Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas to Me!

The kitchen is done! Actually, there are a few more things to do, and some more permanent counters need to be built along with a pie safe, but they finished enough of the shelves and counters that I could fit all of my stuff in there, and moved my appliances from my dark closet of a kitchen in the house into this light, airy, and spacious kitchen.

It was a hard push to get the last few things done. It seemed like we were almost there, but every time I contemplated actually making the move, I realized a few more things needed to be done. The walls were done, the door was done, and the kitchen part of the building was lockable, but I didn’t think the one table they had completed would offer enough space to both store all my stuff and give me room to work. So, they built another table with shelves and hung some wire racks over the stove site and the center table. The second table still doesn’t have a top, but the shelves underneath give me plenty of space for storage, and I have more than adequate counter space, especially compared to the old kitchen – which had virtually none.

Just yesterday, Julio came to help and we did the big move. Tom and Julio moved all the big stuff, which involved disconnecting the gas and the plumbing in the old kitchen and connecting it in the new. I went out to transfer our guests to the border, and when I returned home not only were all the appliances out of the old kitchen, but they’d put them in the yard and thoroughly cleaned them – even the inside of the oven! Then we all just carried stuff out to the new kitchen. None of us could believe how much stuff I had crammed into my tiny kitchen, and how quickly it filled the new kitchen. I finally left the carrying to the men and I started stowing stuff, and it was just about dark by the time I had the kitchen in a condition where I could make dinner in it last night.

So far so good on how it works, although our first guests to eat out of the new kitchen are just about to arrive, so we’ll see how it works when put to the test. In the meantime, I’m enjoying sharing it with a hooded warbler and a great-tailed grackle (which I prefer to call crazy tailed grackles since their tails never seem to following them quite straight), although I might be less taken with the birds in the kitchen if I find they’ve decided to try the lemon squares I have cooling on the counter. We’re still debating about whether or not we want to screen it. The bugs aren’t really a factor here, and screen tends to get dirty and obstruct the view, especially of the many birds we have around here, so we’re going to try it unscreened for a while. But, if the bugs are too bad, or the birds sample my baked goods, we might have to screen it. We’ll see.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dena & Steve

Dena and Steve from Leeds, England, visited us over the US Thanksgiving week. Dena and I did a lot of preplanning via email because I was worried that things could be busy since it was Thanksgiving week and lots of people from the US would be here on vacation. As it turned out, our US visitors who were scheduled for that week postponed, so Dena and Steve ended up being here by themselves for five days.

Steve and Dena arrived in San Ignacio after using William’s Belize Shuttle transfer service to get from the airport in Belize City to San Ignacio. William doesn’t want to wreck his vehicles on our road, so his driver left them at Hannah’s where they were able to get a snack since they missed lunch, and Tom met them there and brought them back to the farm. When they left, we did the reverse and dropped them at Hannah’s where William met them to take them back to the airport. This worked out great as far as we were concerned. While we don’t mind doing transfers and understand that for many people it’s not only less expensive than renting a car, but also much less stressful, it was nice to have somebody else do the driving and put miles on their vehicle instead of ours, and after paying both us and William for our respective legs of the trip, Dena and Steve saved a few dollars.

Dena and Steve did the kind of vacation that Tom and I think we would do if we were guests at Moonracer Farm. The only thing they did that took them out of the Mountain Pine Ridge was their ATM tour, which, if you’re adventurous, is a must do when you visit Cayo.

The first day they were here they rode with Joe from his farm near San Antonio to Big Rock. This gave them a good introduction to the jungle, and in addition to seeing the caves on Joe’s property and the Big Rock waterfall, they got to see both the broadleaf jungle and the mountain pine ridge. They said they rode all day and didn’t see anybody else on the trail or at Big Rock, which surprised us since we expected people to be at Big Rock during the holiday week.

The next day Selmo picked them up bright and early and they headed back into the Mountain Pine Ridge. Their first stop was Rio Frio Cave, and then they made their way up to Caracol. On the way back, they stopped for a swim at Rio On Pools, and remarked that Rio On must be the place all the swank hotels use to model their natural-looking swimming pools. Selmo said the water was perfect in both temperature and depth so the area was just like a water park.

The following day I joined Steve and Dena on a hike from the back of 7 Miles to the base of a beautiful 700 foot waterfall in the jungle. Melvin was our guide, and he led us through the land his family farms, across government land, and then up the river to the base of the falls. Prior to coming here, Dena and I had discussed whether or not a guide was needed to hike in the jungle. I basically insisted that they use a guide, and Dena, slightly reluctantly, gave in, since she and Steve have hiked all over the world, frequently without a guide. Here, however, we don’t know of any trail maps, and especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Richard, many of the jungle trails are very windy with seemingly inexplicable detours, and it’s difficult to describe where you’re supposed to look for other trails and which way you should go. In addition, if you haven’t spent much time in the jungle, a guide is good both to tell you what to be careful of as far as the flora and fauna go, and to help you spot wildlife that most of us would never see on our own. During the hike, Melvin led us off the trail to see area caves, and pointed out a variety of birds we wouldn’t have seen including toucans, blue crowned motmots, a red capped manakin, and a crested guan. He also told us which trees weren’t safe to grab as we negotiated the muddy, steep, and often treacherous trail, and helped us keep our hands off the poisonwood, basket taitai, and give and take trees.

And, best of all, he got us to the base of the waterfall which, with the number of stream crossings we had to do, was an accomplishment since it would have been difficult for us to follow the trail alone since it used the waterway as the trail in multiple places, before shooting back into the bush. As we were hiking out, Melvin suddenly stopped in the trail and put up his hand for us to stop behind him. Steve, Dena, and I stopped, and Melvin gestured us forward and pointed to the side of the trail, where a very beautiful but very deadly coral snake was coiled. Chances are we could have walked by without disturbing it, and coral snakes are generally not aggressive, but at that point Dena turned to me and thanked me for insisting that we take a guide, and said that she didn’t even want to think about how many dangerous things they may have walked blithely by without Melvin’s eyes and jungle awareness.

For their final trip, Steve and Dena went to ATM. We usually send our guests to ATM with Gonzo, but Gonzo was out of the country so we booked Steve and Dena on a PACZ tour. PACZ is an excellent tour operator with a great reputation and great guides. However, for Dena and Steve, this trip was a little bit of a letdown after the rest of their Moonracer Farm stay. They’d gone horseback riding and hiking and visited Caracol with the two of them being the only guests of our hand-picked guides who are also our friends, and had come back raving about each tour. For the ATM tour, they were part of a fairly large group – two vans with two guides, and eight people with each guide. Dena was a little nervous about the trip; she’s a triathlete, so she’s a good swimmer, but she’s a little claustrophobic and wasn’t quite sure about swimming in a cave and could have used a little reassurance from the guide. However, one of the other women in the group was a non-swimmer, so the guide understandably focused most of his assistance and reassurance on the non-swimmer, who he judged to need it more than Dena. Dena understood, but remarked that it was a very different experience with a very different feel than their other three tours. Nonetheless, they really enjoyed the trip and were amazed, as everybody is, by what ATM offers.

The next day we dropped them at Hannah’s bright and early, where William met them to drive them to the airport.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Kitchen - Finished floor and walls in progress

One of the things we are learning with this project is that a lot of things that can’t really be seen have to be done in between the good photo opportunities showing a lot of progress.  This floor was done shortly after the last blog post, but then a number of things had to be done to get ready for the next big step in building.

We decided that because I want the kitchen area of the building to be open, but it still needs to be secure because we will be storing things like alcohol in there, we needed to cage it in.  In part, this is just good reuse of material we have on the property, but in addition to being secure yet open, it provides a good backing for the palmetto (pimento) sticks we are using for the walls.  However, before the cage material could be put up for the walls and ceiling, it had to be taken down from the cages still standing on the property, which is an awkward and time consuming job.  And, it’s not easy to handle in big pieces, so getting the walls up and straight was a job, and getting the large pieces into the rafters took a few extra hands.

 Once the cage material was up, the next job was to take a day and go up into the Mountain Pine Ridge to collect the sticks. Tinkerbell was drafted for the job, and Tom went with a bunch of local guys who knew where the palmettos were, and how to cut the sticks. The local guys also knew the process of stopping by the Forest Department to pay for this sticks, which cost $.10BZ per stump. Pretty cheap lumber!

Once they had the sticks here and unloaded, we had a big conference about what we wanted the outside walls to look like. We decided that the walls should be four feet high in the kitchen area to provide a backsplash for the counters, and three feet high in the dining area so they don’t impede people’s view when they’re sitting at a table. Tom used his power mitre box and set up a line so that the sticks were fed to a board, Tom used the saw to cut them, and they were then stacked to the side.

The other part of the conference was what we wanted the sticks to look like.  Many places around here have palmetto stick walls, but most leave the hairy bark on the sticks.  We decided that since this is a kitchen, we’d rather have the bark peeled off in hopes of giving bugs one less place to hide.  Plus, we like the look of the peeled sticks.  But, it was quite a job to peel each stick!

Once the sticks were cut and peeled, the noticeable construction was able to start.  They put up two guide boards between the supporting posts and inside the cage material, then nailed the sticks to the boards from the outside of the cage material.  Because the sticks were all cut evenly, it took two people inside to keep them at the right height and straight…

…and one on the outside to do the nailing.  Daniel made it a point to hammer the nails in from about a 45 degree angle so when you look at the wall, you don’t see metal nail heads on the wood.
His effort was well worth it.  We’re quite pleased with the look of the walls, and are looking forward to getting the sticks up the rest of the way around the building.

Mimi & Doak

The day Abigail, Staci, and Caleb left, Mimi and Doak arrived in San Ignacio. They are thinking of eventually moving to Belize, so they were trying where at all practical to travel like the locals and really see the country, dealing with the “burps” in the system as they went along. Since Tom and I try to live like that as well here, we thoroughly appreciated the effort and tried to help however we could, and while Mimi and Doak’s stay here wasn’t the well-choreographed stay of the completely pre-planned, pull-out-all-the-stops vacation, all four of us had fun and learned a bit.

I felt very badly about the first burp, because if I had put a little more thought into it, I probably could have prevented it. All through the planning stages of their trip, Mimi and Doak had planned to stay at the Belize Zoo’s Tropical Education Center the night before they came here, then get a bus on the Western Highway and arrive in San Ignacio around noon. After Hurricane Richard, the Belize Zoo was closed. I knew the Belize Zoo was closed and I knew Mimi and Doak planned to stay there, but it never occurred to me to ask them if they had confirmed their reservation. I just sort of assumed (yes, I know that little ditty about the word “assume”) that although the Zoo was closed the TEC was open, or that if the TEC was closed Mimi and Doak would have been contacted, but that wasn’t how it worked out. Mimi and Doak spent the first part of their vacation in Placencia, and discovered while they were there that the TEC was closed along with the Zoo. They had already purchased roundtrip Tropic Air tickets from Belize City to Placencia and back, so on their return they just spent the night in Belize City before coming here. They had no trouble getting a bus out of Belize City, but when they got to Belmopan they waited through three or four full buses heading west to San Ignacio, and finally gave up and got a cab, arriving in San Ignacio around 3:30, instead of 2PM, which is when they had anticipated their arrival based on the bus they caught from Belize City. I felt like a dope not only because I had totally missed connecting that they were staying at the [closed] TEC, but also because I knew they were going to Placencia, so if I thought about it I could have had Selmo bring them directly from Placencia when he dropped of Staci, Abigail, and Caleb, and the transfer cost could have been split. Mimi and Doak assured me that it was fine, and that they probably wouldn’t have done that anyway since they had their Tropic Air roundtrip tickets, but still…I don’t like to miss those things.

The second burp occurred on Mimi and Doak’s only full day here, when they had scheduled a much anticipated trip to ATM. We had some communications difficulties with the guides (life in the land of no phone lines or cell reception), and their guide never showed to pick them up in Georgeville. Since Tom was waiting with them, he did a quick replan and took them to Barton Creek Cave instead, which they had never visited, although it wasn’t on their “A” list like ATM. After visiting Barton Creek, they came back here for lunch – surprising me as I was finishing up my salad lunch on the porch – and then after lunch went with Tom into the Mountain Pine Ridge to visit Rio Frio Cave and Rio On Pools. Again, they assured us that it worked out fine because they know they’ll be back and can see ATM later, and they enjoyed what they did, but still…I don’t like it when things don’t go according to plan and our guests have to compromise on what they get to do.

Their departure day actually went as planned, and despite the fact that they had to leave, everything worked like it was supposed to; they had a half day horseback ride scheduled with Joe, and Tom dropped them off, the horses were ready, they went for a ride, and Tom picked them up and they came back here for lunch before heading into San Ignacio to stay at Rosa’s for their last night in Cayo. We had a minor panic attack because neither Tom nor I could place where in San Ignacio Rosa’s is located, but after reading a few TripAdvisor reviews that mentioned how it’s near a big nightclub, we knew it had to be the place next to Blue Angels – and we were right, finally, about something! After a relaxed lunch discussing politics and religion, Tom drove them into town and we thanked our lucky stars that Mimi and Doak were such nice, laid back guests who had an enjoyable time here despite all the setbacks.

Staci, Abigail, and Caleb

Abigail, Staci, and Caleb in ATM (bottom to top)
November started with a four night stay by Staci, Abigail, and Caleb. They flew the red-eye TACA flight from LA, which put them into Belize before 10AM, so they were able to go both zip lining and cave tubing on their way to Moonracer Farm, and have time for a short nap before dinner when they arrived here. The next day they had planned to go to Xunantunich, not realizing that it takes only a half day to tour the site, so when Tom dropped them off with Selmo in the morning, Selmo very happily did some last minute planning and called Chechem Ha so they were able to take that tour as well that day, along with a traditional Belizean lunch at Benny’s. They following day they rode horses with Joe to Big Rock, and stopped at two different caves. This was good preparation for their final tour of ATM, which they did with Carlos on their last day here. Their order of go for their tours was intentional on our part, and when we explained why we had them start with cave tubing, then do Chechem Ha, then do the smaller, less explored caves, saving ATM for the last, they understood that if they had started with ATM, everything else would have been a little bit of a letdown.

Once again, we had a very enjoyable time visiting with the three of them each night at dinner, and stayed up way too late talking just because it was fun. Caleb and Abigail are interpreters for the deaf, and Staci and Caleb both work at the jail, so they had lots of entertaining stories about their jobs, which Tom and I thoroughly enjoyed. From here, they had Selmo transfer them to Placencia, where they spent the remainder of their vacation before heading home.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Can you help the Belize Zoo?

While we didn't have much damage as a result of Hurricane Richard, the area around the Belize Zoo was hit quite hard, and the Zoo suffered extensive damage.  The Zoo is closed for at least this month as they clean up, repair, and rebuild.  And, of course, they need funds to do this because the rehabilitating will cost a lot of money, and they won't have any income during the time the Zoo is closed.  If you would like to help, go to the Belize Zoo's website and click on the Hurricane Relief Funds donation button on the right side of the page.

The Belize community is pitching in with donations, volunteering time and equipment to help with the cleanup, and auction items for a few benefit auctions which will be held this month.  But you can help no matter where you are!

A new chapter in water news

Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while know that in the time we’re lived here, we’ve had to work with a somewhat unstable water situation. We had been getting our water through a pipe from 7 Miles, but between more farmers getting on line for the water, and the pipe getting old and both filling in from the inside and leaking, less water was getting to the village and we frequently didn’t get any water at all for weeks on end.

Last summer, the San Antonio water system was finally finished. San Antonio has a bigger pipe than 7 Miles, and more than enough water was being delivered to the village. Because San Antonio had been getting water from 7 Miles, the pipe runs between the two villages. Because all of the people right in our area had been without water for months, people petitioned both village water boards to see if we could be switched so we would get water from San Antonio, and the water boards agreed that we should get San Antonio water, although we still pay the Village of 7 Miles.

Since that agreement was made, our water situation has been much improved, although there have been a few glitches in getting the San Antonio system up and running, and we’ve still had periods of time where we didn’t get water – but the periods of time have been a few days to a couple of weeks, rather than months. So thank you, San Antonio for letting us get your water, and thank you 7 Miles for consenting to give up a few bucks of our water bill to pay San Antonio for the service!

In addition, we purchased a couple of more 1,000 gallon tanks, so we can now store 4,400 gallons of water on the property. Right now we’re getting plenty of water, but the San Antonio farmers will be drawing more water off the system for irrigation in the dry season, and we’re at the end of the line whether we get San Antonio water or 7 Miles water. Plus, politics being politics wherever you are in the world, we don’t quite trust the water boards of the two villages not to get in a tiff over something and use our water supply as collateral, so we want to make sure we have a backup.

More kitchen progress

While Tom and the guys have been very busy working on the kitchen these last couple of weeks, we didn’t have a whole lot of visible progress. The floor for the kitchen part of the building is of smooth concrete, but Tom wants the dining room part to be a little fancier. Adix, the mother of Hugo, the Guatemalan driver/guide we use for Tikal trips, has a restaurant in Guatemala with a floor that Tom really likes – log cuts laid into the concrete. Tom talked to Hugo about how they did it, and talked to some of the guys around here who have worked with concrete, and came up with a plan to get the floor he wants.

First, he went to Linda Vista lumberyard and ordered slabs cut from a hardwood tree. After lots of calculations on the part of the lumberyard manager, Tom, and a sample floor laid out near the mill by Hector, the man running the chainsaw, Tom ended up with 134 slabs.

Each about 3” thick, it took two trips to Spanish Lookout in Tinkerbell to get all the slabs back to Moonracer Farm.

Then the tedious task of sanding and linseed oiling each slab started, which is what has taken most of the past week and a half – and it would have taken even longer without some help from Julio and Ian over the weekend.

Finally, just yesterday, the work started on the floor. Tom said it’s a lot like tiling with slate, which he did in our house in New York. They put down a thin layer of concrete, then lay each cut into the concrete, and work on getting it completely level with the floor and the other cuts around it. Fortunately Tom has more patience than most people, and after a few very slow and frustrating cuts were level, he said it got a little easier.

They finished a little over half the floor yesterday, and had most of the other half done before lunch today, but discovered that a few more cuts needed to be sanded and oiled. The total number used on the floor will be 126, so Tom, Scott, and Hector were very close in their original calculations. Tom is planning to make some rustic night stands with the leftovers.

While Tom was sanding the remaining cuts, Julio started filling in the concrete between the cuts to make the level floor. He said it’s not as difficult as it would seem, mostly because he’s able to stand on cuts that are already in hardened concrete, so he can work from a comfortable position. With any luck, we’ll have the floor finished before the weekend!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Yvonne & Steve

Yvonne and Steve from Tennessee decided to spend their entire Belize vacation in the jungle with us rather than splitting their time between the jungle and the coast or cayes. I’m sure they needed a rest when they got home, but they proved that it’s very possible to spend your entire vacation inland and not be bored for a minute.

Their adventure started as soon as Tom picked them up and they headed to the airport. That was a good first stop to discover that they’d left home with a camera memory full of pictures, so Tom able to download their camera stick to a CD as soon as they got home so they didn’t miss any real action shots…

…and they still managed to get some good shots, like this one of the kinkajou which we hardly ever see out of his hollow log.

Steve and Yvonne had left home very early that morning, so we made a fairly early night of it and planned activities for the next day that didn’t require a wakeup call in the morning. In fact, instead of taking their breakfast tray on the porch of their cabin, Yvonne and Steve came over and ate with us, and we had a leisurely breakfast, finishing our conversation from dinner the night before.

They then went off to tour the Green Hills Butterfly Ranch before heading to Barton Creek Cave. After coming back here for lunch, they headed up to Big Rock, where Steve even jumped off the Big Rock!

The next day, Steve went to ATM while Yvonne and I went for a horseback ride to Sapodilla Falls.

Yvonne grew up on a ranch in the very western part of South Dakota, and spent her entire childhood and young adulthood on a horse. So, she was quite comfortable on Nessa while I rode Glinda, and we were very able to keep up a non-stop stream of chatter all the way to the falls, through lunch, through a nice whirlpool-like soak sitting in one of the small falls, and all the way home! We got home, untacked the horses, showered, and Yvonne, Tom and I jumped in the car to head into San Ignacio to meet Steve after his ATM trip and get dinner in town.

Steve, Carlos, and the other two guests on the ATM trip stopped at Jumanji on the way back to San Ignacio, so Yvonne, Tom, and I had time for a Happy Hour stop at Mr. Greedy’s where we were entertained by a couple of expats also enjoying $3BZ beers and $2BZ rums. When Steve and Carlos found us, the first thing Steve did was look at Yvonne and say “It was sooo cool!” That pretty much sums up how he felt about the trip.

They had an early start the next morning, meeting Hugo at the border at 7AM on the way to Tikal. They had a beautiful day to see Guatemala and tour the site, and climbed all the temples.

The next day they were able to compare the two largest archeological sites in the region when they visited Caracol with Selmo. They also stopped at Rio Frio Cave and Rio On Pools, so they had a good overview of the Mountain Pine Ridge area.

On their final full day in Belize, they visited Cahal Pech in San Ignacio, and the Chechem Ha Cave. They were supposed to go to Xunantunich, but the ferry was out, so the “ruin” part of the Cave & Ruin tour was changed to Cahal Pech, where Selmo showed them around.

They also toured the Chechem Ha Cave with Lea, which was the only cave Yvonne explored while here, since she and I went riding on the day Steve visited ATM. And, they had lunch at Benny’s in Succotz, so they were able to experience some real Belizean food.

The next day we were quite sad to say goodbye as Tom took them to the airport. Yet again, we made good friends in a week, after a series of dinners where we just sat and talked. Steve has a very interesting job which provided endless hours off fascinating conversation, and Yvonne works in the schools, so she had plenty of very interesting stories as well. And, they were curious about how two professionals end up living and thriving in the jungle, so none of us were ever at a loss for words. Steve was kind enough to drop us an email the next day to let us know they arrived home safely, and we really appreciated knowing that they had traveled safely and had a great vacation.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hurricane Richard Aftermath

We came through Hurricane Richard with lots of downed trees (including one mango, boohoo), but all people, horses, dogs, and buildings are fine. The road was blocked by downed trees both north and south of our driveway; Tom was out clearing the road before 6 this morning. We're not sure how the rest of the country fared since the only news sources we have are international internet news services, but no deaths are being reported so we're hoping for the best. We talked to Julio this morning and he said the Village of 7 Miles is fine, with some trees down, but as far as he knows, no major property destruction or casualties. We'll be spending today clearing away the downed trees and fixing fence.

Tree down in the heliconia near the porch

More of the tree in the heliconia

View from our house toward the guest cabin

More of the view toward the guest cabin

Tree down on the path to Tony and Lodo.  This one took down the mango.

Trees down in Tony & Lodo's paddock

Lodo says it was a very scary night.

We have some fence fixing to do

This one involved some fence as well

Tony says it wasn't THAT scary.  Where's breakfast?

Small tree down near the tack shed

Tree in the road to the south of our driveway

Tree in the road to the north of our driveway
Path back to the palapa

More path back to the palapa

Tree down near the palapa

Trees broken near the top near the palapa

Palapa area, by the driveway.  But nothing hit the palapa!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Carol, Lori, and Rob

Our next visitors were a trio of traveling friends from Colorado. They had spent the first part of their vacation in San Pedro, and flew into the Municipal airport on a 9:30AM flight. I drove to Belize City with our friend Ian, who is living in San Ignacio until December, and who had spent the afternoon and evening before with us, getting out of the city. Ian and I spotted Lori, Carol, and Rob immediately when they got off the little Tropic Air flight, and we got their bags loaded in the back of the little blue truck and we all piled in and were on our way. Our first stop was a bank to get more cash, and after some quick calculations about how much money they needed and a couple of stops at a couple of different banks, we were on our way to the Zoo.

Lori, Rob, and Carol under the banana tree in front of the guest cabin.
We had an absolutely wonderful time at the Zoo. Put together five people who love animals, add a chance meeting with the Zoo director who gave us a private tour complete with feeding some of the animals that many visitors never even see, add a bit of adventure – holding a boa and petting a jaguar! – and the normally hour and a half tour turned into a three and a half hour adventure. Ian had been to the Zoo on his own before, and he said it was much more fun to visit with a group and actually take the time to watch some of the animals. We discovered that Rob is some sort of animal whisperer; he would stand and look into a cage to try to see the animals, and they would get up from where ever they were and come to the edge of the cage to look at him. It was amazing!

By the time we were done at the Zoo, we were all starving, so we made our normal stop at Cheers for lunch. After a leisurely lunch, we headed to Jaguar Paw to zip line. We arrived there at 2:45, fifteen minutes before they officially start their last zips of the day, but because nobody had been in the park since noon, all the employees had been sent home a half hour early and the park was closed. The good thing about this stop was that the park management gave me their phone number, so if we’re running close to the edge again, we can call and make sure somebody is still there before we drive the six miles off the Western Highway, especially during the slow season when some attractions are occasionally closed due to a lack of tourists.

Although they were mildly disappointed, we made the best of it and headed directly into San Ignacio from Jaguar Paw, and arrived at Cahal Pech in time for Rob, Carol, Lori, and Ian to tour the museum and the site. They left the site when it closed at 5:30, so we drove down the hill and into San Ignacio and did a little bit of gift shopping before heading to dinner at Erva’s where we had the usual magnificent service of Germo, and were joined by Shawn, an archeologist friend we met this summer when he was working with Becky at Caves Branch. We then did a little more shopping from the street vendors who are out at night in San Ignacio before heading back to the farm. We really made the most of this transfer day!

The next day Lori, Carol, and Rob toured ATM. We went through a small period of chaos because we weren’t sure if the cave was closed due to some rain we’d been having, and didn’t know until Selmo and Carlos met them in Georgeville if they were actually going to make it to the cave. But, lucky for everybody, the cave was open, so they had a great day in the Maya underworld.

They were only with us for two nights, so they were heading back to Belize City to go home the next morning. But, their flight wasn’t until mid-afternoon, so they had some time to hang around here in the morning. We had just started digging in the ground under the palapa to level the floor for the kitchen, so we showed Rob, Carol, and Lori how we were finding pieces of pottery. They grabbed knives and trowels and started digging, and we all found pieces of pots, which they thought was pretty cool – and we were glad to find someone else so fascinated by digging up thousand year old garbage!