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            Tuesday, September 18, 2007

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Peter Singfield in Maya ruins in Northern Belize, 1978
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Peter Singfield in Maya ruins in Northern Belize, 1978

Peter Singfield:
I spent a lot of time in the Bush -- and to the North of Belize -- Bush means lot's of ruins.

I took my own picture -- set it on timer. As usual -- I was totally alone on these treks and adventures. Who needs a guide -- eh??

I have a tale somewhere in archives about a long walk I did alone in the deep bush back then popping in at a most surprising place where most surprising things were occuring -- freaking everyone totally out --

So much so there was serious discussions about killing me right there and then -- on the spot.

My only tool was always a trusty machete!!

not for self defense -- but for chopping one's way through -- and -- great for a little digging to.

Self defense in those days was best accomplished through polite discussion -- which everyone here then "respected" --

I came down from Canada first time in 1978 -- Flew Montreal to Miami -- Miami to Merida -- Merida to Chetumal -- then Taxi to the border.

Before leaving I found out -- in Canada -- about Bill's place -- and phoned Toronto to verify -- and once landed in Belize -- hired a Taxi to take me right there.

Man -- Consejo Shores was some place back then!!

As I had reached the border after sunset -- I never saw much of Belize -- until I woke the Next Morning in Consejo -- so it was quite the first impression.

After two days there I started traveling the country -- spending then a total of three months in Belize -- met many people -- had many adventures -- but never got to the Cayes --

I met at Bill's a traveling insurance salesman -- and his mission was to go to the Carter Ranch up just past Augustine Pine Ridge -- West of Orange Walk -- as it was dry season (I landed in April left in June) we made it no problems. But roads were very minimal then -- believe that if anything!!

I had an enjoyable visit with the Carters -- being as guests were so rare and news even more so -- people tended to over react and supply a bounty of hospitality when visitors from afar showed their faces.

After that -- back to Orange Walk -- then by Bus to Belize City.

Spent a few days in Belize city -- which were wonderful!! But I was running near to broke --

While passing through Orange Walk on returning from Carter ranch I met Albert Burns -- and he presented me to his Auntie -- who he lived with -- Mrs Tia Marchand -- house keeper of Dr. George -- who had passed away some years earlier -- leaving her the "New Hope Ranch" which was then situated about 1/2 mile or so West of Orange Walk Town "Center" -- on the same Road to the Carter Ranch and points beyond (ending at Blue Creek Mennonite community)

Miss Tony invited me to visit with her for an extended period -- but I had this urge to press on and see Belize City -- the HUB of Belize.

Thus I took my last coppers and bought a bus ticket back to OW -- and walked the 3/4 mile of so under a blazing hot sun to the New Hope and Miss Toni.

She was happy to see me and invited me in for dinner -- and I ended up staying there for 2 plus months.

During which time Miss Toni fell in love with me -- much to Albert's chargrin -- as in the end she tempted me to stay by offering me the Ranch -- more or less.

Well -- that is another story for another day --

Miss Tony -- around 65 years of age then -- treated me like a king during my stay -- the food -- the care -- was incredible -- better than I had ever enjoyed before -- it was very hard to leave -- but I had so many serious obligations to tend to in Canada -- there could be no avoiding the returning.

During my stay at the New Hope I ranged far and wide through all of Northern Belize -- the great ruins -- the Mennonite colonies -- Corozal -- Consejo again --

I put in a lot of working time helping around the ranch as well -- fixing tractors -- loading logs and delivering those to the saw mill in shipyard.

Much much walking through bush --

Many jobs -- met many people -- Joe Laskott had just seriously started his saw mill enterprise then -- I ended up traveling to their major wood cut at Water Bank -- near the Lamanai ruins -- with his brother Tony -- met the father -- who was an old trader --

Anyway -- I was very extremely impressed with how great a place Belize was!!

Oh -- my reason for this venturing to Belize.

I was operating a lumber business in Quebec Canada at the time and was selling large amounts of prime Maple Lumber to an agent from Japan -- the latest craze there being bowling -- and hard maple flooring was what they wanted for bowling alleys.

My brother had been to BH in the late 60's and had returned talking about all the Mahogany --

I mentioned BH Mahogany to the agent in conversation one day and his eyes went real round -- so I came to Belize to investigate -- ergo all my inland treks.

The visit to Belize City was important in regards to shipping facilities.

As it turned out -- Mahogany Supply in Belize was already on the wane -- and then -- the recession of `1978 hit -- and the lumber industry went "poof"

There you go -- a quick over view -- but really -- I could write a huge book an the events of that visit -- in Belize -- Spring of 1978.

EG -- I met George Price in person -- at Belmopan -- and we had a long visit and chatting session - -which I am sure he remembered for years after.

I went with Albert for the ride as he had to register some property and you needed go to Belmopan.

When we got to the GOB buildings -- they were practically deserted -- very little bureaucracy in Colonial time.

The man at the lands officer was sick -- Albert enquired at another office -- that person directed us to a 3rd office -- there an older gentleman told Albert he would go get the forms -- etc - -and do the paper work.

During that period -- for a few hours -- we all had a nice visit.

As we left the building -- Albert asks me -- do you know who that was??

No -- I replied

That was George Price our MP --

Well -- knock me over with a feather -- eh??

Every where I went I worked -- did some manual labor -- if driving a tractor load of logs to Shipyard -- I sweated with all of them unloading the logs -- then loading the lumber from the last delivery.

When we traveled to Belmopan -- we had two flats on Albert's old Ford car -- I change them both.

In those days cars traveled with three of more spare tires.

While visiting with Joe Laskott -- I fixed some problem he had on his small bulldozer - -ergo the invite to his Lumber Camp.

Etc -- ETC -- all about --

You get to know a country and it's people much better when you travel poor and are willing and able to do some hard work -- at least in Belize -- and in those times.

I know that -- I could have come to Belize Rich -- but even in those times I had my so strange ways.

I returned with honest appraisals of the potentials of Mahogany harvesting in Belize - -as a result!!

Being way to insignificant a "prey" for those few Brown Nose Sharks that circles Belize even way back "when" --

I know people like Bill Wildman -- Emory King (lately passed on -- rest his soul) also worked their ways through Belize.

And many other "foreigners" that adopted Belize that I met over the many years here now -- like Frank Redmond. Lou Thomas -- oh -- a long list -- but still -- in over all percentages compared to those that have tried to adopt Belize -- maybe but 1% -- if not less!!

That among the European Barbarian Blooded clans -- the Chinese and the Hindu have a much higher success rate -- and of course -- all our local Latinos --

Ergo -- I talk from experience in regards to the changes that have occured in our little Country Belize -- and can well regret all that has been lost -- and for what??

Try to not forget this ---

Photo by Peter Singfield              
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