Monday, April 19, 2010
Poop-throwing Monkeys and other firsts in Belize
In the Summer of 2009, I discovered an opportunity to visit Belize through school. I learned from my boyfriend, Chris, that the two week program was worth nearly a whole semester of credits and that we'd be hanging out in the tropics. "Perfect" I thought. I jumped on the opportunity to travel and a few months later we were on our way to Belize.
After what seemed like the worst flight of my life, (I hate flying) we landed in the Belize airport with a handful of other students we didn't know. Some of my favorite and most defining moments of the trip were things that seem so mundane. Our trip to the field station, our first rain forest trek and the people we met were only a few.
Upon arriving in Belize, we were greeted by tanned airport employees and our rain forest guide, Rudy. He led the IU East class to a large bus with big, open windows and helped us pile our luggage in the back seat. We began the sweaty, bumpy and dusty 3.5 hour ride to our camp at LaMilpa Field Station. During our bus ride, I was in awe of everything I saw. There were roadside stands selling fruit, horses tied to ropes and skinny little dogs running a muck. The roads were mostly dirt and horribly bumpy and our new travel buddies weren't very talkative...yet.
The minute we arrived at LaMilpa, everyone chose which cabana they'd share. Chris and I chose a room together. The rooms were like large cabins. There was an upstairs with a bed, and then two beds on the lower floor. We had electric, which ran on solar power, water-collected by the rain, and screens on the glass-less windows. It seemed rustic, but it was pretty nice for the middle of the rain forest.
So..during our stay at LaMilpa we had class, visited Mayan sites and hiked through the rain forest. I'll never forget our first hiking experience. Our guide, Rudy, took us on a hike through some pretty rough terrain and asked each student to spend an hour in a designated location. We were equipped with binoculars and notepads to observe the wildlife....alone. Rudy explained that the forest only comes alive after people leave or sit quietly, so that's what we did.
After about twenty minutes of poking around and looking at trees, I heard a rustling high above me. I snatched my binoculars from my pack and discovered monkeys! I was so excited and stumbled to grab my camera. I guess those damned monkeys spotted my binoculars because they were heading right toward me. Weren't monkeys supposed to be afraid of people?!! ahhh!
Those stupid monkeys came closer and closer until they had crossed over from one side of the trail to the other. By this time, they were right above me and they wanted me to be afraid. Branches and leaves started falling from the trees and landing right around me. I started to freak. I didn't know if I should stay and watch or run away. Those damn monkeys were taunting me, telling me to go away; they weren't going to give up. More and more things were coming at me from the trees, but finally, they head another student a few yards away and took off to torment her.
I found out later that those retched animals were Spider monkeys. They aren't afraid of people and will come nearly to the bottom of a tree to throw things at you. I also found out they get great pleasure from throwing poop at you, but I was lucky enough that didn't happen. They make horrible growling sounds that truly sound like a cat. After that whole ordeal, I was really excited to share my story because most of our group didn't see anything.