Current Date:  Monday, June 16, 2008  9:45 a.m. (Bocas del Toro, Panama)

Current Itinerary: Sticking around here until Wednesday or so and then on to Boquete to do some hiking.  From there we will continue to work our way through Panama...but of course we are in no hurry:)

Note #1:  Boom!  Strike one up for consistency...two journals in 4 days! need to pat myself on the back just yet...I’m still woefully behind.

Note #2:  Ugh...the Celtics are going to win the NBA finals IN BOSTON and we won’t be there to see it.  Hope you Boston folks enjoy the party!  We will be watching the game here on Tuesday.

Note #3:  Lots of pictures posted from this journal.  Enjoy and happy Monday!!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

We were ready move on from Dangriga in the morning but caught a break that the internet place was open...there had been absolutely nothing open since early on Thursday so it was nice to connect with the outside world for a few minutes.  We were headed to the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary that’s just about 30km is actually world reknown for Jaguar research but we were going to do some hiking and get a glimpse of some of the other wild life that Belize has to offer.  We got a bus to cockscomb at 11...and we were there only 30 min. later.  We knew that it was 7 miles from the main road to the entrance of the park and weren't sure if we would stay near the main road or near the park.  That question was answered for us quickly when we arrived...a taxi ride into the park was US $15 each way.  We knew we didn't want to have to pay that more than once.  A local guy also told us there was no food in the park, but there was a kitchen we could use so we had to buy our own food for the next couple days.  There was a small store with a few essentials so we picked up some Ramen (wahoo, just like the good old days in college!), rice, pasta and some snacks to last us a couple days.

On the drive into the park we saw some cool birds, including a couple of toucans.  When we got to the park entrance we learned our only option for accommodation was what they called “rustic cabins”...a long way from the comforts of the Bluefield back in Dangriga.  We didn’t mind I said, we had spent lots of time on the beaches and were really ready to spend some times out in the wild.  My only hang up was that there was no electricity at all...which is not a big deal except that anyone who knows me (and especially you Aveo folks) knows that I don’t go to far without having my ipod on...I love music and I’m almost constantly listening to something.  Luckily I had a full charge or we would have been forced to leave:)

Our Cabin, despite it’s “rusticness” was still a whooping US$10 each, which was far more than we expected.  We had a small room with bunkbeds to ourselves though.  The cabin actually had 3 other similar rooms but there was nobody else staying there.  There was a really nice little screened in deck where we could chill and it was actually a great place that became very endearing to us over the next couple days since we spent so much time there. Here is a video of the cabin and the main grounds that I took on our final day.

It was early in the day and there was plenty of time for a hike, so we quickly changed and went for a hike up to the top of a trail called Ben's bluff.  The first part of the hike was relatively easy but had been listed on our map as medium difficulty.  That filled is with plenty of confidence but we were quickly humbled by the last 15 minutes of the hike (labeled as difficult on the map) as the trail went almost straight up.  It looks like our lazy days at the beach were coming back to haunt us.  It was tough, but as usual, it was worth it to get to the top.  There was a great view of all the surrounding mountains and jungle.

on top of Ben's Bluff

It felt so good to be out in nature.  We sat up there and took some pictures for awhile (and caught our breath!) and then, headed down and stopped at the small waterfall.



When we got close to the bottom of the trail we still had plenty of daylight left so we did a small “self guided” nature walk using the small pamphlet they gave us and the trail markers.  I saw a lot of trees I remember from the Amazon and some really cool vines. 


We didn’t see that much wild life that day...a few cool birds that we were not able snap any photos of, and we tried to spot some howler monkeys of which there are several in this park but had no luck.  I guess my favorite part was that we saw a ton of "highways" made by leaf cutter ants that fascinated us.  I had seen them before in the Amazon but they really are can watch them for hours.  There are so many of them there are literally 3 inch wide trails made by them going through the forest.

All in all, it was a great afternoon of hiking and being out in the woods and we took a LOT of pictures.  Back at our cabin we quickly took (cold!!!) showers and then decided to cook.  The kitchen was actually pretty big and nice...atleast for a campground kitchen.  We made some pasta and listened to music in the kitchen.  Again, there was not another soul around...there are several group cabins available as well but no one was using them.  There wasn’t even anybody at the campground.  We were all alone out there with the Jaguars:)

Back in our screened in cabin porch we sat and talked for a couple hours and listened to the sounds of the forest.  It was a lot of fun to be out there and maybe even a little scary thinking that we were the only people for miles.  We did see a little mouse friend that came to investigate what we were doing on his porch:)  Later on we went to our room we heard some noises and discovered the little sucker had found our small box of food and had climbed his way inside!  We only had canned goods and sealed packages luckily and he had not managed to chew through anything yet but I was impressed that he got into it...we had put it up on a shelf seemingly out of reach, but he was a lot smarter than the lab mice I’m used to.  We closed the box and put some books on top of it but he was a resilient and kept trying to get in throughout the night.  The weird thing was that I wasn't the least bit bothered for some reason.  We had a mouse in our apartment in Boston on a couple different occasions and it drove me nuts...not that I was scared of it or anything, but it bothered me...I felt like he was invading my turf or something.  Somehow, out in our "rustic" cabin, I felt like it was the other way around and I was the one invading his turf.  Interesting.  Anyway, that didn’t bother me much but there were a lot of birds making a ton of noise all night so sleep didn't come that easy...but I still managed to get some shut eye.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I got up really early once again and sat out on the porch and read for a couple of hours.  I finally woke Jodi up at 10 and we went to make some food which ended up being Ramen noodles and a sandwich.  Only the best for us travelers.  We didn’t see any other people but the guys working at the welcome center told us that a tour group would arrive that day at some point.

We quickly changed and went to go hike Tiger Fern was a medium difficulty hike but it was a very hot day.  It really was fun to just be in the forest and again recognizing some of the cool vegetation.  We took our time hiking, partly because of the heat and partly because we were investigating every single tree and bird noise.  We finally had some human contact on the way up as there was a small family on a day trip hiking down the trail.  They told us that the waterfalls at the end of the trail were spectacular so we were excited.  After the end of the hike went up over a ridge that was not shaded, we were VERY happy to reach the end of the trail and find this waiting for us:


I also took this nice video as we approached.   It was probably the best waterfall I had ever hiked too and I’m sure you can agree that it was well worth the hike to get there!  What a nice little hidden gem to find on our travels...and to top it all off, they even had a few tubes there that you could float around on.


 It was so beautiful there and the best part...we stayed there swimming around for well over an hour and we had it all to ourselves!  The freezing cold water refreshed us and we took tons of pictures.  We were so excited to find the first waterfall that we almost left without seeing the one that was just above this one and it also had a beautiful pool.



We finally left our little paradise and hiked back and it was already like 4:00.  We relaxed for awhile and then went down to the kitchen to check if the group had showed.  There were some guys there preparing a meal for them.  I didn’t want to get in their way so I told them I would come down to cook when they were done.  I had plenty of time to kill and it had been awhile since we dumped our pictures onto my laptop so I spent about an hour and half doing that and converting videos.

When we finally went to make dinner there were a lot of people in the kitchen (it had a large room for dining).  They didn’t talk to us too much...they were a group of photographers from the US and England that had come to take pictures of the wild life in the park...and particularly the Jaguars.  We made our food but we had to be pretty quiet as the group had a small opening presentation during that time.  Apparently the guy leading their group is a relatively reknown young scientist who has been studying the Jaguars for several years.  I didn’t get his name but if I ever get within 40 feet of the guy I’ll know it’s him...he had some serious jungle BO that almost knocked us off our feet:)

The good thing was that we got to listen to the guy talk about the jaguars while we ate and even better was that the guys who cooked the food for their group shared some beans and meat with us.  Finally after we ate we left them alone and went back to our screened in porch.  We were still the only ones in our cabin...except for our mouse friend who came back to visit our food box.  We had a lovely evening hanging out and if not for being out of food we would have probably stayed another day.  We had enjoyed our time there soooo much...neither of us was ready to go. 

We stayed up playing cards and listening to music until about 12 when the batteries died in my ipod speakers...looks like it's time to get back to civilization to charge up after all.

Monday, March 24, 2008

We got up early to go on a little hike before leaving.  It was a nice, flat, easy hike where we saw a lot of the same stuff, but this time it was all sinking in and we started remembering a lot the tree names.  We got one last nature picture of this gigantic Cohune tree.


We also ended up seeing some really huge birds that morning...the crested Guam which was really pretty and Montezuma’s Orpendula, which has a beautiful song. Unfortunately, we didn't get pictures of either.  It really was a lot of fun...but we had to go as our taxi was picking us up at 10:00.

The Cockscomb wild life sanctuary was an awesome spot and maybe one of our favorite places on the trip so far.  Anyone coming to Belize should make sure they leave some time to visit this park.  The Taxi driver that took us back to the main road had actually been a guide all over Belize for several years and he said it was one of his favorite places.  For us it also marked the beginning of our move inland...and a push in a different direction for us that as I mentioned we were ready for.  I’m quickly falling in love with Belize...there can’t be too many countries that have so much to offer in such a small area...I mean here we have some excellent hiking and a beautiful rainforest and we are literally only 15 miles away from some of the world’s best diving...and now we are heading north to check out the Mayan ruins of Lamanai.  Traveling like this is such a blast!  You get to dig into the countries a little and turn up hidden gems like the Tiger Fern trail and you have the time you need to explore so many things. on the road.



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