Monday, August 15, 2011

Caye Caulker--The Place to Run Away To (continued...)

Morpho laying egg
The Blue Morpho seems to be one of the 'trophy butterflies' for those needing to collect the beauty of nature.  I guess I collect nature in my own way--in memories and in pictures mostly.

The next adventure found us on the road to Barton Creek Cave.  As in most of our travels, getting there is half the fun!!  The road to Barton Creek is as bad as the rest of the Belizean back roads--dusty (except when muddy,) rocky (even when muddy,) slippery (when dry or muddy,) and at all times bumpy!!  There are a few interesting sites along the way to the Cave that holds Mayan artifacts and even a skull or two.  One notable scene that we passed through is a Belize Amish community.

Amish Shed in Belize
There are both Mennonite and Amish in Belize, and both sects can be seen on the roads around the Cayo District.  The Amish are a bit more primitive than the Amish that live down the road form me.  The buggies and carts use old truck tires instead of the fine wooden wheels we see in Ohio. (A wooden wheel would last about 3 minutes on the roads of Belize, so the car and truck tires are necessary here.)  We passed the Amish farms on a Sunday morning, so there were almost no folks about.

Amish Road Grader
  The Amish do try to maintain their roads as this horse drawn road grader shows.

The lives eked out of the rainforest here do not seem to be so very different between the Amish and the 'Yankees'.  The struggle is always against the forest and the jungle.  Everyone struggles and works to survive, to raise a family and to keep their farms going and growing.  Our guide Phillip said that he never sees the Amish smiling.  They work hard and are serious all the time.  I wonder what they say about the travelers in the vans that pass?

We did not honk, but 10 'ACERS' might be nice to have!?!
The road goes over and through the rivers and streams.  Sometimes it looks like an easy wade and sometimes it is a bit worrisome.  But we plod on just the same.  Eventually we come to Barton Creek (of Barton Creek Cave fame!)  This fording of the creek asked us to choose the rickety bridge over the Creek or a nice rocky, apparently even, path under a foot or so of the creek water itself.  We chose the bridge.  I'm not sure if it was the best choice.

 A Bridge Too Far??
Barton Creek Cave is one of the big attractions in this part of Belize.  It is an awesome site combining the beauty of the jungle the wonder of the mountains, the intrigue of Mayan artifacts and ruins and the excitement of canoeing into and under the limestone caverns that formed over millions of years ago as rainwater seeped into and started to dissolve some of the limestone matrix that makes up the hills and mountains of Belize.  The results are magnificent--huge (dare I say 'cavernous,') beautifully adorned with stalactites,  limestone columns,  high ceilings and exquisite rock flows and cathedral chambers. The Maya call this the Xibalba (she-bal-ba), or 'the Underworld'.   And so it is. An added attraction are the bats, both fruit bats and insectivorous types.  We are told that even the famous Vampire Bats reside on the ceilings and walls of this underworld habitat.

Into the canoes and then we paddle through the narrow opening--is this our first test for the adventure that lies inside the mountain?  

Judy Jones--Holder of the Light!

The quietness closes around you.  I know that is a quaint saying found in cheap paperback novels, but it really does!  The beauty of the cave erupts as you paddle into the dark.  The 'Holder Of the Light', Judy Jones in my case, directs your attention.  If you try to look on your own, you see almost nothing.  The lights from the other canoes' 'light holders' helps, but it is the light from you own canoe that draws your attention.  First we see the shiny stalactites and limestone drippings.  Then Phillip pointed his light to the Mayan skull perched atop the shelf around the bend.

See the Skull in the Center

We paddle about 3/4 mile or so into the cave.  Then we turned off all the lights.  WOW!  Dark really is dark!  It is so funny when deprived of the input of light energy the eyes seem to rebel.  They open wider, it almost hurts, well, feels uncomfortable.  You strain, and search even though you know it is to no avail.  I reconnected the light to the car battery that rode in the center position in the canoe.  There, transported back to the Mayan Underworld again.  The trip only takes about an hour, but it seems like 3.  This trip to Belize has taken us to the tops of the pyramids and to the depths of the jungle.  From the treetops on the walkway at Duplooys to the underground river system that flows beneath some Belize mountains.  Kind of like the journey that the ancient Maya Shamen tell of the spiritual lives of the people of the jungle.

Out we paddle, into the sunlight and the birthday party of the son of one of the operators of this cave adventure.  "Life renewed?"   (In the picture of my high school biology teacher, Wally Hintz,  swimming in Barton Creek look for the youngster in the left background.  He was one year old that day. NO he is not really 'Walt the Water Lord' either.)

Walt the Water Lord ? 
Around the entrance to the cave system is the jungle and the colors of Belize.  As awe inspiring as the caves are, the wonders of the plant kingdom trump the exotic rock formations every time.  

The road back brought us upon a few very interesting signs in San Ignacio.  The top on our list was the "Rehab Bar and Grill".  Rehabilitation the Belizean Way!!  

The next sign should be familiar to anyone with a background in the history of evolution, or at least in the history of C. Darwin.  As is popularly written, he had major health problems throughout much of his life after returning from this five year voyage on the Beagle.  There is speculation that it might have been psychosomatic--resulting from the stress he felt while researching and writing 'On the Origin Of Species.'  A second possibility is that he contracted an insect-bourne disease called Chagas Disease.  The disease is real and this sign in San Ignacio shows that it is still present in the tropical parts of the world.  

Back to headquarters--Duplooys Jungle Lodge. The jungle journey was almost over and the week was drawing to a close.  We still had a few good observations and a few great meals left though.  When we returned we had a greeter waiting for us near the deck.  A male Basilisk Lizard--A Jesus Christ Lizard.  We have been watching this guy all week.  Of source I'm not sure if it was the same individual. To me all male Basilisk Lizards are similar in appearance if they are the same size, but it looked like the same one.  He was in a short conifer, then on the side of a bigger tree next to the deck and finally he joined us on the deck  at Dupooys tree-top walkway.  We watched him while he was watching us.  I wonder if he was as thrilled as we were?  Probably not. 

The deck is a wonderful observation tool.  A treehouse as it were.  A place to sit, to watch, to try to cool off and to be a part of the jungle that we have been walking through for the better part of a week.  It is no wonder tree houses are so popular.  Watching nature is fun, being up in it is a thrill.  This is how we spent many of our late afternoons.  In the trees, waiting for the 5:30 fly-by of the Mealy Parrots, having a Belikan and watching the Toucans and Lizards, Spiders, Bats and Snakes.  That's a week in the Belizean Jungle for you!

But we still were not on Caye Caulker like the title of this blog entry promised.  Stay tuned, that's the next stop and it is coming soon.  

1 comment:

Stewart M said...

Hi there - I think I have just added (yet) another place to my "I think i should visit" list!

Looks great.

looking forward to the next post.