close to three years with sheer wonderment I stared down upon
the fold of my map of the Central American country of Belize at
the legend marker signifying the remote Maya site of Pusilha.
first attempt to visit Pusilha fell short when the then visiting
archaeologist from the University of California, San Diego, Dr.
Geoffrey Braswell ended his digging season at odds with the local
villagers of San Bonito Poite. We were tentatively scheduled to
head up to the site to meet with Dr. Braswell when my wife and
I ran into him one day on a street in Punta Gorda, the seaside
capital of the Toledo District of southern Belize where most bush
expeditions and archaeological teams pass through when exploring
rushed, Dr. Braswell informed us that it would be better to wait
until the following season to insure the approval of the Belize
Institute of Archaeology which oversees Dr. Braswell’s work
at Pusilha. Plus, apparently in the last weeks of the annual dig
a handful of locals prohibited Dr. Braswell and his team from
entering the excavation sites. Although Dr. Braswell provides
gainful employment for many of the male villagers, the process
at times puts him at obvious odds with others.
perseverance, the second opportunity to reach Pusilha presented
itself some months later when the yearly hurricane season which
usually soaks a traditionally wet southern portion of Belize,
turned out to be the driest four months in decades. Because of
this meteorological anomalism the roads throughout the hills of
the Toledo were dry and navigable for my twenty year old Toyota
pickup. The truck has a long bed but no under clearance nor four
wheel drive, so you have to pick and choose the off-road miles
with care and calculation. With this in mind, I knew if the truck
was ever to roam the back roads of Toledo, well this was the time
to make the go of it.
so, after a wasted attempt spoiled by poor planning that led to
a missed turn in the village of Santa Theresa the day before,
I got up with the morning flocks of parrots to prepare right for
a green bucket which I later placed in that open long bed of the
Toyota, I tossed in four frozen bottles of Crystal water, three
apples, two bananas, one rapidly melting Bounty chocolate bar
and a single cola of Coke.
to me there on the front passenger seat I placed alongside my
digital camera and tattered map of Belize, a yellow legal pad
to be used as a log book to make notations of my distances as
well as to write descriptions of things that would inevitably
catch my eye.
also brought along my Hunter rubber boots and my dull blade machete.
Though one of the boots was now worn through on the bottom and
despite the fact that that particular machete was browning with
rust, my travels have taught me that a holey pair of Hunters and
a dull machete are better than none in the bush. This day proved
my base camp was some eight miles inland from the coastline, my
choices were quite limited to fuel up the Toyota before I began
the adventure. I could either go back into the town of Punta Gorda,
or I could travel to another set of gas stations at a road junction
referred to as Dump. Since Dump was indeed on the way to Pusilha,
I opted for the one further off the path of the two.
did so not because the gas was in any way better or with a higher
octane, nor because their would be any savings since the gas was
already well over BZ$8.00 (US $4.00) per gallon, a lot for even
a gas frugal Toyota . No, I must admit that my thought process
was driven purely by gluttony. For the distant station not only
had good gas but it also sold fresh cut pieces of pound cake wrapped
and ready for the passing road warriors of truckers and the like.
open the cellophane wrapper from the first of my two pieces of
pound cake I made a right turn down the hill at Dump and quickly
transitioned from paved tarmac to dirt rock gravel surface, where
I would remain for the next eighty-three miles.
took about forty five minutes to travel from Dump to Blue Creek,
half way to Pusilha and the last outpost in the Toledo for most
guide book travellers. From Blue Creek the road goes on for several
miles to the village of Jordan before again crossing the Moho
River. As the road then approaches Santa Theresa, there is a small
dirt road to the right just before the school which lies in the
centre of the village.
the turn in Santa Theresa the road becomes smoother due in part
to less vehicle travel in general, reflected by the fact there
were only two trucks at the end of the road in San Benito the
day I arrived. And the road becomes a roller coaster of twist
and turns as you go up over one hilltop after another alongside
roadside fields of corn.
told and in just under two hours after I packed my water bottles
and bananas into my bucket, I pulled up the hill and into the
village of San Benito Poite. As it was early in the morning, school
children scurried about with their exercise books and pencils
placed neatly in plastic bags, all giggling and pointing at me
and the mud covered Toyota that I had just seemingly landed in.