Adventures in Belize: Day Six – Hitting the Road, Avoiding the Trees
After the world’s worst sleep, we dragged ourselves out of bed for a day that promised much adventure. We were to be picked up by family and taken to a national park to go…ziplining! When J and I first decided to to go Belize, this was the thing I insisted upon doing. I’d seen photos of friends flying through the jungles and it looked beyond fun. So, I mentioned this to my mother-in-law who set the whole thing up for us!
J’s cousin (once removed? Twice? I can’t keep track) swung by our place around 10am with her youngest daughter and friend in tow. J, my father-in-law who decided to come along with us, and I hopped into her car: J’s dad in front with his niece, J & I climbed in the back with the daughter, and the friend…well, it’s a good thing she’s teeny as she ended up sitting the hatchback’s “trunk” on top of the cooler. We hit the open road, excited to be swinging through the trees! It didn’t hurt that, about half an hour into the journey there, the question, “Eh…anyone wanna beer?” arose. I only know one answer to that question and happily ignored the fact that it was 10:30 in the morning. This was living, my friends.
We arrived at the park to find that there was some ridiculous per-person fee just to enter the park, nevermind the fact that only two of us would be partaking in any activities therein. But one of the great lessons I learned while in Belize is never to underestimate the women there. J’s cousin simply ignored the man attempting to collect the money entirely, drove in and parked. I stayed in the car while J and his dad negotiated the price for ziplining (another lesson I learned: white girl hides in the car so the Belizians can work their bargaining magic). Price assured, J and I were off to fly among the Belizian tree tops!
Our very kind, patient guides strapped us in and assured us that the safety system was equipped to handle up to 700lbs. With one final tug on the carabiners, we started our climb, joined by four others. Hearts pounding, we listened carefully to the fairly simple instructions: left hand on the rope in front of you, right hand on the line above and BEHIND you. (Importantly, you do NOT want to put your right hand above in front as it will result in immediate hand-choppage. That lesson has been imprinted on my brain forever and ever.) If and when you want to slow down, just pull on the rope with your right hand. Don’t worry, they said, we’ll let you know when to start slowing down and we’ll let you know how each of the seven runs will go. And with that? We hooked on to the first zip and off we went!
First run done and LOVED it. Couldn’t wait to do the next ones! Clearly, the first wasn’t meant to be too intimidating so that folks could get used to the feeling – and the idea – of ziplining. But then we were off to the next rounds and THEY were wicked. High up among the lush, green tree tops of the jungle, soaring above the ground…oh yeah, I could’ve done that all day.
High on endorphins (no, really: just endorphins. It was only one beer.), we finished up the last run and walked back to the family who were happily spending time eating and catching up. “How’d it go?” J’s dad asked. “OHMIGOD! THATWASSOSOFUN!ICAN’TWAITTODOITAGAIN!WHATABLAST!” was my calm, measured response. “Okay, okay. Since that was so much fun, did you want to do the cave tubing? I mean, we’re here and when else would you get to do this?” An excellent point, we decided. Price negotiated again, J and I took off with our own personal cave tubing guide – no giant groups of people with whom we’d be competing for space, just the three of us trekking through the jungle with inflatable tube rafts on our backs.
It took us about 20 minutes to arrive at the beginning of the cave, wading through cold, clear streams; hiking up tree-lined hills; asking our guide questions about himself and Belize while simultaneously raving about how much we were loving it. Upon reaching the desired spot, we slipped on the miner’s lights over our heads, tossed our tubes in the water and jumped in after them (which felt AMAZING, as it was the typical 30 degrees plus that day). We had the choice of (hand) paddling ourselves through the cave system or linking ourselves together and getting dragged along by the guide. Uh, no thanks: we can paddle ourselves.
Off we went into the cave system, marveling at what nature, when left alone, can do. It was absolutely beautiful, like nothing I’d ever seen. Smooth cave walls were punctuated by upside down pillars, jutting out in random formations. We “oohed” and “aahed”, listening for our guide’s helpful instructions to, “lift your butt up….NOW!” so we didn’t scrape ourselves in the shallower parts. Then we hit the sinkhole and I greatly regretted not having any film left in the underwater camera. The shafts of light pouring into the cave illuminated a beautiful waterfall and the juxtaposition of the lush greenery and blue sky with the stark brown and orange walls was breathtaking. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Once the cave system finished, we careened down the river, avoiding felled trees and giggling at the others who were all unnaturally linked together. (We’re mean, what can I tell you?) We eventually returned to the bank at which we’d started and found our family there, having a wonderful time playing at the riverside. J and I ran back to return our tubes and grab some lunch at the surprisingly delicious buffet. Fried and stewed chicken, fresh johnny cakes, coleslaw…all inhaled at record pace. All that adventuring had clearly worked up an appetite!
Back into the car we piled. J & I passed out fairly quickly to the sounds of a debate as to whether or not we should take the bus part way home or not. Happily, that argument seemed to have been quashed by J’s cousin who was more than willing to take us back to the house. A good thing, too, as we were going out with her older daughter later that night and we barely had the energy to stand up, let alone navigate the Belizian transit system. Additionally, a hotel room had been arranged for that night by family members who took pity on us, so we could get some precious, precious sleeeeeeeeeeeep. We quickly packed up our stuff and J’s cousin drove us to the hotel. Three cheers for Anna!
We unpacked, napped, had a quick shower then it was back out the door with J’s awesome cousin, S. She took us for shockingly good Chinese food at a restaurant half a block from where my in-laws were staying. I must tell you, it was really, really, really good and the portions were massive. We couldn’t even come close to finishing our meals, so we packed them up and headed to a bar by the river. We sat outside, drank Belikins at a picnic table and laughed our heads off well into the night. Exhausted, we all crashed at the hotel and lemme tell ya, it was just about the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had.