresh DNA to my clothing or the cave.)
Enter "wet face scaling in the pitch black"...with god only can guess how deep wickedy-bad drop-offs if you misstepped. I have sincerely learned the profound message behind "NEVER LOOK BACK!"
Dumbly, I was somewhat worried about Robt's persistance, however...turns out the man is NIMBLE! It took him half the time to crawl, jump, shimmy, scale anything that they put before me. He didn't even BLEED !!! The FREAK! I was so jealous...and so stinkin' MUDDY!!! (GOD, what fun!)
Three hours into this extravaganza, we arrive at the Fertility Cavern. Apparently the ancient Mayan mucky-mucks experiencing difficulties in replicating had their women go before this idol deep in the stomach of the cave beast and do some miscellaneous blood-letting rituals. Also, rather counter-productively (nyuck, nyuck!), once they conceived and delivered their first child, the new moms hauled their babies back into the cavern to offer their babies (in some type of relatively fatal manner) back to the fertility god in thanks. Hmmm. Overall, the ancient Mayans were incredibly ahead of their time (and maybe in some ways ahead of ours, too), but I'm still working the math out on that one.
The moment of highest comic relief in the Fertility Cavern was actually seeing a nearly pre-historic version of "HBO after 10"...when our guide quickly jiggled his flashlight back and forth over two carved stalagmites and was able to illustrate for us IN FULL DETAIL just how the fertility god was planning to assist said women in need.
I'll spare Mom the specifics of most of the remainer of the trip (trips? falls? spills?), but I will say that the crystalline formations of the stalagtites and stalamites were simply other-worldly. Also, we were treated (?) to an extra hour of wall scaling which took us into restricted Cavern 3. In addition to pottery shards, which we had seen all along the way, we were lucky enough to see the roughly 2000 (?) year old tiny footprints of what as likely a Mayan shaman or somesuch. UNBELIEVABLE !!!!
We scaled out...and then drifted in our tubes (maybe 30 minutes) without our lamps on back to the cave's mouth. What an experience! It all becomes so easy to understand the Mayan beliefs and fables once you experience some of thier history firsthand.
Latent Post Script from Kim:
Hats off to the folks at Cave's Branch! Our tour was educational and simply awe-inspiring...our guides, amazing (even in the face of dealing with a Left-Footed-Worley)...and the food was perfect for the experience. (The dinners were enourmous, gang!)
Wrote this from CC AFTER our Cayo trip to Ek' Tun. That'll hit the board sometime this weekend. Dashing to Baltimore now. Have a great week all!
RobertE/Gail/and our very own BeckyBound!..."Here's to you, here's to me, here's to takin' life easy!"
Will write of our time in Cayo and arrival in San Pedro (I can't believe the number of cars that have made it to the island since last year!) later today, but wanted to share some island wisdom while it was still reasonably fresh in my noggin...
Caye Caulker (CC) is a "suburb" of Ambergris Caye--La Isla Bonita (the "pretty island" according to Madonna's Spanish), home of San Pedro. Caye Caulker typically hosts the US and Euro backpacker. CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP!!!
All of the CC children take the water taxi into AC for primarily (?) Catholic school. I believe virtually all the Belizean kids go to "Catholic school"...and they all wear uniforms. Robert & I grabbed the water taxi (school bus) back to CC this morning to do some serious souvenior shopping.
NO trip to CC is complete without a stop at the Lazy Lizard, a large beer hut located at the "cut". As often happens when a hurricane hits a narrow island, the island gets chopped in two. Hurricane Gilbert (?) hit CC years ago and now "the cut" is a celebrated feature of this tiny place. There are absolutely no cars here and relatively few golf carts. One huge upside for the backpackers, is that all of the amazing diving and scuba that can be done both inside and outside Belize's barrier reef can be done from Caye Caulker at a fraction of the prices quoted out of Ambergris.
(NOTE TO MOM: THE FOLLOWING WILL BE VERY NAUGHTY AND FIT ONLY FOR GRANDMA AND DAD TO READ. YOU'LL WANT TO STOP NOW. REALLY! YOU WON'T WANT TO HAVE TO SANCTION ME OVER CHRISTMAS DINNER FOR THIS. S'OK!?!)
So we slooooowly amble our way down to the Lazy Lizard in the high Belizean heat. The Lazy Lizard prides itself on being a "sunny place for shady people" and they encourage you to leave your mark anywhere on the bar that you can find an unmarked space. Here I share some of the most important insights I've gained at the Lazy Lizard...
(....and my favorite...a rather poetic...)
EK' TUN...SOMEWHERE BETWEEN GUATAMALA
First, our last night at Ian Anderson's Cave Branch...
We had two separate evening dinners fit for American kings at Ian's...monster amounts of fresh vegetables, spuds, rice 'n beans, exceptional roasted pork chops and something that looked like t-bone steaks (though all the guys admitted they were quite possibly next to be used for our early morning hiking boots.) Really and truly, Belize is probably not the place to be looking for your next prime rib dinner.
Though the food was good, the company was even better. Virtually all of our fellow explorers were British guys ages 25 to 34. (Yepper, Lava Lisa...a mermaid's paradise!) The stories were bawdy and the Belikin's was cold. What a terrific ending to a terrific stay at Cave's Branch. Open air drinking, dining and joking at long, mahogony communal tables above the Mopan river and beneath the stars...just wondering how there could possibly be *anything* outside our little compound. Greatness!
(I can't recall if I mentioned Robert's nightly cootie hunt through our cabana, but I'm proud to say that there were absolutely no 2-plus-ish inch furry, multi-leg critters joining us during night two. We had a bit of a parade during night one. Suddenly, my need to haul a flashlight seemed to make much more sense! Seriously, a nightly check of one's blankies and a morning inspection of the loose clothes/shoes can save you from some unnecessarily envigorating moments later in the day/night.)
Better yet, there was a wonderful storm that night. I'm such a HUGE fan of nature's "ragtime band" to begin with, but toss in palms and vines and exotic flowers and winged critters and only lamp light ...and there's one amazing experience!
Feeling lucky the next morning, I coerced Robt to dump our wet, muddy and(in my case) bloody luggage into the back of a pick-up truck to take us 1.5 miles up Ian's "driveway" to the highway. It's customary for Belizeans to pick-up travelers roadside...and their public busing system (USish-looking buses from circa 1965) will stop ANYWHERE they are flagged over. (Yeah, yeah Mom...I know...all's well...Belize is a peace- and people-loving country.) Actually, one of the kitchen staff ended up taking us into Belmopan (the capital) on his way to buy groceries. From there $30 US and 90 minutes later bought us a cab ride into San Ignacio...the final hopping point to get to Phyllis Dart's Ek' Tun.
We dropped off our luggage at Eva's (the Coconut Telegraph of Belize) and we piddled around in town a bit. It's warmly small with relatively little tourist trade...right now, almost all just locals working, eating and chatting.
We hadn't told Phyllis when we'd arrive (hate to relieve her of that certain element of surprise!), however it was pretty easy for Brian (Ek' Tun's manager and Phyll's partner in crime) to find the two, big dumb Americans through the grapevine planted at Eva's.
Brian picked us up in the Land Rover, drove us a few miles outta town...then down 8 miles of...uhm..."rustic"...gravelway that I would liken to my folks' driveway (more Swiss cheese on waffles)...to the edge of the Macal River. He backed down the steep bank to meet the tiny boat necessary to haul us to the far side of the Macal where Phyll's place is located.
Slowly, 500 pounds of human and probably an equal amount in luggage (well, ok, red wine *in* the luggage) slowly worked its way down and across the river to Ek' Tun.
We were met at the foot of the river by Hill and Alfredo...Phyll's two Guatemalan staffers. It was actually a pleasure (for me, probably not them) to use my hideous Italio-Spanglish with them...and as always is the case, they were enthusiastic that someone at least attempted to speak in their language. (They seemed to laugh alot, I hope I didn't somehow slam my sainted mother...)
Ek' Tun has only 2 cabins. (I TOOK A SHOWER with HOT WATER!!!!!!) The cabins are discreet from each other on slightly differing levels of the mountain forest...and Phyll's home is maybe a "block" from them down dirt and cobblestone path ways.
Their home is a MARVEL. It's entirely open air. No doors, no windows, no nothing. (The record cold in that part of the jungle was 52ish degrees many years ago. Back then it killed off much of the vegetation, but you'd never even guess it now.) The house "walls" are sorta an adobe/New Mexico style with a giant palapa (palm frond) roof.
Phyll's original background was in horticulture (she's an Iowa farm girl) and her then husband's background was in forestry. Amazingly, they lived in a tent for five years as they built their home. (A few years back as I read the Ek' Tun website, I thought the two of them may just be nuts, well and maybe they are ;-), but Phyllis is easily the most fascinating, intelligent, wacky...and tenacious individual I've ever had the pleasure to meet. (AFTER NOTE FROM KIM: I truly admire Phyll's moxie...and now think of her often when I'm griping about "how hard I work in my little temperature-control beige cubile". I'm a bit of a woose...and she's more than a bit of a warrior. Truly a force of nature!)
As is the case with most places in Belize, the inside is furnished entirely with mahogany, wicker and assorted natural materials. All around the house (perched on a lush cliff overlooking the Macal), Phyll has planted the most exotic, alien-looking plants imaginable. Thus the humming birds are THICK and buzzing.
In addition to the glorious vegetation up the sides of our cabana, Phyll has a beautiful one acre clearing crowned by a royal palm...favored by a flock of yellow-keeled toucans. At 5:30a, they'd begin their arguing and let you know it was time to get up for the floor show.
Our cabana, also romantically beautiful, hits right into its surroundings. On small mahogany shelves around its living room are tons of little pottery shards, artifacts and arrowheads collected from around the area. It's so incredible to be able to *touch* the history of Belize. (I know you heard about this ad nausem last year concerning our voyage to Tikal, but it's true...) Right or wrong, coming from a country where our history is shrink-wrapped to protect it forever, I still get chills wrapping my hands around something created by someone who stood where I did thousands of years before. (Yep, I actually hugged the Colesseum when we went to Rome because I wanted to have that "one-ness" feeling in my whole body a few years back. Robert was at first appauled/embarrassed/crawling into his backpack...but then, after being shamed into trying it, had to admit there is a certain eery beauty in being that close to the scores of generations before you!)
Blah, blah, blah...MUST...HAVE...EVA'S...RUM...PUNCH!
Click here to return to the main articles page.