During my stay in Maskall I explore the area. On one of my excursions, I have scheduled a boat trip with William, a fifteen-year-old river guide from Belize. I have to get him a spark plug first. Your outboard motor won’t start.
We drive in our air-conditioned jeep down the dirt road between Bomba, William’s village and Maskall. It is a series of cavernous furrows. Barely passable! We have two floors on the way. It takes two hours to go five miles. Wild, hysterical laughter echoes around us. Look, up in the treetops. The monkeys laugh at us! Torrential rains during the rainy season sometimes cause severe landslides on the roads. Making boats a much easier means of transport.
William shows me his house, a cabin on stilts facing the sea. In Belize it is not unusual for a teenager to build their own home with the help of family and friends. William’s family gave him the land. Property is inherited, usually never bought or sold among the locals.
The Maya disapprove of any material display of wealth. They think it causes envy. The idea of Cargo, or community service, is especially dear to them. Charging is an acceptable way for a person to spend excess wealth.
After replacing the spark plug, William’s little boat starts easily. Leaving Bomba Village behind, we sailed down the peaceful Northern River towards the Caribbean Sea. Water lilies float serenely in the brown waters of the river and silvery rays of light occasionally break through the green-green canopy. The air is sweet and gently caresses my bare arms.
After a two-hour cruise on the North River, we reached its mouth in the Caribbean Sea. Braving rough waters for a short distance, we are finally greeted by a small open cabin by the sea. We relax, lounging on the small crooked dock that juts out into the sea and in the hammocks that hang from the surrounding coconut trees, while eating juicy ripe mangoes. It is a delicious afternoon!
My day of adventures leaves me hungry and tired. Back at Pretty See Jungle Ranch I enjoy a tasty Caribbean meal of grilled sea bass, rice, beans and salad with a slice of Carla’s coconut cake for dessert. Carla is the Belizean cook at Pretty See Jungle Ranch. Throughout the day, Carla sings the songs of her village ancestors and shares with me many stories about their culture and way of life.
Every afternoon Pedro, the watchman, whistles past my hut. It’s letting me know it’s time to turn off the lights. He’ll be shutting down the ranch generator soon. Pedro patrols the grounds of Pretty See Jungle Ranch each night with his loaded shotgun and a headlamp, placed over his head, to see the shadows of the dark night. Pedro keeps us safe from wild animals like the jaguar. In the morning, Pedro will whistle again as he passes my thatched-roof hut, handing out a cup of freshly brewed Belizean coffee with some brown sugar and rich cream. A new day in paradise will have dawned at Pretty See Jungle Ranch.
Tonight, the Belizean night breeze has a soft scent. In the distance, the drums beat rhythmically. I watch a giant insect in zebra-striped armor crawl out of the gauze net that surrounds my bed. I listen as a lullaby of night sounds in unison sings me to sleep.