May 30, 2011
Off to Cockscomb
Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve, Belize
The students are in the process of packing what they will need for 3 days/2nights in Cockscomb. We have to empty out the cabanas as Pook's Hill Lodge is booked for the time we are at Cockscomb. Pook's Hill will store anything we leave behind.
None of the girls want to sleep in the top bunk so we will be drawing straws (pieces of paper with top or bottom bunk on them) to determine who gets which bunk. Luck of the draw. No such drama with the boys! Yeah!
We have been told we need LOTS of bug spray, sunscreen, hiking boots, long pants for hiking, shorts for after our hikes, swimsuit for our daily swims in the local river. If the river has enough water in it, we can also go inner tubing.
Hopefully, we will see lots of wildlife. Cockscomb is a jaguar sanctuary and has enough prey animals to sustain that population. It also has the other 4 cats that we saw at the Belize Zoo.
We will be getting our meals cooked by a local Mayan family so it will be authentic local cuisine!
We are going to the new Mayan Cultural Museum today on our way into the Cockscomb Preserve. Should be interesting!
We stopped at the Mayan Center Museum and had a typical Mayan lunch of rice (separate bowl) and chicken in a soup bowl. After lunch, we listened to a lecture on the Mayan culture. We learned how the Mayans prepared their food and pressed sugar cane between 2 rollers (Mitch and Ryan demonstrated) to get a sugary liquid which when cooked, becomes molasses. We all tasted the sugar water after it was pressed and some molasses too. Then they showed us how to make a special Mayan infant carrying sac which helped to free up the mother's hands. The Mayans used thatch to make sleeping matts (Lincoln and Alex tested that out) and another type of plant to make hammocks (Ryan, Lincoln, Mitch and Alex tried out the hammocks). They would also take resin from the Caracoal tree to make incense which they burned for special ceremonies (the Jesuits incorporated that custom into their Catholic masses). The Mayan xylophone in the cultural center was HUGE! Ryan, Mitch and Lincoln all played on it at the same time and never got in each other's way!
After the owners of the Mayan Center Museum showed us how to dance Mayan style, Chiara was game enough to don a Mayan skirt and dance with Lincoln. He added major hip action to the dance! His REI reef walkers with the toes on the end really made the outfit!
After the Mayan dance, several of the students learned how to grind coffee and corn by hand (Alex, Nicole, Sasha, Chiara and several others).
After our museum visit, we were off to Cockscomb. Once we got to Cockscomb, the students were assigned 3 dorm rooms with 3 bunks in each. They had it all figured out as to who was going to sleep in the top bunk (ONLY 1 person in each room had to sleep up there!). Just before bedtime that issue was changed once again due to some spider and scorpion issues.
Continuing on with our saga, we changed into swim gear and hiked to the local river to swim. The river was VERY low so we wallowed around in 1-2 feet of water for awhile. Because the water level was so low, the water was lukewarm and not very refreshing.
We came back to our dorms and hung out until dinner at 6:30PM. Food was provided by a local Mayan family. It was pretty good! About this time in the trip, the students were telling each other where they were going to go eat once they got back to San Diego: Las Olas and In and Out Burger won by a landslide!
At dinner a group of Canadian students, studying Tropical Animals and Plants, told the students that they had found 3 Fer de Lance snakes on their hikes that day. One of the snakes was found just before dinner ON the compound grounds! Of course, that made them even more afraid of the place!
Unfortunately, just before bedtime the PRS students saw a LARGE spider on the deck outside their rooms and freaked out. Luckily, Mitch, our new machete master, bravely killed it with his new weapon!
NEXT problem: a large black scorpion was found in one of the girls' dorm rooms and a 2nd freak out happened. Poor Miguel, our brave leader, and George, our other guide, searched and searched for it but could not find it. The end result was Ryan, Nicole and Jazzi slept in the van and the rest of the girls piled into the 'no bugs' room for the first night. The girls pulled all 3 bunk beds into the middle of the dorm room so none of the beds touched the walls! Several talked about wanting to go home but the drive was too long and Pook's was booked solid!
The students had group showers and a few of them were brave enough to go in there and clean up!
I had a separate cabin from the students' dorm rooms with a compost style toilet. After you 'used' the toilet, you had to add 1 cup of the provided peat moss to the toilet. You did have to step up to get on the toilet so you felt like you were on a 'throne'. I did have my own private small shower but it was weird to see the ground directly under the shower drain! The used water drained directly out onto the ground! The only creatures I SAW in my cabin were flying cockroaches and mice. I was fine with that. I offered to let some of the kids share my cabin as I had a double bed plus 2 bunk beds in it. NO takers as I am the chaperone! Plus, the mummified mouse on one of the bunk beds was a real turn off!