Yesterday was our first full day at the TEC and I felt like I did and saw so much in a short 24 hours.
We started the day off with canoeing the Sibune (Xibun) River which is about 20 minutes out from the TEC . We were guided on the canoes in groups of three by two locals who work with the TEC.
While canoeing we saw toucanets, little blue herons, tapirs, howler monkeys, kingfishers, bats, vultures, multiple fish, and of course green iguanas.
Our guides split up and while one climbed the tree where he spotted the iguana, the other waited in the water to catch it when it fell. The iguana plopped in the water and very quickly swam in the opposite direction from our guide (iguanas have super long tails that help them with swimming). Luckily he caught it and we pulled our canoes over to pass around the iguana and let me tell you, he was heavy.
The fish in the river were probably my favorite too because they were the ones that eat the dead skin cells off your feet (I’ll definitely still need a spa day after this trip though). Seeing howler monkeys and toucanets out in the wild also seemed a bit unreal.
Adrian, Sarah (a new girl from UT), and I were also the only group that managed to capsize our boat. Not quite sure how considering I’ve definitely managed rougher waters, but we were all fine and probably needed the dunk in the water (I’ve been an endless ball of sweat the last 10 days).
We also stopped to swim a few times and the guides filled us in on local Mayan culture and information on the river. This river is one of the cleanest in the area because there are no local communities close by, allowing for a decline in pollution and trash. It was also one of the main “highways” the Mayans had used back in their time before the Europeans came over and began to settle.
After we finished our two-hour canoe trip we came back to the center for lunch (which has been variations on beans, rice, and chicken.
The Belize Zoo was next on our list but I might be posting about that later tonight because we are going for a night tour to see the rest of the animals today.
Post-dinner was our night hike to Runaway Creek. Runaway Creek was originally used as a hideout for runaway slaves in the caves systems before it was a gravel mine to eventually become the preserve it is today. The entire preserve covers over 6,000 acres and hosts a multitude of species including bats, monkeys, snakes, and even jaguars which will hunt in the area and bring prey to the caves.
After an hour long hike across the flatland and then uphill (where we are all on high look-out for snakes and large bugs), we made it to the caves.
Within the caves there were multiple species of large cave-dwelling inverts (like the whip scorpion pictured above), bats, skulls remains from jaguars (peccary skull pictured above) and most notably the Mayan artifacts.
In the first cave, we saw what archeologists believe are the first Mayan cave paintings. The painting shows what the Mayans believed was their sun god. Their sun god, often depicted as a jaguar, would enter into the underworld (the box-like shape on the left). The Mayans also thought the caves were a passage to the underworld and would use them almost as chapels in which they would perform sacrifices and ceremonies.
In the second cave, we saw the “faces” the Mayans carved into the walls. They carved these to scare off the evil spirits.
On our way out of the last cave, we encountered a fer-de-lance, an extremely aggressive and poisonous species of snake. The snake would not move and we had to wait a decent amount of time before it would move out of the path, part of what makes them different from other snakes who will move out of your path quickly.
We got back late and I finally showered for the first time in a little longer than I’d like to admit (sorry, not sorry) and quickly passed out (although I woke up promptly at 5:30am due to the sun rising so freaking early here- they don’t do daylights savings).
Tomorrow morning we will be leaving out for the Chiquibul forest but I will post tomorrow morning for one last goodbye until I am without internet for around a week.
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