Belize! So much magic is stored in that tiny little country! The people are a mix of Hispanic, dark Caribbean type black people, and random Asian people who own every business. The first place we went to after converting our money and getting 100 Belizean dollars (we only planned to stay a week) was 1,000 Foot Waterfall. The waterfall was in our special 1,001 Places To See Before You Die book that got us interested in travelling so we were really excited to see it. On the drive up into one of their national forests we stopped at a little Mayan shaman medicine shop. The old female shaman talked our ear off about the 21st for a while and drew us a map of all the places we should go.
Upon arrive to the 1,000 Foot Waterfall we met an older couple that really liked our car and our attitude, we told them we only had 100 dollars to spend and the man gave us 20 so that we could get through the park without spending all our money.
Off to a great start! We paid four Belize dollars each and got geared up for the hike down to the giant waterfall –riding the high that only new adventure induces.
Turns out the big hike we were expecting was about 13 stairs down to a platform where you could see a small fraction of the waterfall -not that it wasn’t beautiful, just disappointing and hilarious! I mean we drove all this way and have wanted to see this particular waterfall for almost two years and there it was, way off in the distance and only half of it was visible. However we made friends with a car load of bird watching tourists having a picnic. We all chatted for a while, they were shocked that we were only twenty years old, NOT brother and sister, and that we were travelling in such a strange style. They even gave us two sandwiches! Chicken salad on homemade bread! After being sick with Montezuma’s revenge, and eating almost nothing for 3 days, the yummy sandwich was crazy-awesome! To the reader this may seem like an obscure detail to create focus on, but it will forever be referred to as Magic Sandwich, I have never appreciated any food that much in my life. All us visitors were going on and on about how beautiful Belize was, Fred said “this place is unbelievable!” their guide, a big Hispanic guy looked at him and in mid chew in a bored monotone voice corrected, “its unBELIZEable.” We haven’t ever laughed so hard, maybe you had to be there.
Next we headed to Rio On Pools; hundreds of big and small pools fed by the mountains cascading down into a river surrounded by forest. The beauty is incomprehensible –we jumped from rock to rock and swam in the super sparkly water all day. While Fred went off and explored out of site (as he tends to always do) I sun bathed as it became evening. During those couple hours Fred was gone I got hit on by tourists and a guide in the most aggressive way –it’s actually funny now but at the time I was horrified. Invites to hotel rooms and dinners came minutes after name introductions! These scuzzy guys didn’t waste any time. Even after I’d explained that I was here with my partner revolting sexual comments came flying. And even after I introduced Fred to two of the men in particular they kept on approaching. Yuck! It’s ironic, as an American girl I heard nonstop about the dangers of Mexico, how they will capture you and put you in the sex trade, that they will try to get with you all the time, no manners, etc. Yet there was I getting repulsing passes by super rich American, Swedish, and English guys.
We slept at Rio On Pools that night, Christmas Eve, (we later learned that lots of Jaguars are spotted right where we camped!) it was a great way to get over the Guatemala deal, and an amazing way to begin our Belize adventure. The sound of small waterfalls and flowing water is the ultimate lullaby.
Christmas morning we made a special breakfast: Special Homegrown potatoes and onions, and quinoa with ketchup. We tried calling our families for Christmas but no call would go through. We drove up to a military check point and signed into their log book so we could adventure a cave. There was an option to take a trail through the jungle or drive right up to the cave. We of course took the trail. We spotted different plants throughout the trail, found a DNA coil vine, and got lost on the trail –it was great!
Then we came to the cave. Photos don’t even do the cave justice. Massive and dark the cave is really a tunnel through the earth with a stream of water running through it. You can follow the stream through the tunnel and jump from rock to rock and explore the different stalactites. We lay together on the cave floor and looked up into the surrounding darkness with the lush jungle vines hanging over the ceiling. I found a few spots where rain water was dripping from the ceiling down to a rock –the cave was still growing, drop by drop! We let the mineral rich water drip on our face and hands for a while and rubbed it all over ourselves so we could absorbed the same substance the whole cave was made of; become part of it.
Fred climbed dangerously high up the cave walls with his headlamp and we played on the slick rock formations. By the time we actually got to the other side of the cave (the side where every other tourists and their guide drives up to) there was a couple other tourist families looking at the cave.
Families on vacation: probably the funniest and most foreign thing we experienced on our adventure so far! For one thing they were all yelling at each other all the time –in a tropical paradise, surrounded by God’s lush imagination, screaming at Emily to “get down!” Also, everyone had guides; locals telling them the history and biological makeup of the land and driving them around everywhere. All the families acted only mildly interested in these guides information and checked out the cave for only twenty minutes! I mean, I get it – WE were probably the odd balls in paradise; rubbing cave water all over ourselves, touching, climbing, and kissing everything, going on about how sacred and amazing the formations were, etc. But still, how can you come such a great place, take ten photographs then just head back to the hotel? Craziness! Fred and I wanted to absorb every part of this jungle cave, suck it into every molecule, smell it and thank it profusely.
The guides at the cave loved us, immediately we sat in on their lectures about the cave and learned that Mayans used the caves for all sorts of rituals back in the day and that during their rainy season half the cave is flooded! Fred picked their brain (as he tends to do) for all the information on the landscape –much to the annoyance of the tourists waiting around impatiently, wanting to go back to the hotel. One guide asked how we got to the cave without a guide or car, when we explained that we took the trail. All the guides were shocked, “you actually took the trail? No one ever takes the trail, they just drive right up! That’s great, really great!”
We later learned that really, seriously, no one ever takes the trail or enjoys the cave as much as we did. Soon after we started to walk back to the car, a truck pulled up behind us with two military men and their guns inside. They explained that they were getting worried about us–Belize has problems with Guatemalans and tourists, since it is near the border way out in the jungle- bless their hearts. I guess we had been gone for six hours whereas most people stay only for a half hour at most. They asked what we were doing for all that time, “enjoying the cave of course! It’s so beautiful and amazing…” The two military guys told us we were fucking crazy and gave us a ride back to our car.
The military guys told us to check out Black Rock Falls –that we’d love it. Our little old Mayan lady had forgotten to draw that on our map, but we drove to it anyways upon the recommendation. After a lengthy hike down, down, down rocks and loose gravel we came to the waterfall and river.
Black Rock blew 1,000 Foot Falls out of the water! It is the most picturesque place imaginable! Fred dove right into the water and swam under the falls, and after fifteen or so minutes he finally convinced me to jump in with him the water was wonderfull. Of course there were tourist families there, complaining about the strenuous hike to get back up, away from the falls –damn, these people and their priorities. Fred spent a couple hours finding the very highest spot he could climb up and jump off of, of course. A guide shrieked, “who is advising that man?! Where is his guide?!” as he climbed way up the jagged rock face. I told the guide that no one was advising him, not that he’d listen to them anyway even if we had paid for a guide, but I assured him that Fred knew exactly what he was doing more or less and that we wouldn’t sue Belize if he did something stupid and made a wrong leap. Then Fred pushed off the rock as hard as he could (to avoid the hidden pointed rocks below) and had a long fall into the water, with the gushing falls behind him. Magic. You know, I always thought waterfalls were peaceful things but sometimes are very powerful and intense, like this one. Fred and I had to scream at the top of our lungs to hear each other as we swam and played around the falls. And since the water pressure is so intense it wore down all the surrounding rocks so that they became ungodly slippery. You kind of have to penguin yourself around the rocks and getting out of the water was like a 3 Stooges episode.
We stayed at the waterfall until all the tourists and their guides left, had another swim with the whole waterfall to ourselves. Then set up camp on top of the canyon, made dinner and hot tea, and watched the stars come out.