Thursday, May 25, 2017

Davis Falls, Stann Creek, Belize

We didn't have any guests on Tuesday, either coming or going, so we decided to go on an adventure of our own to Davis Falls, in the Stann Creek District of Belize, with our neighbor Tatiana and our three dogs.  We have seen signs to the Falls from the Hummingbird Highway, and have heard stories of the adventure of going there, but have never taken the time to do it until now.  We did our on-line research and watched YouTube videos, read trip reports from various sites, and talked to a few people who have made the trek, and felt that we were ready to go.

From the reports we read, we expected the eight mile off-road drive through orange orchards and jungle and across at least six creeks to be a challenge, so Tom made sure we were prepared with a come-along, tow chains and straps, bridge boards, and shovels.  As it turned out, we didn't need any of those things, and only put the truck into 4WD twice, and one of those times was because we stopped in the middle of a very steep hill to look at a bird and our little Isuzu needed 4WD-Low just for the power to get started up the steep hill.  The track was mostly well-maintained orchard roads, and the stream crossings were all very shallow and well paved with stationary river rocks.  However - and this is a big "however" if you are intending to make the trek - we did it at the end of the dry season on a sunny day, and the roads were very dry and the creek was very low.  In the rainy season when the water is high the creek crossings could be a little nerve wracking, and we noticed some spots on the track that looked like they could very easily become impassable mud bogs.  Some of the hills out of the creek crossings were also pretty steep, and looked like they could become very slick if wet, which would make climbing them almost impossible without 4WD and good tires.  And, there were a few spots where deep ruts ran down the track, which we were able to straddle, but which would be very easy to slide into if the track was muddy.  The eight miles took us about a half hour, although we stopped slightly short of the ranger station because of a mud bog and ditch that didn't seem worth attempting since the ranger station and trail head were only a five-minute walk.  Overall, we were pleasantly surprised with the good condition of the track.

We were less pleasantly surprised with the walking access to the Falls, and that became our adventure for the day.  We had read and heard that from the ranger station it was about a half hour walk on a trail.  Even the men at the little store by the turnoff on the Hummingbird Highway said it was just a half hour walk from the ranger station.  We found the trail head and started walking, and within about 200 yards the trail ended at the creek.  We back tracked and looked for the trail, and still couldn't find it, and decided we would just follow the creek to the base of the Falls.  The creek, at least this time of the year, is mostly very shallow, and very beautiful as it flows over small waterfalls created by all the big rocks in the creek bed.  Hiking up the creek bed should not have been a big deal...if we hadn't been toting a 30 pound blind dog!

We had decided in advance that this would be a good outing for the dogs.  Kismet and Jalis love to hike, and we have been walking Reddy on the road with them for four miles every day, and she trots along and does great.  So, we didn't think walking her on a trail to the waterfall would be any big deal, and it wasn't, until we got to the creek.  There, the poor thing had no idea how to climb over the rocks, and she was very scared of falling in the water.  We started out letting her walk and very slowly guiding her, but soon realized that it would have probably taken us days to make our way up the mile or so of creek at her pace.  Tom and I started taking turns carrying her, but it was exhausting, and very difficult to climb and walk on slippery rocks with 30 pounds of dog wriggling in your arms.  We tried emptying one of our packs and making a dog carrier for Tom to carry on his back, but every time he bent over to climb on something, she tried to climb out of the pack.  In the end, we just took our time and let her walk where we could, carried her where we had to, and took a lot of rests.  It took us about an hour and a half to get to the base of the falls, but we made it and it was well worth the effort.

Davis Falls is absolutely gorgeous.  The creek flows over a rock cliff about 500 feet down into a pool surrounded by large boulders, and then continues flowing through the large boulders to another larger, deeper pool.  A flat rock by the big pool made a great picnic spot, and the pool was a perfect swimming hole after we made the effort, without Reddy, to go the last little bit to the base of the falls.  We even looked for the other end of the trail near the base, but couldn't find anything from that side either.  So, we swam and snacked and enjoyed watching the dogs in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  As it turns out, Reddy is a pretty good swimmer, and she swam with Tom in the big pool.  Kismet loves the water, and was swimming, climbing, and jumping from rock to rock, and generally having a grand time.  Shortly before we arrived at the big pool, there was a spot in the creek where there were no rocks to cross, and while all of us humans had decided way before we got there that wet boots were a small price to pay for ease of passage, Jalis decided that he wasn't going to get his feet wet and wasn't going any further.  He put himself on a rock, used his camouflage to blend in, and gave us the stink eye for leaving him behind.  If you zoom in right at the center of this photo and look just to the left of the big rock, you can see him.

After we were cooled down and rested, we made the return journey.  Tom carried Reddy almost the whole way, except for the very few places where she could walk.  Between the fact that it was slightly downhill and that we had already scoped out the route through the creek, and because for some reason the return trip always seems shorter, we made it out in about an hour.  We expected Reddy to be done when we got back to the dirt trail, but she surprised us; as soon as we put her down, she was ready to trot along again and seemed entirely un-traumatized by the whole experience. Tom, Tatiana, and I, on the other hand, were all tired and bruised from our various slips along the way!

We made it out as easily as we drove in, and stopped at the little store to let them know we had returned safely.  A young man who sometimes guides people to the Falls was in the store, and he said that there is a trail, but it is hard to find, and most people end up doing what we did and going up the creek.  If we do the trip again, we won't take Reddy, and we may hire a guide to show us how to get to the trail.

We drove home along the beautiful Hummingbird Highway and got a wonderful view of the day's gorgeous sunset.  We pulled into Belmopan around 6:30pm, and Tatiana treated us to a delicious dinner and Belikins at Corkers.  We were all pooped, but it was a fantastic day out finding another one of Belize's natural wonders.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Pineapples: Domestic vs. Wild

Remember the photo of the baby pineapple with purple flowers?  The first photo here is of a baby *wild* pineapple, also with purple flowers.  Besides the purple flowers and spikey leaves, the domestic and wild don't look very similar.  The last photo is the same domestic pineapple today, about six weeks later.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bee Homes

At this point in the dry season, lots of flowers are blooming and we hear a constant background buzz of bees.  So, we weren't surprised when Julio took us on a bees' nests tour and we found four different types of nests right in the yard.

Monday, May 1, 2017

It's the dry season...

Forget the 17-year cicada thing. Here in Belize, every dry season is cicada season, to the point where every night when we sit with our guests in the early evening, the first question is, "What is that noise?" in response to the loud saw-like buzzing that sometimes causes us to raise our voices in order to be heard. The cicadas are big, and there are a lot of them. The photo of the shells on the tree is just a small patch of the tree trunk, and most of the tree is covered with this density of shells.