Belize is the second port of call for this cruise. We dropped anchor a short distance (about 15 min boat ride) from the pier in Belize City and took one of the tenders. As the boat was leaving for the port, we spotted a few more cruise ships next to us. This promises to be a good day for tourism in Belize.
I came to this cruise without a single solid plan on how to do the port days. I had vague idea of the activities I wanted to participate in and the sights I wanted to see. However, I made no further plan on how to accomplish these.
The fact that we were cruising with another couple may have something to do with my very fluid plans. Travelling with other people may pose conflict in planning and may require many compromises. I was okay with that.
With Belize however the four of us had no clue what to do with our time allotment here. However, during the course of the short boat ride to the port hubby overheard people on the boat asking cruisers if they wanted to sign up for tours and activities.
Follow my lead the hubby said and we found ourselves signed up for a river tubing trip to a gorgeous remote location. The tour consisted of another couple from our cruise who were in the same tender with us. So all 6 of us took the van and watched as the scenery unfolded in rural Belize for duration of hour and half or so long drive.
Birds following us.
One of the five that docked that day.
Ready to leave the city for some cave tubing.
Curious about the Old Belize sign.
Nothing called out to me from the passing scenery so I let my camera rest. Little did I know I wouldn't be using my camera a lot on this excursion. The other couple that joined us were composed of two wacky we-are-on-vacation-mode spirits who the minute the van door closed opened the bottles of spirits they brought and insisted we take shots. I managed to beg off until we were near our destination. I don't drink liquor, only wine and beer sometimes. But I didn't want to be the spoilsport here, darn peer pressure leave me alone!
From hereon it's dirt road to the site.
Anyway, when we reached our destination the parking lot was almost full. Apparently this is where tourists go for some adventure. We signed up for cave tubing and was told to get ready. We brought change of clothes for this occasion, we were ready enough to know that we will probably need dry clothes when this activity is over.
Now for the fun thing. The parking lot is 20 minutes away from the first appearance of the river. We were given our tube (rubber tires/donuts), huge ones. I had a tough time carrying mine and we were to hike the forest to the spot where we would start our tubing. Imagine that!
So here's the usual rant. It was hot. It was humid. The path was manageable, but I was lugging around a big tube, nearly as big as I am. Poor hubby offered to carry mine, but I did not have the heart to punish him, he already was carrying his big tube as well. Besides, this was his birthday too. It was my birthday gift to him.
Because none of our cameras were waterproof and mostly because I love my DSLR so much, I left it in the van. Our friends had a small waterproof camera and asked them to take pictures of us. He did, and uploaded them online, invited me to view them, but for the love of dslr, I couldn't figure out how to download them.
Anyway, while the trek was a bit tough on softie like me, it's a breeze with regular trekkers. It's actually very easy, even I can admit to that.
We crossed the river twice. The first time it was a bit shallow and very calm. The water was cold, perfect to cool us down from the sweaty hike. I stopped walking in the middle of the river and admired the path of the river, it was very quiet, very green and the birds contributed the theme song for this day. It was gorgeous! Unspeakably wonderful.
The second time we encountered the river we were still hiking. Yeah I know, they said it's going to be a 20-minute hike, but they lied! This time around the river was a bit deeper and there was a rope tied from one end of the river to the other to help people cross the river. This time around I didn't feel safe enough to just stand there and watch the lazy river, so lugging the tire on one hand and grasping the rope in another I found my way to the other side of the river.
There were plenty of things to see during the hike. We stopped to watch little insects and goaded a spider out of its hole. There were plenty of flora to enjoy, but of course I did not have my camera with me.
When we finally reached the mouth of the cave, our companions jumped into the river and swam like happy little ducks seeing water after a long while. I was envious that I did not know how to swim. But that didn't stop me from having the most wonderful time of my life cave tubing. The cave was magical, the river deliciously cool to the touch, the experience was incredible. Tubing inside the dark cave was eerily fun, but once we came out of the cave and into the light the experience became more fun for me. As the tube lazily makes its way into the winding river, we watched birds play, monkeys jump from branch to branch, the beautiful blue sky ornately decorated by white puffy clouds and nothing but the sound of nature to enjoy. Well except that of fellow tourists who wanted to have their pictures taken while they float about.
The end of the line for this trip turned out to be the river bank where we first encountered the river, so there was less hike to be done to return to the parking lot and to return the tube back to the tour operator. There were other activities on this national park. I saw rapelling and spelunking. The cave that we went had an upper chamber. We saw people climbing up, don't know what else to do once you're up other than rapel down, but I believe there are other activities for the adrenalin junkie here.
After we donned fresh dry clothes, we gathered back to the van and prepared for the long trip back to the pier. I wanted to do some window shopping as I spotted a flea market a few yards from the pier.
T-shirts hanging from the ceiling, souvenirs from guests.
Very spicy nacho version.
On the drive back we spotted a roadside restaurant/bar called CHEERS. We all agreed to stop and get something to bite. The restaurant is the only one I saw on the road so this must be very popular. I found out they also rent out cabins in the back.
Hanging in the ceilings are t-shirts that visitors hang there. In Mexico, we see many bars with dollar bills hanging from the rafters and walls and signed by the travelers. Here it's t-shirts. People leave the shirts with writings on them, very unique I think.
After eating we continued our trip back to the pier. As I was hoping, we stopped at the flea market and browsed. Didn't find anything I liked for the price I was willing to pay. Inside the gated port area, there were more shops. While our companions check out a jewelry store, we took to checking out the restaurants. One in particular caught my fancy because of its vibrant paint job. I convinced my husband to try some local eats, fish taco (yah very exotic no?) and ceviche made from this conch shell that my hubby loves.
Interested in buying this piece of real estate?
Wish I found out what this sculpture was about.
Tope - a sign for road bump.
Line of stores at the gated port.
As our food was getting served, our friends found their way to the restaurant and joined us. We all had a quick bite and agreed to take one more round of the stores before going back to the boat for the night.
The food, generous serving, four tacos in one order.
The birthday boy looking grumpy or tired?
View from the restaurant.
While I must say that this day was well worth the trip outside the city - the tubing was an experience I won't forget for a long time, I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't too much to see in the city itself. The fact that I don't think we even went into the downtown was a disappointment on my part. But it's really nice to know that I can check off Belize in my list - whatever that means. Oh by the way, with all the angry clouds, it did rain as we were leaving for the ship in the pm.
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