As you can see from the map, to drive to Red Bank from Placencia, you have to go all the way north up the peninsula almost to Riversdale, hang a left, then drive west and south, ending up just a bit north of due west from Placencia. It would be quicker to take the Hokey Pokey ferry to Independence, then drive west, but there's no easy way to do that driving yourself.
It was dark for most of the drive and only started getting light at around 6 am. We arrived at Red Bank village by 6:15 and followed Jacki's directions to meet our guide, Selso Sho (son of well-known Geronimo Sho), at his home. We paid him the requested $70 BZD ($35 US) to be our guide. He told us we would need to drive about 15 more minutes, then hike up the mountain to the lookout to see the Scarlet Macaws.
He hopped in the back seat of our rented Dihatsu, and we headed down the road. It started out okay, but as we turned off the main road through the village, Selso suggested we shift into 4WD. I don't know that we would have made it in a 2WD vehicle, as there had been plenty of rain the day before, and the narrow, rough "road" (more like two tire tracks in the mud) was filled with large puddles and a couple of ponds. Selso suggested which side to drive on when we hit the worst areas, and we made it through.
Finally, the road opened up into a lovely, grassy meadow, with a river rushing down below. We could have lingered there awhile, but we had no time to waste as birds are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, so we started hiking up the mountain trail that quickly became steep. Southern Belize has red clay soil just like North Carolina, which is a real mess to walk in when it is wet and muddy. It was still wet from the rains the day before, and now the rain started again.
Light at first, it soon was coming down hard. Barry and Selso had rain jackets, but I only had a water-resistant windbreaker that didn't provide a lot of protection, and my non-waterproof trail running shoes were soon soaked through as well. The narrow trail got slippery, so we were thankful for the walking sticks Selso had found for us so we didn't slip and get covered in mud. He didn't use one himself. It was a lovely mountain trail and hike through the jungle that would have been seriously fun if not for the drenching rain.
We waited as patiently as possible for the macaws for almost two hours. As time ticked by, it seemed less and less likely that they would be feeding in this particular area this morning. Selso said that there had been fewer this year than in the past and that the fruits they eat were late to ripen. We thought this a bit unusual since it has been a very warm winter.
Sadly, we finally came to the decision to give up on the macaws. It just didn't look like it was going to happen this time, and we didn't want to keep our guide there all day. No other tour groups or individuals came looking for macaws while we were there that morning -- I guess the rain kept them away.
So, we started hiking back down the trail, which was even slicker after the heavy rain. Our shoes were caked in slippery red mud, and if not for the walking sticks and small trees along the way to grab onto, I am sure I would have fallen on my butt a few times!
Fortunately, there was a silver lining. When we got back to the meadow where we had parked, it was absolutely teeming with birds. We hung out there for quite awhile checking out the river and watching birds, and Barry took lots of photos for us to ID later. One was definitely a Cuckoo. Unfortunately, very few of the photos turned out good as the birds were flitting this way and that, but we did have some nice sightings.
On the way out of Red Bank village, we were not in any hurry, and it was much brighter than on the way in, so we were able to take some photos. This Maya village is absolutely charming. There is also a campground that Selso gave us some brochures on, Hummingbird Paradise. His father Geronimo runs the place, and the prices are incredibly cheap. A one-time fee of $10 BZD ($5 US) gives unlimited use of the hiking trails, and camping is only $5 BZD ($2.50 US) per person per night.
Another man there, who worked for the airport, was able to give us a lift back to Casa Placencia. We talked to Jacki a bit, and she said that she'd give us a ride to the Hokey Pokey dock in the morning as we had to be there to catch a 6:45 ferry. We could have walked, but with our packs and the early hour, plus not being completely sure where the dock was, we were grateful for the ride. After our chat, Barry laid down and grabbed a nap while I caught up on the computer. I could hear rain starting and stopping a couple of times while we were in the room.
Stay tuned for Day 4...our trip back to San Pedro