Several years ago, my family and my brother’ s family were lucky enough to be in Belize. Julie, my sister-in-law, and I had planned a safe (that’s what the website said!) adventure for our two families. We would go cave tubing in the jungles of Belize … we saw photos of happy people gently floating down a river. In the clear, calm water, we saw families relaxing and enjoying the ambiance.
We arrived in Belize 5 days after a tropical storm. That should have been our first clue that things would not go as planned! But we were ready for an adventure. When would we ever get back to Belize? The tour must go on! Junior, our tour guide, was delightful. He drove us to a remote area of Belize and gave us wonderful insight into the people and the culture of Belize. We were charmed.
There were seven of us – my family – me, Mike, Rachel (9), Matthew (7) and my brother’s family – Walter, Julie, Allie (8). We were each outfitted with an inner tube and a head lamp. We walked a half a mile into the jungle. The roar of the river was getting loud. We reached the river bank and the moms (Julie and I) felt a slight panic. This was not what we had signed up for! In order to begin the excursion, we had to cross the raging river. In the brochure, we could see the pebbles on the bottom of the river as the families crossed the knee deep river. Here — our guide literally got swept down the river on his first attempt to cross it! He popped up a few hundred yards down the river and announced that he would escort the children across first! WHAT??
After some teamwork (human chains), we all made it across the river. We then walked beside the river while Junior told us all about the rainforest. Julie and I could not concentrate on our rainforest education, because we kept glancing at the raging river that we (and the kids!) were going to “float” down. Our mantra was “this would not be legal in the US!”
After a bit of a walk, we arrived at the opening of a cave – this was our getting in point. Junior assessed the situation and realized that it would be safer to float down in pairs (linking our tubes together with our feet). He paired himself with my daughter (whew, she was safe!). My husband paired up with my son (safe!). My brother paired up with his daughter (safe!). But that left Julie and I staring at each other … this immediately made us laugh. Who was the capable one??!
Inside the cave, we quickly learned that our headlamps were just for show. They emitted no light. Junior was such a good sport – kept yelling out to us and telling us which way to go. How come the dads had no troubling keeping up with Junior? Julie and I were a comedy of errors. We kept bumping into the cave walls and we were laughing and we were screaming at the same time.
Finally – daylight! Whew. We made it out of the caves and we were now being swept away by the current. The tropical storm had left fallen trees in the river, and Junior explained that we should go “through the chute” with the current so that we didn’t crash into the trees in the river. At one point, going through a chute, I felt a strong tug and realized that Julie had been sucked under – but her lower body was still in the tube. When her head emerged from the water, she had an interesting array of sticks and leaves in her hair.
One good thing about the strong current … we expected the tubing to last about 45 minutes — but this high speed adventure was over in 15 minutes! I have never been so happy to see “the finish line.” We climbed out of the water and began our walk back to the van. But the most delightful thing happened. In the middle of the jungle, the tour company had set up an open aired restaurant. It was like an oasis for us. We sat down to order lunch. Julie had other things on her mind — the very first thing she said was “dos cervezas, por favor” (and those were just for her!).
The funny thing is, we look back on this adventure as one of our favorite times. The kids and the dads were never scared – they thought it was a great adventure. Julie and I look back on it – and yes, it was an adventure, but it was also so darn funny. It’s too bad that we were too distracted to take any pictures for the cave tubing website!