Monday morning we go thru our hotel to get a trip snorkeling to Hol Chan/ Shark Ray. Now I’m not going to mention the name of the group because I don’t think that it’s right to bash a group that was just doing their job the way they saw fit. After we were done, I tried to stay positive and said that it was fun, because to a certain degree it was. Plus it was my first snork there and I had nothing to compare it too. So that afternoon we decide to see the town in daylight and plan the next few days. By total coincidence, we stumble upon the group we were told to go to. That group was Tuff-Enuff tours. We planned of going cave tubing the next day and fishing for Wednesday. Happy about that we had the night to kill. Back to Fido’s to meet up with IslandGirl and have some dinner. She turns out to be another in the string of nice people we’d meet. Sadly, Barefoot Skinny was in the States and somebody else was playing in between bad jokes on joke night. Pretty light day.
Tuesday. The cave tubing day. We have to be at the dock by 7AM to head to the mainland. And what I like about our guide group is that they’re all locals whose families have been there for generations. So they know all the local history and love to tell you what goes on in town. The have the ins and outs of what life for a local is really like, having lived it themselves. Plus they’re down to earth and dang funny. As we passed boats, Rico would tell us the cargo and the backbreaking work it is for each one. Plus he’d say hi to each one, as he invariably knew someone on each. Into the river in Belize we go. Winding our way thru a tight knit maze of lobster and fishing boats and ducking under hand-turn bridges until we dock at a supermarket. It’s here where we disembark to hop into a van that would carry us on the land portion of the journey. It’s hot and the air conditioner is only reaching the first 2 rows. Fortunately for me, I’m in the second row and just getting the tail end of the moderate coolness. Rico’s little brother is driving the van on what’s called the nicest road in Belize. It may be called that just because it’s paved. Who knows for sure? Again we pass many sites that without a local as your guide would have been lost as just another dirt road or range of mountains. Eventually we turn off the pavement and it’s time for dirt road back streets. We pass many farms and children playing in the puddles trying to extract any coolness from them that they can. Pigs cross the road ahead of us where they have license to roam as they please and we quickly find ourselves entering the jungle. A thought passes thru my mind as we make our way down the single lane, hole filled dirt road. “Wonder what happens if you actually encounter a car coming the other direction?” Remember this for later. We keep on until we reach a gravel-covered hill that takes all the uumph the exhausted motor can muster to get over. Just passed this is a resort that quite literally is in the middle of the jungle. How anyone has ever heard of this place and arranged to stay here is beyond me. But I’d like to know. It’s a remarkable place. This is where we get off the van to begin our walk. With inner tubes in hand we begin the trek thru the dense jungle avoiding more holes to the mouth of the cave we’d be tubing thru. One in the party asks Rico, “What kinda snakes you got in these parts?” After a slight pause Rico replies, “Well, we don’t like to talk about snakes.” Good. Always a good sign in my book. Once there we don our headlamps reminiscent of miners lights and hop on our tubes (valves down everyone) and begin to float down the river and into a cave. A cave that the Mayans used to use for shelter from the rains. The only bad thing about that is that during hurricanes it is not uncommon for the water lever to rise to the bottoms of the stalagmites. Oops, hate to be in there the first time they discovered that one. We floated thru an amazing, bat filled cave that had some openings, which also shed some eerie light into the cavern. At the end we got out and trekked a short walk back to the resort for a lunch that Rico arranged for us to have. Another great meal, but this one was eaten outside under a covered shelter in the middle of the jungle. Never done that before. During the meal, Rico picked some red and green peppers and gave us each one. It was your choice to try Belize’s hottest peppers with your meal and man oh man do they pack a punch. WOW. Some poor sap a while back trying to prove his manhood to his friends ate a hand full of them. Apparently it doesn’t require brains to be a tourist. As we enjoyed our traditional meals Rico brought up the question of what kind of snakes are indigenous to the area. He said that he doesn’t like to bring that up before you go on the trip because people freak out if they think there’s a good chance they’ll be bitten. They have all 3 of Belize’s most poisions snakes there. But also there is an old man who’s made a life of getting up early just to go thru there, collect them, by hand mind you, and clear them out before the tourists come. Once the tourists arrive they make enough noise to keep any others away. Finishing lunch early we explore the resort and find the most amazing swimming pool decorated in Mayan style. And, who knew, I found an American lounging poolside. Scarred the crap out of her when I came thru. Obviously wasn’t expecting company in the remote jungle. Well, a short hike later and we’re back piling into the van. This time we keep the windows open to get a breeze. Much better. Next stop, the Belize zoo. Again, WOW. Here they took a small plot of land, put in some divider fences and netting around the natural jungle setting and put in some animals. The great thing about it is that 1. animals were in their totally natural setting, 2. only animals that were shot by hunters, taken by the government from people who were keeping them as illegal pets or were born in captivity were allowed in because they couldn’t survive in the wild and 3. only native animals were there. Finally a zoo where you don’t get a polar bear and a gorilla in neighboring cement enclosures. It’s definitely something to see, even if it isn’t that big of a zoo. Once the zoo safari was completed we load the van and we again have to get over that gravel hill. Well, remember what I had thought about earlier about 2 cars coming together on this small dirt road? A road where the grasses press either side of the road and are as high as the windows. Nor can you tell just how deep the mud is that the grass rises from? Well, sure enough in the middle of nowhere two moving objects met. The answer to my previous question was that one has to back up till there is a spot where it’s wide enough for 2 to pass. Well, guess what buddy, that isn’t gonna be us. After we passed and smiled at the other travelers we had no more obstructions on our way back to the boat. While crossing the channel, by pure chance Rico, Paul and myself all saw an Eagle Ray jump. That was amazing. Rico said that his grandfather once told him that when you see the Eagle Rays jump that a northern wind is coming. Sure enough, not 5 minutes later a strong northerly wind hit us. Very cool. Once back on the island it was time to go, where else but Fido’s. It was here that while sitting at the bar a girl walks up, sits down and has the kind of story I love to hear. Having been a life long Jimmy Buffett fan and sucker for a good island story, I was fascinated by hers. Her name was Lori and she grew up in her father’s pharmacy and knew early on that she wanted to help people. Having completed college majoring in Spanish, and all the while volunteering at free clinics, she joined a group that provides medical assistance to impoverished, underdeveloped nations. On her last trip she was in Guatemala and having 3 days to kill before heading home she went to AC. Well, when she was telling me her story, she had already been there for 3 weeks and was on stand by for a flight out of town on the upcoming Saturday. A flight she’d eventually be bumped from and slated for the following Tuesday. She was taken in by the locals told that she would eventually give up and stay. However, she plans on beginning medical school so she can go back down south and really provide medical care for the less fortunate. But that’s a chapter yet to be written.