Friday, March 26, 2010

The End of the Line

To the north and east of the Gallon Jug Estate lies the Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area (RBCMA), operated by the Programme for Belize (PfB). At 260,000 acres, it is roughly twice the size of the Gallon Jug Estate and encompasses a multitude of habitats. Over the years we've frequently partnered with PfB on conservation aims of mutual concern.

There are two field stations in RBCMA and recently we had the pleasure of staying at the Hillbank Field Station, only about 25 miles as the toucan flies from our house in Gallon Jug. Of course, as is so often the case in Belize, you "can't get there from here," so we headed north, then east, then south to reach it which took about 2 hours. If "Hillbank" sounds familiar from previous posts, it is because Hillbank was the "end of the line" for the logging railroad that began in Gallon Jug back in the day.

I've posted about the Hillbank road and our recent explorations over the past weeks of dry season (see post for 25 Feb. 2010). Beginning in the 1920's, the logs, mostly mahogany, went by narrow gauge rail from Gallon Jug to Hillbank. From Hillbank, situated on the New River Lagoon, they were floated to the coast and then to Belize City.

Besides launching a bat acoustic survey pilot project, it was of great interest to revisit this old logging center, now a field station, operated by PfB. Other than a comfortable new dorm, most of the original wood buildings from the logging days are still in use. We were surprised and pleased to meet an old friend, Gustavo, from our Caracol field work days in the late '80's, early '90's. An accomplished bushman who has lived and worked in many bush situations, Gustavo delighted in sharing with us some of the old logging equipment scattered around in the forest (pictured above), remnants of the old logging days.