Part Three: Roaming in the wilderness
Finca Ixobel was once a working farm. Now, it’s a spread of affordable wooden cabins and nature trails. I lived for a month in one of those wooden cabins and when I wasn’t working, I walked, rode and swam. With few other humans around, wildlife around the finca thrived.
I heard the distinctive tat-tat-tat of a white-cheeked woodpecker before I was through the main gate. As I walked, the chirps and shrills of multiple bird species followed me. Hummingbirds fought for territory over cherry blossom trees, huge squirrels caused chaos on higher branches and in the distance I could make out the whoop of the world’s loudest animal; the howler monkey.
I found myself wonderfully alone at the lagoon; A green mirror that reflected the creaking bamboo nearby. Eager to cool off and assuming I could put the wildlife show on hold, I plunged into the cool water to the surprise of several turtles. The finca’s manager had warned me about vipers in the long grasses but hadn’t even mentioned the turtles. Neither had she heralded the joys of the lazy afternoon I then spent examining dragonflies flexing their iridescent wings, and observing the multi-coloured flashes of emerald toucanets. She was clearly an expert in the finca’s charm and the sudden surprises it dealt up against a backdrop of lovely loneliness.
Before dawn the next day on the El Pyramide trail, the silent paths of the previous lazy afternoon were even more active. Coatis, armadillos and other nocturnal hunters still pottered noisily in the undergrowth as I scrambled my way to the top for day brake. The hill that loomed over the finca was almost a perfect triangle and the route to its summit direct. In the beam of my head torch I grabbed for tree roots, making sure that no snakes or tarantulas had already claimed the spot.
Slow to summit, I barely caught the end of sunrise beyond the nearby hills of Belize. The natural world in Poptún’s countryside didn’t wait for demanding tourists. Daytime was immediate and below me, I noticed that the local farmers had already begun beating down fields of maize.
They were on to something. Early mornings were the best time to be out on the finca’s land and a great opportunity to spot rare wildlife.
The Cerro Witz trail wound through several different habitats and could be easily completed before breakfast.
Treading carefully, ever wary of vipers, I worked my way upward through tall pines to dry grassland. Mating red-lored parrots guarded their babies and an oblivious hummingbird preened its tiny nest only inches from the track. As the day warmed and vultures circled overhead, I was brought back to civilisation momentarily by the distant ring of cattle bells and the rattle of tuk-tuks taking villagers into town.
The morning light on the mountain was a private treat, but my real present was waiting for me just behind the clubhouse.
The rattle of breakfast cutlery signalled the end of the Cerro Witz, but what was that flash of turquoise? A Blue-Crowned Motmot swooped to the turf and scuffled with something in the grass. A snake! It expertly threw its prey against a tree root as it writhed and wriggled. I was glued to the spectacle with morbid amazement. The bird drank down the metre long reptile as I would a cold drink on a hot day. Eventually, only a slither of tail hung morosely from its beautiful beak. It perched on a low branch to digest its catch and I stood. Dumbstruck.