Trip Into the Jungle of Belize

Monday, January 31, 2000

Greetings to all,

This message is coming from Jane about a 3 day/2 night trip to the interior of Belize. No, I did not see Tarzan on the way. We were able to borrow a car from an American friend named Bill Hibdon. He owns a company in St. Louis which supplies exotic woods from Central America (Guatemala, Belize and Mexico). Bill and his wife are also building a home in Chetumal, Mexico which is just across the northern border of Belize. The car was a Land Cruiser with 4 wheel drive. Luckily we did not need to use the 4 wheel facility, but we sure came close.

Our friend, Sandy, from Key West went with me and Sander remained on the boat. He is looking forward to making a trip soon in the future but we are still suffering some engine starting problems and he is very concerned about working out a solution for that problem. The engine will start but it takes a lot of grinding to do it - something still not right...

The Cayo District is in the western part of Belize near the border to Guatemala. You may be able to locate the city of San Ignacio on your maps. It is about 72 miles from Belize City and the scenery changes very quickly and very dramatically. The mountains are only about 3000+ feet and they are covered with jungle.

We spent the first night on the Macal River at the Black Rock River Lodge. The resort has thatch-roofed cabanas where you sleep and the meals are taken in a common lodge with a huge balcony that stretches right out over the Black Rock Canyon. To get to the resort you must drive 7 miles over a very difficult one lane dirt road. During the rainy season it is impossible to travel this same road. It took us a half hour to make it to the lodge. We met vehicles traveling the opposite direction twice and it was a real heart-stopper to try to get past them. All meals are made from scratch and breakfast brings fresh squeazed OJ straight from the tree. I cannot tell how dark it is at night there.

There are jaguars, howler monkeys, vultures and many more types of wild life including scorpions. Everyone assures me that they are more of a nuisance than a danger. I don't believe them though.

We also visited the Belize Zoo on this trip. It is very high on my list of recommended things to do here. The zoo is about 20 miles west of Belize City and is very small and intimate. All of the animals are indigenous to Belize and all of the enclosures are natural. It was started in 1983 after the shooting of a documentary in which 17 animals were used and then left to fend for themselves. The animal handler was concerned about their return to the wild and found the support to begin the zoo. There are now 100 animals in the zoo and they are the most content that I have ever seen.

We spent a lot of time with the cook at the Black Rock Canyon trying to learn as much as possible about making tortillas. Because Darling, the cook, was due for a two week vacation we offered to take her back to San Ignacio. She would have had to walk the distance had we not been there. To top that she works for $7.50/day and does most everything. She feeds the hired help as well as the guests, washes the linens, cleans, and handles the general running of the place. The one thing that is very cheap in Belize is labor.

Darling ended up spending a lot of time with us on Saturday and Sunday. WE met her family, took several of them to the Mayan ruins with us and then had their help washing the vehicle at the river's edge. Then Darline cooked a jungle pie for us and for her family. This is rather like a shepard's pie with all vegetables and it was heavenly. Darling's family (9 of them) live in an upstairs apartment that totals less than the size of the living space in our boat. Although they are dirt poor they were thrilled to have our visit and to share a meal with us. I think that we will run into this special friendliness in all of the third world countries. It really makes us stop and think about how lucky we are and the value of friends over the value of things. We are truly blessed.

I have taken many pictures with our new digital camera and am struggling with the learning curve to send the photos as attachments if any of you want to view them. More on that as my learning curve progresses. Cross your fingers on that one!

WE are still anchored off the Moho Caye Marina outside Belize City. WE are trying to get all of the engine problems resolved so that we can start seeing the Cayes off the coast. We still plan to stay around Belize until sometime in June and then head for the Rio Dulce of Guatemala for hurricane season.

WE love to hear from all of you. Please use the new address when you write.

From Paradise,

Jane and Sander