Belize Survivor, part 67

Other than a few framed prints on the wall of the living room, the red and blue woven Guatemalan hammock was still the only spark of color in the otherwise austere surroundings. In the bedroom, the double mattress from the van lay frameless on the hardwood floor and sturdy cardboard boxes disguised with bright orange and yellow tie-died scarves served as makeshift night stands on either side. Jordan’s baby hammock occupied one corner, its ropes securing it to the rafters. Space in the vehicle had been extremely limited. Max had brought hand tools, electric tools, farm tools, hardware, an old guitar, his congas, a generator, and a small welder. Alexis had brought personal items,
cooking utensils, small handicraft tools, silver wire and bead supplies, her flute, sewing stuff, baby things, linens, and clothing. Furniture had been a foregone luxury.

Standing on the front veranda, Alexis looked at the spectacular river below. The water was not only clean and refreshing; this portion of the Macal was also free from dangerous reptiles that gringos so often worried about – and not without good reason. She and Max went swimming at least twice a day and little Jordan delighted in playing along the edge. But, more than recreational, the river was also a prerequisite to Belizean life in the dry season. The rains had stopped and the weather was getting hotter. Max had bought and mounted a water tank on the side of the house which managed to catch the last few rains off the roof, but soon the meager supply would be gone. Once that happened, any water needed at the house would have to be carried by hand. There was only one answer: Max needed to go find, and purchase, a water pump. And there were none to be had in Belize. No one sold them, anywhere.

"I should only need to be in Guatemala for two, maybe three days,” said Max. “Just long enough to find the right mechanism for this type of application. A submersible jet pump would be great if we didn't have to worry about the floods taking it away. But I think a centrifugal pump would be the best choice for this application; the head is less than eighty feet. ‘Head’ is the appropriate term for the amount of lift you’re trying to achieve."

"Ah geez, I was going to make a joke…” Alexis teased, but his stern expression took away her mood. “Sorry. I was just trying to be funny. You're so serious all the time; you never laugh any more."

"This is serious,” Max emphasized. “We need to get the pump so we can fill the tank from the river. The dry season's here. Do you want to keep washing diapers and doing laundry all the way down there? Water weighs eight pounds per gallon. Do you want to be carrying forty pound buckets uphill?"

"No. I don’t. You’re right,” Alexis admitted. It was a sobering thought. She couldn’t leave Jordan at the house alone, and if she took him to the river with her, he would get tired and cranky before she could finish the washing. Besides, then she’d have to carry both the baby and the wet laundry up the hill. “Are you sure you have to go to Guatemala?"

"Mrs. Whitmore said the only place to get one is over the border.” Max raised his hands in agitation. “It’s obvious that Belize doesn’t have much in the way of technology."

"How do you know if you can get through to Flores? Do we know for sure if the road’s been cleared from the earthquake?"

"The real damage was in the mountains west of Flores, closer to Guatemala City. Besides, and that was three weeks ago. We can't afford to wait any longer. You're not worried about staying here alone are you?"

"No,” Alexis lied. An hour later, Max was packed and on his way.

Now that the mud was beginning to dry up, Max had found that getting the truck in and out of Michael's property was achievable, but it was still far from easy. When first viewing the property, he and Alexis had both discovered that what was accessible by river was not, necessarily, accessible by road. The single dirt track heading south from the Whitmore properties through Cristo Rey village to the twin towns of Santa Elena and San Ignacio was a twisted snaking path, and what was six miles by river was ten miles by road – if it could be called a road at all. Barb wire fences separated the diminutive thatched huts and modest banana plantations from the jungle road whose long stretches of red clay, steeply pitched inclines of sticky white marl, bare limestone, abrupt curves, hairpin turns, and bold bony cobbles, threatened the oil pan of any vehicle, high clearance notwithstanding.

The next day was Saturday, and with Max gone, Alexis prepared to go to market in Cayo if she could catch Matthew’s dory. As soon as she heard the sound of the outboard motor upstream, she put Jordan into his baby backpack and dashed down to the riverbank as fast as she could. There were no phones, no two-way radios. If Alexis was not present at the riverside, she would miss the boat.