Day 1 Title Page

View from Baldy Sibun
View from Baldy Sibun looking
toward the Sibun River

(Remember you can click on any of the images for a larger version of the picture. The images lie between 15K and 25K)

An expedition of this nature doesn't just happen. It takes lots of planning and preparation. We had poured over maps, discussed logistics, and spent many hours on the phone and passing e-mail over the Internet. Our original plan called for a two day hike into the gorge, carrying 70 pounds of equipment and food each.

Fortunately, the British military, which has a long standing interest in supporting environmental projects in Belize, offered to give us a helicopter drop. They were having military maneuvers anyway, and they would count this as a training mission.

The day before, Captain Ian Walsh had scouted out the upper reaches of the Sibun River from his Gazelle (four man British helicopter) and had identified our LZ (landing zone) on a fern covered hilltop well above the Sibun River. Six trips and two hours later, all of our gear and the four team members waved goodbye as Captain Walsh disappeared over the first ridge. We were as close to the source of the Sibun River as possible

“...We had no idea how big it would be. We could hear the roar from far away. Pulling to the side, we walked to the top of a 120 foot waterfall...”

Unloading helicopter
Unloading helicopter at LZ

After chopping a trail, we carried all the gear down to the river side. The Sibun was only a few meters across at this point. Barely wide enough to float the kayaks. Our gear included two 13 foot inflatable kayaks, four waterproof back packs, two lightweight tents, and food for ten days. Ed, the chief scientist carried along collecting and preserving equipment while Tony had two hardcases of camera gear.

The kayaks were heavily loaded. But with the small size of the river this far up and what we thought was a low amount of water (it was not flowing very fast), we felt we could control the kayaks and keep our balance. Besides, within a few days, the food packs would shrink and more space would become available.

We started what would be the general pattern of activity during the day. Drag, pool, drag, pool, drag, pool...We would have to drag the kayaks down the majority of the shallow rapids, then paddle a quiet pool for 20 or 30 yards, before stopping and dragging thru the next set of rocks.

Put in point, Sibun River, Belize
Packing up at put-in point

We noticed on the map - by reading the contour lines - that ahead of us must be a good size drop. We had no idea how big it would be. We could hear the roar from far away. Pulling to the side, we walked to the top of a 120 foot waterfall. No dragging over this one.

“...the blade glanced off a piece of hardwood and sliced into Jim’s knee to the bone....”

As it was getting late, we set up camp on the banks above the falls. After setting up camp, Ed headed out to sample the river above the falls. Marguerite started supper, Tony and Jim explored the top of the falls to decide how we were to get down. Too dangerous to repel down the side...nothing to tie off to. So we cut a trail along the edge of the cliff to a set of trees which we could tie to. In the morning we would repel down, pass the gear down and be on our way.

Jim with cut knee
Jim cursing his
wounded knee

Back at camp, we had our first accident of the trip. While chopping firewood, something he has done without incident since he was old enough to grab a machete, the blade glanced off a piece of hardwood and sliced into Jim’s knee to the bone.

Fortunately, Marguerite had brought along a suture kit, and Jim’s knee took a couple of injections of xylocane and three stitches. Fortunate for him it was his only injury of the trip. The knee, while sore, healed quickly and soundly. Some of the rest of us wouldn’t be so lucky.


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