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Jungle Dirt Bikes in the Rain Forest!
"ATV" JUNGLE DIRT BIKES
Again, with much thanks to Ecologic Divers, we enjoyed another wonderful adventure in the Belize jungle Interior. It was time once again for our families quarterly adventure, to explore Belize. Today our journey took us - into the Belizean jungle, to ride jungle dirt bikes or "all terrain vehicles" (ATV) as some people call them.
We were each given our own "ATV" to drive. So for us kids who are under the legal driving age, we thought this was the best adventure ever! We each got a lesson on how to operate the "ATV", where the accelerator was located, the engine kill button, brakes and how to go faster, slower, brake and stop. We started our engines, formed a cue, and our guide stood up on his "ATV" and shouted "LET'S GO!" We had one guide in the front, one to the rear and two separate guides to supervise the trails if we got stuck.
It was a wonderful feeling for my kids, to feel that they could drive their own motor bike in a controlled setting, along jungle trails. Doing it together, took away all the fear and when they got stuck, out popped a guide from the jungle brush, to pull them out of the mud and get them headed back into the right direction. We went through mud puddles, over homemade wood branch pole bridges, through brush, and we even got to see some of the damage Hurricane Richard did to the jungle this last fall. We saw animal trails, footprints, burrows, termite nests, howler monkeys and all kinds of birds. This tour would be best taken during the rainy season (June to November), when the ground is moist and there is lots of mud. So for those of you guys looking for a "manly adventure", hook up with one of these babies during the raining season and cover yourself with mud.
Lauren, my youngest (age 6) rode on the "ATV" with me, and thoroughly enjoyed the entire adventure. The following are some pictures we took, for you to enjoy of our day together.
A SLIDE SHOW OF OUR TRIP TO THE "ATV" JUNGLE DIRT BIKES
Thanks to Ecologic Divers, the kids and I enjoyed one of Belize's "Most Extreme" tours just the other day. Our day started at the local commuter airline terminal (on Ambergris Caye island) as we were full of excitement for what we were about to see and explore. I must admit, a little nervous about squeezing my body and crawling through dark, small openings, so I thought.
This cave was beautiful inside and very spacious. I never got that closed in feeling (dust up the nose or the smell of wet mud), that I thought I would get. In entering the cave, there was some light swimming involved, but I found the water very refreshing.
My 5 year old absolutely loved the tour, she climbed a 10 foot ladder at one point, swam through water with her life vest on, she saw first hand ancient pottery left by the Mayan people, cave formations, and she listened intently as the guides told her all about the Mayan people, their culture, their lifestyles, their beliefs and everyday life. My two older children found the tour to be a true adventure and an educational experience. All of us immensely enjoyed the day and my kids are now asking which tour we're going to be doing next.
The following are some clips of our most exciting day. We would most definitely recommend this tour to anyone looking for a thrill and in good physical shape.
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CAVE TUBING - Following the river, through the caves, in the Belizean Jungle
Seeking another adventure, the kids and I loaded our backpack and out the door we went. Back into the Belize jungle for another family adventure. Seeking to smell the flowers, breath the fresh air, cross a river, walk through a jungle, and float down a river through a cave. It was an adventure we will soon not forget.
Our day started at the crack of dawn. Mark, our tour guide was there to pick us up in his van, we then boarded a boat and off we headed for the mainland. Our adventure for today, "cave tubing" in the Belize jungle. Once on the mainland, we followed the Hummingbird Highway, our destination course was set. We were headed for the "Cave Branch" facility.
Cave Branch is a spiraling network of tunnels and limestone rooms comprising of 36 "crystal" caves with enormous vaults of crystallized columns and statuary. Although many caves have been known for years, new ones - including some of the most extensive systems in the whole of Central America - are still being discovered and explored.
We learned that the Maya peoples who first inhabited Belize were particularly in awe of these underground caverns, and I can see why. The Cave Branch River is a gently flowing body of water coming down off the Mountain Pine Ridge. It really should be called a creek in most places......however, what makes the Cave Branch River unique is the fact that it flows in and out of a series of long limestone caves that are easily navigable on inner tubes and in kayaks.
There are two major entry points along the river for visits to the Cave Branch caves: One is at Ian Anderson's Cave Branch jungle lodge, and the other is just above Jaguar Paw, a luxury hotel built on the banks of the river. In general terms, travelers looking for more adventurous and gritty trips into the caves should head to Ian Anderson's place; those seeking a more luxurious excursion into the underworld should head to Jaguar Paw.
Our journey today, took us to Ian's place. In arriving, we used the restroom facilities and got ready (swim shoes, bathing suit, camera, sunscreen). We selected our inner tube, and started our journey through the Belizean rain forest, following trails to the cave river entrance. After a short walk through the jungle, we eventually climbed into our inner tube and began a slow float through one of four caves. Our guide equipped us with a headlamp, and little else. It' was a unique sensation to be floating in total darkness, wondering where the walls and ceilings are and whether or not you'll ever emerge into daylight again.
Here amongst the rugged hills from the headwaters of the Caves Branch facility - is one of the most beautiful rain forests I have ever seen. Taking our adventure with an experienced guide, took all the fear away. Here we saw keel-billed toucans, coati's roaming along the forest floor, leaf cutter ants - carrying more weight than their body could possible hold. It was a journey back in time, to a time when people (though primitive), enjoyed this earth - in the way that God meant us to. Belize bears simplicity, and what they have to offer, is what Belize is most famous for (that being) , the preservation of mother nature.
Today couldn't have been more beautiful for the kids and I. Cave tubing is one of Lauren's & Christina's favorite things to do here in Belize. We would recommend this tour to anyone looking for a rain forest jungle experience, something out of the norm.
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SPRING OF 2010 - XUNANTUNICH MAYA RUINS (translated Stone Woman)
In the spring of 2010, our family decided to take our quarterly adventure into the Belize jungle interior. For some time now, we have enjoyed numerous outings, but until just recently - we have never written about all the things we have gotten to see and do here in Belize.
Our trip this day, took us into the heart of the Belizean rain forest jungle, where we got to visit the mysterious Mayan ruins called Xunantunich (shoo-NAHN-too-nich), located in the Cayo District of Belize. Cayo by some, is considered the Switzerland of Belize. A more mountainous region or area, with rolling hill tops, swaying palms, rich in Maya culture, garifuna drums and both Spanish and English speaking inhabitants. The Cayo District, is located in the south-west corner of Belize, close to the border of Guatemala, in Central America.
We started our day boarding a boat from San Pedro (Ambergris Caye Island) to the Belize Mainland. Here we hopped into our tour guides van and drove for about 80 miles west from Belize City (about an hour and a half) to edge of the Mopan River. Here we crossed the river on a hand cranked ferry, and then drove to the park entrance.
Xunantunich is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River. Most of the structures date from the Maya Classic Era, about 200 to 900 AD. Upon investigation, there is some evidence, which indicates that some structures were damaged by an earthquake. This earthquake may have been the reason for the site's abandonment.
The Park area, or core of Xunantunich occupies about one square mile (2.6 km²), consisting of a series of six plazas surrounded by more than 26 temples and palaces. One of its structures, is a pyramid known as "El Castillo", the second tallest structure in Belize (after the temple at Caracol), reaching about 130 feet in height. Archeological excavations have uncovered a number of fine stucco facades at this site. This may suggest, that the temple was built in three stages in and around the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries. The "friezes", which are visible from the backside of the ruins, may have been placed there during the final stage of construction.
Once in the visitors center at this site, Mark (our tour guide) gave the kids and I a history lesson, explaining what the temple may have looked like years ago. Mark explain the ceremonial head-dresses of the Maya priests and the games they would play as part of their ceremonies. One of the best preserved ancient stelae is housed in a small weatherproofed building for conservation purposes. This artefact is a large stela dating back to the period around 200 BC to 150 AD; it depicts a Maya figure facing left. The figure is striding and clothed only in armbands.
From the visitors center, Mark then took us to the ruins itself, where we were able to see magnificent displays of frieze's all carved into the stone walls of the temple. Some of the most impression carvings I have ever seen in my life.
Xunantunich was an experience will will soon not forget. We would recommend this tour, to anyone looking to come to Belize. It was not only educational, but to see the ruins in the heart of the Belizean jungle is definitely impressive.
SLIDE SHOW OF OUR TRIP TO XUNANTUNICH