Banana Bank Lodge is an inland resort, a little over an hour’s drive down the Western Highway, to the south and east of Belize City. It’s also just a little north of the capital city, Belmopan. It’s a beautiful place, sitting right inside the rain forest.
In the summer of 2004, I had gone down to Belize City to help a little church with some summer ministries. I was the guitar player.
There is an artist in Belize, named Caroline Carr, whose work I was familiar with, and I wanted to see it. She and her husband/partner (I dont know which) own a resort about an hour from the city, named Banana Bank. So, a bunch of us piled into a rattle-trap Ford Econoline van and headed out to see the place. The pastor was familiar with it, as they had held some retreats there.
The country is incredibly poor, and all along the way were houses where people lived, but they looked like they should have been torn down. On our left, which would have been roughly northwest, was a line of hills that resembled a man, lying on his back, with his head pointed southward.
After some time, we passed one of those ramshackle houses, and out front was a horse that I can only describe as a walking skeleton. It was brown, and the skin of it hung on its frame like canvas over an old lawn mower. Switching its tail at flies, you would imagine the thing would fall over from its own breeze. It was almost awe inspiring, to imagine that this animal kept itself alive by strength of will alone. I honestly dont know why it would be so thin. Tall grass stood all around, but there it was, like Don Quixote’s pitiable mount, ready to tilt at windmills as they rose up in the air. (My camera was turned off, or I’d have a photo.)
I felt bad for the poor thing. Standing out in the hot tropical sun all day. There was no shade, and no water, as far as I could tell. Perhaps, that’s why it was so thin. Maybe it was thirsting to death.
Continuing on, we came to the dirt road that leads to the lodge. Sort of. The truth of it is that you have to cross the Belize River to get there. This is a bit of an adventure in itself. On the south side of the river, you must climb down a steep flight of stairs to a flat place on the bank. Once there, you’ll find a boat, and a rope strung across the river, which you use, hand over hand, to pull the boat across. There is also a piece of sheet metal and a hammer, think “gong”. You clang on the metal, which signals the people from the lodge to come meet you.
The Belize River is not extremely wide, but it is deep. In order to pull the boat across, you have to stand up in the boat to reach the rope. This is not an easy feat, if you arent accustomed to standing up in a boat. Once on the other side, you tie up the boat and cross the mud flat to another set of stairs that take you to the top of the bank. It should be noted that, stepping out of the boat and onto the bank, I noticed an alligator footprint a little larger than my hand. Not large by alligator standards, but enough to send a little tingle down my spine.
The resort itself is lovely, laid out on a broad plane of Bermuda grass, surrounded by the tall trees of the rainforest. The first structure that you notice is a tremendous pink house, with a broad porch resting atop several wide, white steps. It’s like something transplanted from Disneyland. Scattered about the place are also smaller huts, which one can rent out by the night or the week.
Among the attractions there, are a jaguar and a small monkey. The jaguar is in a cage, and the monkey is kept on a long leash, which is attached to a very long wire, stretched between two of the trees. He’s friendly to most, and will shake hands, or even let you hold him, if he likes you a lot. If he doesnt like you, when you reach to shake, he’ll spit in his hand, then hold it out to you.
There is also an aviary, filled with beautiful birds. Cockatoos and parrots, along with some others. It’s easy to imagine that these were captured or rescued from the nearby forest, but surprisingly, that isnt the case. As it turns out, the lodge imports the birds from Colorado. Imagine my surprise to think that I traveled a thousand miles to find birds that were raised, basically, in my own back yard.
In any case, we did get to see Caroline’s studio, and her work. It was a nice as I’d thought it would be. At length, we scrabbled back down the stairs to the boat and back up the other, glad that we’d come, but anxious to get back to the hotel and out of the Belizian July heat.