Day 5 Title

Campsite with cliff
Tapir Campsite with Cliff

Tony awoke before first light to sit in a makeshift blind just in front of the game trail. With the visit of the tapir last night, we felt there was a good chance to see other wildlife coming down to the river for a morning drink. The sky glowed pink with the first light, and the high cirrus clouds became more noticeable. The thrill of the tapir the night before turned to a kernel of apprehension in everyone’s stomach. We began paying more attention to the weather.

We broke camp early, hoping to make some good time down the river. After four full days on the river, we still hadn’t made it as far as where Jim had first put in years before. We had a good feeling for where we were on the map, but there was always that nagging doubt as none of us had been on this part of the river before.

“...the high cirrus clouds were becoming more noticeable. We began paying attention to the weather...”

The rains started as a misting. On and off all morning, the rain fell. The river did not rise noticeably all day, but the clouds above were thickening, and to the south, large dark clouds where building. We hoped that the rain was falling on a different water shed and not the Sibun’s.

Portaging around falls
Portaging around falls

By noon we made it to the point called the Rock Fall. This is where Jim had previously put in after hiking two days through the bush. The rain was starting in earnest now, with less sunny periods then rainy ones. At the rock fall was a 20 foot falls that required lowering the kayaks down on the slippery rock. And just past the falls was an actual rock fall that required unloading the kayaks and portaging.

We ate lunch underneath a huge overhang to dodge the rain. Underneath the rock was a huge bolder full of the so-called “crinoid fossils”. The rock looked as though it was a colony of crinoids with stems sticking in all directions. We tried to chip off a piece of the boulder to bring back for analyses, but the rock was extremely hard and wouldn’t split.

“...a small weasel like mammal was effortlessly climbing on the vertical face of the cliff, three hairless babies hanging from its tits...”

The rain continued light on and off throughout the day. We pushed on hard all day trying to get as far down the river as possible, the danger of flooding was always on our mind. Fortunately, the river had not shown any sign of rising. The river was widening, and the flow was increasing, but this was due to the entrance of many small feeder streams which drained the many valleys on either side of the Sibun Valley.

Campsite below Canyon
Campsite Below Sibun Canyon

As the shadows deepened and the rain continued to fall, the topography changed. We began to enter into a region of the river with steep sides. Gradually the sides turned vertical and the river began to snake back and forth in gradual and shallow turns. The river narrowed at one point to about 20 yards across, and the sides rose vertically to an estimated 200 feet.

The light was dimming, the clouds were thickening, and the rain continued to fall. There was nowhere to pull over and get out the cameras, let alone set up a tripod that would be necessary in the falling light. But the canyon was one of the most spectacular sites any of us had ever seen in Belize. If it weren’t for its inaccessibility, this canyon would be a world class tourist attraction. Maybe it was a good thing that it was protected by its remoteness rather then legislation.

As Ed and I drifted with the current, we noticed a movement on the vertical cliff walls. A small weasel like creature was walking on the cliff as if it had suction cups on its feet. We glided slow toward the creature and noticed a purple blob hanging from its belly. When the creature would move, this blob would bounce back and forth against the cliff walls. To our amazement, the blob turned out to be three hairless young holding on to the creatures tits with their mouths. What an incredible adaptation to survive on vertical walls. At least the creature had nothing to worry about from four legged predators.


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