Sunday, May 13, 2012

Vaca Dam

Back in September 2011 Lea, Gonzo’s mother (Gonzo owns/runs/guides River Rat Tours, the tour company we use for most of our guests) built a firehearth for our kitchen.You can go back in the blog to check out that project.When she was done creating it we asked how much she would like to get paid for her 2 days of hard work here.  She responded that she didn’t want anything, she likes to help her friends and pass on some of her traditional knowledge to keep some of the old ways alive. However, while she was here we noticed that she loved Marge’s island table in the kitchen.So, Julio and I made one for her, a little shorter than Marge’s and we put drawers on either end so she has some extra storage space.

We completed the table in October while we were still very slow with guests and delivered it in early November.

Lea's kitchen work table

Lea's kitchen work table

When Julio and I delivered the table we looked out over the Macal River gorge at the Vaca Dam, a hydro dam that was completed recently. The dam is on Lea and her husband Antonio’s land. I asked Antonio if we could go down to see the dam and he said sure, let’s go get permission and we can check it out. What surprised me was the fact that Antonio had never gone down to check out the dam prior to that day.

We drove down to the guard compound, found the boss, Antonio asked for permission and down we went into the river gorge in our little truck.

Here are a couple of pictures from January 2005 that Marge and I took of this same location when we were here in Belize for the first time on vacation. We came to this exact location with River Rat Tours to kayak down the Macal River for the day. We put in just below where the dam is and took these pictures as the workers were putting in the first test holes for the foundation.
2005 view from where Lea's house currently sits.  Notice little shack on right 1/2 way down the mountain.

Another 2005 view from about where Lea's house is now.

2005 - working on footer holes.

2005 - In the riverbed just below where the dam is now getting ready to go kayaking.

2005 - Paddling upriver about where the dam was built.

2005 - This is the bottom of where the resevoir is now.

2005 - This magical stream is now completely under water.  Karen Cruz on the left, Marge on the right.

2005 - This is underwater now in the resevoir.

This is what the site looked like in November 2011.
Vaca Dam from Lea's house

Down river from dam

Looking down river from near the dam

Front of dam from riverbed

River channel just down from turbine station

Overhead crane for turbine station

At the dam with Julio and Antonio

At the dam with Julio and Antonio

Julio looking across top of dam.

Reservoir up river from dam.

From top of dam looking down river.  Turbine building in center.

Looking across top of dam

Looking down from top of dam

Current day Maya (cement) steps

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Shop projects - shelves and coffins!

Between guests, Julio and I have been busy with some community projects. One project that Julio came up with was a result of last year's Hurricane Richard (October 2010). A very large cedar tree fell down in the storm in the back of Ka'ax Tun and was laying over top of some of the gorges in the jungle. Cedar is a beautiful wood, easy to work with and kind of light (so easy to move furniture you build).

We have had some occasions in the past when people have died near here and the family has needed a coffin. Usually a trip is made to Melchor, Guatemala to buy an inexpensive coffin. Then the coffin has to be transported back to Belize and then everything else can procede with the funeral etc. So, since Julio is the town chairman and many people look to him for help on these occasions, Julio thought it would be good to have some coffins here ready to be used when needed.

The first step was to cut up the tree. In August 2011 we hired a local guy to help with that. It was a challenge but we managed to cut up the tree into mostly 1"x12"x12 foot long boards.
Cutting over the gorge
Supporting so everything doesn't fall!
Jungle engineering
Cross your fingers and hope all goes to plan!
Whew, bad luck if we dropped the whole works in the hole.
Some of the smaller boards
Jungle milling - very accurate with the proper operator.
Yup, I was there (on the right)!
Boards to haul out.
More boards to haul out.

We then had to carry the boards about one mile through the jungle to our truck. Julio's kids helped with this.
About 1 mile to go.
How many trips?

Then, as we need more boards to work with, we transport them to a lumber yard, about 6 at a time due to the weight and the bad roads, to get them planed. This is the first coffin we have made.
Finished coffin.
Coffin in the shade.
Belize custom is a window for viewing.
Testing the fit on Marge at 5 foot 10 inches (taller than most people here).
Yup, the window works!  Hi Marge!!!
Julio and Tom, buen carpentaros.

During this project we also had a request from the public school principal in 7-Mile for bookshelves. A couple from Vermont, Neidi and Kevin, that visited us in February made a donation to the school so we purchased screws, 2x4s, fuel for the generator, and Julio his kids and I spent 3 work days making 6 sets of shelves for the school.   Thanks so much Neidi and Kevin for helping the school with your donation!