Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Lamanai Outpost

As the crow flies, Birds Eye View is just 7 kilometers away. However we had to take a 20 kilometer drive and then we were met at a boat landing by Abdul, who drove us by boat many kilometers up the New River until we arrived at Lamanai Oupost. This is a superb lodge nestled beside a lagoon, surrounded by wetlands and jungle. Just down the lagoon are the Mayan Lamanai ruins.

This wild beautiful grey fox was near the front steps to the reception when we arrived.

As we walked to our cabana, a troup of howler monkeys were eating the folliage in the trees just nearby.

Our first activity here was a sunset cocktail cruise before dinner.

After dinner we went out on a spotlight boat trip to find anything that moved, slithered or shone. This was a thrilling experience as we sped with Abdul through the darkness on a very fast boat. Abdul was driving as well as spotting. He has been brought up on the river and knows every crook and turn!

Tthe most exciting find was to sight 3 Currasow males and one female. These birds are on the endangered list!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Birds Eye View Lodge

Birds Eye View Lodge is all about the birds. And they abound here. The lodge is situated right alongside an enormous lagoon, that has an astounding number of different birds.
As it is the rainy season at the moments, the lagoon spreads across this enormous area, attracting local and migratory birds.

We organised an early morning boat trip up the lagoon and into the creek system. Apart from heaps of different birds, we saw fresh water crocodiles, howler monkeys, iguanas and a water snake.

And of course more birds.

Black Rock River Lodge

We really need to come back to this place. The staff were really happy, the lodge is completely self sustainable. It is not connected to the grid or water, sewerage or garbage collection.
There is a huge vegetable garden which grows vegetables for the dining room. Chickens are raised for both meat and eggs. There are goats. The lodge grows sugar cane, fruit and cacoa. Barter and trade is done with local farmers or purchsed from the farmers' market not far away. What is not eaten goes to feed the animals, the birds and the compost. All the water comes from a nearby spring and is filtered for drinking - no plastic throw away water bottles here.
Kitchen appliances are run on gas. The electricity is generated by solar panels and water turbines. The lodge generates more power than it can use!
The swimming pool is not chlorinated. The water in the pool comes from the spring and flows through the pool continuously. No sunscreen or insect repellants are allowed in the water, so all guests must shower before using it. The water that flows out of the pool is filtered twice and constantly monitored before it is directed back into the river below.
The lodge has two sewerage treatment pits that use vegetation from the jungle to purify the water. These plants thrive in the mineral rich water and siphone at the contaminants from the water. The clean water is then drained into a pond. It was in this pd that I saw the very endangered red-eyed tree frog. This lodge has managed to have a colony of them that thrive here. Frogs can only live in pollution free areas, so this is indeed proof that their sewerage treatment plant really works.

I went on a guided night walk and look what we found.
In the morning we both went on a guided bird watching walk. We saw heaps of really special birds and a squirrel but my camera ran out of battery notlong after we started walking, so the rare birds we saw have not been recorded in photos.

There were so many choices of exciting activities at Black Rock River Lodge that unfortunately we did not have time for. We will have to come back!

Louis came to drive us to Birds Eye View in Crooked Tree, a three hour journey by car.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Black River Lodge

We woke to this view!

And chose today, to take a canoe ride down the Macal river, which runs at the bottom of the Black River Lodge site.

We were lucky enough to see many birds and animals, including orange male iguanas trying to attract females.

We also saw tiny bats which feed on aracnids.

Lunch was at the lodge down river and consisted of nachos covered in a delicious coatingbof pickled red cabbage, jalepenos, cream cheese, fresh tomato, olives and refried beans. Yum!!!!

Here we are ariving at the luch spot in time for a cool dip.
This lodge is an eco lodge, everything runs either solar and or water turbine power. They have their own chickens, eggs, fresh vegetables and fruit. What can't be sourced in the farm is purchased three times a week from the local farmers market. Nothing here has chemical fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide on it.

Tikal Jungle Lodge and Yaxha

Early in the morning we woke to a perfect day with blue skies. I wandered around the gardens looking for birds and animals.

This is a Crested Juan, seen in the hotel grounds. I thought is was a Bush Turkey, but I was wrong and it turns out that this is the bird that every bird watcher wants to see in their lifetime! Carlos was super excited when I asked him to verify that it was a Bush Turkey.
Also in the grounds of Jungle Lodge I saw Toucans, an agoote, many
hummingbirds and social fly catchers.
We were collected in the afternoon for a drive to Yaxha, excavated by German archeologists. This a really amazing Mayan site. We walked along the original Mayan roads and pathways to the plaza and ball courts. Only 4% of Yaxha. Has been excavated. What they are finding there is truly amazing. The buildings are closer together and feels like a bustling and thriving town. There were only two groups at the site, us and another small group of five. This Mayan site is hardly heard about outside of Guatamala, we would have to say that as a Mayan site, we preferred it to Tikal. The Mayan rulers built a city overlooking a beautiful lake and had waterside views.

A boat trip along the lake took us to a private lodge where we were given snacks and sat to enjoy the sunset on Yaxha lake.

From here we journeyed in the dark to Belize/Guatamalan border and through dnse jungle to Black River Lodge. We had no idea where we were going as we bounced over unmade dirt roads in the dark through the jungle.


Today is the National Day for Guatamala, Thursday 12 October. Our guide greeted us with the new that at least 60 chicken buses had arrived with people from all over Guatamala for the day.
What Carlos didn't tell us was that the bus loads of people are of Mayan descent and had come with their sharmans and wise midwives to celebrate the past and future year and to bless their people crops and land and to hold healing ceremonies for the sick.
With them they brought their marimba, brought to Guatamala by African slaves and now developed into something uniquely Guatamalan.
We climbed up to the top of temple two in the main plaza and witnessed the ceremony from the beginning to its completion. Each quadrant of the compass was addressed. First to the east to honour the rising sun and the beginning of life. Then to the west to honour the setting sun and the end of life; to the north to honor the god of maize, the giver of food. Then to the south to honour the god of water, who without it no life would exist. And lastly to the circle of fire within, humanity, the most important of all.
We felt very honoured and special to have witnessed such an occasion. Carlos, a local Mayan, had only ever witnessed this event once before in his life.

The young sharmans-in-training were expected to dance. And those that has just become sharmans were mentored by more experienced men in the ritual performances.

Carlos our guide was supposed to inherit the sharmans role in his village from his grandfather and father before him. But at the age of eight, when he was supposed to be going into the jungle to learn about the medicinal plants, he witnessed his father being taken from the family home by the military and then gunshot sounds were heard. Seventeen men were murdered that day, but not his father. However his father never returned and became one of the missing people of Guatamala, during the civil war. When Carlos was fourteen, he left home to find his father. His mother said he couldn't go because he had to help support the family. His grandfather who was generally a very quiet man said that he must go and that his father was already in him. So he left and sought education and training in guiding and learning fluent English without the assistance of a teacher.
Now Carlos is a leader in his village, which is the only village in the Tikal national park, promoting and supporting sustainable food production, education for all and a glamping tourism set up to help provide economic income to his village. He was everyone to earn an income that will ensure that noone will kill the fauna or harm the jungle. Traditional Mayan techniques of harvesting allspice and chewing gum are still practiced! This is a place we would love to visit as the villagers are also the traditional custodians of the greatest Mayan astrological and mathematical centre known to exist.
Tikal, itself is majestic and amazing.

It was made all the more special foe us because the Mayan traditions were being lived on the day we went.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Travel Day

Today was a big travel day. We left Hotel Atitlan at 8.30 am and drove to Guatamala City, where we had lunch.
Lunch was in a very up market restaurant in Guatamala City, near the airport. Both Peter and I had a traditional Guatamalan lunch. Peter had a traditional seafood soup made with bananas, coconut juice and heaps of seafood. He really enjoyed it.
I had a dish called Jocan. It was delicious! It was made with grilled chicken in a rich green sauce of pureed coriander and tomato; Delicious!
The International Airport at Quatamala City had only four shops; a Macdonalds; a Subway, a Pollo Campero (a local franchise chain of deep fried chicken and chips) and a coffee bar. We had a four hour wait here.
We were collected in Flores from the Maya International Airport and taken to Jungle Lodge, Tikal. It was dark by the time we arrived at the national park, so we were hoping to see a jaguar - no such luck! But we did see a grey fix, possum and agoote.
The hotel grounds were in complete darkness when we arrived, so we had no idea how beautiful it was!