Belize: Days 5 & 6

The Guild Wars 2 open beta weekend starts tomorrow, so I figured I’d better get this done today. Expect a blog post in a few days talking about my experiences in the game.

Day 5

Day 5 in Belize marks our first full day in the jungle. We wake up early and meet our guide, Francisco, for ziplining and cave tubing. Both were located at the same place, a rather tourist-y park with plenty of ways to try to part you from your money.

The zipline didn’t last as long as I’d hoped. There are seven lines of varying lengths and heights. I thought for sure I would be terrified, considering my fear of heights. I was at first. The very first line, just after he snapped me onto the cable, it dawned on me that I was about to trust my life to a carabiner and two cables tied to trees. And then I was gone … and I had a blast!

It’s almost impossible to get a perspective on how high Joe is in that shot, but needless to say, it’s high. After running through the ziplines, Francisco took us on a short walk to the river put-in, where we would be cave tubing through a series of long, low caves. After the sweaty walk, the cool water felt great, but overall, I’d have to give cave tubing a “meh.” The water doesn’t move fast enough to make it exciting, and other than a tiny colony of bats and a bunch of minnows that kept nibbling at our feet, there isn’t really much to see or do.

After the tubing and lunch, it was back to the resort.

Day 6

Ah, this is it. The one event that makes people either say, “Are you crazy?” or “Wow, that sounds so cool.” We’re rappelling the 300′ deep Black Hole Drop. We wake up, pile into the van, and take the short drive to the lodge where we’ll meet our guides and pick up a few other tourists. After signing a liability waiver with bolded words like DEATH and GROSS NEGLIGENCE and NOT RESPONSIBLE, we piled into another bus that took us to the base of the sinkhole. The hike to the top of the sinkhole is an intense jungle trek almost straight up. I was very, very grateful for all the time I spent on the Stairmaster. If you want to know what the hike is like, spend 90 minutes on a Stairmaster in a steam room and make sure you skip every other step about half the time. All that conditioning really paid off, though, because we were able to keep up with the guides without any problems.

Besides us, there was the family of four that had been with us since we left Dangriga. They had two boys, 10 and 13. There was a man and his teenage son (he was 16 or 17), and another family of four with a boy and girl of around 7 and 9. Our turn came about in the middle, just before the family with the younger kids. It was interesting to watch everyone else go over. The older teenage boy was probably the most visibly terrified. The guides had the hardest time convincing him he had to lean back.

Then it was our turn. Now, I’d been rappelling once before, so I at least understood that you had to trust the equipment and you had to lean back. That much I got. I had trouble figuring out where to put my hands on the rope, though, so I struggled at first, since the rope is also kind of heavy. Once I had that squared away, I was over the edge.

See all those ropes and knots and stuff? It’s all very safe. We were probably safer leaning over the edge of that cliff than we were on the drive over. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous, because I was, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I still had a death grip on the rope, though. That’s why I was glad to hand my camera over to the guide. No way was I going to be able to take even one hand off the rope long enough to take a picture.

The way this system worked, guides on the top and bottom held onto the safety rope. If anything happened, like you started to descend too quickly (hard with the number of brakes we had) they could stop you instantly. They also said you could call up to them, and they could stop if you wanted to look around. Joe did so. Which, admittedly, did make me nervous hanging in the air like that. When we can figure out where the SD card is with the pictures on it, I’ll upload it to my Photobucket account.

At the bottom we had lunch, the guides told us a little about the Maya who used the caves at the bottom of the sinkhole for their ceremonies, and then it was time to return. Returning meant climbing a 30′ aluminum house ladder. It was anchored to the wall, though, and they hook your harness up to a safety rope, so it’s not particularly dangerous. What was actually the most dangerous part of the whole thing was that final bit of climb to the resting spot, because it had started to rain, and the rain had made the rocks and roots slippery. I was almost done when it started to get slippery, so I only had a taste, but Joe, who was several minutes behind, said it was probably the scariest part of the whole trip.

And then it was hiking down. The rain made the trek slow going to keep from falling.

Thus ended day 6.

Next week: the ATM cave, the Belize zoo, and finally, home.

Additional pictures here.

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