River Tube Adventure
On the fourth day of
the trip, 40 people from our group hopped on a bus to visit
the Sibun River in Belize. We were going to float down
a lazy river through massive limestone caves while sitting
in large tubes.
Marla and I had taken
this same trip once before, so we knew it was fun. But
I also knew it was a pretty tame ride. Instigator that
I am, I decided to have a little fun. I began to
whisper that the jungles of Belize had more jaguars than any
other part of Central America. I fibbed and said we
heard rustling in the bush on the previous trip. It
was probably nothing, I added.
On the other hand, our guide was clearly worried about
Belize - Home of the Jaguars
As with any good
rumor, there was a kernel of truth. Yes, Belize is a
natural habitat of jaguars, but they are nocturnal creatures
who sleep by day and hunt by night. They are rarely seen by the human eye. But I didn't
bother telling anyone that.
group got situated on the bus driving to the Sibun River,
discovered that Evan, our tour guide, was a wise cracker of the
first magnitude. Evan had all sorts of
jokes. He said if we didn't like the trip, we didn't
have to pay for it. But he hoped we had enough cab money for
the ride back. Then Evan
said that he spoke
five languages. He said that if we understood him, he was talking to
us. But if we didn't understand him, he was talking about us.
Then Evan reminded us how much he trusted us to pay him at the end
of the day. He pointed to a gigantic scowling Mr. T kind of guy at
the back of the bus and said this guy's name was 'Mr.
Understanding'. Mr. Understanding was in charge of solving all
problems and so far he had a perfect record for collection.
one look at the guy and 'understood' his spotless record completely.
I don't think Mr. Understanding was ever taught to smile. When Evan
added that Mr. Understanding was also in charge of handling
complaints, I noticed we all kept our grumbling over the missing AC
to little more than a peep. I could have really used this guy back
when I ran SSQQ.
Once I realized Evan was willing to say just about anything for a
grin, I began feeding him various lines to entertain the group.
example, I reminded Evan that the jungles of Belize were a
well-documented habitat for dangerous jaguars. There
were said to be more jaguars in Belize than anywhere else in Central
With the jungle
literally crawling with these dangerous cats, what was Evan going to do to
A hush came over the
bus. Obviously my whispering campaign had been effective.
Everyone wanted to hear Evan's answer to the question. They
did not know I was teasing. However, one person was on to me.
Before Evan could even say a word, Jack Medley
piped up, "Hey, we have
nothing to worry about. Look at all the cougars we have on the bus
to protect us!"
Jack was a little too quick for some of us.
It took several seconds for us all to get the joke, but once we
figured it out, everyone on the bus applauded, Evan included.
What a great line! So
perfect for the moment and so
spontaneous. We all smiled.
Jack is such a clever boy. This was my single favorite moment on the trip.
Now that I think about it, Jack had a VERY GOOD TRIP.
Besides his memorable quip, Jack had
several other highlight moments. For one
thing, he was the only person in our group who remembered how to do
the Macarena on the night when Cindy Hudson hypnotized everyone.
Those poor women
were having so much trouble remembering what to do.
When Jack discovered the mass amnesia, he had to show various women
the right way to put their hands on their appropriate body parts.
Tough job, but someone had to do it.
Then on the night of the ship's
Disco Inferno performance, Jack got to dance the Hustle with countless smiling women.
Naturally Jack stole the show
as the ship's videographer captured every
Best of all,
Jack won the highly competitive onboard poker tournament. The reward
was a free trip for two on the Royal Caribbean Oasis. Jack smiled as
he said he was now accepting offers from anyone who wished to be his
roommate on the trip.
This guy really knows how to play his hand.
With each trip, Marla's experience
pays off in ways that most of our guests are not even aware
of. A perfect example was our Belize River Adventure.
Marla and I took this delightful trip back during our
2006 Rhapsody Cruise, so we already knew it was fun.
Naturally we wanted to share the experience.
When Marla realized RCCL was charging $109 for this trip,
she frowned. That seemed kind of high. Marla
figured she could save the group a considerable amount of
money by checking around. Sure enough, Marla came up
with a very satisfactory alternative.
Marla negotiated the ridiculous low price of $50 a person by
going outside the ship.
That is the power
of a group - Marla was able to get a significant group discount by
bargaining properly. In the process, Marla
saved everyone $60 a piece.
From the moment I
first met Marla in 2001, I sensed she had a business acumen
unlike any woman I had ever met before. I may still
beat her at Crossword, but when it comes to stuff that is
important, Marla has a gift for seeing angles that
completely escape me. She grasps the ins and outs of
the travel business so much more quickly than I do that
sometimes I just sit back in awe.
I have a
favorite axiom... "Beware the man who praises intelligent
women. He is preparing to quit his job."
That phrase fits
me to a T. Marla and I have an
understanding. Marla helped me run SSQQ for nine years. SSQQ was the
main event and our travel business was the sideshow.
After I sold
SSQQ, I told Marla she was in charge now. It was her travel business
to run the way she saw fit. I
promised to support her as best I could.
At this point, I
work for Marla. She's the brains of the
I have no problem with that.
That should tell you how much I respect my talented wife.
Evan provided a very interesting rite of passage
during our morning bus ride.
Evan knew full well that Marla had
arranged this entire river tour on
her own. He also knew that
Marla had talked his boss down. But Evan didn't seem to mind a bit.
And why should he? Marla had put 40 people
on his bus today. In a poor country like Belize, a $2,000 payday was
very much appreciated.
I noticed that
Evan treated Marla with great respect at all times.
However I can't say he did the same for me.
To the delight of the crowd, Evan had a
little fun at my expense. Marla and I just
happened to be sitting in the very front about two feet from
Evan. Once he figured out that I was a fellow smart aleck, Evan
decided he was safe taking liberties with
When I began heckling Evan
over something he said, Evan
saw an opening. He grinned and decided to take me down a notch.
Evan looked me over and said, "Just
who are you anyway?
I see you are sitting next to Marla.
you by some chance Mr. Marla??"
Uh oh. I had that sinking feeling. Sure enough, the crowd on
the bus howled. They obviously
enjoyed my well-deserved comeuppance.
What Evan didn't know was that
no truer words have never been spoken.
Everyone has known who is in charge for some time now, but I am glad that Evan
finally gave voice to the leadership transition. The
baton has passed.
down the Sibun River
I thought it was
amazing that people can
literally float through a cave. But
I was also
curious how the cave had formed, so I
asked Evan. I told him that I assumed that water
usually went around mountains, not through them.
answered that almost all cave systems are formed
through limestone bedrock. Limestone is a very
soft, porous kind of rock. Water
trickles through small pores in the rock. Slowly but surely
small openings become larger.
Over the eons, the Sibun River has seeped
its waters through openings in the soft rock.
Erosion slowly created
wider and wider openings until finally the entire river broke
through with a clear channel to the other side of the mountain.
water did a good job. Take a look at the size of the
I will let the
pictures help tell the story of our event.
All in all, our river tube event was sheer fun.
However it did involve a little bit
where we picked up our tubes was the "End Point". So
it became our job to walk upriver to the point where we
would enter the water. This meant
we had to carry our tubes for about 30
minutes to the place where we entered the water.
Part of our trip
involved crossing the river at three different points.
As you can see, the
jungle walk was not particularly glamorous. In fact,
it was hard work and tiring.
That said, the
overhead canopy kept the temperatures very pleasant and gave
us constant shade. The tubes were no problem for the
men and I noticed the ladies more than held their own.
I enjoyed the chance to chat with people as we trudged
I can't speak
for the rest, but I enjoyed walking through the dense jungle
I was careful to
look around for jaguars, but as Jack predicted, the cougars
made sure we were all safe.
This is the spot where our 2006 trip
This is the spot where our 2013 trip
Marla and I had
done this same trip in 2006, so I was surprised when
the jungle route seemed a bit different.
Then I noticed
our river trip at a
different point. There were several obvious
differences in the two starting points
First, in 2006 there was a ledge where I
was able to leap into the pool from 10 feet above.
Second, there was no beach in 2006 like we had in 2013.
Third, the water was blue in 2006, brown in 2013.
Fourth. But the most
notable difference was how shallow the water was. The
water in 2006 was deep enough to swim in, but we were able
to easily wade through the water in 2013.
I never found
out why we had a different departure point, but I think our trip was
a bit shorter as a result.
I think there is another entry further up
the road. Oh well.
I didn't tell anyone. The group
seemed happy, so why bring it up.
What I did do,
however, was ask Evan why the water was so shallow. He
answered that the rainy season begins in June and goes all
summer long through September. Since this was April,
the water was very low.
difference is that they tethered our tubes together in
groups of eight. I didn't understand this at all.
We had floated separately back in 2006.
I would have much preferred to float freely on my
own like I did the last time.
However I soon learned the reason for
the tether. Since the rainy season
would not start till June,
here in April the
water was pretty low in some spots. As a
result, the water
so weak that
a guide had to pull us down the entire river. Although we were able
to float, we basically just sat there. So they
tied the tubes together
so the guides could pull us.
There were about six different
spots where our guides literally had to drag
us across the rocks.
Otherwise we would have just sat there until the rainy
It didn't take long to learn the reason for the company's nickname
"Butts Up". Several times my backside became well acquainted with
the rocks below.
Fortunately the rocks weren't sharp.
I should know; a couple times I
didn't get my butt up fast enough.
We all had little lights on our helmets.
Although I enjoyed looking at the walls of the cavern, I
have to admit the pictures of the cave were not exactly
wouldn't know the pictures were boring if you didn't see
them. Unlike our previous trip, at least this time I was able
to get some pictures.
On our first trip down the Sibun River in 2006, I
didn't get a single photograph. Why not?
I was afraid my camera
would get wet. So I didn't dare bring my camera
into the river.
Irritated that I
came away with no pictures on our previous visit,
in preparation for this trip I had Marla find me
a waterproof carrying kit. This way if the water was too rough, I
could simply put the camera in the protective case.
was able to photograph the entire tubing trip complete with action
shots of people screaming as their butts scraped the river bottom.
screamers said I was dead if I used the pictures.
There were all
formations in the
I quickly learned a good imagination helps. As we passed
various formations, in the dim light our guides would suggest that
this stalactite resembled the Titanic and another one was the
Madonna with a baby on her lap.
I didn't connect with any of their
suggestions, but I suppose when you do this once a day year-round,
you do indeed begin to hallucinate a bit. Or maybe some of local
Marla said this
formation was a giant ice cream cone.
I'll take her
word for it.
obvious crack in the ceiling.
limestone was a very porous rock. As I looked up, here was the evidence.
I noticed water
seeping through the crack. I could not help but wonder if
this section might collapse into the water someday.
This is the
Madonna holding her child.
This is Debra pointing at the Madonna
Pretty exciting, huh?
As you can see,
the water isn't every deep.
Our caravan of
eight had to be physically carried through the water
practically the entire trip because the current was so slow.
If given a
choice, I would definitely prefer the trip in the rainy
I liked the
independence of not being tied up and I much preferred floating
in deep water to floating in shallow water. Plus the
current was swift enough to carry us without assistance
That said, the
2013 experience was still fun this way.
I would say we
were in the cave for 30 minutes. Then we spent another
20 minutes floating outside the cave.
outside the cave was very shallow.
Here you can see
the rocks just below the surface.
This was one of
the spots where the man had to literally drag all the tubes
forward across the rocks.
As usual we are
lifted our butts as high as we could to avoid having them
warned me no shots of this procedure were necessary.
They were kind of hostile about my camera use.
I think the
girls didn't feel very pretty with their massive orange life
We all died a
million deaths as the man openly strained and grunted
pulling us across the rocks.
We each looked
at each with guilt.
It seemed like
the group ahead of us had crossed with less effort.
We were kind of
low in the water, weren't we?
shouldn't have had that second portion of carrot cake last
Once the water
deepened again, this sunny part of the trip became very
pleasant. What a thrill to be floating along with this
stunning jungle surrounding us.
there was one person in our group that wasn't very happy.
Thanks to Debra, I learned that poor Cindy Hudson had a serious
incredulous to discover that Circe the Wild One had human weaknesses like the rest of us. Till now I
had only viewed her with apprehension due to her
Now that we knew the
woman had an Achilles Heel,
we took turns asking the guide about
water snakes. Or we would point
to long dangerous sticks floating by.
Was that a stick or a snake?
Rough crowd! Unfortunately, judging by the
pale worried look on her face, I think the teasing worked.
Cindy was almost
certain this would be the day when a water moccasin would
bite her in the butt.
Cindy, a noted karaoke enthusiast, definitely did not appear
to be in a singing mood.
course there was one more picture that had to be taken!
Butts up, everyone!