Mayflower Bocawina National Park – Hiking in Belize

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When I committed to doing the 52 Hike Challenge it never occurred to me that any of my hikes would be completed outside of Arizona, let alone internationally, even though our trip to Belize had been booked months before starting The Challenge.  Not knowing that I’d be hiking, my hiking shoes nevertheless went with me to Belize because I knew I wanted to go on the zip lining/rappelling excursion and they are the best adventure shoes I own.

Even with this excursion planned and knowing we would be rappelling DOWN a waterfall I just never stopped to think about how we would get UP to the waterfall.  The brochure didn’t mention anything about hiking.  It wasn’t until we actually booked the trip that the manager of our resort mentioned that there was a short hike up to the waterfall, and I thought, ‘cool maybe it will be long enough to count for the challenge’.  On the morning of the trip he again reminded us of the hike, this time mentioning that it was a short but fairly steep hike up to the waterfall.  At this point I was so excited about going zip lining and rappelling, two activities I’ve never done before, that I thought, ‘well at least I have my hiking shoes and my inhaler’.

Once we arrived on the mainland of Belize it was a 30 minute or so car ride to the Mayflower Bocawina National Park where we would be having our adventure.  That was the scariest car ride I have ever been on in my life and I almost literally kissed the ground when we got out of the car.  Whether all Belizean’s drive that way or if it was just our driver Indy (Indy 500? Indiana Jones?) I’ll never know and don’t care to find out.  After that car ride I figured the rest of the day would be a piece of cake.

We checked in and got set up with all of our equipment and our guides informed us it was about a 2 ½ mile, steep hike through the jungle to the waterfall, but we would go slow.

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All geared up

Time to pull out the inhaler.

Now would probably be a good time to mention the humidity in Belize, it was oppressive.  I may live in Arizona but I know about humidity.  I grew up in Michigan and lived in Alabama for a year.  The humidity in Alabama is so bad that it literally takes your breath away when you step outside.  Belize humidity is infinitely worse.  Like take Alabama humidity and multiply it by infinity and that is Belize humidity.  And it wasn’t even the humid season!

So off into the jungle we go.  A jungle that is also a rainforest.  I didn’t know the two could coexist, but apparently they can, so it was like getting two for the price of one!  Before we actually left the resort area our guide stopped and pointed to where we were going.  Seriously???

We're hiking to the top of the ridge between the two center palm trees
We’re hiking to the top of the ridge between the two center palm trees
That's our waterfall
That’s our waterfall

I asked again how far it was and what the elevation gain was, about 2 ½ miles and 750 feet.  Now I’m thinking, ‘ok, that’s not so bad, I backpacked the Grand Canyon and hiked 3200 feet in a mile and a half with 40 lbs on my back, this won’t be so bad’.  HA!

Did I mention the humidity yet?  Or that we only had 1 liter of water per person?  1 liter of water per person, what?

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Nursing my water trying to make it last

How about the stairs, have I mentioned the stairs yet?  It became apparent to me very early into this hike that I was going to struggle.  It was hot, it was humid, it was steep, and there were stairs, lots and lots of stairs.  I hate stairs on a hike.

Who puts stairs on a mountain?
Who puts stairs on a mountain?

I am short and having to stair step my way up a mountain is torture.  I had to stop to catch my breath several times, despite doing so and taking an extra puff from my inhaler I had the worst asthma flare up I’ve ever had.  It was so bad that for the first time the husband actually looked panicked as if wondering if I was going to make it.  Damn humidity!  Thankfully the stairs eventually disappeared, and we were left with just a steep incline.  An incline so steep that they had to install ropes to help you climb!

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And we were in a jungle, so there were lots of tree roots, very large tree roots all throughout the trail just waiting to trip you.  Somehow I managed to complete this hike without falling.

There were actually three waterfall on this hike.  The first one we only stopped at long enough to admire and take a photo.

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The second waterfall was smaller but had a pool for soaking.

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Even though I had my bathing suit on, I didn’t even bother to take my clothes or my shoes off, I just plunged right in.  The water was COLD though so I only went waist deep.

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This waterfall was small enough for jumping.

I’ve been jumping off waterfalls since I was a child so of course I wanted to jump off this waterfall too.  As I was inching myself into the water so I could swim to the rope to climb up the waterfall one of our resort mates started yelling “Don’t look Jenn, don’t look”.  We had previously had the snake conversation being that we were hiking in the jungle and all, so I knew immediately that’s what he was yelling about.  It took less than a second and I was out of the water and sure enough there was a snake, a 6 foot green vine snake, coming out of the water and climbing the rock right where the rope was, right where I was headed.  Guess who didn’t jump off the waterfall.  I was so mad at that snake for ruining my fun and equally mad at myself for letting the snake ruin my fun.  Damn snake!  We (they) soaked for a little while longer before continuing our hike to the next waterfall, the waterfall we would be rappelling down.

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The rappel portion of our hike was two parts, the first 100 feet through the actual waterfall itself, the second 150 feet next to the waterfall.  I’m not scared of heights but standing on the edge of that waterfall attached to nothing more than a metal hook and a rope had me feeling very apprehensive and wondering not for the first time in my life what the hell I had gotten myself into.

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Standing on the edge of the waterfall

As with all of our adventures, the husband went first.  He believes I’m more equipped at surviving without him than the other way around!

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Going over the edge
Going over the edge
Waterfall from the bottom of the rappel

My first rappel didn’t go so well.

I was scared and held on to the ropes too tight making my descent rather rough.  But I still felt like a rockstar when I finished!

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Having survived the first rappel I was much more comfortable on the second and it went much smoother.

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Knowing I wasn’t gong to die made the second rappel much more enjoyable!

In addition to a new experience there was a benefit to rappelling down the waterfalls, not having to hike down the section of mountain requiring ropes.  We popped back onto the mountain just above the stairs.

As I’m writing this I’m thinking, ‘god, this hike sounds horrible’, and it was horrible; it was hot, it was beyond humid, it was strenuous, I couldn’t breath, and we didn’t have enough water.  But it was also amazing.  Despite the hardships of the hike there were many rewards.

I hiked in a Rain Forest.

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 I walked right next to Mayan ruins.

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Mayan ruins

I saw jungle owls in their natural habitat.

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I ate coconut fresh from the jungle floor.

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I was blessed with incredible views.

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I don’t know the exact mileage or elevation gain of this hike, and it doesn’t matter, what matters is that I was challenged and I succeeded.

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Would I do it again?  Absolutely!

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3 thoughts on “Mayflower Bocawina National Park – Hiking in Belize

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