Insects whirled in the warm glow of the light outside the palapa or palm leaf hut set high on the steep banks of the gleaming white-water river.

As the moon rose over the rugged Maya Mountains and the chill sharpened under the stars, I sat still with my unusually quietened children in the late night, breathing deeply and listening to the soothing hum of the silhouetted pine forest reserve, above the gush of the famous five sister falls that gave the setting its name.

Out of the soft shadows and the dense rows of tropical planting, a solitary, silvery grey fox, the size of a small, sleek dog, slipped out silently and stood staring at us for some time, unafraid, its eyes bright and its bushy tail curving confidently above the wet grass.

The magic of that unexpected encounter, before the elegant creature turned and glided off into the gloom, on a misty massif marked by valleys, sinkholes and caves, many millions of years old, has stayed as a sublime memory to be summoned when needed. At the foothills, a great civilization would launch with a settlement 3200 years ago, then flourish and gradually decline, with the most magnificent regional centre of Caracol abandoned, to be covered by thick forests, its peoples forever leaving their name on the range, even as cheerful descendants now cut through the undergrowth and explore the underworld.    ….

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