I’M LUCKY. I have the best job in the world and it comes with offices scattered all over Belize. Best of all, you get to come along. One of my offices sits 140 feet in the sky at Ox Witz Ha (Place of Three Hills) and was built by some of the oldest construction workers in the world, the ancient Maya. I am on the top of Caana (Sky Palace) in the Maya city now known as Caracol.
My second office is underground and the commute is by water, in a canoe. It’s dark but we have lights. “We’ve just paddled into the Barton Creek Cave.” The community that goes by the same name nearby is home to conservative Mennonites. Without modern technology, they live and work in a different era.
Another day, another office. Yes, I am a mogul of sorts – offices everywhere! This time we are hiking down a forest trail when a spine tingling scream shatters the silence of the rainforest. Your first instinct is to run, but it’s only the noisy neighbor, Alouatta Pigra – the Black Howler Monkey. He’s a special breed, one of only six species in the world. A few years ago, we got so jealous seeing him go from tree to tree, we came up with our own creation: ziplining. Hilarious doesn’t begin to describe our pitiful attempts to out-howl the monkey as we breeze through the tree tops. It starts to rain…hey, the name ‘rainforest’ came from somewhere. You start to panic, not because you’re soaked but because you’re worried how all this water will affect our cave trip.
That’s because my biggest office is deep inside Actun Tunichil Muknal – Cave of the Stone Sepulcher – and it has the most impressive architecture.
I spend most of my time in the “Cathedral” in the heart of the mountain. The plates and pots are all cracked and the lady in the back doesn’t say much, but the walls talk – they tell of the sacrifices the Maya made to Cha’ac (Rain God); they remind us why Xibalba was a place of fear; they remind me that as a Belizean tour guide, my work is sacred…because this world of adventure and mystery will only survive as long as we respect it. Hearing the words “Welcome to Belize” is a sure sign that your adventure of a lifetime has begun. Step into my office.
© Joe Awe has been a Belize tour guide since 1998. He currently works at Chaa Creek and is the President of the Cayo Tour Guide Association. He has also served Belize Tourism Board’s Licensing committees for tour guides and tour operators. This article was featured in the Destination Belize Magazine 2012 edition.