2012 Scarlet Macaw Protection Documentary

Monday, March 8, 2010

To Chiquibul's end...

Brad, Glenn (FCD Ranger), and I headed down the Chiquibul Branch this past week. We originally intended to head down Monkeytail Branch but the condition of the long trail wewould be dragging the kayaks down was unknown. I also needed to survey the Chiquibul Branch and the road to the river was known to be good. So we loaded up that Tuesday morning and began the 2 hour drive to Bordel Camp.

We put in the river after 11am and planned to first head upriver, then head back down past Bordel Camp to Resumadero Camp before doubling back to the put in. However, this quickly changed. We struggled for an hour and a half moving the first 200 meters. It was ridiculous. My GPS screen was smashed, the handle I use to drag the kayak broke, and I lost my pocket knife that my brother gave me years ago.Argggggg!

Yet we pushed on. After more hauling we made it to another short pool. Ahead of us was another small boulder field with water running underneath it. I thought...hmmmm, better scout ahead. I grabbed the paddles and went climbing over the boulders and was disheartened with what I saw. I came back and had the fellas follow me to a vantage point ahead. The boulders were twice as high as those we had been struggling with and the end was not in sight.

The boulder field. My bane!

No more I said. Can't afford to destroy the kayaks and dry bags hauling them through this stuff. So we turned around and began exploring the lower Chiquibul. We passed Bordel Camp and stopped for lunch at the confluence with Smokey Branch. We then pushed up Smokey Branch about 5.5 km. Some good habitat for the first half but then turning into steeper terrain. We heard a single pair flying to the west of us at our camp.

One of many limestone overhangs.

The next day we covered 20km and saw 8 macaws. On the way out of Smokey Branch, the FCD Park Ranger burned 2 xatero camps. At the confluence we continued downstream. I must have flipped over 3 times that day; getting caught up on fallen logs.

The geology of this river is simply amazing. It is by far the most beautiful river that I've been on in Belize. Limestone cliffs, overhangs, and now we encountered a cave perched above the water. Too climb it?....maybe later.

Brad and Glenn head down a small rapid.

Cave perched above the river.

Then we passed through Natural Arch. This thing is huge! With stalactites on the ceiling and dripping with vegetation, it was mesmerizing passing under its eminence.

Charles in front of Natural Arch.

We continued down and about halfway from Natural Arch and Resumadero Camp we heard macaws. 1, 2, 3, 4 pairs of macaws passed overhead. One pair veered off and landed in some trees nearby but out of sight. We headed down a xatero trail and spotted the pair checking out a cavity on a nearby Quamwood tree. We watched them for twenty minutes then thought we heard something messing with out boats! We sprinted back not knowing what or WHO we would find there. But it was nothing...a trick of the mind. The macaws took off, screaming and flying to the east.

Nest Quamwood in center. Can see the red of the macaws if you zoom.

We continued downstream and then the river...stopped. It just pours down a hole and into the earth. Guess we should turn around.

End of Chiquibul Branch.

The next day we passed back through Natural Arch and stopped at the cave. Brad stood up on his kayak and pulled himself up into the cave using an overhanging branch. Guss it's time to man-up. I stood on my kayak. Hopped up and pulled myself up the branch. Way cool! There were Mayan pottery shards and a reinforced wall structure. Pretty cool. The rest of the trip was chill. Oh...besides the hook holding my hauling rope breaking. Had to haul my kayak backwards over the rapids. This is not fun.

Inside the cave.

All in all a good trip. Camped out for a day while awaiting our pick-up. Did a little bird watching and spotted an immature Black Hawk Eagle. Now we just need to find a way to get to the upper Chiquibul Branch.

Immature Black Hawk Eagle.

Taking off in an hour or so to the Chiquibul. Should be revisiting the Upper Macal and start climbing some nest trees. We'll see what happens when we get there!

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