Stuart Nance (Disco Stu) fords
across Barton Creek in western Belize.
Today was a great day. Compared to
the hectic pace of the last week, we practically
did nothing at all. We came into Belize with a huge
list of things we wanted to do in the few short
days we had. Upon arriving however, we realized
that doing absolutely nothing is really nice too.
After waking up late and eating a continental breakfast
with johnny cakes, a bread not unlike sopapillas,
a few of us decided that we wanted to go on a canoeing
trip into a Mayan burial cave.
This tour is normally offered by the
lodge, but because we decided on such short notice,
they said we could just drive down there ourselves
and use the hotel canoes. Since there are always
guides in the area they suggested we just hire whomever
we found down there. With that, eight of us (the
Bibbs, Nance's, Donaldson's and Nathan) piled into
our Land Rovers and drove down to Barton Creek.
Due to "technical difficulties" it took
us a while to find the side road (the oblique directions
were "On the road, look for a christmas tree
and take a right"), but once we did it made
for a fun drive. The road wound around the hills
and through the jungle, it even had a fun little
Ben and Pat
Bibb's "White Rover" crosses Barton
For once, Nathan
isn't talking about Rovers: We discuss the
impending canoe trip with our guide, David.
Upon arrival, we found a guide named
David who said he knew where the lodge canoes were
and that he would meet us up the river where he
would launch them. We parked our vehicles in a field
about 1/4 mile down the road. Next to our impromptu
parking area (the ground was well packed down from
previous vehicles) there was nothing more than a
hut and some campers just hanging out. We got out
of our Rovers and sure enough, there was David with
three empty canoes waiting and two already filled
with other people. In the cave, he hooked up three
search lights to a car battery and passed them out
to adjoining canoes. These lights were to serve
as our only source of light in the cave for the
next two hours.
The canoes prepare
to enter the Mayan burial cave.
the cave, we get our last view of daylight
for the next two hours.
David explained that some of the Maya
used these caves for burial purposes. The Maya believed
that the world was one of 23 different worlds. There
existed nine lower levels below ours and 13 levels
above. Their belief was that after death, the spirit
would try to ascend to the highest level or plane
of existence, but in order to do this the spirit
must first travel to the underworld, the 9 sub levels.
They believed that these caves were a gateway to
the underworld, and that by burying their dead in
these caves, the spirit would have a shorter trip
to the underworld thus speeding their ascension
to the higher levels of existence.
This practice was not endorsed by
the ruling class of the Mayan civilization. The
people who chose to visit and bury their dead at
these caves had likely left the cities of the Maya
to live on their own. If they were caught doing
this, they would likely be candidates for sacrifice
to "appease the gods."
As we ventured deeper into the cave,
we saw remnants of pottery lining some of the ledges.
An ancient skull peered down at us from another.
We floated under a stone bridge the Maya had constructed
to connect opposite sides of the cave.
out stalagtites in the cave.
We continued about a mile into the
cave and saw some of the magnificent stalactites
and stalagmites that nature had created from the
natural flow of water seeping down from above. David
pointed out fruit bats sleeping soundly above our
heads, only momentarily disturbed by our flashlights.
Dorothy Donaldson in one of the canoes back
from our "three hour tour".
exiting the cave David said for us to meet him by his van
down the road where we'd first met him to pay him. We got
in our vehicles and started pulling out when a large man
came out of nowhere and asked us what we were doing there.
We explained and he laughed saying we needed to pay him
for the canoes and being on his property and David was not
a legitimate tour guide and was actually stealing his business.
We all got into a heated argument with him trying to figure
out what was going on. He insisted that we pay him BZ$5
per person and BZ$15 for the use of the canoes because that's
what he charges people to use his canoes and guides. We
informed him that we didn't use his canoes as we had permission
to use Blancaneaux's canoes. He fumed at us and insisted
that we pay him anyway. He then said "Well, I'm sorry
that you got caught in David's scam..." We told him
we'd give him BZ$5 per person for "parking" and
that was all he would get from us. He reluctantly took it.
However before we left we asked his name to which he responded
"Michael John Bogart."
We went back to David and asked him
what was going on. David said that essentially he
and Michael didn't get along very well. Once back
at the lodge, we asked the staff of Blancaneaux
if they had ever heard of Michael John Bogart. The
response was "Oh, you mean the fake door man?"
I asked them, "Is it just me or is he kind
of a d*ck?" to which the response was "Yup,
that's him all right." Be warned my friends...
The Delta Town
logging camp, complete with a Land Rover Defender
Back at the lodge we bumped into Nathan's
brother, Dustin. Some of us had planned to do some
four wheeling the following day, but he wouldn't
be able to be a part of it, since he was heading
out to the cayes (pronounced like "keys")
in the morning for some diving and fishing. With
a (very) little arm twisting, he convinced Craig
and Nathan to head out with him and find some trails.
Since nightfall was quickly approaching,
we headed south into the mountains and tried to
get as deep into the jungle as possible, while still
having enough time to get back to the lodge before
it was too dark. About 15 minutes south of the lodge
we came across an interesting logging camp that
the locals called "delta town" (the town
is officially named Douglas de Silva) presumably
because it was at the intersection of a pair of
A few miles south of this we found
a trail. Veering off the main road was a single
track road with a sign indicating it led to Mahogany
Creek. Within a quarter mile of leaving the road,
the trail became very overgrown and obviously hadn't
been driven in quite some time... fun.
the way through the jungle.
The further into the jungle we got,
the more dense the canopy became, until the sky
with it's fading light became completely obscured
from view. We drove on until the branches were near
constant scrapes on the side of our trucks. We felt
like we were in the middle of Camel Trophy. Eventually,
with fading light and too many fallen trees in the
way we decided it was time to turn back. Three 12
point turns later we were ready to head back out
to the main road.
Dustin and Craig
inspect the disused trail in the jungle.
Defender 90 leads Big Bird down the jungle
Once we were all turned around, we
noticed the lone casualty of the day. While turning
Camel around, the antennae got caught on a tree
branch and was bent perpendicular to it's intended
direction, knocking our Jack (Jack In The Box antennae
ball) off in the process. A quick fix and it was
right as rain, although Jack looked a bit worse
The Rovers plod
on through the jungle.
Back on the road Camel took the lead
to head back to the Lodge. Suddenly, there was an
exclamation on the radio that I had something hanging
from the back of the Rover. Upon getting out and
inspecting, it turns out I had "pruned the
trees" somewhere along the way and a rather
large branch had decided to attach itself to the
vehicle. (Tracy's comment after seeing the photos:
"How could you NOT see that attached to your
A rather substantial
tree branch tries to hitch a ride on the back
We stumbled back into the lodge just
before 8 and just in time for dinner. Time to relax
for the rest of the evening. Tomorrow we're going
on a proper off-road trip deep into the jungle.