Day 2 Title, Belize

Repelling down Morpho Falls
Repelling down Morpho Falls

The weather was beautiful, with partly cloudy skies and no rain in sight. While breaking camp everyone was thinking about the day’s task - 300 lbs. of equipment and 4 bodies to get down a treacherous 120 foot waterfall - How?

Our first task was to deflate the kayaks, and pack everything up. Then we portaged all the equipment to the top of the falls. Jim and Tony had cut a small trail along the side of the falls to a small ravine that afforded some well gounded trees to tie off to. We had to string a safety line along the top of the cliff and make sure that everyone was clipped in.

“...The rocks, coated with a fine felt of algae, were like ice....”

Jim would belay. Tony repelled down first, carefully using the machete to clear branches that might impede the drop of the equipment. Marguerite was next. The a rope was rigged from the top of the falls to a ledge about 100 feet down. A second line was rigged from the ledge 40 feet down to the rocks above the falls. We planned on lowering the equipment to the first ledge, shifting the gear to the second line and lowering to the rocks near the base of the falls.

Brown Morpho at Base of Morpho Falls
Brown morpho butterfly at base of falls

Everything worked like clockwork till we lowered the final kayak. While shifting the kayak from the first line to the second, a knot slipped, and the kayak fell 40 feet, narrowly missing Marguerite. Bouncing twice off the rocks, the rolled up kayak landed at the base of the falls and began to float down stream.

The rocks, coated with a fine felt of algae, were like ice. Having no spare lines to help on a climb down, Tony used a 30 foot piece of nylon webbing to climb to the rocks at the base of the falls, then slid another 30 feet into the water. He caught the rolled up kayak just as it was tumbling down the next set of rapids below the falls.

“...Browns, Whites and Blue morphos would fly into the mist of the falls, then into the surrounding vegetation...”

Fortunately, that was the only mishap of the day. We started the operation at 9:00am, and finished at 3:00pm. Bushed and wanting to enjoy the beauty of the falls, we camped on a rock outcrop near the first set of rapids below the falls.

Rarely seen Brown Morpho
Rarely seen Brown Morpho

All during the day, everyone had noticed a constant movement of shadows on the trees and rocks around us. Concentrating so hard on the task at hand, no one had taken the time to look up and see what was creating the shadows. Our minds simply thought “birds” flying over head. But once finished with moving the equipment and bodies safely to the base of the falls, we looked up and were astonished to find morpho butterflies, not birds.

Browns, Whites and Blue morphos would fly into the mist of the falls, then into the surrounding vegetation. Remains of morphos lie strewn around the rocks at the base of the falls. And ragged, torn browns would struggle around the camp. We quickly dubbed the falls “Morpho Falls”.

The remainder of the day was spent bathing, exploring the pool in front of the falls, and just enjoying the beauty of this remote spot. Ed surveyed and collected macro invertebrates from different habitats around the falls; Tony explored down stream, looking for the “perfect” angle to photograph the falls; and Jim and Marguerite enjoyed some quite time at camp. Tomorrow we all hoped to move down stream more than the 100 yards we moved downstream today.

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