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Cliff Jumping, Caves and 4-Wheeling in Belize

May 2, 2012

Our own travel guru Amy Ochoa just returned from an epic dive trip to Belize. Here she chronicles her trip in a three-week blog installment. Check out her second blog on how to pack in a day’s worth of site seeing even with some bumps (literally) and detours along the way.  

Our adventure begins in our somewhat trusty 2-wheel drive truck.

Dan and I are not the best at waking up early while on vacation, or at least we started out that way. So, when we wandered into the common area of the lodge we met the owner, Bart, who had to laugh when we told him we were headed to Tikal. He advised us that the trip would take about 8 hours and we were leaving too late and would be on the roads at night outside of town, which is not recommended. So, instead he told us to try for Tikal the following day and for the day we should travel near the lodge up in the jungle to some of his favorite sites: Barton Waterfall, Rio Frio Pools and Rio Frio Cave. He drew us a map and we were on our way.

We drove on a bumpy dirt road for about an hour through 3-4 small villages. We made a wrong turn in the town of San Antonio, which led us to some off road fun, for Dan. However, once we made it about 20 minutes into the jungle we (I) decided to turn around since we had not seen another soul and the road was much more than our rented 2-wheel drive truck could handle.

Barton Waterfall; Dan scopes out the cliff jumping options.

Once we made it back to town and re-read the signs we switched and headed the other direction on a dirt road that seemed slightly less bumpy (slightly). Soon we came to signage for the waterfall and parked next to a few other cars in an open field. We headed on foot to what looked like a small path leading into the wilderness. We passed a few people on the way to the waterfalls, which were only about 8 minutes from where our truck was parked. There was an area off the trail that had a steep incline, but very manageable. We found 3 boys playing in the water and 2 women relaxing in the sun. We quickly stripped down to our swimming suits and waded into the water towards the falls. The area felt safe and secluded. We climbed up the slick rocks to a cliff about 20 ft high and dived into the pool below. I’ve always wanted to say I’ve been cliff jumping in the jungles of Central America. Check!

Due to the rain we left and headed to our next destination, which was the Rio Frio Cave. We had not seen pictures of any of these destinations, so we were unsure of what to expect. The cave was about 20 more minutes into the mountain. The dirt road led us to a small and almost ghost town like village with about 40 deserted homes that were falling apart. We followed a sign that led us into the jungle and off the main road towards the cave. We stopped at a sign that showed us we had reached the trail head that would take us to the Rio Frio cave – hike is an hour long round trip. We were a little nervous about the length of the hike so we chose to continue in our truck to what looked like a small parking lot and second entrance to the cave. This lot, which included an outhouse, led us about 100 yards to the entrance of the cave. The cave was unbelievable. We expected a small cave and instead discovered a cave that was almost 300 ft high and 400 ft across with a large entrance from our opening and a small entrance at the back, which the previous trail leads visitors to. The cave was dark once you left the main entrance and without flashlights it was difficult to navigate even with the small opening. We could not believe that no one else was there. We had a huge cave all to ourselves.

Dan looks dwarfed by the Rio Frio cave (translation: Cold River cave).

The cave was about an hour from the largest Mayan Ruin in Belize called Caracol. We didn’t think we had enough time to make it before sundown and had seen signs that suggested the need for military escort to see the ruin, so once we finished exploring the Rio Frio Cave we started our trek back to the Maya Mountain Lodge. As we were driving I began looking through the Lonely Planet guidebook I had been referencing during the trip. I discovered a hotel in San Ignacio called Cahal Pech, with an incredible view and so Dan and I raced back to try and catch the sunset. We made it just in time. The views of the valley from the restaurant were fabulous and the food was great. I had a perfect mudslide to drink and after a day of cliff jumping and cave exploration it was the perfect view with the perfect dessert.

- Amy Ochoa, Marketing Team

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