Spring in Belize
A princess arrives
Mountain Pine Ridge - Part II
As I said, Justin, the other tourist, and I were just wandering around Caracol looking in temples and tombs and soaking up atmosphere when it clouded up, flashed a few lightening bolts, rolled a warning of thunder and started to rain down sheets of water. All in about 3-1/2 minutes. Foolishly, we stopped in what at first appeared to be adequate shelter in a grove of trees rather than running for the workers' compound, so we got *really* wet before we got there.
Fortunately, the cookhouse was not far (two city blocks?) and one of the cooks gestured us in and then woke up the cook who speaks English. There are five women who cook for the 90 or so workers at the site. They explained to me that they work for 4 weeks and then they get 5 days off. They were setting out things for the noon meal, which was to be chicken and rice and beans (surprise), and baking bread, making coffee. The cookhouse is actually a large thatched area with a pounded dirt floor, no walls. There's electricity (from a generator) for the coffee maker and stove and a propane-powered cook top. The major cooking, though, appears to take place in an adjacent fire pit hut with a tin roof, which also houses a huge homemade frying pan that swivels over the fire. You could fry about eight chickens at one time in this pan. Which they probably do several times every day.
We were just sitting there drinking coffee and waiting for the rain to quit, along with the cooks, Everald and half a dozen workers, when one of the women yelled and ran out from behind the cooking counter. I didn't understand what she hollered, but every man in the place (except Justin) leaped up, grabbed a tool of some sort and ran for where she had been standing. The one who got there first had a sort of tamper -- a 9x12 heavy flat metal plate on the end a pole. And WHOMP! killed that snake dead in one blow! Then everyone had to look at it and exclaim and carry on. It was, I think they said, a yellow jack, or maybe yellow jaw -- *very* deadly, also called a "leaping viper" and there was a lot of loud, nervous laughing and teasing. We ignorant tourists, of course, didn't get the same adrenaline rush, but it did make us extra-cautious the rest of the day.
To lighten the atmosphere, Everald decided to tell a story. Because we were his clients, he told the story first in English, then Spanish, then Mayan. He just started in, didn't announce it or look at people to get their attention. You could only tell at first that it was a performance, because the cadence of his voice changed a little from normal conversation. It's a fairly modern story and goes like this.
A couple had been prosperous in their lives and wanted to have something special around them so they built a large parakeet cage and gathered many beautiful birds. But one morning when they got up one of the parakeets was gone. The cage was still all locked up, there was no indication that anything was wrong, the dogs hadn't barked, just one less parakeet. The next morning another one was missing, the morning after that, another, and so on until there were only two birds left. The *next* morning, there were no birds, BUT a small boa constrictor was caught between the bars. You see, as long as it ate only one bird, it could slip in and out of the cage, but when it ate two, it was too fat and couldn't get back out. Unlike Aesop, Everald didn't belabor the moral(s). Everyone thought it was a grand story and discussed it at length.
Fortunately the snake was the most excitement of the day. We did see a wild keel-billed toucan, but from all the way across a clearing, and a small crocodile on the way back out, maybe a foot-and-a-half long, my first wild croc, but it was just sunning beside a river looking fairly harmless. And then Everald told us that some men who stopped us on the road were banditos and we didn't have anything they wanted. But I think he lied, I think they were his friends.
This tour included two other stops besides the banditos, one at the Rio Frio (cold river) Cave, which is quite spectacular and very accessible. The river has opened up the cave and you can climb through from one opening to the other, the covered area is about 600 yds long and 200 yds wide and 40 yds high with stalactites and a beautiful sandy beach inside. Very impressive, but still small enough that it's light so you can look at things in a way you seldom can in a cave.
Then we stopped at the Rio on Pools, a nice meandering set of pools down a granite escarpment (well, it wasn't very steep, but I don't know the word, hard to do this without my set of references, you get the idea anyway, right?). This area also contains a picnic shelter and some barbecue pits. Everald says lots of people come out here to barbecue and swim -- even the Mennonites, but they don't *really* barbecue, he says, because they bring sausages. (Wait a minute! If the Mennonites have sausages, *I* never saw them in a store. Just another task for my next trip to Belize -- track down the Mennonite sausages.)
We didn't get to swim because the water was all roiled up from the storm and Everald thought it was too dirty for us. And Justin didn't bring his suit. Or his passport, which they wanted to look at on our way into the national park. So here's a lesson for you -- always take your swimsuit and your passport when you go on an adventure in the tropics. And probably the snake-bite kit.
Well, time to pack it up. Victor is coming to take me to Dangriga
for one last visit before I take off. It's been fun for me to
have a reason to write up my adventures -- having all you lovely
people on my list creates much better focus and self-discipline
for me than just a journal would. I hope you've enjoyed it too.
If anything fabulous happens in my lasts few days, I'll write
it up when I get back.