We decide to study the indigenous floral, fauna, cultures, religions, and local rum drinks of the cayes — small corral islands off the coast of Belize.  Like the Florida keys, these are the islands made famous by pirates and treasure, rum and desolate beaches, Spanish Galleons and cocoa, whale sharks and the blue footed booby.

Our minds are elsewhere though as we leave this jungle, possibly never to return.  I made the mistake of engaging James (you remember him?  our guide in the mayan temples… and local many generation Mayan) in what I thought was a bit of a local myth.  I remember this story of this girl who said she went to the jungle and weeks later back in the states she itches her arm and a bunch of flying insects come out.  I tell this story as we leave the ruins over lunch in an effort to liven up the conversation and to get kathi riled up.  I expected James to say something like “ya, I heard the same story.” or something like that.  Instead he says, “yeah, they itch like crazy and then they start biting you. Damn that hurts.  Makes dogs go crazy.”

“What?” I exclaim.

“Last year I got four of them,” he says, “two in my scalp and one on my back the other on my arm.  I hate those things.”  Repulsed, my jaw drops.  “First they really itch, then after a few days the larva starts biting you.  That really hurts.”

I feel a gagging reflex and a sense of terror.

“yeah, beef worms… those things are nasty… I use a cotton swab and the juice of the bush papaya and in a few days they die and stick to the swab.  But if you leave them they get long and hairy.  And really hurt.  Then they finally break out and fly away.”

I look at my hand and arms and legs.  They are covered with bumps and bites.  Each one filled I am sure with a tiny beef worm going through its pupal stages.  I begin to feel the bites he is talking about.  I don’t know whether to run in hysteria through the jungle or just find an ancient rock, meditate, and welcome my parasitic death.  I decide to drink heavily instead.

Now waiting for our plane the next day, both of us look at our sores a tad differently.  After our more than 3 hour trip here we notice an airstrip (or really some level ground with less shrubs than most places) right next to where we are staying.  We opt for a charter bush plane to take us to the coast.

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Below is our 18 year old pilot Paul (just kidding… for those of you who may want to take this same airline.)  I ask him to show me the gas gauge.

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our runway.

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there is absolutely no place to land if something happens

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there was a 10 ft hammerhead below…. the pilot made a circle to check it out.

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We are now in San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye.  The Mayan community has lived on this island since pre columbian times.  It is home of the second largest barrier reef in the world.  And lurking beyond that reef… the man-eating and giant…  Bull Shark.

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Next we get our bags and take a quick golf cart to our water taxi and boat up the caye about 15 miles to the most norther tip.

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And we make it safely to our destination. A beautiful European boutique hotel called Matachica along the wild and untamed beaches of Ambergris Caye

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Tomorrow… Life and death in the coral reef below.

In Ká

Dain