Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Trip To Belize: Day 5

May 17, 2008

It was kind of a sad start to the day as we said goodbye to our friends Dagny and Jeremy who left in the morning. Dagny told us at breakfast that Jeremy was pouting and grumbling all morning (something he readily admitted to) because his time in Belize was over. So they were sad that they were going and we were sad that they wouldn't be with us anymore. Cotton Tree is a communal kind of resort. Although there is plenty of time for someone to be alone or with their special someone in private, the resort itself is like a little village and the guests often eat together at the same table and share commonly in the daily expeditions and tours. Here's a picture of Jeremy and Dagny right before they left:

After goodbyes and a hearty breakfast (I had so many eggs I'm embarrassed to say how much), we headed into Punta Gorda (aka PG) for a quick shopping trip with CeCe and Jay. It was interesting being dropped off in a crowded market, in extreme heat, and you are the only white people within a square mile. For the first time I think I really understood what being part of a minority really feels like. We picked up some souvenirs for ourselves and our Moms but since we only had an hour we didn't get to see very much. I bought myself a machete and in a moment of out-of-the-box thinking bought a smaller "mini-machete" for Riker (If you are amazed Jobina agreed to this - so am I!). I am very excited to give it to him. Here's us at the market:

Also, we found a small Christian library/book store called "Da Wata Fountin." In this picture, even though you can't make it out I'm holding Dobson's "What Wives Wish Their Husband's Knew About Women":

I found it interesting that in PG most of the locals were wearing long pants, socks, and shoes even though it was about about 37-38 degrees Celsius and super humid! Obviously this is a local fashion thing. We raced back to the van and enjoyed the air conditioned ride out to Vincent's house at Blue Creek. We had enjoyed our last tour of the caves so much with Jeremy and Dagny that we agreed to go again with CeCe and Jay (also we wanted to get pictures this time). Before we set out on the 20 minute hike to the caves we ate at Vincent's house:

Vincent's house is made of concrete with a thatch covered palapa outside. Chickens, dogs, and other animals roam freely and would occasionally come inside the palapa and even the house! We ate outside. Ironically the first time we came here sat outside under the palapa with the chickens and ate chicken while they moved among us.

So we ate a great meal and headed out on the trail with our local guide Sylvano. Here he is pointing out an especially large iguana in the tree:

Along the way I looked up and saw a trail going up to a distant mountain. "Where does this go?" I asked. "To the top of Hokeb Ha mountain, it takes about an hour to climb it." "Let's climb it sometime!" said CeCe. Another day, trail, another day!

This trail is one of the nicest I have ever walked. Here's some of the images along the way to the cave. Flowers:

Some of the huge palm tree leaves along the way. The leaves are harvested at full moon (which is whey they are ready) and used as thatching for cabanas and palapas.

This is just a nice view of the jungle with Blue Creek in the distance:

And here's Blue Creek, which runs along side the entire trail:

Here are some of the pools of water close to the entrance, teeming with fish:

Eventually after watching carefully where you are stepping because it gets quite rocky (possibly even a little dangerous) you suddenly look up and you are in the entrance to a massive gorge that reaches to the sky. At the bottom is a large cave mouth with vines hundreds of feet long in front of the entrance. Blue Creek reaches far into the cave where after awhile only darkness can be seen. It is one of the most amazing vistas I have ever seen in person. Warning: the pictures that follow do not even come to close to capturing its majesty. Here is the cave mouth:

To navigate the cave we are given headlamps and old school life jackets. The local Mayans who rediscovered the caves figured out a way of putting life jackets around their waists so that they could easily float through the caves but have maximum mobility. Here's me in the cave striking a pose. Note my skin color. It's not a trick of the light - that's my combination farmer/student skin, gleaming like polished ivory in the cave light!

As you get further into the cave it gets darker . . . and quieter.

Here's a picture of Jobina, Jay, and CeCe before we embarked deep into the darkness:

Soon after we were floating in cool water (remember it was super hot outside) and into utter blackness. Even with the lights, the silent darkness is just kept at bay. We floated child-like deeper into the caverns, occasionally gliding up and over rocks that were just below the surface. The overall effect of the beauty, silence, and coolness is a kind of sensory joy. The first time we came in with Vincent he lead us far in and after a while we climbed up onto a rock ledge. Then we all shut out our lights. The darkness was overwhelming, intoxicating, suffocating. Eventually Jobina turned her light on first and I could understand why. Deep in the middle of the earth with no light you start to lose your equilibrium and your mind plays tricks on you.

After our cave float we headed back to Cotton Tree and since the day was so hot we decided to go swimming in the river. Until then neither Jobina and I had yet taken the plunge. Although the river is quite clean, something held us back. But today after sampling the cool water of the caves we knew that we had to try it. It was great! I have swum in lakes, the ocean, pools, and even a cave. But swimming in Moho river was the most fun:

The intriguing thing about the river is that when you dive in you first hit a fresh layer of water (which is cool) but when you go deeper you hit a salt water layer which is hot, like hot as a shower! It's unlike anything you've ever experienced before. Diving and swimming off the dock was fun, but the best part was a 30 foot rope swing. I really enjoyed it as you can see:

Here's me sitting zen-like at the end of the dock contemplating "Why didn't we try this before?"

Later on we tried some some Belikin Beer, the national beer of Belize (I don't actually like beer very much but it wasn't bad). After a fine 4 course dinner where the main course was some delicious kabobs we ended off the night playing a relaxed game of Phase 10 on our bed, safely under our mosquito net.


Jay Boaz said...

This post reads much better on highspeed; when I tried to read it on dial-up I couldn't see the pictures!


Anonymous said...

that cave looks so cool! The rope swing looked like a lot of fun too! What an adventure...

Tell me more, Mark!
Love, Michele