Out of the Jungle

I honestly don’t even know where to start with this post.

This last week I was out in the Chiquibul Rainforest without internet with the most amazing people. I have never been so disconnected in my life and it felt so unbelievably (unbelizably if you will) amazing.

The first night alone was awe-inspiring. We stayed up until our generator went out to watch the stars. At LCRS, we only have electricity from around 6:00 pm until they decide to turn it off, usually around 10:30 pm. We all laid on the picnic table on our front porch and looked up at the stars. No words or pictures can begin to explain the feeling of looking up at the galaxy in complete darkness away from all civilization and light pollution. As we were sitting there in silence, we heard the pumas calling out in the distance on one of the trails next to the center. To say I geeked out is an understatement. Sitting under the stars looking at the milky way as pumas called out in the middle of Belize will probably be one of my new favorite memories.

 

Milky Way in Chiquibul

Every night we also were able to go tarantula “hunting.” All around LCRS, and most of Belize, you can find burrows in the ground which the tarantulas call home. The manager and groundskeeper of LCRS, Pete aka Pedro, is the “tarantula whisperer” and taught us how to get them out of their burrows. It will remain a trade secret among us here but we found so many each night and I put my big girl pants on and managed to work up the courage to hold one.

Mine and Karlie’s favorite trail at LCRS leads up to a tower on the top of the mountain so you could view the whole forest and even the Guatemalan and Belize border. The hike up is not the most fun, at least for those of us that don’t thoroughly enjoy running up a mountain at a steep elevation, but the view at the end is worth it. So worth it that we would wake up at 5:15 AM every morning to hike it. Starting off the morning with this view made the rest of the day all the better, not to mention that it made taking a cold shower a little bit easier.

The wildlife here is also nothing short of awesome if you can spot it, and some are easier than others. The cockroaches in your bedroom are definitely not hard to spot or hear if someone else sees one from across the camp. The moths that love the light on the front porch next to the chairs we sit on at night are not hard to spot either, as they will flight directly into your face, you might mistake them for a bird due to their size though. The howler monkeys are hard to see but not hard to hear, especially at 1:00 AM when they make their spooky ghost-like calls that keep you up all night. Best of all are the beautiful scarlet macaws that are the Belize version of roasters. 5:30 AM on the dot, they will come swooping in screaming and squawking to sit on the nearby trees. The people here that know and love them most call them “do-dos,” “douchebags,” “red tree rats,” “Satan himself,” and even “those f-ers” thanks to their alarm clock behavior and just general annoyingness. I still think they’re pretty freaking cool, as annoyed as I am in the morning when they wake me up.

The less-so-easy-to-see/hear wildlife included everything from jaguars to tapirs and deer which we only were able to spot at the zoo and on our wildlife cameras that are set up for research. We were also lucky enough to be able to set up mist nets to catch birds in the morning and bats at night. The species we caught were typically all ones in which you would not be able to spot easily while just walking around. With nets, we are able to see them extremely close up and handle to observe the individuals and take measurements and data.

Along with catching tarantulas, holding a bat, and seeing macaws in the wild, I had quite a few other firsts on this trip including holding a gun. The course here is “Field Methods in Ecology and Conservation in Belize” so obviously our main goal in the course is to learn different field methods used by ecologists and conservationists in the field for research. One of these methods is capture of animals so we all got to learn how to shoot a dart rifle. Here’s me looking very bad ass, little would you know from the picture that I did not hit the target (I blame the fact that the trigger wasn’t working well all day). We also learned many other techniques that assisted us in our individual research projects, ours went really well and I’m #blessed to have a great research group.

The surrounding area and Belizean culture is a huge part of this trip as well. We spent one of our days off in the closest large town, San Ignacio for their market day. For market day, you can get fresh food, handmade art and clothes and I picked up some souvenirs for my friends and family. I think we were all mostly excited for market day because it was the one day we access to wifi for a few days. Being disconnected from wifi was also one of the best parts of the trip, everyone was actually focused on each other and forced to talk and socialize and it drew us a lot closer.

Visiting Maya sites has also been one to check off the bucket list. We visited two temples, Xunantunich and Caracol and the views were amazing. We also visited some less frequented historic sites like small caves and trails where we were able to see pottery, altars, and even human skull at the cave we canoed in this morning. It takes us all a second, but once we remember we are walking and swimming on the Maya’s highways and in their temples it all becomes very real and inspiring.

Our time at LCRS was concluded this morning with this beautiful sunrise on the top of the Bird Tower and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Already wishing I was back out in the jungle and not looking forward to leaving this amazing country.

Glad to be back,

xo

Grace

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