Amidst a rain forest we expect to find a lot of things, but it is rare to find a dilipidated sugar mill. I would think that was interesting enough, however, how the rain forest is taking back its land is a sight in itself, even if the sugar mill had not had an interesting story.
Except of course, it does! In the 1850s, the British Hyde, Hodge and company having high aspirations in commercial sugar production and sale in Honduras decided to construct a sugar mill at a site in Lamanai area, called the Indian Church (although the church in this region had been built by the Spanish invaders after razing a Maya temple). The principal workforce was brought from southern China to run the sugar mill and the take care of the cane plantation (modestly sized at 250 acres). Most of the sugar produced in the 1860s here was devoted to making rum, in fact the workers towards the end of the mill’s short years of function are believed to have been paid with and in rum, our guide said.
Inherently poor in design, with the engine separated by an impractical distance from its boiler and the crusher set far from the evaporation tank, the mill probably wouldn’t have lasted long anyway. Additionally, the cone gears with missing teeth indicate the worker’s had little knowledge of this kind of work, probably rice farmers originally! By the end of the first decade the mill was already headed spirally downwards. By 1880s the site was abandoned to the mercy of the rain forest. And it is working towards gladly taking back what was its own.
The site was beautiful, and would be easy to find once you are in Lamanai outpost, however do not dare go without bug spray the mosquitoes get you and I still have bite marks from December!