Let’s go to Belize!

This morning I’d like you to enjoy this short story I’ve written just for you, my blog readers!

Keep reading after the story for more info about Belize or if you want to miss out on this epic adventure feel free to skip to that part of the post – It will be seperated by a black double line.

Without further ado I am pleased to present my short story, “The tour.”

Good Morning Coffee - Original Photo Credit: Nathan Dumlao
Original Photo Credit: Nathan Dumlao

Grab your morning coffee, hold it close, waft the smell of those coffee beans.

Imagine yourself flying, flying over miles and miles of endless ocean. You see a sandy shore, taking a deep breath you gently glide down to the waters edge and walk upon the beach.

Looking left and right you see miles and miles of beach, dotted every now and then with a wooden cabana or rickety wooden pier. Behind you is the vast and endless ocean, gazing out you can see the sea is dotted with many tiny sandbars and islands. Turning, ahead of you you see hundreds of shades of green glistening in the tropical sunlight.

The gentle and warm breeze sways the ferns and palm trees that line the edge of a dense, thick jungle that persists miles upon miles until it spits you back out upon a rougher shore, the rockier and wilder pacific side.

You’ve made it to Belize!

Welcome to Belize! Original Photo Credit: Nico Carrera
Original Photo Credit: Nico Carrera

As you look out upon the dancing jungle foliage you see a horse tied to a palm tree at the jungles edge. You’re curiosity gets the best of you and you slowly walk towards the creature.

Your bare feet are muffled by the soft pale sand and you’re able to get very close to the horse before it notices you. Startled, it shakes it dark mocha colored mane.

“Easy there, I won’t hurt you…”

You hold your hand out as you speak softly and the panic in the horses eyes fades as he settles. As you reach for the rope around the horses neck you hear shouting from behind you!

“Hey! Leave that creature alone! We’ve a few more for rent but that one there is mine!”

You turn to see a middle aged man, deeply tanned from spending his entire youth in the sun, it would seem.

“You don’t look local, you must be here for the tour!”

The mans dark brown eyes match his horses mane and he looks at you expectantly. You are surprised he speaks English and decide the best course of action id to go with the flow and see where this leads.

‘Of course!” You stutter… “I’m here for the…tour…”

“Fantastic! I’m Leon, I’ll be your guide. Let me saddle up your horse and we’ll get going!”

He walks towards a long wooden building with rusted sheet metal roofing panels , the scene reminds you of a shanty. He returns moments later with a caramel colored horse, dotted with white spots. He climbs upon his horse and waves you towards him with his palm.

“We’re off, let’s go!”

Follow the Guide Original Photo Credit: Nico Carrera
Original Photo Credit: Nico Carrera

It’s a good thing you’ve seen so many cowboy movies because apparently you’re supposed to be able to mount this horse and get going with Leon. It only takes you four tries, and you only completely fall and wipeout once. Your dignity remains mostly in tact, but Leon eyes you a bit suspiciously.

You laugh it off, making a joke at being jetlegged that he doesn’t really seem to understand but he smiles anyways.

You head off into the jungle behind Leon. As you ride, he points out all kinds of Fauna and foliage. You see enormous bright red and yellow flowers, the size of your head. He spots a Toucan sitting low enough in the trees to see clearly, its brightly colored striped beak sticking out like a sore thumb against the steady green leaves. Small monkeys eye you curiously from the jungle canopy and you see them from time to time following you from the trees.

You ride this way for what feels like 4 days, but Leon assures you it’s only been a few hours.

“We’ll have to walk the rest of the way, the horses can’t quite make it through the dense foliage ahead.”

You can’t help but wonder where this tour guide is taking you but your excitment really starts building as he pulls a machete from his bag and hands it to you.

With a stern look he says, “just in case.”

After hiking for almost an hour you reach a huge wall of rock. The cliff looks to extend endlessly, you don’t see a way around it… or over it.

Leon sees that you’re puzzled and an almost sinister grin spreads across his face. He takes his bag from his shoulder and a wave of panic washes over you as you picture Leon pulling another machete from his bag and lunging towards you!

After clumsily fumbling with the zipper for several minutes your fate seems less dire, and when he finally does get his bag open, he pulls out a snorkeling mask and hands it to you.

“We go…Under.”

You reconsider your earlier fear… you might have a better chance if he did pull out a machete! Leon points to a small crevice, below it is a small pool of water.

“It’s 12 feet of underwater snorkeling from where we’re standing, into the cave.”

Did he stutter? Did he just say INTO the CAVE???

“I’ll hand you your headlamp once we pull ourselves up out of water. Mine is water proof so you’ll use it as your guide, don’t fall behind.”

You swallow a hard gulp and prepare to drown. Climbing into the crystal clear blue waters, you follow Leon, snorkeling through the underground caving system.

We go under - Original Photo Credit Patrick Ianza
Original Photo Credit: Patrick Ianza

You come up on the other side gasping for air. You did it, you didn’t drown. Leon hands you a headlamp as promised. As you turn it on you see several bats swoop across the high cavern ceilings. Huge rock formations create optical illusons making it seem like there is no path at all, but Leon seems to find one behind two large stalagmites. He waves to you to continue to follow.

You see yourself as a relatively fit person, but this is taking quite a toll on you. You climb over and squeeze inbetween rocks for quite some time. The space feels like it’s getting narrower and narrower and you can feel the air getting thinner, your heart pounding aginst your chest. You fear proceeding much further for a lack of oxygen.

Suddenly you feel a rush of cool air and as you squeeze past another set of large rock formations you stumble into a natural cathedral. The cave network opens up into a huge underground dome, naturally carved by moving water thousands of years ago.

You stare in awe at the sheer massiveness of the domed room you now stand in, deep below the earth.

“Watch out!” Leon somehow manages to yell at you while whispering. You follow his panicked eyes and pointing finger to an object near your feet.

You look closer at the spherical object, shining your headlamp down at your feet you slowly process what this object could be…as soon as you realize you let out a panicked shreik! It’s a human skull!

As the shreik leaves your lips, Leon dives towards you knocking you down and he pins you to the floor. This is it, you should have known this was a trap, now you’ll die and rot here just like that skull!

Suddenly you hear an echoing shreik…your shreik… reverberate off the domed walls and ceiling of the cave… you swear you can feel the rocks shudder as what must be hundreds of bats suddenly find themselves waking from their days slumber and start screeching and swooping to and fro to fend off this potential intruder!

Leon still holding you pinned to the ground looks deeply into your eyes patiently, so he knows you’re looking at him and paying attention…and he rolls his eyes so hard you swear they left his head for a moment! It’s clear that you should have expected to see a skull on this tour…

Skull Original Photo Credit: Fred Pixlab
Original Photo Credit: Fred Pixlab

As the bats settle down, Leon lets you get up. Having saved your life from an army of biting bats you don’t really feel the need to argue about it with him.

“Are you okay?” He asks with a sarcastic tone.

You nod and he motions again for you to follow him.

“Good because we’re almost there, don’t touch the sides of the cave now.”

You think to yourself that seems an odd request, but as you progress further and further you can see why. The sides of the cavern have been carved out and all sorts of bones line them, some of them human, some of them animal.

Finally you see something glistening off Leons headlamp…this must be it the holy grail!

“Here she is…” Leon motions for you to step forward.

As you do, you can’t help but gasp in complete awe as you take in the sight of a complete human skeleton, laid carefully on a central slab of stone, it’s bones calcified over time now shimmering in the light of the headlamps.

“The Crystal Maiden.”

The End

by Vivi Strøm

What to know about Belize

First thing first, if you read the story and didn’t skip down here, Thank you! If you’re a total story skipper then you’re really missing out because the tour from the story, is a REAL TOUR. More on that in a moment.

In Belize there are 4 major tourist areas. Belize City, San Pedro, the Cayo District, and Hopkins.

This is Belize Original Photo Credit: Nico Carrera
Original Photo Credit: Nico Carrera

Belize City is where your international flight will fly into. There are so many awesome things to see and do in Belize City from the craft brewery tour and tasting right across the street from the airport to the zoo or botanical gardens!
The first thing you’re probably going to notice is the language, everyone seaks english! It’s their national language! Although their currency is the Beliezian dollar, you’ll also find that the US dollar is very widely accepted in addition to most credit cards, as long as the power stays on!-(More on this later!)

The busiest tourist destination is San Pedro. There are two large beach resort islands very close to the Belize City aiport and a constant ferry service that runs back and forth. The first and smaller island is Caye Caulker, the larger whichis home to many all-inclusive resorts is Ambergris Caye. From these islands the most common activities include snorkeling and scuba diving. Just off the entire coast of Belize is the second largest barrier reef in the entir world, it’s absolutely incredible!

Snorkel the Belize Barrier Reef Original photo credit Colter Olmstead
Original photo credit: Colter Olmstead

For the adventurous, you definetly want to book some time in the Cayo District/San Ignacio. This is essentially the tourist “Jungle hub.” From here you’ll have so many options of things to do, from wildlife tours to kayaking rivers, exploring the jungle, zip lining, caving, Mayan Ruins tours and the very physically challenging tour from our story to see, “The Crystal Maiden.” The Tour is nicknamed the ATM Cave Tour.

Belize was once an enormous hub for the Mayan Empire and as such has left behind a multitude of temples and relics including the Crystal maiden which researhers believe to be a religious sacrafice! She was also a he, but they didn’t realize that until after they named her…him….

(Shoutout to historical fiction and survival writers, I know your minds are racing with ideas right now! Can you imagine your protaganists plane crashing in the jungle…the only survivor, they stumble upon these huge mayan ruins! – I’ve got you.)

Finally the last major tourist destination is Hopkins. Hopkins tends to get overlooked and I can see why. It basically offers the same stuff as the northern Cayes, it’s a 3 hour car ride from the airport if you do it in a straight shot…on super underdeveloped bumpy dirt “roads.” You have amazing proximity to the barrier reef but is it worth all that trouble when you can see the reef from the northern parts of the country as well?

Belize Barrier Reef Original photo credit Colter Olmstead
Original photo credit: Colter Olmstead

Heck yes.

The MOST AMAZING TOUR for nerds like me exists here, it is constantly overlooked and definetly under-publicized. The bioluminecense tour.
The locals call this tour several different variations of, “burning water.”
Basically you’l get in a tiny boat that fits about 6-8 people plus your skipper.

They’ll take you around this semi-enclosed body of water at sunset surrounded by mangroves. Once it’s dark they’ll start motoring on again and looking back at the ships wake, the water will be glowing a crazy bright blue! They’ll slow down and you can run your hand through the water and your hand will turn the water blue!

What’s happening is there’s all these tiny little algae, and when they are disturbed they shoot off that blue light, this triggers a chain reaction in all the algae that are disrupted. But this blue glowing water isn’t even the coolest part.

The glowing attrcts huge swarms of moon jellyfish (non-stinging!) that feed off the algae! As they eat the Algae the jellyfish will be glowing florecsent blue too! It is the most incredible experience, and one not to be missed.

An expanded note on Belize – the country is pretty poor and is prone to power outages. Depending on where you stay they may or may not have working generators in place and A/C on property.

Remember the old saying you get what you pay for… definetly applies toBelize! I would be vary wary of the hottest internet deals and I highly reccomend using a specialized Travel Agent to help plan your trip!

(Check out Instagram.com/journeysbyjen she’s certified by both National Geographic Journeys and the Belize board of Tourism!)

Waterfall Bliss Original photo credit Mark Olsen
Original photo credit Mark Olsen

Thank you so much for visiting! The Travel Thursday post is brand new, this is the first one, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought and where you’d like to go next!