As I hung several feet up in the air, held up by what I genuinely felt were mere woven threads, I began to question my decision. Not only had I happily signed the release form, I also had begged to do this. WHY would a reasonably sane person like me ask to be strapped up and hung on a few wire cables? It couldn’t possibly be because the call of the jungle had been roaring in my head for weeks? It couldn’t possibly be because as out of shape as I am, I firmly believe I can scale mountains and positively run down a waterfall. No, I’m insane…that’s the only possible explanation.
But, I must backtrack a little, and explain how I found myself in this most compromising position. I am the girl who spends anywhere between 10 to 16 hours in front of a computer, with my only form exercise of the day being my 10 minute bike ride into town, and walking one flight of stairs to the office. That is it. But, hey, I grew up in mountain town – “I da Cayo gial!” When Tropic Air’s Julie Kee emailed an invitation to try their newest tour at Mayflower Bocawina National Park, Silk Grass, Dangriga, it was all I could do to contain my excitement. Zip lining! Rappelling 100 feet down a waterfall! Piece of cake! I was going to scale that mountain and go down that waterfall, and they wouldn’t know what hit them!
Now here I hung, having been strapped in by my gentle guide Manuel. Egging me on were my tour buddies – the most encouraging and fun group a girl could possibly ask for. Their words of encouragement helped make my mind up (okay, so did the thought of having to report back that I chickened out). I bent my knees, swung my behind out of the platform and kicked off gently and I was gone!! The green of any variety of trees swished past me as I whooped with exhilaration – wheee!!! Wind in my face, my helmet firmly strapped on and video camera capturing my first jaunt down a zip line it was almost too soon before I executed a perfect landing for our second zip. I had done it – one down, eleven more to go.
The beauty of the tour at Bocawina is that there are 12 platforms, so zipping can get really fun! One zip is not enough, heck, two or four isn’t enough either. No, once you start getting the hang of it, and have let go of the absolute terror that grips you initially, it is actually downright fun! Our fears were tested twice when we had to rappel down the platform; hanging from a complex mix of pulleys and rope, we plummet down to within feet of the ground, where a guide waits with open arms to help us off and back on the trail. Fear gripped us, and as soon as we let go, we were flying through the air, screaming our lungs out. Pretty soon, the entire group walked with swagger as we “sauntered” (okaaaaay, fiiiine, I huffed and puffed up the trails) from one platform to the next.
It’s a barrel of laughs when we get stuck on the easiest looking line. One of our girls (we’re not naming names!) had to be rescued midair by our very handsome guide. The things we do for a hug in the jungle! Any fear we had was finally eased, and the remaining zips were a breeze, even the 2,300 foot one. The warmth of the humid jungle air cooled down significantly as we all took turns zipping down the longest line of the day. Lunch at Mama Noots was calling, and after the morning workout, we were all starving and thirsty. Something about pretending to be Tarzan and Jane halfway up a mountain can build up quite the appetite. Our final zip led us to the crook of a giant tree right in the front yard of Mama Noots. How convenient.
Lunch was a choice of chicken or fish wraps and vegetarian quesadillas. Washing down our meals was some ice cold water and coconut water, fresh from the coconut trees outside. Anthony Hunt, our tour leader, was generous enough to treat us all to a refreshing Belikin, and with libations ingested, we all switched into our swimming things and jump into the waiting vehicles to trek to our next destination: Bocawina Falls. There, our next mission was to put our fate into the strength of a few ropes and pulleys, and our upper body strength, to get from the top of the falls to the waiting pools below. Easy peasy!
A ten minute walk up a trail led to the roaring falls, where cool waters rushed a hundred feet down giant boulders and into a shimmering pool. Sweaty and ready to cool off, our first instinct is to jump into one of the smaller eddies at the top to refresh ourselves before our toughest assignment of the day. From below, the falls didn’t seem quite as high, but now as we frolic up above, the reality of having to scale down hits everyone. I begin to wonder if I can back out. There are actually a few of us who are having second thoughts, but Mercie and Felix step up to the challenge, strapped in with kneepads, protective gloves and helmets, and with a quick demonstration from “Mr. Handsome”, they are off, tentatively taking a few backwards steps, while feeding line to swing down further and further down the face of the roaring falls.
Encouraged by their bravery, I decide to step up. After being strapped in, and another mini demonstration, I take a step backwards and KERPLUNK! I fall flat on my behind, and I swear I bounced. Not very encouraging, but with that embarrassing misstep, my fear of falling is over. If I can fall standing on flat ground, and survive, I am sure there’s nothing wrong with slipping and sliding a bit down the falls. Legs spread, my right hand feeding rope, and leaning backwards, I begin the descent. The first few steps are on dry boulder, but soon, I’m touching rushing waters. Now past the point of fear, I’m all about survival. I slip, slide and step, managing to scale the face of Bocawina Falls with much grunting and effort. I didn’t think it was possible to sweat while in the face of cool rushing waters, but I defied nature as I huffed and puffed my way down.
Above, I see fear and excitement in the face of my tour buddies, and below, the encouraging cries from Mercie and Felix, Anthony and “Mr. Handsome”. I look backwards and instantly regret doing so. They are all still rather tiny and far below, which means I have a ways to go. Almost immediately, I slip down about a foot, and well, I’m closer now to them. Determined to beat this fall, I get up, find my balance, and with my right hand, I grip the rope to tense and hold me up properly, then I lean backwards, trusting in the strength of the fibers. With feet spread properly, I find a kind of rhythm. One step at a time, two steps, three, four…and soon, I’m heading down in fine fashion. Of course, there had to be a slip or two, but as gracelessly as I fell, I no longer felt fear, just the rush of victory.
There I was, slipping and sliding, falling, tangled in ropes that held me, and yet I had survived. The fluffy girl who hardly does more than ride her bike had flown atop trees, and walked down rocks and waterfalls. Bocawina Falls, I OWN you. Seriously, if I can do it, pretty much anyone can.
Tropic Air offers this tour along with many other exciting adventures. Contact them at [email protected] or 226-2012, and find out how you too can test your fears, strength and will. It is one of the most exhilarating adventures that will have you asking for more. Bocawina Falls is located in the Stann Creek District, and is a beautiful 35 minute direct flight from San Pedro to Dangriga. Some tours may connect via the Municipal Airstrip in Belize City, for an added 15 minutes. A half-hour ride will lead from the Dangriga Airport to the reserve in Silk Grass, where adventure begins.