The day starts with a flight into Belize City municipal airport and a 45 minute drive on the Hummingbird Highway to our destination at Caves Branch Headquarters for cave tubing. The final destination of the day will find us in the Belize city of San Ignacio. A full day of adventure is in the works!
The cave tubing escapade starts off with a fresh coconut filled with the best Belizean Rum. We then embark on an inspiring 40 minute hike through the jungle. During our hike, our guide – a beautiful, funny and knowledgeable little gal - tells us of plants in the jungle that the ancient Mayans used for medicinal purposes. The guide and my friend, Jerry, even tasted the termites we found in a huge nest among the trees. I was tasked with taking pictures of the event; politely declining tasting the spearmint flavored creatures.
We were soon to be experiencing the most spectacular cave tubing float...over 2 hours and 5 miles of rivers disappearing into the underworld as you float on inner tubes with only a headlamp to light the way during many segments of the journey. Xibalba is the name for the underworld in Maya mythology. It is described in the "Book of Counsel" or "Popol Vuh"; a court below the surface of the earth associated with death.... and these caves were the entrance to this world. Floating past side windows that filter the jungle light as you swirl around stalagmites jutting from the river and stalactites and bats looming from above. Our guide kindly suggested we keep our mouths closed as we looked up, to prevent any bat droppings as an unexpected appetizer. We promptly obliged the suggestion. We float past underground waterfalls and glyphics carved into rocks, then into the crystal cathedral, a spiritual center to the ancient Maya.
Along the way, we jumped off cliffs into the cool pools of water and encountered fish who eat the dead skin off your feet. These are fresh water fish known as kangal fish. It tickled and I loved it – almost as well as a pedicure.
It was a spectacular afternoon of adventure and we felt we could have spent many more hours exploring. Our driver was very patient with our leisurely and peaceful indulgence at the complex.
Royal Spaces and Places
Our expedition continues west along the Hummingbird Highway to the twin cities of San Ignacio and Santa Elena town. These two towns make up the twin cities of Belize and are separated by the Macaw River with the Hawthorn Bridge as your right of passage along the Western Highway. Our driver gives us a tour of the towns pointing out Spanish Lookout, outdoor markets, city center and the diverse walking and biking areas. It is a beautiful and bustling community with picturesque jungle and mountain views in all directions.
We soon arrive at the historic San Ignacio Hotel where we will be spending the night. The accommodations are first class and the views from our private balcony are remarkable. The premises was being remodeled at the time of our visit so they only had one room available with an outdoor balcony. Rumor has it that this room experienced a visit by the Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth. I tease that this now makes me an official heir of Royalty ... I have been labeled a princess by many friends and rightly so! Our awe of the incredible space quickly turned to disappointment when we found the water in the suite to be spewing out a muddy brown liquid. There had been a water line break earlier in the day which caused this calamity. The staff was very accommodating in remedying the problem while we took a stroll to the neighboring casino and later enjoyed a superb meal in the hotel restaurant.
Our day of departure was soon upon us and we were sad to leave this wonderful part of Belize. I secretly wished we had scheduled more time in the region. One bright spot in our journey back to Ambergris Caye was our scheduled stop at the Belize Zoo before catching our flight back to the Island. This trip encompassed many magical moments, sights and events that I'm so thankful to have experienced during my time in Belize.