Leaf cutter ants climb high in the trees of the Belizean jungle to get the choicest leaf chunks. They walk in long lines, their cargo hoisted on their backs, like slaves in a chain gang. Coming and going, they march along our branch banister as we climb up to the next zip lining platform in the Belizean jungle. I could stay and watch the ants – they seem like a sideshow and nearly as entertaining as zip-lining.
To zip line, we wear helmets and leather gloves with heavy flaps on the palms that act as a brake shield. It all feels extremely safe. We are zipping with a wonderful company called Discovery Expeditions (www.discoverybelize.com) -`Zip Rider, which offers multiple excursions around the country and can book and arrange for many different adventures, making your trip easy. (Including Sea Trekking and Snuba which I will blog about at another time).
I wipe the sweat off my forehead under my helmet- it is steamy here- the air is thick and heavy with moisture like you should almost be able to see it. You can zip nearly anywhere in the world now, it seems, but not above gigantic palm trees and wild orchids and critters like leaf cutter ants as your trailside pals.
This is my first time zip lining and I thought I might be a little scared but it’s great fun. We fly up to 500 foot lengths. Sometimes, we zip straight down- very fast- 35 MPH, and we must brake or we’ll crash into the platform. Other times, we dip down and then up and we can’t brake or we’ll get stuck out on the cable and have to pull ourselves up onto the platform, hand over hand. I learn that if you move your brake hand too close to your head, you’ll spin, get dizzy and lose control. If you hold it back too far, it can yank your shoulder out if you brake too hard. The best way is to relax and let it glide, positioned right behind your head. I love feeling like Tarzan (or Jane!) flying above the Belizean treetops.
Right after we zip down nine different stretches, we walk over to the Caves Branch Outpost and get ready to tube down this crystal clear limestone river. Our guide, Oscar, wears paddles on his hands to help steer me. He holds onto my tube when we travel in the dark through the caves and teaches me wonderful things about the bats and the rock formations. When we hear the rapids roaring ahead in the pitch blackness it is a very strange sensation, not to be able to see anything! Oscar assures me that we are safe and will remain away from the cave wall. He holds onto my tube regardless, making me feel very cared for. My photographer friends, Steve Wewerka, (www.wewerkaphoto.com) is on his own, working hard to capture images at the same time he negotiates the rapids! The sound bounces off the limestone walls as we rock and roll through the waves.
My $5.00 flip flops that I bought on San Pedro Island, a few hours after entering the country (I forgot mine at home and who can go to the Caribbean w/o flip flops?) blow out – BOTH feet, as we walked the muddy approach trail to the tube put-in point. The soft mud oozing through my toes felt good back then, but the return trail to the center is stony and very painful. Oscar and Steve both offer to carry me but I cannot allow it. I probably don’t weigh much less than them and I would have to be bloody and crippled before I climbed aboard their backs. Still, I am touched by their chivalry and feel honored like Cleopatra or in the very least, like a piece of green cargo atop the strong and sturdy leaf cutter ants.