Different Strokes

9th Oct. 2016

Janet's new friendThere are a number of tourist trips to be done in this part of Belize, one of which is Cave Tubing – drifting down a river, through caves on an inflated rubber ring. I was quite tempted by this, though Janet fancied having a lazier day and so I had been umming an ahhing over it. The clinching factor was over supper last night when one of the tour operators made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Our regular haunt in San IgnacioAfter breakfast, we walked up to what seems to have become our regular haunt, Eva’s Bar/Restaurant which was the meet up point for the trip. Sergio, the trip vendor had another go at persuading Janet to sign up, but he never had a chance! In any case, there are places to see and photos to take around town and splitting up was the only way that both were going to get done.

Set of young people and DaveI was then introduced to the rest of the group – 1 girl training to be a guide and 6 20(?) year old students from northern Belize – and we all bundled into a minibus for the one hour journey to the Nohoch Che’en caves. It was interesting to hear the locals gabbling away to each other in a mix of English, Spanish and (presumably) Creole. As we got chatting, the all claimed English as their first language but admitted that in practice Spanglish was probably a better description. Young people of today!!

These weren't our rings!At the caves, there was a row of equipment rental stalls with their tubes piled up in front of each. Some of the tubes were specifically designed for water rides – bright colours, backrests, hand holds, and even a pocket for a drinks bottle! One pile, though, was just plain, black, truck tyre inner tubes. Guess which ones we had!

Up through the caves...Once we’d each collected a tube, life-jacket and helmet with attached light, we headed off up the path. Essentially, we are doing a circular route – walking uphill / up-river and then flopping on our tubes and floating back down. It is about an hour’s walk, sometimes along the side of the river and sometimes cutting through caves with the occasional stop for the guide to talk about an interesting plant, stalactite or cave formation.

...and drifting down on our tubesThe rocks in the area are predominantly limestone (as we knew from the description of the materials the Mayans used for building) and, of course, limestone is porous and leads itself to cave formation. As Sergio (our guide and son of Sergio the tour company owner) reminded us, limestone is formed undersea from the shells of dead sea creature. What I hadn’t know (or had forgotten) was that their uplifting was as a result of an asteroid impact in the Gulf of Mexico – and not tectonic activity as there are no earthquakes or volcanoes in Belize (just the occasional hurricane).

My view on the riverWhen we reached the start of the tubing section, Sergio explained the basics to us – to avoid being impaled, the long metal inner-tube valve should be pointing down; in the shallow, rapids sections, lift your bum up; and if you are heading toward a river bank or cave wall, push off with your feet or lie back and paddle with your hands and arms. Then, after a brief swim & splash around for the kids – and a chance for me to test out the waterproof pouch for my phone (the only camera I brought with me today) – we were off.

Lie back and enjoy itThe experience was very much as described. Most of the time it was lazily floating down the river – about an hour in the cave and an hour after the cave through the jungle. The water was cool(ish) but the air was warm and even after a couple of hours, it was still a pleasant temperature. There were a few sections of ‘rapids’ where the cry was “butts up” and one or two places where a bit of strategic paddling was required to get into the right place in the current.

Messing about on the riverOtherwise, it was a case of lie back, enjoy the scenery, swap jokes with the kids & try taking pictures with my phone through the waterproof sleeve. I quickly found out that using the flash was a non-starter, but other than that, it worked out well. In a couple of days time, we are snorkelling and so it will be interesting to see if it also works underwater.

San Ignacio townWhilst Dave is lazing in a rubber ring on the river I have a step count to meet to prove I was not slacking. My first mission was to get pictures of the town so I meandered around killing time as I did not need to be at San Ignacio Resort until 10am. As I snapped away in town I was asked numerous times if I wanted a taxi but the answer was always the same – no thanks. It was only a short walk up the hill to my destination and not too bad even though the temperature was rising.

My new friendsI signed up for the 10 am tour at the sanctuary for rescued iguanas. It turned out that I was the only person interested this morning so had a personal tour. First off we stopped at an enormous termites nest where I was asking if I fancied a taste? Normally I would volunteer Dave but he was not here, so today I had to be brave. One prod of a stick in the nest produced quite a number of the little beasts, so big breath, grab one and eat. As our driver had said, they taste like carrots!

Watch those clawsNext up we entered the iguana cage, just me, the guide and forty lethargic iguanas. Fancy holding one? Oh, that would be me the only volunteer! And one on your shoulder too? It was actually quite fun being there practising my photography skills on the docile creatures.

Feeding timeAfter the guide produced two baby ones, he left me alone in the cage as he went to collect leaves for feeding time. On his return, the guide took my camera and gave me the bunch of leaves. Not so docile now, forty iguanas headed my way all of them after a leafy snack. Luckily they are vegetarian. It was difficult to try and make sure none were forgotten. Even the big alpha male made his way over for a snack before having a dispute with a rival male by flaring his pouch under his chin.

Izzy Apparently they do scratch if threatened or whip you with their tail. Glad I did not provoke them. Most have been born in captivity and are quite patient with humans, and they will be released into the wild once they have learnt to fend for themselves. A few which had been pets were gifted to the sanctuary to be looked after, one had a deformed spine due to vitamin D deficiency and was dependant on vitamin supplements, so will never be released.

Back at our hotelAfter about 40 minutes my time was up and I had to leave my new friends ready for the 11am tour, if anyone turned up. It is definitely low season at present and hopefully there will soon be more tourists to support this worthy cause of saving the iguanas. Well 10,000 step goal met, once I had made the return trip into town to collect our laundry. Mission accomplished, so time to retire to the pool bar and wait for Dave to return.

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