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!