After a bumpy ride to the jungle, we were met by our guide who gave us our inner tubes, life jackets and head lamps. We followed him on the narrow path expecting to come upon the gentle river pictured in the brochure. Instead, we were met with roaring rapids – the result of one of the rainiest seasons Belize had ever seen.
Our first adventure would be to cross the raging waters to get to the path on the other side. Our guide decided it would be best to cross one at a time and brought Allie, our only child, eight years old, the apple of my eye, across to the other side. After depositing her on the bank, he was promptly swept away by the current. There she was. Alone in the jungle. Our guide completely out of sight down river.
My husband and brother-in-law made some attempts, hand in hand, to cross to the other side, but it was clearly not going to work without them being swept away. What seemed like 30 minutes later, another tour came upon us, and Marv, a tourist from New York, quickly sized up the situation and suggested we make a human chain across the river. A few terrifying minutes later, we were reunited with Allie and our guide.
We made our way up the path to where we would climb aboard our tubes and head down this raging river. Due to the strong current, the guide suggested we link two inner tubes together and travel in pairs. My husband and Allie, the guide and my niece, my brother-in-law with my nephew, and my sister-in-law with a now-trembling me. My sister-in-law drew me aside, cautioned that her kids were way out of their comfort zone, and asked me to not show my fear. Right.
Cursory instructions were given on how to steer our makeshift rafts; we turned on our headlamps, and started down through the first cave. “Stay to the right,” the guide called out as we came upon the whirlpool on the left side of the cave. Arlene and I, who had not been paying much attention for the steering lesson, veered right into the water tornado just as the batteries on our headlamps gave out. I screamed in horror, remembered Arlene’s instructions, and turned it into a shaky “Woo hoo!”
We continued careening down stream, our linked tubes constantly finding the danger on either side of the river. Still, we continued shrieking our “woo hoos,” fooling no one. We struck several branches on the side of the river, limbo-ed under some others, and finally, jungle branches sticking out of our hair, we reached still water and the end.
Because Americans are well known as fat capitalists, no trip to the jungle would be complete without a souvenir opportunity and a meal, we were ushered to an outdoor market and café. When the waitress asked for my order, I stretched deep into my past to call up some important words in Spanish. “Dos cervezas, por favor.”