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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Day 7: January 14th, 2015
Location: Clarissa Falls, San Ignacio, Belize

Traveling to the mainland

We awoke extra early today for a 7AM breakfast and a 7:45AM departure from TREC. It was, as you'd expect, bittersweet to be leaving Ambergris Caye, the site of so much joy and adventure over the last week. But the disappointment was naturally counterbalanced by excitement for what lay ahead.

We drove us and our luggage to the tiny airport in San Pedro and boarded two planes (a 13 seater and a 10 seater) for the 20 minute right to the municipal airport on the mainland.

You know its a small plane when there is a student in the co-pilot's seat!

At municipal airport, we gathered our 32 bags and settled into our touring bus. It's a nice bus with cushy seats and plenty of room for everyone.

We drove westward across Belize for about an hour to a location called Jaguar Paw. We changed into swim clothes and were issued tubes, helmets, and lifejackets.

Thus prepared, we began the first of what will be several hikes through the jungle. We crossed and then headed upriver.

Along the way, we explored some caves that are resident to (harmless) bats:

As we continued on, the braver (or more foolhardy?) among us paused to sample some termites. By "sample" I mean "eat"! I am happy to report that they taste like carrots.

I feel like I should earn some sort of special Professor Badge for getting multiple students to eat live bugs in the jungle! <sound of me patting myself on the back>

After walking upriver for about a half hour, we put our tubes into the river, joining into large chains for floating.

We soon enter a series of limestone caves. We wore headlamps to illuminate the grey, sparkly walls. It was very unusual to be floating through these caves, something that can be done in very few places in the world.

After about 20 minutes, we exited the cave system and floated downriver for about another 30 minutes. It was very peaceful. The water was warm and clear and seemed very clean. The students could not resist jumping off a rock that marked the end of our route.

We toweled off and drove back toward the main highway, stopping for lunch of burritos or rice/beans:

We then drove about 1.5 westward, completing our journey across Belize. It only takes about 2.5 hours to drive from the Caribbean on the east coast to the Guatemalan border on the west side. We arrived at our home for the next 3 days: Clarissa Falls, a working cattle ranch on the banks of a river. The students moved into thatched huts, 4 people per. The grounds of Clarissa Falls are lovely, with cattle and many fowl. There is also a nice open air common eating area where we had dinner. The owner, Miss Chena, prepares wonderful local Belizean food (tonight: salad, rice, beans, spicy chicken) and makes her own hot sauce (which is very flavorful with just the right amount of heat).

We had planned to visit a Mayan ruin this afternoon, but we ran out of time, so we'll move that to another day. We used the extra time to meet and discuss the lab reports. Students diligently worked throughout the evening on their reports and journals; most (but not quite all!) have turned in their final lab reports. I look forward to reading them! Clarissa Falls is quite isolated so (unlike on the island) there is nothing to do in the evening. Since the sun sets by 6PM, that leaves a lot of free time to socialize and relax in the evening.

Everyone is doing well. The bugs are biting here, but nothing we can't handle. We look forward to two full days on the mainland.

Thank you for your comments (I always pass them along) and than you for reading!

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