There we were, on the raised wooden terrace of our Birdhouse, in an eco-oasis retreat tucked on the outskirts of a Maya village called Ek Balam (Black Jaguar), in the Yucatecan jungle of Mexico, watching tropical birds at eye level.
Perched on a nearby tree branch -- in our sight line -- was a brilliantly adorned bird of orange feathers. But what was it?
Awestruck, we snapped myriads of photos, the bird obligingly co-operative, while we settled into our ‘treehouse’. We had already hauled up our backpacks by climbing the spiral staircase of handcrafted metal leaf-shaped steps to our treetop hideaway.
Once there, we collapsed into two wicker rocking chairs on our lofty porch, surveying the world from above. At once, we felt superior and smug.
Our ‘room among the trees’ was rustic, protected by a net-covered thatched roof. Screened windows and a ceiling fan ensured we would sleep soundly on a hanging, swinging queen size bed encased with mosquito netting. Or would we? How could I navigate a mid-night visit to the outside bathroom?
We could have slept ‘upstairs’ in the nesting loft but that meant climbing higher via a ladder. And we are lazy.
Indeed, so used to city life -- aka noisy cars, honking horns, blaring sirens -- we wondered whether we could fall asleep in the jungle with its myriad of natural but strange night sounds.
Our ensuite bathroom was a lesson in ecological creativity: a solar heated outdoor shower with electric backup. Even more visionary is the dehydrating compost toilet. You have to use it, er, see it (in accompanying photo) to understand how it functions by transforming organic waste into dark, fertile, odourless, dry soil. Think sawdust in a basket within reach.
Genesis Eco-Oasis is the brainchild of Canadian owner Lee Christie. She offers a back-to-nature living experience that eliminates all stress of modern life. You hear only cicadas and owls as the night curtain falls across the sky.
What this woman has accomplished through her vision of paradise boggles my mind. While I’m worrying about our cellphone connection with the outside world --- really?! --- she worries about whether she should gather more eggs from her Maya neighbours for breakfast. There are no deadlines. No high-pitched highway driving. No noise pollution. No …well, you get the idea. Her eco-oasis brings you back to earth, to Nature, to childhood innocence.
Her kitchen is run by a Maya chef who uses organic vegetables from Lee’s farm.
Once upon a time a journalist/publisher in Calgary, Alberta, Owner Lee left the rat race to create a natural jungle hideaway; it mocks the frenetic activity of modern life. We first met about 20 years ago when Genesis Eco-Oasis was in its infancy.
Driven by her eco-philosophy, she travels the countryside for deteriorating wooden Mayan pieces and similar cast-offs. These she lovingly and creatively transforms into useful works of art: a table top perhaps. Or window shutters. Maybe a room partition.
Her hidden retreat is located only 300 metres from the world-class archeological site of Ek Balam. And her Maya village neighbours are teachers for her guests: how to make corn tortillas by hand or weave colourful hammocks or go bird watching at dawn with a local expert.
Although we identified many tropical birds on our trekking trips in the area, we never did find another of those brightly-coloured orange birds we encountered near our treetop room.
“Oh,” she admits with a sheepish grin when we ask, “we deliberately carved that one and put him in the tree for fun.”
But the monkey is the real thing. “She fell in love with her reflection after seeing herself in your (exterior) vanity mirror.” Each morning She-Monkey would sit in front of -- and chatter -- to her newfound friend in the mirror.
But when she reached out to touch that beautiful face, there was no monkey-mate. Only flat glass. A puzzle she could never solve.
Just like us city-slickers with the hand-carved orange bird.