The minty-fresh taste of a termite and the woody tones of a water vine are sure to set any stranded traveler’s heart aflutter. Luckily, when your food pack is empty and your canteen is dry, the rainforest has all this to offer and more. Follow these helpful hints to survive and stay alive in the Belizean rainforest.
Getting the Grub
The taste of fresh mint not only settles your stomach, but it also clears congestion and carries a number of other health benefits. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to obtain when it’s crawling around a tree. Minty-tasting termites are one of the main delicacies in the rainforest. Sure, for a meal you’d have to eat enough to have them practically crawling out your ears, but for a light snack or some much-needed sustenance, the little black bugs are the way to go.
Here’s how to do it:
Find the biggest, ugliest nest you see. (This isn’t REALLY necessary – any nest will do – but it kind of adds to the experience, don’t you think?) You’ll know a nest because it looks like a massive tumor on the bark of a tree, and it’s swarmed with tiny bugs. Now, choose your weapon. If you have a knife, slash that baby open. If you are otherwise unarmed, find a pleasing rock or stick, and bash it into the nest. For a full termite meal, give it a good whack and you’ll see the bugs come crawling out in droves. A teensy termite snack doesn’t require any smashing at all, but for both options, get your hands in there. You’ll need to hold your finger up to the most appetizing colony and let them crawl onto your hand. And here’s the best part. Don’t be squeamish. Grab the bugs between your front teeth and snack away. It’s kind of like eating salmon roe. If you get it in the right spot, there’s a very satisfying pop. The taste of fresh mint will tickle your taste buds, and the protein will keep you alive. After all, as my Belizean guide told me, rainforest termites are the healthiest bug that wants to be eaten.
For those hesitant to satiate themselves with insects, the Cohune Palm tree provides an ample supply of fruit free for the taking. The trees are tall, so if you’re exceptionally nimble, climb on up and harvest your bounty. Otherwise, just pick up some that fell to the ground. The fruit looks like miniature coconuts, and are affectionately nicknamed “coco nuts” – go figure. Take it and place it in a hole or dip on top of a rock, grab a smaller stone, and unleash all your fury into that little fruit. The shell will crack and you can scoop out the meaty inside to eat or suck on it for extra liquid. Just be sure you’re into earthy flavors. The fruit tastes wildly reminiscent of pine cones and clay.
Quenching Your Thirst
Yes, it’s the rainforest, one of the wettest environments on the planet. And yes, it’s Belize, a country with a rainy season and a hurricane season. But no, that does not mean it’s particularly easy to get a tasty beverage while you’re stranded in the jungle. Sure, you can stand in the middle of the forest with your mouth open, waiting for the rain to pour in, along with all the other bugs and bacteria you weren’t expecting. Or you could use nature’s resources.
Belize offers three species of water vines for the parched traveler. Look around for a tube-like hanging vine that appears to be a loose root. If you still have the knife you used to mangle the termite’s nest, pull it out. You’ll need to cut the end of the vine off, and cut the vine down. Hold it up, open wide and partake in the water of the gods. A particularly sharp rock can also be used to cut the vine off, but the bark can be difficult to chop through.
Those that left their weapons at home should look for a healthy coconut, set it down and bust that puppy open, similar to the process for the Cohune fruit. Try to make just a deep hole in the coconut – you don’t want the milk to drain out before you’ve had a chance to sample it.
Three words: army ant swarm. For your own safety, do everything in your power to avoid army ants. If their train is broken, the ants will latch on to the scent of whatever got in the way, swarm it and destroy it. Another helpful hint – stay away from mushrooms. This may just be a devious guide trying to scare the tourists, but rumors abound of a certain poisonous mushroom that will eat away at your skin the instant it’s touched. Put that on the list of flesh-eating fungi to avoid, and stick to coconuts and bananas.
So maybe the rainforest is lacking freshly picked mint from your garden or your favorite Pinot Grigio. But with this knowledge at hand and a little creativity finding shelter, you’re sure to be the fittest of all the survivors.