Saturday, March 17, 2007

Blancaneaux & Rio On Pools

Selwyn, Eli, and Junior at Rio On. Junior is "swimming."

Hilda and Crystalee at Rio On Pools

Junior and Eli freezing at Rio On Pools

Our plan on Saturday was to take a field trip with Selwyn and his family – Hilda, his wife, and their kids, Junior, Eli, and Crystalee. Junior is four, Eli is three, and Crystalee is about 4 months. Our plan was to go take a tour of Blancaneaux, Francis Ford Coppola’s jungle lodge where Selwyn used to work, and then head on up into the Pine Ridge and go to the Rio On Pools, an area where the river level changes through a series of small waterfalls and pools. We couldn’t decide if we should cancel because of the truck belt, since being up in the Pine Ridge and coming down the mountain on the twisty mountain roads didn’t seem like the best idea with three little kids in the truck. But, ever the optimists, Tom decided to drive into town and go to Eli, our new mechanic, to have the belt checked out before picking up Selwyn and his family. Eli felt that the belt would be okay for the trip, so Tom made an appointment to have it fixed Tuesday morning and picked everybody up. We’d all really been looking forward to the trip, so we were glad we didn’t have to cancel.

I stayed in the camper to make a rice and sausage salad for lunch, as well as a pan of brownies. I made the discovery that when the burners on top of the stove are lit, the oven has trouble getting enough gas to maintain the set temperature, which turned the cooking session into a juggling session as I tried to keep enough heat on top of the stove to steam the rice, and get enough heat into the oven to bake the brownies. It took lots of turning things on and off and up and down, and the rice came out a little wetter than I like and the brownies a little dryer, but everything was okay in the end. Tom gave Hilda a tour of the property so she can see what Selwyn does every day. Selwyn picked a half a dozen green coconuts so we could have coconut water with our lunch, and then we packed up and headed up the mountain.

The stables at Blancaneaux

Selwyn and family - Hilda, Junior, Eli, and Crystalee - at Rio On Falls. And yes, the picture is real, it's not a fake backdrop for photo opportunities.

We got the insiders’ Blancaneaux tour, and it’s as beautiful as everyone says. The cabanas aren’t spread over a lot of ground, but they’re very private because of how the gardens are planted and the jungle is maintained. The landscaping and building are beautifully done, with the manmade buildings and pools and walkways built in harmony with the jungle and the river. Tom took lots of pictures so we can reference them when we get done building and start landscaping here, and then we headed up to the stables. The Blancaneaux stable is filled with horses that we’d be happy to own. They have a very nice thoroughbred stallion, who’s not real big, but he’s well put together and has a great temperament. We were all in the stall with him and he was a gentleman as we looked him over and patted him. There are a few broodmares who are either in foal to him or who have had his babies, and a few of his yearling babies, and they all look very nice. George has now told us that Esmerelda was actually bred twice, and he isn’t sure if she’s in foal to the Blancaneaux stallion or a stallion from Santa Elena, which George says is an Arabian, but which Selwyn says is another thoroughbred. Having talked a lot to Selwyn about horses and having watched him in action with them, I tend to believe Selwyn more than George. But, I guess we’ll see what she has, if anything, since I’m not entirely convinced that she was even bred.

After a quick walk through the Blancaneaux organic garden, which supplies all the produce for both of FFC’s Belize lodges, we headed up to Rio On Pools. Selwyn hacked off the tops of the coconuts for drinks, and Tom, Hilda, and I got out our pooled picnic – chicken, rice and beans, rice and sausage salad, and brownies. When we arrived at the picnic area, we were the only ones there, but as we ate a couple of women from California came in with their guide and ate their box lunches, and then a whole truckload of Mennonites showed up with their picnic. When the California women showed up, Tom was hacking the coconuts for more coconut water, and the women were fascinated, especially after Tom told them that he was doing it with his wife’s machete. He asked if they’d like to try the water, but they said they didn’t like coconut. I considered telling them that I wasn’t a big fan of the coconut we get in the US, and that fresh-off-the-tree coconut water is probably nothing like anything they’ve had, but decided to save my breath and drink the water ourselves. These women seemed to know a lot about everything, and were eager to tell us, so we just listened politely and let them drink their Coke.

We played in the Rio On pools for a while, after setting up a little camp on a big rock for Crystalee. The boys were really good; I’d been worried that they’d be darting off and going over a waterfall, but they were happy to play in the pools where they could touch bottom, and never got out of grabbing distance of one of the adults. After a couple of hours of sun, we piled back in the truck and headed home. The alternator belt made the trip, and we arrived home without incident, with two sleeping babies and one pretty tired 4-year old.

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