After our morning of zip-lining and repelling, we welcomed a quick Belizean lunch consisting of chicken, rice and beans, with fresh, juicy pineapple for dessert.
Now it was time for the six young women and I, to try cave-tubing in the underground caves of the meandering Caves Branch River. In a weird way, I looked forward to overcoming my fear of claustrophobia, and what better place than in the underground caves where the Mayans had once lived and worshipped. Considering this happened to be one of the most popular tours in Belize, I refused to back out.
The young women and I changed into our bikinis, and carried our inner-tubes through the jungle. “How many of you thought you’d be hiking in the jungle in a bikini, with an inner tube and flip flops? I asked. “What a fashion statement,” one of the girls said. A section had been landscaped for the tourists, with paths and labeled trees, such as the poisonwood tree. “You better stay away from that one,” I told the girls, remembering how my son, Austin, had suffered for five weeks after touching a poisonwood tree when we first moved to our hut in Belize. We reached a small area of rocks perched above the Caves Branch River. “For those of you who don’t want to wait, you can jump off this rock,” Sylvan, our guide said. “Others can take the path to the right and wait in line.”
“Are you sure it’s deep enough?” I asked Sylvan
“Yes.” So I jumped in.
The water was refreshingly cold by Belizean standards, around 70 F. I settled my butt inside the tube and waited for the other six women to join me. They all took the speedy route, jumping in one after the other.
“Who wants rum punch?” Sylvan asked. I vigorously flapped my arms backwards to reach him. I figured better to numb my claustrophobic fear with a cocktail than be overly anxious for the next hour and a half.
“That’s one strong punch,” I told Sylvan.
“I made it myself. It makes the ride more fun,” he said. It certainly helped for the moment, however I couldn’t figure out how to hold my drink, flap my arms and move forwards into the dark caves, since the river current didn’t seem to be cooperating. “Bingo! Just in the nick of time surprise number two. Marco, another young Belizean guy, showed up. “Why don’t you put your feet under Tracy’s tube and we’ll form a chain,” he said. “I can pull both of you along.” Now I’d been upgraded to first class, rum punch in one hand, gliding effortlessly inside dark caves with a miner’s lamp attached to my forehead.
We weren’t alone in these sixty- foot wide caves. Several cruise ship passengers were ahead of us. The inside of these vast caves was illuminated by flickering miners’ lamps. Poor Marco did all the work while Tracy and I looked around the caves’ ceilings looking for bats. Marco pointed out some beautiful stalactite crystal formations with an extra strong flashlight.
“Butts up,” Marco shouted, breaking my relaxed trance.
“We’re reaching a very shallow spot only four inches of water, and your rear end gets a rocky ride if you don’t lift it as high as you can.”
We slid along to the impossible spot forcing us to get out of the tube and walk over some painful rocks. Fortunately, Sylvan showed up for a rum punch re-fill, just in time.
I preferred zip-lining to cave-tubing. I had hoped to see some Mayan artifacts and with chilled bones inside dark caverns, I couldn’t wait to get out and warm up. Walking on slippery wet rocks was no easy task, but this was our only option to get out of the river and change into our dry clothes.
The old, yellow school bus, our transportation back to the boat, waited for us with reggae music blaring; just what I needed for the ride home. Rum punch and beers flowed, and everyone seemed content and exhausted. Sylvan stopped at a local store to get some ice for our drinks, and then we headed back to the boat.
“It’s going to be a long boat ride home, especially as the winds are picking up, and rain clouds are forming,” Sylvan said. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten my jacket. Now I only had my wet beach towel for protection. Belizean rainstorms were aggressive, especially when sitting in a moving boat. They attacked you with piercing pellets resembling mini ice picks injuring your skin. I had two choices, either to laugh or to cry. I decided to laugh; it helped ease the pain.
Above photo credit Satanoid.
Do you have a “My Gutsy Story”?