Blancaneaux Lodge's ex-Camel
Trophy (1995 Mundo Maya) Discovery
This morning we woke up at our lesiure.
With nothing that HAS to be done today, it was nice
to be able to relax. Nathan and Tracy headed up
to the vehicles and found Craig cleaning out his
D90. Evidently, 5,000 miles (Craig's trip started
all the way in Berkley, CA) of dust and road grime
had begun to pile up on his rig. Tracy did a quick
cleaning in Camel as well. Other than us, the parking
lot was essentially empty. Most of the group had
woken up early and went down to visit the Caracol
Since Anne, Craig's "esposa,"
and Tracy's parents decided to stay at the lodge
and relax for the day, Craig, Tracy and Nathan decided
to go explore the jungle trails and maybe find a
bit of mud along the way.
On the way out of the lodge, Craig
and Nathan decided to have a look at Blancaneaux's
ex-Camel Trophy Discovery. Seeing a genuine Camel
trophy truck is a rarity so the boys took tons of
photos to show whoever cares at home or to bore
their friends and relatives. "Look hon, remember
when we saw THIS rover?!?"
We decided to head South in the mountains
towards an abandoned mining camp called Millionario,
as we had heard from a few people that that was
were the elusive mud was. Elusive because, although
Belize was officially in the middle of its rainy
season, there had been very little rain to speak
Defender 90 and Camel stp on a flood resistant
bridge in western Belize.
out the water temperature in the river.
We headed past Douglas de Silva and
along the way hit some scattered rain storms. Eventually
we came upon a really cool single lane bridge crossing
a rather wide river. On one side of the river, the
hills were covered with pine trees, while the other
side was dominated by lush palms and tropical trees.
on the stone bridge.
Just off the
beaten path, Craig discovers some seemingly
abandoned thatched huts.
Just on the other side of the bridge
there was a side road that climbed up the side of
a hill. There were deep washouts in the road from
past rains and it gave us a good chance to test
out the articulation on our rigs. Unfortunately,
this road abruptly ended at a group of thatched
huts, so we had to turn back to the main road.
A huge palm tree beside the
On down the road we continued. Although
the original intention of the trip was off-roading,
we enjoyed the splendors of the jungle. Past the
turn off to Caracol, the area is rarely traveled,
and thus we saw some cool flora and fauna. Huge
palm trees grew beside the road with fronds that
were easily fifteen feet long. At one photo stop,
we even saw a pair of parrots fly across the sky.
antennae ball meets an untimely end.
Further down the road, the grass became
thicker, trees grew closer and the track less traveled.
Suddenly our antennae and Jack fell off. We jumped
out to rescue him only to find that that he had
fallen into a puddle. We couldn't help but think
of those Jack In The Box TV ads where the dilapidated
antennae ball asks for a replacement.
Camel and Craig
Reece continue down the jungle track.
The further down the track we went,
the denser jungle became. We hadn't seen another
vehicle in hours and it felt like we had the jungle
to ourselves until we rounded a corner of the forest
to a very suprising sight. A sign declaring that
we had reached the Natural History Museum of London's
Las Cuevas Forest Research station. We drove around
beside the building and parked next to their work
truck, a 300 Tdi Defender 110. Out from the building
walked a pair of scientists speaking the "King's
to Las Cuevas.
informed us that they rarely got visitors and were impressed
at the distance we had covered to get to Belize. They then
invited us in for a cup of tea. While the kettle was brewing
they showed us around the station and gave us a look at
some of the work they were doing. They were collecting specimens
of jungle rodents and bats to send back home, as well as
doing population counts of Jaguars and indigenous tree frogs.
We took tea out on their veranda and talked of things near
We told them that we came down to
Las Cuevas and more specifically to find a trail
called Monkey Tail. We had heard that this elusive
trail was the most likely place to find mud and,
with its remote location, jungle wildlife. We were
informed that unfortunately Monkey Tail was closed
down because they were doing a wildlife study there
but that they had begun the study just that morning.
Had we called ahead they would have put it off another
day. We chuckled at this information as we'd had
no idea that we'd stumble upon this research station
when we started out.
scientists at the jungle research station
lovingly cradling their Irn Bru.
After hanging out with our unexpected
hosts, it was eventually time to head back back
to the lodge. On the way back to our vehicles, Nathan
remembered that some of the scientists had mentioned
they were here from the University of Edinburg in
Scotland. Nathan casually asked if they liked IRN-BRU,
an obsucre carbonated orange drink available only
in the UK. They responded with an enthusiastic "Of
course! It's the perfect cure for a hangover, you
know." A humorous response, because that's
what we'd heard from other Scots when we traveled
there 2 years earlier. Nathan's a huge fan of the
stuff, and it just so happened that he had a two
liter bottle of i that his brother Dustin brought
back from a recent trip to Ireland. Deciding that
they would appreciate it far more than he would,
given their locale, he gave them the bottle. We've
honestly never seen someone so excited over a soft
drink before... We think it was a welcome taste
of home, halfway 'round the world.
Just as we were loading up into our
Rovers, we heard a bird call out, and one of the
researchers pointed to a pair of huge Scarlet
Macaws flying gracefully above the trees, a
rare sighting indeed. A lovely ending to an exciting
signpost 3,000 miles from home.
We stop to admire
the post-rain mist rising up from the jungle.
Heading back to the lodge, we discovered
that it had rained over parts of the road and turned
stretches into that elusive mud we had been seeking
all day. Just before re-crossing the stone bridge
we saw a huge British Bedford military truck parked
in the middle of the road. Curious, we called out
to see if anyone was nearby. Hearing no reply, we
rounded the corner only to find a platoon of British
soldiers teaching the Belizean Army boat patrol
techniques in the river. Although we wanted to get
a picture, a soldier came over and politely, but
firmly, informed us that there was to be no picture
taking of the soldiers.
living next to the bridge where the Belize
soldiers were doing their exercises.
on top of his Defender 90 to get a better
shot of the etherial jungle mists.
the photo moratorium, we were allowed to snap off a couple
of pictures of a crocodile which was in a pool next to the
bridge. This croc was only about four to five feet in length,
but the soldier informed us that a group of crocodiles lived
just around the bend in the river, and those crocs were
upwards of fifteen feet in length. We sure didn't envy the
soldiers in the water.
We continued on down the road until
Camel's fuel light came on. No big deal, we just
pulled down one of the jerry can's filled with good
US fuel in it and began to siphon it into the Disco.
While doing this, a ranger from Caracol Park pulled
up in his MOT (Ministry of Tourism) 110. He told
us that he was heading up the road to Douglas de
Silva for a cold beer. Evidently, at an hour and
a half drive each way, it was the closest cold beer
to Caracol. Craig asked him about the Tdi motor
in his 110, and the ranger generously let Craig
take it for a quick drive while Nathan finished
Defender 110. This one, from the Ministry
of Tourism, was based in the archeological
site of Caracol.
a little help from the Caracol ranger siphoning
gas, while Craig takes the Tdi 110 for a test
When we returned to the lodge we all
went to the restaurant for a nice dinner. Blancaneaux
has some excellent food and is renowned in Belize
for it's Italian cuisine. The owner, reknowned movie
director Francis Ford Coppola, had a brick pizza
oven brought over from Italy for his kitchen, and
being the only one of it's kind in Central America
it generates some great pizza. After dinner, a few
of us went to look at a Pinnochio water fountain
next to the lodge's croquet field. We had been hearing
loud frog croakings coming from there for the past
two nights so we decided to investigate. What we
found was incredible. There had to have been four
or five different species of frogs there, ranging
from one species that looked like an american bull
frog, to a brilliantly colored orange and yellow
tree frog. Craig also noticed a small bright orange
snake hiding in the rocks that was probably waiting
to sneak up on a frog for dinner.
the little frog trip, it was time to bed down for the night.
We don't have any real plans for tomorrow, and that's kind
of nice. It will be our last day in Belize before we start
the marathon trip back home.