Belize Day 4 – Monkey River!

We left at 8:30 am for our tour of the Monkey River.

Our guide, Terry, was a native of Monkey River – a village of 200 people bisected by the river. Only side has roads to the mainland. The other is only accessible by boat. Formerly a banana town, the village is now mostly fishers. In recent years, they have gotten a water cistern and electrical connection (without noisy, unreliable generators), making life easier.

Terry was a great guide, who knew where the crocs and things were likely to be hiding. We saw 4 or 5 crocodiles,hanging out in floating grass (yeah, it really floats). We saw two pairs of crocs, which is rare because they are usually solitary. They would lie in the mud and grass, thinking they were invisible to the people staring at them from the boat five feet away, then – snap! – they’d go.

We saw a bunch of heron-type birds. Some were bright white, some blue. One species of bird lay their nests in sacks that hang from tall trees like slings. The males make their nests, while the females watch. If the female is not impressed, she tears down it down and makes the male start over. Draw from this what you will.

Terry pulled us off for a fifteen minute hike. We saw tall (50 feet?) bamboo, a “grass” that gives you a serious Alice in Wonderland complex. We also saw breadfruit, which has a big velcro-y leaf that kids sometimes cut numbers out of to stick on their soccer jerseys.

Terry called out to the howler monkeys – thwacking his machete on a tree and making deep grunt-shouts. The monkeys responded, terrifyingly. This video barely does justice:

These monkeys – smaller than a human, 50 feet up in a tree – produce the loudest noise. It echoes through the rainforest, and can be heard miles away. They sound like lions roaring. Or monsters. Or banshees. Crazy.

Terry showed us some trees with medicinal properties, too. This one you should chew up the bark of if you get a snake bite. It’ll slow down your heart and give you a couple hours to get to a doctor. This one is an antibiotic. The sap of this one is good for bug bites. A bunch of the species have symbiotic relationships: for example, ants live in this tree and bite the monkeys who will eat up all the leaves.

On our way back, we stopped at Terry’s “Mama’s Restaurant” (R.I.P.). The very pregnant waitress informed us they had rice-and-beans with snapper. Nothing else. De-lish.

On our way back to Placencia, we saw three dolphins. We tried to see some manatees, but they are very hard to spot when it’s overcast. We caught glimpses of them coming up for air – a coconut-sized nose, maybe a back and tail – but never got real close.

After, we got massages. The Sunset Spa had a nice smell, and was open to the outdoors. My relaxing massage was occasionally interrupted by abrupt smack on a mosquito, but eventually she rubbed an oil on me that kept the bugs off. My tiny (Thai?) masseuse walked on my back. Felt nice.

Today was Pam’s 40th birthday (see previous post about our new friends from Portland, OR). We ate dinner with them at the beach bar. Carly got the homemade fettucini. I got the “mixed seafood” platter: grilled shrimp, grouper, lobster, conch, and calamari. It was our first time having conch – rubbery, and kind of gross. The lobster came as half a lobster in the shell with eyes and legs and antenae. Tasted fine, but still kind of gross.

After, Rachel had arranged to get Pam up to the front desk so we and the staff could surprise her with cake and Happy Birthday. She didn’t know, and left to call her kids for an hour, so we waited for her and ate a long time. Pam was surprised though, and really happy.

After, they went out to town with the general manager, his friends, and staff. We retired.

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