The day started with the savory aroma of fried jack and scrambled eggs. The three Mayan cooks rang the bell and people flocked into the buffet line to get a piece of the mouthwatering meal. We were then separated into two groups. The first group was arranged to start the ethno-botany tour, and the other half relaxed on the dock while painting watercolors of the idyll scenery. The tour guide led us around the forest just outside our camp, and it was astonishing how so many unique flora were found just a few feet away.
Most of the plants we encountered were used for medicinal purposes. For example, the Kopal had a medicinal bark that turned red when boiled. The Bull Horn Acacia was also an example of a medicinal plant since when the leaves were boiled they slowed down the venom flow from a snakebite. What was special about this plant though was that fire ants lived in the pods on the stems. These plants grew from small fern-like bushes to tall trees, and the ant colonies that grew inside of them protected the tree as it grew. Another plant we spotted along the hike was a cacao tree. The seedpods were not ripe, but a few were still visible in the midst of the canopy.
After walking through all of these fascinating plants, we had a delicious feast that contained empanadas, some filled with meat and some made just for vegetarians along with some cabbage and papaya. We had some time to take a few breaths and get ready for our hike to the caves.
After a surprising and treacherous hike, we finally reached our astounding destination. Our first group went into the caves and there was a lot to see. Jumping into the crisp cold water was a huge rush and a relief from the hot walk. As we explored around the caves, one could hardly imagine the fact that the whole cave was actually 10 miles long. At one point, there was a 6-foot cliff right above a 30-foot-deep pool, and each splash echoed from the cave walls. As we swam further and further, we came across a small waterfall that later expanded to 30 feet. It’s hard to imagine it fitting inside of a cave of that size. The hike back was short and quick, and the rope swing soon was in use.
We were all expecting a traditional Belizean dinner, which always somehow included beans and rice. Spaghetti and tomato sauce was served instead: an American Classic. After dinner we went on another night hike and we spotted several spiders. From tarantulas to wolf spiders, we were all astounded and frightened at the same time. Walking down the river, about four poisonous Marine Toads were found sleeping in the water. Even though the day wore us down, it was such a remarkable experience. This was probably a once in a lifetime experience.
*This blog must now be cut off, due to the fact that tarantulas have invaded the boy’s dorm. Oh my! The teachers found a tarantula last night, and it’s the boys’ dorm tonight. Is it the girls’ turn tomorrow night?
Emily Costello and Hannah Baker