All the following is I wrote then:
Day Four, November 18, 2009: Belize City, Honduras
Up and at ‘em early this morning.
This is finally the zipline day I’ve been thinking about since my kidney cancer surgery 3 years ago. Since then, I figure I have “extra years” and I wanted to do something kinda scary, yet fun. So, somehow, I decided on ziplining. Tom wouldn’t go with me but Michael would so I set this up almost as soon as we booked this cruise.
Our tour left first so after breakfast, Michael and I got on the tender for Belize. Tom’s tender was about 45 minutes later. Even though the tender went zipping along, it was about 20 minutes to shore.
We got on our bus with about 30 other brave and not-so-brave folks and our guide, Eddie, told us a bit about Belize City, Belize in general and what to expect on our tour.
Belize City used to be the capital of British Honduras (as Belize was formerly named) but it’s 2 feet below sea level and prone to hurricanes so the capital was moved to the other city – Belmopan in 1970. It was almost entirely destroyed in 1961 when Hurricane Hattie swept ashore on October 31.
Because of the altitude, graves are all above ground.
The main languages are English (the official language), Spanish and Kriol. Eddie said the kids learned English in school but, as soon as they were out, it was back to the Kriol. They wear uniforms to school.
Bordering on Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean, Belize is the second smallest country in Central America (after El Salvador), with an area of approximately 9,000 square miles that includes numerous small islands off the coast known as cayes.
More than half of the mainland is covered with dense forests, and at its longest point Belize is 174 miles long while its greatest width is 68 miles. Long a strong advocate of environmental protection, the government has set aside approximately 20% of its land as nature reserves.
There are also several important Mayan sites situated on the mainland such as Altun Ha and Xunantunich that make for excellent day trips and are included on shore excursions by most cruise ships. As a matter of fact, Belize has the highest concentration of Mayan sites of all the countries in Central America.
Eddie tried to tell us that our tour would be scary – but FUN, it would be hard – but FUN. He himself had done the zipline only once, because he had to for this job. He said that the caves might have things brushing up against us but they would be leaves and twigs. The caves might have “log-gators” in them, too.
We travelled along the 37-mile drive along the Western Highway – the scenery changed from city to suburbs, to a settlement called Hattieville where hurricane survivors met to life after the country was destroyed, to the beginnings of the rain forest.
We turned down a road to a jaguar preserve – yes, they have them here! then, finally, to our destination, Caves Branch National Park.
Eddie handed out water (which we had to leave on the bus). A bathroom break, then off to the zipline area.
Each person had a harness around their legs with attached pulleys and carabiners. Women had them on their chests as well. In addition, we had leather construction gloves and hard hats.
We climbed to the top of the first platform and were given brief instructions and off we went. Because of the heavy gloves, I couldn’t get any pictures. I had thought that they would take some of us on the hardest line to sell to us later but they didn’t. They also didn’t have cave pictures or T-Shirts. What a missed opportunity!
This was so cool, so much fun. I thought I might be afraid at first but I wasn’t. I just followed instructions and went.
Sometimes they told us to break. We did that with the right hand, which was always on the upper cable.
After the second line, I must have braked too soon because I stopped before I got to the platform. Michael was headed toward me. The guide on the end of the platform wanted me to do some hand over hand maneuver but I couldn’t figure out what he was saying so he came and got me by wrapping his legs around me and pulling me to the platform.
After that, no more problems with braking!
The next platform was very high – over 70 feet in the air – and the climb up was difficult. It was very hot and the rocks were very uneven. I don’t know that I would have gotten to the next platform if Michael hadn’t cheered me on all the way.
We zipped down the next six lines up to 250-feet between platforms and 85-feet high in the trees, at canopy level. It seemed like it was all over too soon.
But, I did it! No fear, just fun.
Here we are, after getting our gear off. The people behind Michael are just starting out on their zipline adventure. I thought maybe we could go again…?
Next stop was lunch in the trees. It was a buffet similar to those in Barbados – a jerk chicken (Eddie had said it would taste like chicken – might be egret, road kill, log-gator or even…chicken!), peas and rice, a pasta salad, cake, fruit salad, the usual fare.
If you’re interested in reading the cave tubing part, it’s here: http://www.cushingsonline.com/cruise/cruise2009.htm