Sunday, September 12, 2010

Visit to San Miguel, Toledo District, Part 3 – Hike to cave

(Julio, Germo, and Tino) Germo’s cousin or uncle, Tino, I wasn’t too clear which he was, wanted to show us the project the town was working on, a walking path to a large cave up the river from the town. A couple of interesting parallels to Julio here: Julio and Tino are both chairmen for their villages, both have projects going to help the village, both are trying to promote more tourism with their projects to help provide more money for their towns, and both projects involve caves and hiking trails. Julio and I were glad to go out to see the progress on their project which they started about 6 months ago.

As we started out, we entered into sections that were thick with Heliconias that were well over our heads. Throughout the hike we kept finding sections like this, it was like a real hike in the jungle!

We had a beautiful shallow stream crossing that we used to wash our hands and faces to cool us off a bit.

Along the way we met up with some of the youths from San Miguel that are working on the project. Tino and the town council select workers from the local school graduates that wish to make some money to put towards their further educational expenses when they go to college (high school for those that live in the US). The workers are chopping the trail and planting hardwood trees along the way.

There are also a number of small shelters along the way with roofs that the workers have built so that in the case of rain or you just need a bit of shade, you can sit for a rest and enjoy the view of the river as you make your way to the cave.

Since the trail winds along the river side on public land (30 feet either side of a river is considered public access), we passed by numerous farm fields. I had never seen a rice field since Marge and I lived in the northeast US prior to Belize. Also, where we live in Belize, the foothills to the Pine Ridge, there is not enough rain and water to grow rice so we haven’t even seen it growing here in Belize, even though rice is a major part of the local diet.

The trail to the cave is not complete but most of the work is done, there is a section that still is not yet chopped though. Tino had to chop a narrow path for us for about a mile so that we could get through the dense brush.

We finally got to the cave area, but Julio and I were surprised to find that a hydroelectric station has been built on the river. A dam was built upriver from where we were (we did not see the dam, maybe next trip).

The cave was huge, the ceiling probably 100-150 high. We went through one section,

broke out into the thick jungle, then went back into another section. The river used to run through the cave and it looks like currently, when the rains are very heavy, there is water that passes through. Tino and Germo told us that the river did not run through the cave PRIOR to the dam being built.

We did not go very deep into the cave due to our timing, so we need to go back for some more exploring (another trip – hopefully when the trail is done and ready for tourists).

We left the dam area by foot on a road that goes back to town. About a quarter of the way back a truck came along hauling firewood to town so we all jumped in back and were happy for the lift. The plan for tourists is to have a canoe ready for the guests to enjoy a leisurely paddle back to town and enjoy the view of the jungle from the river.

After we all got back to town, the kids were excited to see all of us return so we played in the yard for a while.

That evening we had venison and vegetables, a very filling dinner after a long day of sightseeing.

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