Wild Side: Under the Southern Cross againCarol and I met our friends, Bill and Sue Smith of River Falls, in Placencia, Belize earlier this month. They had been there since late January and are very tan. At 16 degrees, 30 50 North latitude, Placencia is close enough to the equator to enjoy a tropical climate. Guided by the bright Pointer stars Alpha Beta Centauri, we were able to find the small but distinctive Southern Cross constellation in the southern sky.
By: Dan Wilcox, outdoor columnist, River Falls Journal
Carol and I met our friends, Bill and Sue Smith of River Falls, in Placencia, Belize earlier this month. They had been there since late January and are very tan. At 16 degrees, 30 50 North latitude, Placencia is close enough to the equator to enjoy a tropical climate. Guided by the bright Pointer stars Alpha Beta Centauri, we were able to find the small but distinctive Southern Cross constellation in the southern sky.
We stayed again at the Tradewinds resort in a small cabana under coconut palms right on the beach. Twenty to 25-knot northeast trade winds whistled through the palm trees and sent waves crashing onto the sand. It was too rough to go out fishing so we had nearly a week of forced relaxation while our white hides got used to the intense sun.
When we were able to go out fishing, we enjoyed beautiful scenes of vivid blue water, green islands, and white breakers on the reef. Dolphins and sea turtles surfaced near us each time we went out. We fished in outboard-powered pangas with our friends Eloy Quevas of Monkey River and Elton “Cagey” Eiley of Placencia.
Trolling big stick baits produced a variety of fish. We caught black, red, and yellowfin groupers, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, bonitos, blackfin tuna, yellow jacks and barracudas. Those fish hit hard and really pull.
Bill and Sue Smith had caught some big wahoos when trolling outside the barrier reef. Wahoos may be the fastest of all fish. They are also very good to eat. Bill and Sue were popular people in Placencia village when they brought in wahoos. Bill made up some delicious fish salad with some leftover grilled wahoo steaks.
Carol and I visited some ancient Mayan sites in the Toledo District in southern Belize. The Labaantun and Nim Li Punit sites were built of tightly-fitted sandstone blocks in the classic Mayan era around 700 A.D. Both sites were on top of hills near streams, were oriented north to south, and had ceremonial temples, courts and ball fields.
Large cieba and gumbo-limbo trees and cohune palms were covered with bromeliads, orchids and other epiphytes. Strangler figs and philodendrons climbed the trees adding to the riot of tropical vegetation. Toucans, parrots, trogons and kiskadees called from the canopy.
The Mayans cooked limestone with wood fires to make plaster and soil amendments like the early settlers of River Falls did at the lime kiln along the lower Kinnickinnic River. The Mayans traded extensively by canoe, exchanging sea shells, stingray spines, and salt from the coast for jade, obsidian corn and cocoa inland, much like the Native Americans in our area traveled the river systems by canoe. Many sea shells were scattered at the Labaantun Mayan site that is about 20 miles from the sea.
Santiago Cuc, native Mayan caretaker of the Labaantun site, sold us some beautiful clay replica whistles that he made. The ancient Mayans used clay whistles to communicate in the forest. Santiago assured us that the world will continue beyond 2012 when another b’ak’tun (144,000 days, or roughly 394 years in the Mesoamerican long-count calendar) begins.
The temperature when we left home on March 5 was 12 degrees. When we returned on March 23 it was 70 degrees. All the snow was gone, spring flowers were blooming in the woods and leaves were budding out on the trees. In 22 years of travelling to Belize in late winter, this was the first time we came home to hear the frogs singing. Usually we have to re-acclimate to winter after returning from the tropics. Now we have to finish pruning our apple trees before the leaves bud out.
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