Deep within the jungles of Belize, there is a most unusual place. Whether one would refer to it as an “adventure lodge”, horse stable, a resort or a zoo is all a matter of focus, I guess. But when we arrived and could only access it via boat-on-a-rope, we knew we were in for a treat.
We came upon Banana Bank Lodge as a near afterthought. Staying at the nearby Caves Branch Adventure Lodge, we were offered daily activities as part of our accommodations, and horseback riding was given a casual, “cookie-cutter” description that left us imagining a lazy, laid-back trail ride.
Instead, we were greeted by John Carr — a man who imported himself to Belize from Montana decades ago following his “dream of being a cowboy”. Tall in stature, sauntering around in a peach colored shirt and a white, ten-gallon hat, John introduced himself by first and last name, even when he answered his cell phone. What made him even more enduring, outside of the pride just pouring from him around his lodge, was that he was affectionately followed by a tiny, scraggly dog wherever he went; it even darted its way in and out of the legs of the herds of horses to keep up.
We embarked on our trail ride after spending time with a group of baby horses. Our horses wove in and out of tea trees, wild jungle — up and down steep, muddy, slippery hills, sliding much of the way. We galloped through orange groves, squealing the whole time believing we might go flying at any moment. The ride itself was an absolute blast.
We then returned to the main grounds, where we were given a tour of the property’s animal sanctuary. Housed here are all sorts of animals: birds, monkeys and even a jaguar, who have been injured or abandoned as babies by their parents. There’s a toucan on the property who was born with an overbite, rendering him unable to break fruit open on his own and eat. You can see in the picture that the top and bottom of his beak don’t meet.
By the time all these things were accomplished on what was the typical melting-hot day, we believed our adventure to be over and were very ready to eat. Lunch was planned for the restaurant on the property, and we gathered around at the table with friends we’d made to eat and chat about all we’ve seen.
That’s when our guide and his very tall horse appeared at the doorway. Then in the center of the restaurant, the rider needing to lay down backwards on the horse’s back to scale the doorframe. John Carr reappeared, and invited Blake to sit in the saddle there in the restaurant. Everyone believed that was photo-opportunity enough, people who didn’t even know us jumping to their feet to snap pictures. But then he invited me to ride along with. And next thing I know my new husband was standing behind me on the horse’s rump. I half thought he might be beheaded by a ceiling fan, but the horse was so still, so well behaved, that we were able to stay like this for at least a full minute. We can now return home and take up a circus side-show act. ;)
You’ll hear it again — the old joke “So a horse walks into a bar, and the bartender asks him, ‘Why the long face?’ “. I’ve now learned that there’s a place in the world where this actually happens. I highly recommend a visit to Banana Bank Lodge: you’ll walk away with more stories and experiences in a half-day of time than you’ve been able to tell all year.