. We decided that this place was Belize's equivalent of the Keystone Science School, so we felt right at home. We cooked up a "delicious" Thanksgiving dinner of instant mashed potatoes, cream style corn, and tomato soup. Definitely the first (and likely the last) time Matt has had a vegetarian Thanksgiving... We called our families to say we missed them and it was great to talk to them, as briefly as it was the fast rate that the phone card got depleted. Early to bed, with aching backs from the day's trauma. The next morning was a leisurely breakfast and breaking camp, then we headed to the adjacent Belize Zoo (www.belizezoo.org) where we saw lots of indigenous Belizean wildlife, all of which had been sick, injured, or otherwise incapable of surviving in the wild. That afternoon we caught a bus in to Belize City, where we bought more groceries and boarded another bus to the remote village of Bermudian Landing to visit the Community Baboon Sanctuary (www.howlermonkeys.org). Another sunset arrival (for such a small country, it sure does take a long time to get anywhere) and we were welcomed by a couple in charge of the reserve. Fallet, the activist husband, led us out to a wooden platform in the forest and for the first time in all of our camping locations, we actually felt like we were roughing it. We prepared a pasta-veggie dinner and headed to bed, listening to strange rustling noises all night long. In the morning, Fallet led us to a troop of the black howler monkeys that are locally called baboons, thus the name of the place
. It was awesome to actually see the animals that we had heard in the distance in so many places on our trip. He pointed out the dominant male and got him all worked up by shaking the tree and imitating a howler's howl. The male let loose with his response, amazingly loud because it echoes through a big hollow bone in his throat. Fallet also encouraged us to feed the monkeys a plantain to get them to come down from the tree. We were hesitant about this, but it was very cool to have them swing down and hang by their tails to eat out of our hands. Their hands in ours felt like a human baby's. We browsed the museum that had howler natural history, ecology basics, and the uplifting history of the reserve, a unique collaboration of over 100 landowners to voluntarily adhere to regulations that would preserve monkey habitat on their land. The rest of the day, we explored the forest on our own. We saw a pair of tayras (the big weasels) again, this time they were very uncomfortable with us in their territory and were wheezing and snarling at us from high in a tree. Fallet later told us that he had not seen tayras for many years, and that we were very lucky to come across them (twice). We retreated from the mosquitoes into the tent to read and relax for most of the afternoon, then ventured out when we heard the different troops of monkeys in the area doing call and response howling, as they always do around 4pm apparently. We had a futile bushwacking session to try to find them, but the howls can be heard from over a mile and we couldn't get close enough before getting totally frustrated and clausterphobic. We walked through the one road town and chatted with a local woman who offered us a coconut to drink as we sat on a bench that overlooked the mighty Belize River. Another unremarkable dinner and more chilling that evening, a very relaxing day off the beaten track.
The last morning on Tobacco Caye was another beautiful sunny one, which made it that much more painful to leave. But the emotional pain was nothing compared to the physical pain involved in the actual act of leaving. Captain Buck, the same mellow dude who took his sweet time puttering across the choppy sea, had woken up on the wrong side of the hammock that morning to say the least. He was muttering, cursing, and pacing back and forth in his boat before we boarded. Then we zoomed off, I'd wrecken about 15 times faster than we arrived, in water rougher than before. The bow of the boat was airborne over every wave, and Matt and I sitting near the front were repeatedly slammed into the hard wooden seat every time it came down, despite locking our arms and bracing with our white knuckle grip on the bench. The only redeeming part of the experience was the brief sighting of a sea turtle on the surface as it came up for air. We begrudgingly paid for the torture, picked up some left gear at the hotel we had stayed at in Dangriga, picked up some groceries, and spent the rest of the day on buses getting us to the Tropical Education Center where we arrived at sunset and set up camp