This morning we headed to Caracol, a Mayan civilization that flourished from 300 BC to 1100 AD. The metropolis itself housed over 150,00 people, which is over half the population of the entire country today. We climbed to the top of the highest pyramid, the tallest structure in all of Belize. The view from the pyramid was amazing, and we could see for miles in every direction. To the West, the mountains in the distance were brown instead of green. This was the Belize-Guatemala border. The Guatemalan population is many times that of Belize, and they have much higher rates of deforestation as they stretch their limited resources.
Although we didn’t see any termites today, we did see several termite nests. On our way to Caracol we drove past an arboreal nest, but weren’t able to identify it. A few of the beams in the pyramid were from 70 AD. They were impressively intact for being 2,000 years old, but they did have termite tunnels burrowing through them. As we were leaving the station, we found an abandoned carton nest that had fallen from a tree. It was cracked open, so we could look at the tunnels within. We didn’t see the termites living inside, but Microcerotermes crassus do make arboreal tree nests, so this could be one of their nests.
As we were heading back from Caracol, our transmission started struggling and making strange noises. Luckily, we were close to a Belizian army camp, and we pulled in there. When they checked the engine, the transmission fluid was completely dry. We couldn’t drive the van anymore, so we piled into pickup trucks. On the way, we saw a tree full of oropendola nests and a group of toucans! Las Cuevas Research Station is beautiful. All of the buildings are on stilts, so you are eye-level with the trees and can see lots of wildlife. I can’t wait to see more of the station and the surrounding forest! I can already tell these two weeks are going to fly by.