Visiting Mountain Pine Ridge Forest by Henry (Zac) Zacharias
A long time friend from Canada came for several weeks and we plan to go to Mexico for a week together but first, a trip to the main land to explore the Pine Ridge Forest and learn a bit about how Belizeans live (or party) on the mainland.
We left San Pedro Saturday morning and made our way to San Ignacio. We took the boat that stopped in Caye Caulker before going to Belize City, shared a taxi to the bus station and packed ourselves into the chicken bus to San Ignacio. At first it was kind of fun to watch and engage with the locals getting on and off with their bags, boxes and 5 gallon pails. It was getting dark as we pulled into San Ignacio and our butts had long since had enough of sitting on the hard seats at the back of the bus. A taxi took us to the top of the hill to our hotel, Cahal Pech where we checked in and had our first meal since breakfast in San Pedro.
The twilight shifted to night as we dined and the lights of the town gave us a lovely backdrop to watch before bedtime.
Barton Creek half day trip.
After brunch we were booked for an afternoon tour to Barton Creek Caves. It was so nice to see the rolling hills after living on the relatively flat Island of Ambergris Caye for nearly five years.
It was a long drive with stunning vistas and even a river crossing over rounded rocks about 8 inches below the surface of the rushing stream.
We drove past some farms and noticed the symbiotic relationships between 5 & 6 cows and birds, it seemed each cow had its own egret (if I’m not mistaken, I thought Egrets were sea birds?).
We pulled into Mike’s place where the Barton Creek meanders along the valley floor after coming out of the Barton Creek cave.
After a short break and introductions we loaded into the canoes with Brad and Randy, fellow Canadians in the lead canoe with their guide, Isaiah, who we came to call. Actually, due to how often he said the word as he described what we were looking at.
The cave opening is a magnificent site that has to be seen with the naked eye to be fully appreciated, Barton Creek Entrance Pan.
As soon as we entered the cave, the rock formations captured our attention and we paddled very slowly as we shone the bright flashlight over every inch of the walls and ceilings. It was all so beautiful! The river moved so slowly through the cave that we didn’t even realize we were paddling against the current.
Stalactites hung in clusters and stalagmites were wet with new accumulations of mineral deposits as they slowly grew and changed shape over eons. Where Stalagmites and Stalactites met, columns were formed.
Our guides informed us that the bat guano was very acidic and it ate away at the rock where they made their homes and created tiny holes that they continued to live in when resting. If you look closely you can see three bats in the bat Caves picture.
So often the rock looked like art with faces looking back at us and creatures of mythic origin emerging or waiting to emerge as we passed by.
Both flashlights focused on the larger and more awe inspiring surfaces of the rock so we could all enjoy the sites and shapes of columns, mushrooms and candles.
Some hung from the wall like clusters of diamond studded icicles.
We canoed under a natural Rock Bridge that had footprints in it that the Mayas supposedly carved to make it easier to climb up to the ledges to perform rituals to appease the Gods of the Underworld. The river was much higher then.
A surreal sense of awe overtook us as we held onto the rock wall and turned off our flashlights to experience the absolute darkness of the interior before heading on the end of our canoe trip as the rock ceiling came down to low to pass under end of cave.
We turned our canoes around and headed back the same way we came in and were thrilled to realize the view from this perspective showed all kinds of things we had missed on our way in water and rock & flashlight highlights. We got so engrossed in the sights that we lost sight of the front canoe and had the sense of being all alone in there, until the cave entrance/exit came into view again.
We chatted a bit with Mike and he told us his water wheel was waiting for a new gear but when it works he almost never needs his diesel generator for power. At Mike’s place we snacked on tree ripened star fruit and on the road home we tasted tree ripened grapefruits.
I had to get a shot of the finely crafted bridge over the creek and bridge crossing on our way out. Then I captured a shot of me in the mirror taking a pic of the water crossing.
Back at Cahal Pech the mist Panorama was rolling in to cover San Ignacio as we dined on Sambuca Shrimp and Curry Chicken, both excellent. After eating we embarked on a night of roaming the town of San Ignacio looking for the seemingly nonexistent night life.
If you are hungry for more Belize and Central America travel adventures check out Be Belize blog and their recent boat trip to Guatemala – Fantastic write up and pictures.