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  • Writer's pictureMarilyn Saltzman

An “unBelizeable” adventure!

As I share adventures with my grandkids, I have learned so much about them and myself. During my most recent adventure with Selam to Belize, I got the chance to stretch my courage muscle and embrace my limitations while making incredible memories with my granddaughter.

Several years ago, I decided that I would take each grandchild on an annual trip of his or her choice to create special times together. We started small – day trips to the Denver Zoo or to a Cleo Parker Robinson dance performance. We expanded to Colorado overnight trips – Glenwood Springs for Selam and Colorado Springs for Dian.

Because of COVID, we had to put off our travels for a couple of years. So this year, we decided to go BIG! I told Selam and Dian they could go anywhere in the world they would like to see. Selam wanted someplace with a rainforest and beach. After considering several locations, we decided on Belize. And we just got back from our unBelizeable adventure.

Our first stop was the Bocawina Rainforest, where we stayed in the lodge located right in the national park. To get there was the beginning of our adventure. We took a puddle jumper – a ten-seater plane where they organized passengers by weight. Selam and I shared the back bench with another small woman. The prop plane shimmied and shook, and Selam asked if it was going to go over the ocean. “I hope not,” I said, moments before it made a sharp left over the water. The first test of my courage.

When we got to the lodge, we were greeted by the smiling, gracious concierge, Tristan, who escorted us directly to the Wild Fig restaurant for a dinner of fresh fish, veggies, beans and rice, local fruit drinks and a lemony custard dessert. After dinner, he drove us up the bumpy road to our room, the spacious Antelope Suite. It was already dark, and we couldn’t appreciate the hibiscus, bromeliads and other lush foliage flourishing right under our window.

The next morning, we discovered that we could also see the start of the zipline from

our room. Selam, always ready for adventure, couldn’t wait to try it. Grandma was a bit more cautious. Yes, I had done it several years ago with a group of Beth Evergreen friends over Clear Creek. And I had been truly petrified. I remembered the bile rising in my throat as the guide buckled on my gear. After the first jump though, I had a great time. I tried to conjure up that memory as I adjusted my helmet for this second ziplining adventure.

I thought of what Mussar teacher Alan Morinis says, that we cannot experience trust and fear at the same time. I put my trust in the guides, in the universe and in the love of my granddaughter. I took it as a good sign that a local couple was sharing our experience and our guide's name was Kevin, my son’s name. There were nine platforms, and the eighth was ½-mile long. I courageously made the first jump, and it was both scary and exhilarating to sail over the coconut palms. I braked a little too fast and had to grab the “bag of shame” to make it across. The next few runs went smoothly, and I delighted in watching the smile on my granddaughter’s face as she zipped across the forest, sailing over a lush variety of palm, fern and Caribbean pine trees.

When we got to the longest line, I was a little worried about making it without pressing the brake too early and getting stuck in the middle. Kevin offered to do it in tandem with me. I could lean back and relax! It was a blast and a great opportunity to test my courage while acknowledging my limits.

The next day brought another opportunity to practice my Mussar. We took a strenuous hike

through the lush rainforest to Antelope Falls, stopping to admire the coconut palms, learn about the toxic black poisonwood tree, swing from a vine and courageously sample the jungle delicacy, termites. (They do NOT taste like chicken.) As we progressed up the 1000-foot climb, we hung on to blue rope railings. Just getting to the pool at the top was a

challenge to my stamina and bravery.

After enjoying a refreshing dip, we were

faced with the choice of walking down the steep trail or rappelling 125 feet down a 90-degree, wet cliff. While the rest of the group, including Selam, made the choice to rappel, I decided to traverse down the steep path by myself. One step at a time, holding tightly to the

ropes, I carefully made my way to the base of the falls. I was rewarded by a visit

from a coatimundi, a racoon-like animal who posed for some pictures. Watching the others rappel from that vantage point, I knew I had chosen appropriately for me – practicing courage and limits.

On the third day, we had signed up for a horseback ride and cave tubing. Until about three years ago, I hadn’t been on a horse in decades. Again, my granddaughter’s encouragement had led me to test my courage. So I was actually less anxious about this activity than some of the others. When we got to the jungle ride, however, the guide helped me mount the largest horse around, Big Mike.

“Why put me on this behemoth?” I wondered as I looked down to see how far below the ground was. Selam’s guidance and excitement calmed my fears. Big Mike was a gentle giant and though half way through the ride, it began pouring and my nylon pants were stuck to my skin, it was another memory-maker with my granddaughter. Selam got a chance to canter in a field filled with cattle, and her smile made it all worthwhile.

The weather cleared for our cave tubing that afternoon, and Selam and I jumped on our bright blue tubes as Emilio guided us through the cave and the “rapids” of the winding river. This one felt like a cake walk after our other adventures. No need to test courage or limits here; I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. Of course, there was a little excitement when Selam’s shoe disappeared under the water, but Emilio persisted until he rescued it.

The second part of our Belize trip was to Hopkins Bay, where we had the chance to play in the ocean, listen to the local drummers, and enjoy more fresh fish, fruits and vegetables. We took a snorkeling trip on what we were told is the world’s largest LIVING barrier reef. Though I love snorkeling, swim regularly in the local pool and grew up near the ocean, I am always a bit hesitant when I first jump in with the mask and fins. Selam, on the other hand, is a mermaid and doesn’t even need to use the snorkel. Jay, a capable local divemaster, made us feel at ease as she pointed out the underwater wonders. Once I was able to focus on the nurse shark swimming below me, find the stingray buried in the sand, and marvel at the delicate purple fan coral dancing in the current, I delighted in the experience and became

one with the ocean.

The last day, having zipped, hiked, climbed, ridden horses, tubed, swum and snorkeled, we decided on one last mobility adventure. I rented a golf cart, and Selam and I rode the bumpy roads through town to buy souvenirs. We met up with two of the teen drummers she had befriended and took them on a ride to buy Nice Cream, a locally made ice cream. The rum raisin is highly recommended!

Truly an unBelizeable adventure, testing courage and limits and having a marvelous time making memories with my beloved Selam!

Next up: Italy with Dian after school is out in May . Stay tuned.

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