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Nothing Say's "I Love You" Like Throwing Yourself Off a Cliff

by Ryan Parton

weddingguru.com, February, 2003

Nothing says “I love you” like throwing yourself off a cliff.

That’s the idea behind a rugged honeymoon package offered by Caves Branch Jungle Lodge, a Canadian-owned resort/adventure company located deep in the Belizean jungle.

Your romantic getaway begins with complimentary drinks at the lodge, 25 kilometres south-east of Belize’s capital, Belmopan. After feasting buffet-style on beans, rice, stew, veggies and a colourful array of fresh fruit, you retreat to your private cabana overlooking the lazy Caves Branch River to watch the sun set over the palms and eventually doze off to the distant shrieks of nocturnal howler monkeys.

Day two is what separates this vacation from your typical all-inclusive resort honeymoon. Breakfast starts at 7 a.m., where you hungrily devour a gastronomic cornucopia of tortillas, beans, sausages, scrambled eggs and more fruit. Walter, who will be one of your guides for the next two days, introduces himself and sits down across the table from you.

“I hope you got lots of sleep last night,” he says. You exchange a coy smile with your hubby and say you did.

After breakfast you meet your second guide, Morgeli, who speaks very little English but is constantly singing and flashing you funny looks. You’re convinced he’s friendly. Or insane.

Morgeli helps you into the back of a battered pick-up truck, where you are joined by Marcus, an attractive twenty-something of Mayan descent who will round out your team of guides. With Walter at the wheel, the five of you bounce past countless orange and grapefruit groves, eventually stopping at the edge of the dense jungle. Sweating against the sub-tropical heat, you follow Walter and Marcus on foot down a narrow jungle trail, en route to the first part of your honeymoon adventure -- a vertiginous 90-metre rappel affectionately known as “The Black Hole Drop.” Morgeli brings up the rear and occasionally disappears strangely into the foliage, only to reappear, all smiles, at the next water break.

After 45 minutes of trekking you arrive at the lip of an enormous sinkhole, about 300 metres across, and although you can’t see the bottom, you know it’s 90 metres down. Walter lays out a blanket and prepares lunch, but although the burritos are satisfying, you can’t shake that queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach as you gaze across the big hole.

After lunch, Marcus gives a crash course in rappelling and helps you into an elaborate harness system. When you ask why you need one harness under your rump and another one over your shoulders, he replies, “In case you flip upside down.” He then hands you a red plastic helmet and tells you to put it on. You decide not to ask why.

Walter attaches one end of a long rope to a sturdy-looking tree and tosses the other end over the edge to Morgeli, who vanished during lunch but has presumedly reappeared somewhere at the bottom to aid your descent from there.

With everything set to go, Walter asks who wants to go first. Your hubby, ever the gentleman, takes two steps back and politely proclaims, “Ladies first.”

With a single metal fastener holding you to the rope, you slowly shuffle-step backwards towards the edge. Your heart lurches as you feel the ground beneath your feet go from horizontal to vertical. Fighting the panic rising in your throat, you recall Walter’s instructions, shift your weight to your butt harness and begin to “walk” down the rock and dirt wall.

You look up and Walter snaps a picture with your husband’s 35 mm. “Okay, look down,” he says.

You barely stifle a scream. You’re looking down upon hundreds of treetops, with the ground visible in shadowy speckles between them. You can now see the entire sinkhole, a lush tropical garden flanked on all sides by towering limestone walls exploding with greenery.

Across the void you see a gaping black expanse, the top of a massive cavern entrance. Inside, you know, lies your honeymoon suite.

As you descend, the wall beside you gradually curves outward, and you are left dangling above a tropical paradise, free to enjoy the altitude-induced adrenaline while casually lowering yourself to the jungle floor.

Morgeli greets you at the bottom with a congratulatory slap on the back. You snap a couple of pictures of your man as he makes his own descent, and later promise not to tell your friends back home how he shrieked when he went over the edge. As you follow Morgeli around the edge of the sinkhole, your pristine surroundings -- combined with the closeness of the limestone walls -- create the illusion of being in a theme park. You look up, half expecting to see a giant glass dome, but see only a perfect blue sky streaked with delicate milky wisps.

When you arrive at the huge limestone cave, whose entrance arches 42 metres above your head, the guides begin to prepare supper and the two of you are left to explore the cave’s fascinating limestone formations. When Marcus calls your names you return to the mouth of the cavern and sit down to another delectable buffet dinner -- tortillas and beans and stew, oh my!

After dinner you are led deep into the grotto to a narrow, subterranean river which disappears to your right into the cave’s shadowy depths. You are each given a headlamp for your helmet, and Walter hands you a two-way radio, assuring you that neither he, nor his two colleagues, will be far away. Your guides then bid you good night, and you and your hubby turn excitedly towards the beckoning darkness. Your headlight beams reflect eerily off the water as you and your partner walk hand-in-hand along, and at times through, the gently flowing river. Shadows dance along the looming stalactites and elaborate ancient waterfalls, frozen in time and rock as they tumble motionlessly down the limestone walls.

Ahead in the distance you begin to see a soft shimmer of light that glows more and more intense as you approach, until finally, rounding a bend, you stop and gape in awe at the sight before you.

The chamber is aglow with dancing torchlight, and to the left of the river, awash in the flickering light of dozens of tiny white candles, a double bed with satin sheets has been strewn with flowers and a dozen inviting pillows, and draped with a fine gauze canopy. Next to the bed lies a chilled bottle of champagne with two glass flutes, and a basket overflowing with fresh fruit and other delectable delights. Across the river a tiny waterfall tumbles from an opening in the wall, lending its soothing rhythm to your romantically remote honeymoon chamber.

You wrap your arms tightly around your true love and plant a soft kiss on his neck, the two of you still standing waist-deep in the water.

What happens next is up to you.

Caves Branch’s five-night honeymoon package costs $1,475 U.S. per couple. It includes four nights in a private cabana, one night in the underground “honeymoon suite,” the “Black Hole Drop” and two other adventurous day trips of the couple’s choice.

More information can be found at their web site, www.cavesbranch.com.

For all you need to know about visiting Belize, and more, visit www.belizenet.com


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