Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thursday to Sunday

Tom and Selwyn split the week between working like crazy on the cabin, and spending afternoons running to Spanish Lookout to get more supplies – truckloads of supplies. It’s been very hot, so spending the morning hammering and crawling around on the roof and then the afternoon in the air conditioned truck has made the heat very bearable. They’ve been starting the work day between six and six-thirty, so by lunchtime they’ve already worked most of a day. The bathroom/kitchen addition now has a complete roof, and the walls are going up. Tom managed to find all the wall boards for both the cabin addition and the tool shed in Spanish Lookout last week, as well as a kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and toilet. In Spanish Lookout, he met the guys who are working at the place across the road, and they had a trailer full of construction supplies for their projects. Tom needed to pick up some 20 foot sections of PVC for plumbing in the cabins, and was dreading having to bounce that up the Georgeville Road, so he asked those guys to strap the 20 foot sections on their load, which they did with no problem. Tom and Selwyn also used part of one of those pipes to fix the leaks in the water pipe which we caused when we burned the brush last week.

It hasn’t really mattered that we damaged the water pipe because the pipe has been dry for most of the past week and a half. Water was completely off from the week before Easter through most of the Easter weekend, it came back on for about two days in the evenings, but it’s been dry again since the beginning of the week. The rumor was that the source had already dried up because the main supply tank wasn’t filling, but we just heard yesterday that the river the water comes from is still fine, but the Water Authority suspects that the pipe is broken somewhere between the river source and the main supply tank in the village of 7 Miles. Even with all the heavy water users shut off, not enough water is getting through the line to keep the water running in the villages of 7 Miles and San Antonio and to all the other water users along the way. We’re doing okay because we keep both tanks full, but the village authorities have had to bring tank trucks in for village residents, and they run the tank truck through the town filling up buckets that people leave at the side of the road in front of their houses. All week we’ve watched people with pickup trucks running up the road with the beds full of tanks and buckets, heading for the river that’s the source of the water. We heard yesterday that they’re planning to trace the line from the main supply tank to the source this week, so hopefully water will be restored by the end of the week. In the meantime, we’re keeping our gate locked when we’re not around so we don’t become the water source for the village of San Antonio.

I spent the week making the best of the heat, using the morning to either do something outside like work on the garden patch or ride Esmerelda, and using the heat in the afternoon to make bread or yogurt, or just staying quiet and working on our future web page. Esmerelda is coming along nicely. [Non-horse people can skip the next couple of paragraphs; this will be really boring if you don’t ride. Look for the comment in square brackets for where you should start again.] She’s a little like my old horse Ricky; her solution to any confusion, fear, or problem is to just go faster. She’s a mare with opinions, but unlike Rick she’s willing to listen and if I can show her that there’s an easier way to do something, she’s very game about trying. When I opened the gate from her back to go down the road, the swinging gate would bump her and she’d take off jigging down the road. When we were heading down a steep narrow trail in the jungle, she’d get a little out of balance and start running down the trail. So, I put draw reins on her this week. She spent the first ride fighting them, although once I managed to put her together so she kept her weight back, she learned that it was easier to walk down a hill on her hind end. The second time I put the draw reins on her, I kept a hold on them, but as soon as I asked she’d reach for the bit and shift her weight back. The third time, I dropped the draw reins, and all I had to do was jiggle the regular rein and she’d lighten up and start using herself. She never did the thing where horses just put their chins on their chests and don’t change anything else; right from the beginning, she listened to the draw reins with her whole body. I was thinking that I’d skip the draw reins next time I rode her, when I decided that I’d use about a mile section of sand road between the trailhead and the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve gatehouse to go for a gallop. I asked for a canter, and she cantered. I asked for a little more, and she put a little more into it. I asked for a little more, and she started to gallop. She seemed like she was enjoying the speed, so I gave her another little nudge and she dropped down, pinned her little ears back, and flew. We came around a turn and I realized the end of the sand road was coming up fast, and I could hear a big truck using its jack brakes coming down the hill towards the gatehouse where we needed to slow down enough to make the turn and get around the gate without flying into the road. I stood up and took hold of the reins, and she just tugged back and kept going. I was really glad I still had the draw reins, since when I picked them up and shortened them a little, she almost immediately softened and started to listen. We came around the corner at a pretty fast trot, but managed to weave through the gate posts without any banged knees. I don’t really have an open space where I can just work her right now, but we’re going to continue clearing pasture so I have a place where I can start to set up some little gymnastics and see if she likes to jump. I think she will, since she’s very adjustable, and seems to like doing things like trotting down trails where lots of pine logs cross the trail. No matter what the distance is between the logs, she trots through without ever breaking her rhythm. Too bad she’s not even 15 hands and eventing is an unknown concept down here!

We’re continuing our search for another horse. We got lucky with Esmerelda, because she was already living here when we moved here, so we got to know her before we bought her, and if we hadn’t liked her we wouldn’t have bought her. When Burrito was here she went into heat, so we found out that she’s not bred, but we still think she was well worth $350US. There are lots of other horses for sale, but we’re having a hard time deciding if we want to get cheap little mountain ponies, or if we want to spend a little more money for nicer horses which are more what we’re used to. It’s a little silly, because even the nice horses are only $1000US, which is cheap by our US standards, but it seems like a lot of money when we can get a mountain pony for $200US or so. We went horse shopping in Barton Creek yesterday (Saturday), a Mennonite community about five miles down the road, and looked at a very nice mare. She’s about 15’1”, well built, sort of a TB type, and in foal to a big stallion (which means anything over 15’2” here), due to foal in July. She’s three, rides and drives, looks sound, and seems to have pretty good manners. They’re asking $2000BZ for her as is, and we both really liked her, but before we go buy her we’re going to look at a mountain pony for sale in San Antonio, and go talk to an 80-year old woman on the Western Highway who has a couple of part-Arabians for sale.

Horse shopping is a funny business here. Horses aren’t listed on-line, we haven’t seen any horse classifieds in any newspapers, and while we occasionally see a flyer posted at a store for a horse for sale, the only way to really find horses for sale is to drive around and start talking to people. Because horses are such a way of life around here and are used both as transportation and in the fields, everybody seems to know of a few horses for sale, and if you follow the chain, every additional person you talk to can refer you to a few more who may have something to sell. Fortunately Selwyn was responsible for buying some of the horses when he worked at Blancaneaux, so he knows where to start so the chain is a little shorter than if Tom and I just started asking around. No matter where you start, this means that you get in your truck with a full tank of gas and just start driving. And, you load your tack in the truck, because if you decide to buy a horse, there aren’t too many horse trailers around so if the horse is within 20 miles of home, you buy the horse, tack it up, and ride it home. The definition of a “good horse” is also very different. A good horse is a horse who is an easy keeper and will work hard all day. Soundness is a benefit, but since they’re used either for working in the fields or for toting tourists through the jungle at a walk, a little unsound is perfectly acceptable if the horse has a suitable temperament and is of a sufficient size to do its job. Tom and I are being forced to let go of a lot of our preconceived definitions of “good horse,” and we’ve received a few strange looks when we’ve reacted to something a horse seller says in a way that they don’t expect. This happened yesterday when we looked at the pregnant mare and asked what she was in foal to. The guy selling her said it was to a big horse, an appaloosa. I think I must have looked a little appalled, and he correctly read that it was the appaloosa part that appalled me and was quick to reassure me that the stallion only had small spots, and not too many! I quickly realized that spots don’t matter at all here, and that the temperament of the foal may be an issue no matter what the sire is, and my US preference for a plain brown horse is one of the first requirements I can throw out the window.

[Non-horsey readers, pick it up here.] Since we were in Barton Creek looking for horses, we used Tinkerbell as a bus to take Selwyn’s family and Damion and Olmi’s family to Barton Creek so they could go swimming while Tom, Selwyn, and I looked at horses. Barton Creek is the location of the Barton Creek Cave, which is a river cave full of Mayan artifacts. The river runs through the cave, and there are land owners on the creek at either end of the cave who will rent canoes, batteries, spotlights, and guides so you can paddle through the cave. Both ends of the cave also have great swimming holes, and the landowners have opened small restaurants so you can spend the whole day hanging out at the creek.

Both landowners are gringos, one from Ontario, Canada, and the other from Florida. Tom and I enjoyed meeting and talking to them because both families are very positive about their move to Belize, and didn’t bother to tell Tom and me how much we’re going to hate it in a few years; their attitudes were both that it was a good move for them, and it will probably be a good move for us. Both warned that there are lots of adjustments we’ll have to make, and we laughed over a few of the things we’ve already discovered, and both said that there are days they love Belize and days they hate Belize – but they admitted that like everybody else, they’d feel that way no matter where they lived. One of the landowners was a little more bitter than the other about doing business in Belize, because he has owned his land for quite a while. The Barton Creek Cave was discovered to have all the Mayan artifacts after he had purchased the land, which was about 500 acres including the cave. When the Belize government discovered that the cave was a national landmark, they reclaimed the property that includes the cave, which was about 300 of the 500 acres the man had purchased. They offered him even more land in another location, but he didn’t think it was fair that the government could just take his land, just offer him whatever they felt was fair, and he didn’t have any recourse. So, from the stories we hear, he apparently argued with the government for quite a while, would never accept any of their offers, and in the end they just took his land anyway and didn’t give him anything. Of course he thinks that’s really unfair, but from what we hear even he seems to realize that everybody knows the government will take your land if anything significant is found on it, and they don’t have to give you anything, and he now knows he should have accepted their offer and just said thank you. Tom and I realize that this can happen with any government, and shortly before we left Canadice we knew a few property owners who gained or lost a significant amount of acreage because the state redid some surveys while they were putting in a trail connecting two pieces of state land. Neither landowner paid or received anything from the state. So, Tom and I will listen to this man’s experiences here, and will take them for what they’re worth – and if we find a cave or a ruined temple on our property, we’ll just keep our mouths shut!

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