The Five Sisters, Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
Through one of the locals in San José Succotz we arranged a trek to the Five Sisters, in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest. Since this region of Belize relies on tourism as a huge source of it’s economy, this area did not have too many local buses. If you were a tourist and wanted to go to one of the many beautiful natural sites in this region, you would either need to hire a car or take a tour. We did neither. Instead we hired a local man named Juan, who had a pickup truck to transport us to the Five Sisters. We paid him close to $50 USD for the day and between Cyndi and I, we felt it was a fair deal. Juan picked us up late morning and his wife and two young boys were in the truck ready for the adventure. We thought, the more the merrier and Cyndi, Miro and I piled into the back of the rusty white pick up truck. After filling up an ice chest with Belkins (Belize’s national beer) we were off on our adventure. The trip took us over two hours to get there, as we traveled on bumpy dirt roads through the varies villages and townships. It was quite an an experience indeed. Juan’s wife and kids sat in the back of the truck with us, but my interaction with them was so Minimal with the exception of many smiles, handing her a beer or two and listening as she and Cyndi conversed in Spanish without understanding a thing. Cyndi translated a little, but mostly they were involved in animated conversation and I played with the boys. I learned that she is Guatemala, a small Mayan village and didn’t learn Spanish until she was in her twenties. She had been married for ten years even though she still in her mid twenties. Her husband was a good man, usually worked as a farmer, but now was not the season.
The Belizean landscape was so varied. From the lush landscape of manicured rows of citrus trees, to dilapidated dwellings that comprised of townships. The air was filled with smoke from burning trash in every village we drove through. Eventually we arrived at our destination, shaken, not stirred. The Five Sisters Lodge, is a beautiful resort nestled into the green forest. It was no surprise that our host family had never been here before as it clearly did not cater to local population. We had to pay an entrance feel at the resort which granted us access to their property stairs which led down to the waterfalls and pools. Excitedly we rushed down the stairs until we we reached the site of five perfectly gushing waterfalls which flowed into crystal clear pools. It was beyond my expectations. The beauty was overwhelming. The waterfalls emptied into the famous Privassion River, which flowed below the pool and continued through the heart of the Forest Reserve. Surrounding the pools were the lush jungle foliage, and a beautiful display of wild colorful flowers including orchids and palmettos which scented the air with an arousing aroma. We swam, splashed, climbed, explored and relaxed. I stood in my first waterfall and loved feeling the rush of the natural power of the water cleansed my body and even my soul. I think this is paradise. Yes.
Here’s a little information excerpted from here. There is no mention of Mountain Pine Ridge in Hummell’s 1921 report of Belizean forests, but it is believed he may have been the first forester to visit the area in 1897. To control increasing forestry activity in the area, a region of 1,504,000 acres (6,086 km2) was designated as forest reserve in October 1944, but despite fire control measures being established in 1945, much of the forest was destroyed by a fire in 1949. Few trees in the existing forest date to before this period. The reserve was reclassified in 1952 as a production forest and the 1950s saw the provision of roads and a landing strip. In 1959, the area of the reserve was reduced, losing some land to the neighboring Sibun Forest Reserve. Hunting was banned in the reserve in 1978 in recognition of the nature conservation role that could be played by the reserve. The majority of the reserve is situated on a granite massif, with some areas of limestone in the west of the reserve (remnants of a limestone plateau laid during the Jurassic). Sinkholes and caves are common in the limestone areas. The underlying soils are predominantly sandy. The elevation of the reserve averages between 400 and 700 m (1,312 to 2,296 ft) with the highest point being Baldy Beacon at 1,017 m (3,336 ft), and dropping to 120 m (394 ft) at the lowest point of the Macal River.
After a few hours, we set off back to the truck, refreshed and content. As we head out of the reserve, we were told by one of the locals, we should stop to see the 1,000 Foot-Falls. So a detour we took and a course plotted to our second destination. The roads were muddy and the ground was rich with clay. I wondered if this earth was the source the Mayans made their pottery from. I bet…
We reached the 1,000 Foot-Falls, also known as the Hidden Valley Falls in about forty five minutes. We paid the entrance fee and soon discovered, we could not access the falls, rather we had just paid access to a viewing vantage point of the falls. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful sight and the perfect photo op. The ride back was bump, bump, bumpy, bobbing up and down, belikens and bruised tailbones. No matter. What a beautiful day, and Belize was our muse.