Monday, June 2, 2008

Trip To Belize: Day 8

May 20, 2008

Today was a different kind of day (for a 2nd honeymoon) because Jobina and I spent much of the day apart doing our own thing. CeCe and I wanted to go back to Blue Creek and climb that mountain we had seen while Jobina wanted to relax and "veg" at the lodge (she also wanted to watch them experiment with chocolate making). I have never really climbed a mountain before (at least to the top) so I was pretty excited. Holly from Cottontree also came along under the guise of "scouting out" the trip as a future mainstay tour. Laura (Jeff the owner's sister) also joined us in the morning. Here's the colorfully painted "Jungle Bus" that Vincent drove us in:

When we got to the village of Blue Creek, Vincent negotiated with local guide Sylavano to take us up the mountain (called Hokeb Ha). Soon Sylvano was leading us down the now familiar path to the caves, but then we found the trail leading up the mountain. Before leaving CeCe had asked Vincent "Any rocks?" "No," he said, "no rocks." This was amusing as the trail was covered in loose rocks (as well as trees, vines, and roots). Ah, Vincent, your lies make me laugh. Here's me:

Hokeb Ha mountain is 18,500 feet above sea level (confirmed by my GPS) and was for us about a climb of 13,000 feet of mostly vertical terrain. Luckily there was lots to hold onto as we carefully choose our line up the trail - trees, roots, rocks, etc. Sylvano mentioned to us not to touch certain black marks on trees or roots as they were poisonous and "bad boils" would break out on your skin if you touched them! Here's the view going up:

And here's a picture looking out from the trail a couple hundred feet up the mountain:

The heat was quite intense and that combined with altitude change made some of us a bit overtired, woozy, and (I'm not saying who!) a bit whiny. But we all soldiered on and were treated with some amazing views at the top. The great thing was that there are actually trees and bush on the tops of these Mayan Mountains so you can find shade to sit down after. Here's what it looks like from the top:

Here's a picture of Sylavano climbing a tree on the summit and doing a wild Mayan call into the valley below:

Here's CeCe, triumphant after a hard climb:

Sylvano told me that when he was younger he lead British soldiers (who were mapping and surveying the area) up this mountain. He had chopped out an area for a helicopter to land and the British soldiers had found Mayan settlement remains and had marked it on their military maps as a "ruins" site. There were certainly lots of rocks and Sylvano showed me what was left of a table made of lava rock which would have been used to crush corn or cacao on. This rock is not native to Belize and would have been brought up the mountain from Guatemala - proof that there has once been a Mayan settlement on top of this mountain. That kind of history is all around you in Belize and so much of it is undiscovered or buried. Here's me and Sylvano at the summit:

The climb down the mountain was faster and a lot of fun - way easier then going up. Only once did I almost slip but I caught myself on a nearby tree. After we got down we decided to go for a dip in the pools of Blue Creek below the waterfalls:

It was super refreshing after the heat of the mountain and Laura, Holly, and I, swam right up to a waterfall and put our faces into the pounding water. I screamed happily into the falls as the heavy water pelted me - quite the rush. Later swimming in the pool with the fish was fun (although one of them nipped me) and then we dried off and headed back to Vincent's for lunch and the ride back to Cotton Tree. Here can you see the fish (the largest are about a foot long):

I found Jobina and after she and CeCe went to deliver some school supplies to a nearby school (you'll have wait til she posts about it on her blog), we hung out until dinner. After dinner Jobina hung out in the lodge and I went out to do something I had really wanted to do but hadn't yet - swim in the Moho River at night. It was a bit scary diving into that river by myself in the dark but it was lots of fun, especially under a full moon. To end off our last night at Cotton Tree we stopped by the lodge and were invited to attend an impromptu chocolate tasting party that some of the chocolate makers were having. Nice!


Chad said...

congrats on the summit, ive only ever climbed half way up a mountain when i was like 10 year old. but ive been reading books about mountain climbing lately mostly about everest. responding to a quote in a earlier post in reference to kayaking(canoing in my case) "I could have just kept on going (and maybe never returned)" that is almost my exact feelings and I haven't even canoed yet this spring.

Jay Boaz said...

I can only imagine your elation at scaling a mountain!


Mark said...

There is something quite satisfying about summiting. You have done all that can be done - finito. There is a sense of closure and satisfaction. Very cool.