Belize Travel

Cayo Day – Belize Diary, January 27

In which we tour the Belize Botanic Gardens and canoe down the Macal River.

After another spectacular Mariposa breakfast, our guide arrived to escort us to Belize Botanic Gardens (BBG) and take us for a canoe trip down the mighty Macal River.


Belize Botanic Gardens

Camille and Judy duPlooy

BBG’s Judy duPlooy told Bob he looked familiar, and it is true he hasn’t changed so much over the years. Ms. duPlooy and her husband, Ken, moved to Belize with their five children from South Carolina in 1987, ten years before we arrived in Cayo. You’ll find more of their story here.

Memory plaque on the fire tower deck

Sadly, Ken passed in 2001, but his botanical legacy endures.

Fire tower selfie with Rommel and Selwin

Our guide, Rommel, took us all around and up to the top of the fire tower for a bird’s-eye view of the forest.

Panama Flame Tree (Brownea macrophylia)

Selwin loaned Camille his rain slicker after he caught her rubbing her chilly, bare arms, and Rommel was full of good information when he could get it past the big talkers.

Logwood tree
Logwood sap, not blood!

Rommel showed us the startling color of Logwood sap which is used to dye textiles and leather.

Before leaving BBG, Selwin pulled out a hot lunch of beans and rice, fried chicken, plantains, and cole slaw, and we all ate on the gift shop deck. By signing up for this tour, Selwin explained, we were providing revenue to him, the lodge, and the people who prepared our meal.


Canoeing the Macal

Selwin unlashed the canoe from the top of his vehicle while Eduardo and Cookie looked on. Once we were launched, Eduardo drove to San Ignacio and waited for us to float down river.

The mighty Macal

Camille felt quite important sitting up front with her paddle, using it when prompted by Selwin to steer or propel.

Bob was tasked with keeping the canoe upright—no sudden movements—and Selwin was our engine and navigator.

The Hawkesworth Bridge

The trip was delightful, with a few mildly rough spots to make things interesting. The sun had come out, and the river absorbed the busy sounds of human life, giving us the impression we were alone with the wildlife. We relaxed into easy conversation with our happy, witty guide, gawking at iguanas and birds along the way.

We knew we were nearing the finish line when we again began hearing the buzz of human life. Another bend, and we could see San Ignacio’s Hawkesworth Bridge ahead. This one-lane suspension bridge was built in 1949 and named after the former governor of British Honduras, Sir Edward Gerald Hawkesworth.

San Ignacio rendezvous

We crossed beneath the bridge and paddled towards the shore where Eduardo was waiting as planned.

A giant, sheltering tree

Camille made a pit stop behind an enormous tree. And then we were off, driving through busy San Ignacio, catching sight of familiar shops and streets from Bob’s many shopping trips a couple of decades ago.

We looked for stamps for our stack of postcards but were turned away by a postal worker who refused to do any more business on a Friday afternoon even though the post office was still officially open.

Another day well spent, and plenty more gossip gleaned and exchanged.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

3 replies on “Cayo Day – Belize Diary, January 27”

Had to laugh about the post office. I’m glad you had a guide for your trip down the river.

Heh heh – government workers are the same all over the world. Selwin was great, very patient with me who knows nothing about navigating a river. I can’t imagine just hopping into a canoe and going for it.

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