Thursday, July 27, 2017

Lots of Belizean nature on display...

Okay, day...whatever it the beach in Belize began at a ridiculous hour again, (that would be "5:45" in case you're wondering) which was unfortunate but necessary, to allow us to scarf some breakfast and pile into the resort's van at 7. The purpose, however, was worthwhile: a trip to the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve for another jungle hike. (Because Team Westenders’ motto has apparently become “The more rainforest, the better”…)

The good news/bad news of this fact is that if you've gotta drag yourself out of bed that early, at least you get to witness the lovely sunrise...and the dining room is already open and prepared to ply you with delicacies like fresh tropical fruit, homemade passionfruit yogurt...and of course COFFEE. (Bonus treat for me, brought to the table as soon as I appeared: specially made gluten-free carrot muffins—yummmmm. I’m starting to enjoy being treated like royalty…this is getting seriously dangerous).  

Thus fortified, we slathered up with sunscreen and got settled into our ride, along with our driver and guide for the day, Hartfield. Aaaannnd, about that little expedition…at the outset there was the bumpy, unpaved village road—which at least we expected and are somewhat used to tolerating. This was followed by a stretch of smooth highway for a few minutes. Then we turned off onto the path leading to the park—a rutted, rocky, muddy affair which was also so spine-jarringly bumpy that my Fitbit recorded almost 5,000 steps while we were sitting down, bouncing along for 6 miles. (No one ever said the Great Outdoors had to be easy all the time, right? Ay yi yi…)

When we arrived, we added copious amounts of insect repellent to our skin’s coating, to hopefully avoid being a juicy meal for the many flying, crawling bugs we were sure to encounter. (Even so, I still got nibbled a few times—but at least I didn’t end up as one gigantic bite, so that’s a win, as far as I’m concerned.) Then we headed off into the dense greenery for an up-close-and personal glimpse into the native flora and fauna.

Once again, the rainforest did not disappoint. It wasn’t long before Hatfield spotted an anteater scurrying up a tree—either hot on the trail of his preferred snack, or seeking a place to hang out and rest, which he eventually did when he reached a high branch. There were colorful butterflies galore, including the Blue Morpho, which is absolutely stunning--an electric, shimmering shade of cerulean—but which refuses to land on anything, or even hold still long enough to capture it on film. (I swear they were taunting us after a while, “Nyah nyah, can’t catch me!” Oh well, at least we saw them in the wild, even if we have no photographic evidence to prove it. You believe us, right?)

Hatfield pointed out various types of birds and lizards for us when he glimpsed them, and shared information about some of the plant life as well, especially the medicinal properties of the many that are still used by the Mayan people’s shamans for healing. And, like Lorenzo the other day, he coaxed a tarantula out of its hole—but this one actually emerged all the way and stayed for a while. Plenty of time to admire it…feel appropriately terrified…and snap lots of photos. (Mission accomplished! Thanks for that! Now how about you just crawl back into your nice den, that’s a good…massive…spider…)

Eventually our sweaty band of walkers came to the payoff for all of our work: another waterfall and chilly pool (fed by an underground spring) in which to refresh ourselves and rinse off before returning to the Visitor’s Center. Surprisingly, it was almost too cold to be comfortable…but we mustered the resolve to dunk ourselves anyway, and were glad we did. Aaaahhh…

 From there it was a short trek back to where we began, for a picnic lunch that the resort’s kitchen had packed for Hatfield to bring along. Sandwiches, chips and salsa, more fresh fruit, juice, and cookies—and it’s amazing how much tastier your meal is when you’ve earned it, isn’t it? Then we reversed the whole brain-rattling driveway-to-highway-to-local thoroughfare journey to enjoy the rest of the day pondering nothing more perplexing or strenuous than “Do I feel like swimming in the sea or the pool?” Or “Can I muster the energy to stroll the 20 steps to the bar and ask for some iced tea?” Or, perhaps most crucially “Would I prefer to snooze in a hammock on the porch, or a chaise lounge under a palm tree?”

Yes, I think it’s safe to say that our wild vacation is wearing us out…but our experiences so far have been priceless, so we’ll keep going…at least for one more day of Belizean fun, that is! Now, one last burning question for the day: I wonder what delectable dishes they’re offering on the dinner menu?

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