Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Jesus Lizard, Part Nine-A—The Quiet Before the Mind Storm in Guatemala


Warrie Head Lodge was a sanctuary. We had left the heart of darkness back in Dangriga, along with the jaguars. Now we were in the land of hummingbirds and kinkajous. And if I knew what awaited us in Guatemala, I would have stayed put in Warrie Head—claimed fever and visions, and let the caravan go on without me. But clairvoyance was never my strong suit, so I took sanctuary for granted. The lodge sits in the rolling green hills of central Belize, near Belmopan. Its an unassuming place, with a main house and one long low building that reminded me of a shed row stable more than an inn. Each suite had a brightly painted door, some blue, some yellow, and there was a more modern two story addition at the end of the shed row. I would be staying in a suite upstairs in the back I was told.

The place was really not unlike a country motel one might see in eastern North Carolina, the kind of place one stops for the night before driving on to the Outer Banks the next morning. There were three or four little brown horses, mustangs, descendants of the Spanish horses that landed in Mexico with Cortez a few centuries ago, grazing in a valley that fell away to a creek behind the lodge -- their tails softly switching at flies put my mind at ease. To spend the night somewhere in the vicinity of horses would improve my dreams, I thought, as I stood staring blankly out at the green of the field. They might act as exorcists and drive the malarial visions from my slumber. I drifted away for just a moment and was riding one of the mustangs near the creek. The little mare felt strong and energetic beneath me as we made our way through the deep banks of the creek. There were banana palms all around us, and the trill of honeycreepers and the slightly annoying shouts of kiskadees. But the little mare stopped suddenly and pricked her ears, she turned her head slightly and for just a moment, instead of heeding her trembling nostrils and the sudden appearance of the white of her eyes, I admired her handmade rawhide bridle, the creamy tan of it against her bay face, the feel of the braided reins in my hands, but I was quickly turned from my thoughts of the Mexican saddler who crafted the bridle to a desperate attempt to stay on the little mare as she spun and bolted back up to the pastures behind the lodge. She left me lying in a heap at the edge of the creek facing a small band of peccaries. They were covered in mud and they ran toward me, one with his mouth gaped open, his little yellowed tusks threatening to tear my pale flesh . . .

“Wolfy?”

“Oh, um... what?” I was no longer sitting in the mud being devoured by peccaries.

“We can unload dee bus now, they’ve all gone birding and on a walkabout. We have dee room assignments, so we can get dee bags in deir proper places and then perhaps have a limeade.”

“Ah, yes, bags and then a limeade. Sounds like a plan, London.”

I was relieved to hear that the bird lists were back out and the search was on for such marvelous things as the Violaceous Trogon, the Black-crowned Tityra, the Tropical Kingbird, the Green Jay, or one of some twenty or so types of flycatchers, who made Belize home. Not that we hadn’t been witness to some wondrous birds near Dangriga. Why, I snagged a Golden-olive Woodpecker for my very own bird list in the Cockscomb Reserve, but I believe I was running from a jaguar or a zombie dressed as a jaguar at the time, so it was only a fleeting and distracted viewing. As I began hauling suitcases to the rooms with London, a smile came across my face, yes, I thought, maybe Dangriga was the bump in the road of our trip, we might have smooth sailing from now til we depart, only ten more days to go, what could possible happen?

Evening fell, the birders returned from the jungle, it was cocktail hour . . . “Miss Wolfy! Miss Wolfy! One of our bags is missing!”

It was the nice Quaker couple from Pennsylvania. Mrs. Quaker's bag was there, but Mr. Quaker's large duffel bag was not. We went out to the bus in the dark and searched. Nope. No dice. Nigel called the hotel in Dangriga. Yup. The bag was left in Dangriga. We were to leave for Guatemala at 10 am the next morning, how were we going to get Mr. Quarker’s bag in time? There was much talk back and forth. London said he would go get it. In the bus? Yes, in the dee bus. But London, you’ll be up all night! And you have to drive all day tomorrow. Nigel can do some of the driving tomorrow, I can nap. No worries. I go, now, see you in the morning. The bus roared to life, and Nigel and I stood in the dark driveway with the lodge warmly lit behind us. We watched the red tail lights of the bus bounce away like little rubies in the night. The stars were astoundingly numerous above us. The tree frogs peeped and peeped and peeped, “Look!” Nigel pointed to something dark and huge looming in the sky, “Fruitbats!” I felt like Dorothy, about to be carried away to the witch’s castle.

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