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  • Writer's picturecocoy montenegro

What The Cave Kayak Trip from Hell Taught Me About Memories

I just returned from my “honeymoon,” a Royal Caribbean cruise. I needed a trip badly because I hadn’t had a vacation in 4+ years. I’ve been on plenty of trips, but all of them were work-related. This honeymoon would be unique because I wanted nothing more than to RELAX. I selected 3 of our four excursions; a submarine trip that took us 118 ft below sea level, a day at the beach under a tiki hut, and a Mayan Healing Ritual (which will likely be another blog post). I didn’t like the Royal Caribbean excursion options for Belize, so Doug began researching other options. He found and selected a cave kayaking trip that seemed to fit in with my health limitations. A 30-minute drive in an air-conditioned van and then a moderate, 20-minute hike to the river. No problem! Doug thought of everything and purchased biodegradable sunscreen, water shoes, and a $40 waterproof camera for pictures.

The big day of the cave kayaking trip arrived, and we decided not to take our cell phones. We tendered into the Belize port and began looking for our tour guides, who were supposed to wear red shirts. Several people approached us about a cave kayaking trip, but we knew to look for someone wearing a red shirt. Instead, we found two guys in brown shirts holding the company sign and pointing to a lady wearing a red shirt. Being in a foreign country and already approached by 20 people about cave kayak tours, we began to feel unsure about our trip. Are we with the right company? Where are the red shirts? We had found the right company, so we piled into our “air-conditioned” van for the 30-minute ride to the river with nine other people.

The air-conditioning was not working at all. The plastic fans glued to the ceiling blew hot air on it. It just so happened that the minivan had a persistent rattle on the driver’s side. And then it just so happened that the rattle began to get louder. And it just so happened that the loud rattle began to smell like burning rubber. Doug and I looked at each other and commented, “This will not end well.” Seconds later, we heard the POW, and that was that. The spring broke and ripped the tread off the tire. The 30-minute drive we were 45 minutes into came to an indefinite “pause.” The driver commented that he couldn’t believe they pulled this minivan out of retirement. We are stuck on the side of the road in Belize. The guide phoned his boss, and 45 minutes later, another “air-conditioned” minivan arrived so we could complete our 30-minute drive to the river.

When we arrive, they hand us paddles, vests, and helmets we must carry for our 20-minute hike to the river. That moderate 20-minute hike took the girl with a blown-out thyroid 60 minutes because she was already wiped out from the ride just getting there. We finally got to the river, and I opted to share a kayak with Doug since I was having trouble walking. We began our journey, and I took some nice pictures with our new waterproof camera.

We got stuck on the rocks as we paddled around a river bend. Doug decided to get out of the kayak to push us. He stepped into the water, not realizing it was 3 feet deeper than he previously thought. He tweaks his back while flipping me out of the kayak into the water. I did manage to squeak out a slew of choice expletives before my face hit the water. I returned to the kayak, realizing my paddle, water bottle, and the new waterproof camera were gone. Not only am I exhausted, tired, and wet, but now beyond pissed that my health has declined to the point that I had to rely physically on someone else to help me enjoy the day, which is not where I want to be. So many emotions…so little time to process them.

We found the water bottle and paddle 30 yards away, but the waterproof camera was gone, along with the photos. When I’m pissed AF, I get quiet. And I hadn’t been this “quiet” in a long time. I was a ticking time bomb; one ill-timed word would set off a torrent of ugly. I was so wiped out at this point I couldn’t get out of the kayak. Doug watched me try to get to my feet for a few seconds, then asked, “Need some help?”

I snapped, “NO, I want you to watch me fucking struggle!”

I said it loud enough that two girls in another kayak stopped and looked at me. It was not my best moment. Ever watch an unhappy woman about to go off on someone who didn’t deserve it? That was me, and I still feel shame for allowing myself to get this triggered and snap at Doug like that.

I spent much of the drive home running through my arsenal of hypno tricks to calm myself down to get some perspective on the day. There was so much to process. I asked myself questions, tapped, and took deep breaths. I asked myself, “What went right today?” Then I remembered that I had left my cell phone on the ship. I would have lost much more than a $40 waterproof camera had that been on the kayak with me!

The last thing I had to make peace with was the loss of the $40 waterproof camera. The few photos we had taken that day were gone. And then I reasoned, perhaps I wasn’t supposed to remember this excursion this way. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to remember this excursion at all! I created a photo of how I wanted to remember this day, so I chose a picture of Doug and me smiling and laughing in the kayak, having a great time.

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