Thursday, August 06, 2009

Of Butterflies and Bats

Of Butterflies and Bats

Belize is a very diverse place to visit. The ecology is incredible (of course to a dedicated ecologist all ecosystems are incredible.) The cultural history is fascinating because of the "exotic" Mayan peoples and the mix of others that make up the Belizian people.

Over the past two days I have had the opportunity to experience both.

Cahal Pech is another Mayan ruin. It is a smaller site, but much more ancient than most of them. The first habitation was from about 1200 BCE. The temples and ruins of the ball fields and royal houses date from around 250 AD. This is fascinating stuff. Not only was this wonderful, not only could we climb on and explore all the buildings, but we hit this exhibit while there was an indepth excavation/ exploration with THE Belizian authority on Mayan antiquities. We heard wonderful stories from him and from our guide who had been a student of his. We ended our day in San Ignatio the local town.

Today we traveled over the terrible roads to Barton Creek Cave. This is a Mayan underworld ruin. It is a magnificent limestone cave system. We canoed in past a rock boulder that protects the entrance. As we paddled along we saw thousands of bats, beautiful formations AND Mayan pieces and skulls. Almost like a Disney ride, but this was the real thing. As if this was not enough, we then bounced past the Belizian Amish communities. Acres of corn mixed with papaya and palm trees. Farming all year, no snow, and a government that welcomes their
farming skills. No wonder they came here in the late 50's. We ended up at Green Hills Butterfly Ranch. The round-ups are easier here. They raise over20 different butterfly species. Their butterfly house is magical. Lots of pictures were taken.

So far I have spotted 46 species of birds- about 40 new sightings. One more day in the jungle, then the reef and the beaches.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Shaman's Grandson

The Shaman's Tale

The day starts with coffee on the canopy deck with the toucans and tanagers and the Shaman's grandson.

Our theme for today was Mayan culture, but the most amazing part was the morning spent listening to Phillip. Phillip has been our guide since we arrived. Today was a relaxing day. I was down on the deck early to sit and watch the jungle, have a good cup of coffee and spot the birds. A few new bird finds and a second cup of coffee made for agreat morning. This is when Phillip joined us. He is not a Shaman , but his grandfather was-- for 75 years and his great great grandfather too. For almost 200 years his family was in jungle medicines. We were treated with story after story of his grandfather's life and his work with natural medicines. Then we went on the medicine trail here. I have a new vision for life. I am moving to Belize and becimg a modern day Shaman. Phillip said that you cannot charge for your healing- you must give your knowledge from your heart. Good will come from this and you will be taken care of. So there it is! Another good day.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Laguna Aquacate- Day Three

Laguna Aquacate-- Day Three

After an all night rain-- we are in a rainforest afterall, we broke our fast and got ready for the day trip to Laguna Aquacate. As if the road wasn't already terrible with rocks and ruts and ravines, the rain also made it slippery too. But our guide Phillip drove the van as if
were his everyday drive to and from work. Of course, it is. We drove east of San Ignacio to another man powered ferry crossing. This time we crossed tha Belize River. As soon as we crossed the river we were in Mennonite country. This group of Menonites came to Belize in 1958. It was like going from a third world country with any poor people living in small houses and surviving by living off of small plots of land to driving through Burton or Middlefield, Ohio. The roads were paved, well maintained, and even had lines marked on them. The farms were big and they had huge farm equipment stores. Quite an amazing contrast. The destination for today was a lake maintained as a wildlife preserve by the Mennonite communities. The main attraction included birding spots, a sighting or two of crocs, the possibility of seeing howler monkeys in the wild. The birding was good, we saw the croc pool but no crocs and we heard lots of Howlers, but could not see them. The best part of the day was our hike through the rainforest to see unexcavated Mayan ruins. But it was even better than we had been told. We did see some buried sites. We saw where a stone was started for an altar, but left unfinished. Then as we continued down the trail. (of course hot--about 87 or 90 degrees with 90% humidity and lots and lots of mosquitos-- that L.L. Bean insect proof clothing worked like a champ.). We came to an active archeology site. A group from UCLA was just starting a dig thatight last many years into the future. It was great. They told us all about each dig site and even let us help sift and sort. This is not a tourist site-- they were ad surprised to see us as we were to see them. There were over 25 arheologists from all over the country. Most were graduate students getting some field experience. What a way to put the excavated ruins we saw yesterday into perspective.

We had lunch by the lake, stopped for Mennonite ice cream and headed home to shower, relax, and watch the green tree iguana from the deck of duPlooy's bar.

Tomorrow we visit a medicine trail and try some Mayan cooking.

The adventure continues.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

After Lunch Day 2 The Maya

After Lunch Day 2 --The Maya

Even the trip to Xunantunich was a hoot! The road into and out of duPlooys is as rough as you can have and still drive on it, so every trip is an adventure. When we finally got out it was a short drive to the Hand Crank Car Ferry. One car or van at a time. Every one gets out of the van, the driver drives it onto the ferry, you stand beside it, and the ferry guy ( technical term) turns a crank that pulls the ferry, the van, and all of us across the Mopan River. Very 19th century, very cool! I asked our guide why they have not tried to mechanize the

process and he said if they did , the ferry guy would be out of a job. He is right. This is what we do in the US. In Central America, they keep the man working .

Then about a mile drive to the parking lit and a short mile hike up to the ruins. Unbelievable! I will have to add detail later, (iPod typing is hard,) but this is a sight that has to be seen . I will add Picts later, but the climb to the top of the biggest pyramid was worth
it. You can see for miles and miles.

More later.

Birding At duPlooys

The day started early with rumbles of thunder and hard rain. Well, it
is a rainforest afterall. The two hour difference made getting up forthe 6:30 birding much easier than I thought. The deck overlooking the
forest and the river put us at canopy level. The clouds and early
rain slowed down tha bird activity. We still spotted over 20 newspecies. Well, not new species, but new to my list. We heard many of
them through the night too. We cut the bird hike a bit short when we
got a bit more rain. Breakfast came next and the we had a great walk/
talk through Ken duPlooy's Belize Botonic Garden-- and that was just
the morning!

Next we go to Xunantunich the Myan ruins and archeological site. WOW!

First day

Early departures are a two edged sword--first you have the added
stress of trying to figure out just what time you are going to have to
get up to pull your stuff together get it into your car and get to the
airport --is it an international flight?? Well you need a bit more
time. Yikes that means you have to set the alarm to 3am-- 3am I
awfully early. The other side of the sword is that you might have a
shot at arriving at you destination with some of your travel day left
to actually start exploring. With the 2 hour time difference we were
scheduled to get to Belize at about 10:30 or so.

Everyone arrived at the airport within minutes if each other--good
start. They even checked us all in at the same time. Good deal. The
flight was full, but it was a good flight to Houston. We were even
checked through to Belize City.

Well, we made it. Easy flights. We got here at 10:30, passed customs
and were on the road to the Belizian jungle by 11:30. The first stop
was the Belize Zoo. Wow. Animals right up close. Jags and tapirs and
pumas. I have lots of Picts, but have not down loaded any yet. The
zoo started after a film crew did a nature film and then left the
animals in the care of an American that was handling the animals. She
started the zoo so the animals would not die. Any way, it was
incredible to see them so close.

The jungle is hot, humid AND beautiful. Dinner in the canopy with a
choir of birds. More to come.
Sent from my iPod

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

First Belize Blog

Well, we are just about ready to fly south and west. The trip
involves a very early flight from Cleveland to Houston----6 am. But
we do get to Belize pretty early--10:36 their time. This should allow
for a stop at the Belize Zoo before getting to duPlooys. I have read
that the Macal River is flooded. I hope this does not ruin any of the
planed trips. Anyway, the birds will still be there and the plants
should be even more lush. Time will tell. That is all for now--More
to come soon. RBenz (still in Ohio.)