The first thing Kenrick said when asked on Monday how it went was “It was hard this year. The Heat was extreme! Indeed, it was an extremely hot and humid weekend here in Belize, with averages in the 90s and even rising to 100F.
This year the team was made up of 12, with one guide, Benedicto. Their motto for the expedition was “We are one with Nature, life is an adventure we got to live it”. The group started out at 7.22am on Friday morning, a little later than usual as one of the new team members had a backpack that was overweight, when checked by the guide. They were all eager to make up time and walked the first part at a fast pace, knowing from experience that this was the easiest part and they wanted to get as far as they could before the heat intensified. Along the way, Lennox, our other Tropic employee tried to clear some branches blocking the path, with his machete, when a small stick hit his left knee and gashed it open and they had to perform some quick temporary first aid until they got to the camp.
The group arrived at the 12K mark on the Sittee River at around 9.20am, having made pretty good time. After, crossing the river, they all took an hour break to refuel. The heat was fierce and the lesser experienced among the group were exhausted. From this point onwards the terrain gets much harder, so it was decided that the more experienced, including our two intrepid employees Kenrick and Lennox, would forge on ahead, taking some of the weight from the kits of those less experienced.
Kenrick said, that the extra weight they were carrying and the intense heat and humidity made the trek, that much harder and the rainforest seemed denser than normal and somewhat unreal. They stopped at 17 kilometers where there is a helipad clearing, and decided to wait for the rest of the group. Here they all fell asleep for about 50 minutes but the others still had not shown, so they continued on as by now it was already 1.05pm. They arrived at 19K Base camp approx. 40 minutes later and began setting up the tents and preparing a quick noodle meal for the others. At around 4.10 only 6 of the remaining group arrived.
One of their group had felt faint from exhaustion and had to head back to Camp 12K to spend the night, with the guide Benedicto. Along the way the other six climbers had an encounter with a jaguar who crossed their paths. They were all exhilarated, excited and a little relieved when it went on its way.
Kenny discovered in the changing of backpacks, that his kit had been left behind at 16K so he and Lennox made a quick trek back to get it. By now it was getting dark and a little scary so they went as fast as they could. After showering in the river and eating they all fell asleep in their hammocks with an eight- foot Boa constrictor as their body guard, sleeping in a big hole next to them!
The following morning the guide and the other team member arrived early and the group started the climb up Heartbreak Hill, to reach the summit. The team miscalculated their water as the streams were pretty dry and at the second helipad, there was no water as usual. The group climbed for one hour and finally reached the summit at Midday. Kenny and Lennox proudly placed the Tropic flag there. The sun was unbearably hot so after about 20 minutes they started the climb back down, tired and incredibly thirsty. Kenny commented that the guide had extra water but with the heat it felt like they needed a gallon each!
Coming down was easy!! Kenny’s words. They reached camp after a couple of hours and that cold shower in the waterfall felt like the best of their lives.
The following day after a good night’s sleep and lots of story and adventure swapping, they started the trek back to Base Camp. The climbers reached at different times according to their experience and endurance level. But by 3.00 on Sunday evening everyone had arrived safely back at Base Camp. There was another jaguar encounter, this time a baby one, so the climber moved quickly on, fearing that the mother would be close by.
Climb to the Summit 2019, was a massive success despite the intensity of the heat and some of the challenges they had on the way. We would like to congratulate Kenny and Lennox on their incredible feat and wish them every success in their next adventure.
Here at Tropic Air, we have some pretty active employees who take advantage of all that Belize has to offer. Kenrick Duncan and Lennox Myvett, customer service agents at Tropic Air’s PGIA International terminal are two such individuals. Next Friday 12th April both are taking part in the arduous hike and climb to Victoria Peak, the second highest mountain in Belize at 3.675 feet.
The three-day hike, according to Kenrick, is not for the faint hearted and requires a degree of fitness and endurance. Kenrick trains by running and both he and Lennox are no strangers to physical challenges. Just a few weeks ago in March, for the ninth year, they took part in the grueling 180-mile Ruta Maya Belize River challenge, finishing sixth in their age group and 35th overall.
The hike to Victoria Peak starts bright and early at 5.00am from the basecamp in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, where the team of five men, five women and a guide, set off, carrying backpacks with minimum equipment – tents, hammocks, other essentials and food. This is the third time that Kenrick and Lennox have climbed the peak so they are familiar with the routine. On the first day, they hike the 12 kilometers along mostly flat terrain reaching the first camp after crossing the Sittee River. After lunch of, according to Kenrick, mostly protein bars, because they don’t want to be hauling lots of weight, they continue to hike the rest of the trail another 7 kilometers. This is more difficult terrain with the trail going up and down. Along the way they encounter the infamous Heartbreak Hill. Once they reach their camp for the evening everyone usually takes a dip in the waterfall (which Kenny said is extremely chilly but refreshing). On Saturday, its another early start .Once the group reaches the base of Victoria Peak it’s a scramble up a rocky stream bed leading to the forest canopy. Ascending the rock gully requires rope and harness. They finally reach the peak at around 11.00am. The view from here is stunning. According to Kenrick all you see is hills and hills all around. On a clear day you can even see the coast. The area has unique flora with elfin shrubland, sphagnum moss, small trees of only two to three meters and the rare fiery-colored orchid which only grows at high elevations.
The team usually spend about thirty minutes taking in the amazing view and then it’s a climb back down and back to nineteen Kilometer camp for the evening to rest before returning to base the following day. Last year, they were extremely excited, and a little scared, to be followed by a jaguar on their trail. They also encountered several snakes along the way. Don’t worry they are prepared and the guides always carries anti-venom.
Each year, Kenrick explained the team have a name or a motto which is usually decided upon once they start the trek. In 2018 their motto was “I’m not just living, I’m alive “. To find out what their motto is for this year and to find out more about their adventures along the way stay tuned for our next blog. We all wish them good luck on their journey.
Blue holes or cenotes are underground cavities occurring in carbonate rocks that are open to the surface.
One of Belize’s most famous attractions, and an example of these, is the Great Blue Hole. Located in the lighthouse reef atoll approximately 62 miles from Belize City, it is an almost perfect circular chasm of deep blue in an azure sea. 1000 feet in diameter and more than 400 feet deep, it is the only Blue Hole on earth that is visible from space, and it’s a diver’s paradise.
Most visitors to Belize are probably unaware that in mainland Belize close to Belmopan, Belize’s capital city, and just off the Hummingbird Highway lies another of these craters, known as The Inland Blue Hole. Unlike its marine counterpart, this Blue Hole is a fresh-water cenote, located within the St Hermans Blue Hole National Park, a 575 acre forest teeming with wildlife. It is significantly smaller than the Great Blue Hole with a diameter of 300 feet and a depth of 100 feet. It’s a great spot for a refreshing dip while taking a Belizean road trip.
Belize’s third Blue Hole is still something of a secret. Located in the rainforest area on the border between the Orange Walk and Cayo districts between the Valley of Peace and San Jose, Cara Blanca is just one of a series of 25 cenotes. If you look it up on google earth the pools can be clearly seen. Cara Blanca is approximately 330 in diameter and 230 feet deep. In recent years archaeological diving expeditions have discovered pre-historic bones of huge mammals, along with Maya artifacts. The latter demonstrating how Cenotes and caves played an important part in ancient Maya culture as they were thought to be the opening to Xibalba or the underworld. The presence of a small plaza with sacrificial pots and other relics here, is thought to be evidence of this worship.
It is rumored that other Blue Holes exist in Belize. There are definitely underwater caverns behind Caye Caulker and deep blue cenotes in both southern and northern Ambergris.
Let us know if you know of any, elsewhere in the country. We’d love to hear from you.
Belize is fortunate to possess some spectacular and diverse wonders of nature. From the world famous Blue Hole, to hundreds of coral rimmed Cayes, to Maya sites scattered across large swaths of rainforest.
Amongst all this beauty is ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) Cave, a must see on your Belize bucket list. Actun Tunichil Muknal, which means Cave of the Stone Sepulcre, was discovered in the late 80s and first opened to the public in the late 90s. Located deep within the Cayo rainforest, it’s a 7 mile journey down a dirt track from the main highway near Teakettle village. Then, it’s a 45 minute hike through the rainforest, crossing the Roaring River several times, before arriving at the hourglass shaped entrance to the cave. The cave is reached with a brief swim.
Ancient Maya belief held that entering a cave was to enter Xibalba, the Maya Under-world. As you wade, walk and swim through the dark underground river using only the light from your headlamp, one can begin to imagine why the Maya used caves as sacred places. As you reach “The Cathedral”, named because of its scale, magnificence and sacredness, you can see giant stalactites hanging from the ceiling, and ancient Maya artifacts including pottery and human bones littering the cave floor. Venturing still deeper into the Maya underworld, the trail ends high in the rock face (only accessible by ladder) where the calcified skeleton known as the Crystal Maiden, but now assumed to be a young male, is located. It is thought that he was a sacrifice to the Gods in a time of need.
Tropic Air offer is thrilled to offer a day tour of ATM for those staying on the Northern Cayes. An early morning flight from San Pedro, Ambergris Caye will take you to Belmopan where your tour will begin and end. All visits to the cave will be undertaken with a licensed cave guide, and all of whom are passionate and knowledgeable about their heritage, and who enjoy sharing it with visitors.
The warm cave water is refreshing even on cooler days. Its depth will vary at different places within the cave, and is dependent on the amount of rainfall there has been. There are times when the river is in flood and tours are suspended. Closed toed shoes with socks are essential, and in certain parts of the cave you will need to remove shoes in order to avoid damaging the the many ancient artifacts scattered on the ground. Helmets and head torches are provided by the guide.