There’s plenty more that goes down, in and around San Ignacio. There are friends and invites and lots of peaceful rain, so I stay put instead of going back out to the cayes. I make my rounds to round out the chapter, catching up with Mike and Bev at Cohune Palms, Gary and Yuli at the Pitpan, and Joe and Miriam at Martz Farm. I’m in a rush to cover the area, and spend way too little time with all these folks, apologizing as I rush off, but still glad to have made contact. From Miriam’s kitchen, it’s a ten minute walk deeper into the bush to find Lazaro Martinez putting the finishing touches on the “Hideaway Camp,” as he’s calling his low-key, back-a-bush branch of the already remote (and ultra-mellow) Martz Farm property. Laz stands proudly among the unique jungle swing-beds he’s constructed, and the campground, and a huge thatch palapa next to a cool creek. He hikes me down the limestone, blue-gray stream, until we reach the top of a waterfall, looking out over the Macal River Valley. The site is stunning and Laz scoots out onto an overhanging branch and smokes a thick, hand-rolled plug-tobacco cigarette as he tells me more about his camp and tours â€” his dream finally coming to fruition.
Getting to the various properties along the upper Macal River is tricky. If only I could have kept paddling upstream from Chaa Creek the other day (when we canoed five miles up from San Ignacio town then turned around); then I could’ve just popped into all the places in order: duPlooy’s, Ek Tun, Black Rock Lodge, Chechem Ha. Instead, I must drive all the way around huge bends in the river, back roads through the forest, the hills, citrus orchards, and botanical gardens.
The pool at Ek Tun is one of the most impressive things I encounter, and since I’m already drenched in sweat, I take a swim in the springwater, nine foot deep and as blue as a sapphire, surrounded by lush landscaping, a natural falls, and meditation platforms.
I tour Blananeaux, where the rooms, the lodge, the grounds, are aesthetically perfect, framed and overlapping shots. It is pouring outside on the Privassion River valley, and the manager invites me to set up my laptop in front of a raging fireplace, where I drink coffee and catch up on my notes. A group of British soldiers sits nearby, consuming pints and pizza before, I am told, shipping off to Iraq next week (Belize is still a member of the commonwealth and the Brits have a base in the Mountain Pine Ridge). The paying guests â€” from New York and Hollywood, mostly â€” are out on horseback rides and Caracol tours and I plug through the gray afternoon, warmed by the fire and feeling like I’m in a tropical ski lodge..
There are Coppola’s gorgeous organic gardens which supply the kitchens at both Blancaneaux and Turtle Inn (his other Belizean lodge, on the coast). There is the MagaÃ±a Brother’s slate carving workshop and crafts center, on the ride back to San Ignacio, and the next day, there is the orchid house at Belize Botanic Gardens.
Moisture is thick in the air and so is oxygen as Cayo breathes; then it’s time to come down from the mountain, on a bus from Benque.
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Sorry for the chronological confusion â€” this all occurred in the few days before I got down and filmed the cruise ship dumpage.