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Belize : Hidden Valley Walk

Hidden Valley

Thursday 1st August- Creeks, waterfalls and birds

We had been quite busy on outings up to now, so we had planned a rest day (for us this is NOT a lie by the pool day, just a get out under our own steam and time day). Soooo, we got to breakfast later and decided to eat it outside in the sun by the edge of the pool. Several of the management came to say hello- all very pleasant and friendly. We asked about the hiring bike situation and they explained how we could borrow a bike, use the trail map and remember to take the walkie-talkie should we require a pick-up or help. Now, we both put on helmets until I saw the bikes. It’s fair to say I’m not keen on biking. And these were men-style bikes with crossbars. No good for me- I like to be able to dismount in seconds. So, we decided that Steve would take the cycle whilst I got a 4X4 lift to the same point. The desk suggested King Vulture Point was nice, so Steve set off whilst I got some water before being taxied there. The driver could not believe how fast Steve must have gone to beat us. He was really impressed. Anyhow, having been dropped off at King Vulture Point, opposite we could see the 1000-foot Waterfall (this is genuinely its name). We’d been told that there was a small group of King Vultures there, but could see none of them. However, the view across the escarpment, Pine Ridge above, tropical forest below, was amazing.
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We waited a while- no birds. Then we spotted a track left. The driver had said it too was a nice view but to be careful of the Cutting Grass (yes, that was its name) because (obviously) it could cut. We were very careful, but even so it managed to cut through our trousers. As we came back up this trail, Steve suddenly saw movement, and a group of 3 King Vultures gave us a show, gliding effortlessly above us on the air currents. The orchids too were lovely. Apparently there may be a super rare Orange Breasted Falcon here, but we did not see it (although I was lucky enough to see one on our trip to Chechem Ha).
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It was still only mid morning, so we thought we’d go to another nearish trail and headed down to the turn-off for Tiger Creek Pool and Falls. As we started Steve pushed his bike along the trail with the stream just to the left. However, it soon became obvious it would be easier without it and since the reserve is a private one, we thought best to leave it and collect it later. Good choice! The trails are all repaired using natural materials, so bridges, boggy walkovers etc are very normal looking. It was a pleasantly sunny day, mitigated by the cool trees along the trail. After about 40 minutes we crossed a small bridge and 5 minutes later arrived at Tiger Creek Pools. The water was warm as it was not deep. The flat rocks just below the surface made it feel very pleasant. Right at the end was a large rock to look down Tiger Falls. We had a relaxing dip before deciding we’d need to head back for lunch. Almost back to where we started we stopped and watched a shimmering kingfisher diving for his lunch. Unfortunately after a few goes he suddenly saw us and left.
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We had planned to walk/ cycle back to the Inn, but the skies suddenly grew VERY dark and big raindrops started, so we called for a lift instead. Good choice as the heavens opened shortly after and 20 minutes later it was finished.
We had a long, relaxed lunch then went for a dip in the outside pool. Several hummingbirds came to see us.

We thought we’d finish our day walking to a different part of the park and set off on the Lake Lolly Folly Trail. This high trail took us past one of the Meditation-Yoga towers, then down and along a creek. Steve got a bit bothered that jaguars might get us, but I thought they probably were not so interested (although W confirmed that the bridge we’d crossed to Butterfly Falls was the one where he and a guest spotted one- I thought “Lucky” but they were not so sure). We walked past the Inn’s own Coffee Grove, a citrus orchard and finally to Lake Lolly Folly itself. This man-made lake had a large canoe that we could have used, but it was getting a bit dim, so we headed around the lake and onto a very red sandy trail. We thought we were going to get lost, but all of a sudden we saw the Inn and walked up to it. TIRED. Felt we deserved our swim and dinner.
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We went to get a cocktail and met a Canadian couple. Oddly, the lady was from Bratislava, Slovakia just a few miles from a friend of mine. Weird!
Dinner- delic as always (Grilled Snapper, but watch out, cilantro does NOT equal our coriander whatever anyone says & it’s disgusting). Then as we went back, it was dark and we could hear all the frogs/ toads croaking in the little Jay pool. I had to experiment, so I got my camera & new lens and managed to take some really good photos.

Society in Belize
Although the Maya made up the majority of the population, the wealthy settlers had, by the 18th century, taken over 4/5 of the land. They controlled the executive and judiciary, owned the slaves, controlled trade and raised taxes.
Slaves in Belize- A Spanish missionary in 1724 stated that the British in Belize were bringing slaves from Jamaica and Bermuda to help on plantations. In the 16th and 17th centuries the logwood trade only required a few farm workers, but the move to mahogany required greater numbers. By the 1800s some 2000+ slaves lived in Belize. Whilst many of the early slaves originated from Africa and retained their African heritage, as time progressed they developed their own unique Kriol (Creole) culture. Freed slaves (Kriols) were given restrictive rights- no right to vote and limited trading freedom. However, in comparison to black slaves they felt loyalty towards Britain (looking at their American cousins). In 1833 slavery was abolished in the British colonies. A 5-year transition helped to cushion the blow. In 1892 the first Creole members were appointed to the Legislative Council.
The Garifuna- In the mid 18th century a group of African slaves in the Antilles escaped and defeated the local population of Caribs (now, this is interesting- for a long time the Garifuna women spoke Carib and the men Creole- which suggests how the slaves took over!). Anyhow, the now emancipated Garifuna, having resisted British and French attacks, were finally defeated by the British in 1796. Obviously they were less than enamoured by the idea of British control, and rebelled on St. Vincent. The British won, and forcibly moved them (figures vary 1,700- 5,000) to the Bay Islands (Islas de la Bahia) off Honduras. They hoped the Garifuna would struggle and possibly die out, but instead they prospered. From the Bay Islands, the Garifuna moved onto the coasts off Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. Their main Belize settlement was Stann Creek and Punta Gorda (Dangriga). A civil war in Honduras, 1832, saw more Garifuna join them. Originally the British saw the Garifuna as squatters and said they must obtain crown leases or lose their land (1857) but in 1872 the Crown Land Ordinance established reservations for Garifuna and Maya.
The Maya- As the British pushed inland with their settlements and plantations, they began to butt up against the local Maya. This led to conflict. The Maya were not allowed the land they had been used to farming, as the new settlers began to increase
their plantation sizes. A local Maya, Marcos Canul, led a group against a mahogany camp on Bravo River in 1866 and initially defeated the British troops sent to San Pedro. By 1870 he had taken Corozal, but failed to capture Orange Walk. In 1872 the Crown Land Ordinance established reservations for Garifuna and Maya, giving them their own elected mayors (alcades). In the 1870s Maya groups (particularly Mopan and Kekchi) arrived from forced labour camps in the Yucatan and Guatemala. Their settlements being very remote from Belize City, they are less anglicised.
The Mestizo- mixed European and Maya descent. The Mennonites- see section on Mennonites
Maya Languages- there are many Maya languages spoken today (at least 30). A version, called Ch’olani seems to have been the dialect for the early Maya city of Kaminaliuyu, where it was spoken and used in writing. As the Maya spread and the vernacular developed into dialects, Ch’olan slowly became an elite language- used as the writing on stelae and (probably) by the royal and noble families. As it was used by the ruling families it means it is highly likely it was used as the language of diplomacy between different polities.
Maya Society- At the top would be a ruler (ajaw) of a polity (ajawil). Later the ajaw developed into a k’uhul ajaw/ holy ruler as his/her functions became more linked with religion. In general the lordship was hereditary, but regime change was not uncommon (obviously the usurper would make efforts to justify the take over). The polity would control a number of other sites, depending on its size/ power. The name of the polity was often the name of the ruling dynasty, rather than the land it controlled, which might have a different name (e.g. Naranjo was the name of the dynasty, the
city was Wakab’nal / aka Maxam, the kingdom was Saal, and the region was Huk Tsuk). To right was the royal “hair knot” or mutul of Tikal.
The main polity, such as Tikal, would be based around the rulers and their buildings- hence the predominance of funerary pyramid-temples, palaces, plazas for ceremonies and public viewing, ballcourts (as much a political tool as a game) and elite residences. The artisans/ farmers barely registered! The lords would be expected to intervene on their people’s behalf to the gods (many claiming descent from them), particularly the patron god of their city. The lords would be expected to perform the rituals and ceremonies necessary to protect their polity and people. Scribes were very important as both readers and writers- their pen-bundle headdresses are often associated with rulers, suggesting this was seen as an elite or noble attribute.
Maya Culture- The Maya produced high quality carvings, statues and reliefs, mainly in profile. The few surviving paintings suggest a high degree of sophistication- they even invented a turquoise blue, called Maya Blue. We now know that quite a number of artists wrote their names on their work. Their accomplishments in maths were especially strong- they used a Base-20 and Base-5 system. This facility in maths was part of their development of a calendar based on astronomical observations- they could work with numbers/ dates into the millions and beyond. The Long Count Calendar they derived is an amazing work. They used 365 days, as us, and understood the 4-year need for an adjustment. The Maya were deeply interested in the sky- they could accurately predict eclipses/ conjunctions of Venus (their most important planet) and the Moon, as well as information on other planets. They used the Pleiades and the star Eta Draconis (Dragon constellation) as orientation points as early as the Preclassic. There is some evidence that they understood the Orion nebula was not a star point. They observed equinoxes and solstices. Their Diving God represents this.

Posted by PetersF 19:36 Archived in Belize Tagged animals birds insects belize maya hidden_valley

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