Western News and Views
When my father, Ray Auxillou, who lives in Cayo called me earlier in the week to invite me to accompany him into the Mountain Pine Ridge to identify a route for his up-and-coming Annual Mountain Bike Race, I could not resist a resounding "yes". It has been years since I last forayed into the mountains of Belize. Besides, my dad is no ordinary man. My dad is one of the intrepid adventurerers to whom the scary Blue Hole Monster appeared in 1973.
Just a short digression and a little bit of Blue Hole history for you: In the early 1970's, SCUBA diving was but a new sport, and boat transportation from anywhere to anywhere ranged from slow to deathly slow. Hardly anyone in this world, including Belizeans, had ever heard of the Blue Hole, much less been there, much less dived it. Yet, close to four decades ago when the world was largely unaware that it existed, a fearless group of scuba diving enthusiasts led by my dad went into the Blue Hole to explore. They were among the first adventurers in this world to ever descend into the Blue Hole with SCUBA tanks. Suddenly, at about one hundred feet below sea level, there appeared before them a 125 foot long underwater serpent-like creature with eyes like red flashlights, huge dorsal fins, semi-transparent and eel like in shape. The sea serpent created much apprehension in the minds of the divers. Faster than the speed of light, the adventurers ascended and rushed back home to tell the tale of this awesome underwater creature. Stories of the monstrous creature they had witnessed became the talk of the town both locally and internationally, sparking the curiousity of everyone, and later a visit by famous scuba diver, Jacques Costeau. (In case you have even the slightest doubt as to my story, check out the local and international news archives for 1973. You can even find an illustration of the sea serpent at this web address: //www.ambergriscaye.com/pages/town/greatbluehole.html if you don't believe me.)
Well, they say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I have to admit that I have inherited my father's love for adventure. How could I resist the idea that we could drive around a Belizean mountain and possibly likewise come face to face with some strange mountain monster? Of course I had to say yes!
Paying heed to Aunt Grace's good advice about its many merits, we bought ourselves three dollars worth of bananas. (In Cayo, three dollars worth of bananas means you get about one hundred bananas or pretty close to it as far as I could see from the size of our bundle. Everthing is half as expensive here.) The driver, Rene, had a stash of Polboron and we bought a gallon of water. And off we went down the Cristo Rey road.
We first passed through the Mayan village of Cristo Rey and then through the Mayan village of San Antonio. San Antonio is the home of the Garcia sisters, famous Belizean slate carvers, and their Mayan museum. It is a picturesque (and wealthy) little village from what I can see. In this village of about five hundred people, we counted seven different churches.
Up next was the Mountain Pine Ridge Area. Many tourists and locals visit this area regularly. It is highly popular for its scenic vistas and beautiful rivers, waterfalls and streams. We drove for about half an hour through what's left of the pine forest, which is not much. The pine beetle infestation several years ago it seems has decimated the majority of the pine trees. This is now being replaced by secondary growth. There are a few pine seedlings that look like they will make it, but nothing close to the rolling forests of pine trees which is what I recall this area once looked like. Actually, the seedlings that are there will probably take another fifty years or so to mature that perhaps Mountain Pine Ridge is no longer a fitting name for the area. Further along the way we went past the entrance to the Hidden Valley Inn. Just past this famous lodge the washboard road starts to get to you. A half an hour ride past this area and we had only traveled about ten miles. Many times over I had to ask Rene to slow down before I lost my breasts in the process.
The more we continued along our way, the higher our elevation, the more beautiful the area became. The area around the 1000 Ft. Falls is scenic no doubt -- mountainous terrain and deep gorges as far as the eye could see -- and loaded with lush deep green foliage like a brand new fluffy carpet laid before you. Awesome! And then another hour into our travels and at an even higher elevation the mountain tops start to become baldy (no foliage, just stubby growth). That is how Baldy Beacon lookout point got its name. My father calls the area the Belize Alps. It reminds him of the mountains of Switzerland, he says. I simply call it Heaven. The entire area seems so surreal. Surely I was floating on top of clouds in Heaven looking down at the baldy mountain tops far far above the Earth in little Belize?
After more than nine hours on the road we finally made it back home to Hillview -- exhausted but happy. And no, we did not spot a Belize Alps monster this trip. But we did manage to identify a route for our Mountain Bike Race that is sure to make everyone go AWWWW! Only after the first race in August will we know for sure if our choices are popular, but I am positive this will be so.
On another note, a drive through San Ignacio town on Monday had me going by the open field near the wooden bridge. All the mechanical rides of a Belizean fiesta were in the process of being installed, making for some fun times in the West over the Easter weekend. If you are in the area, stop by and give a shout out to the festivities.
Have a great Easter everyone!
Questions or comments: Please e-mail me at [email protected]
Thanks for reading!