Mud Sweat & Gears

In the jungle, I discover the ultimate luxury is making it out alive.

Whoever decided to call this overgrown track through the jungle a road must have had one twisted sense of humor.
In the eight hours I’ve spent driving on Camp 5 Road in Belize’s Cayo province, I’ve managed to travel just over nine miles through hood-high vegetation and axle-deep mud where our small group’s forward progress has frequently been measured in feet. And we are—quite literally—not out of the woods yet.

What little daylight there’s been on this deeply overcast day in the middle of the rainy season is fading fast, and we still have many miles to go before our little four-vehicle convoy reaches pavement, let alone civilization. Now, in the midst of this rapidly gathering gloom I’m faced with trying to decide which of the barely discernable paths in front of us will lead back to the hot showers and soft pillows of tonight’s upscale resort and which might lead to a long uncomfortable night in the jungle rationing out our dwindling supply of Pringles and mini-Oreos.

As my guide and I wrestle with this momentary uncertainty, I remember reading somewhere that you’re not having a true adventure unless you’re at least a little unsure of the outcome. By that measure, this three-day Land Rover Adventure in Belize was a doozy.

Without knowing exactly what the next 72 hours might bring, we put our fate in the hands of the Land Rover staff as we set out to explore ancient Mayan ruins in some of the most remote corners of this former British colony. And, in retrospect, that trust paid off with an up-close-and-personal experience of the country’s untamed natural beauty and unspoiled cultural treasures that very few of the folks who visit this popular eco-tourism destination will ever know.

Which, not coincidentally, is exactly the point of the British SUV-maker’s Land Rover Adventures program. These upscale trips are designed to give guests the ability to explore far off the beaten path, secure in the knowledge that the Land Rover driving instructor sitting by your side will make sure both you and the vehicle make it back in one piece.
While the point of these off-road learning adventures is to have you do the driving, the trips also give you the freedom to be as active or passive as you please. You can get right in there with the Land Rover driving instructors as they play out winch cable to extract your vehicle from the mud, or recline in your vehicle’s air-conditioned cabin thumbing through a magazine while they do the heavy-lifting for you.

Either way these trips offer the chance to do things you never thought possible in a vehicle, while seeing some rarely visited corners of the natural world with surprisingly abundant comforts and remarkably few worries. Maybe I’m crazy, but that sounds like a whole lot of fun to me.

Xtrordinary Xtra
For all its beauty, the Belizean jungle is full of exotic hazards ranging from tiny fly larvae you can feel wriggling as they feed under your skin to giant snakes that would just as soon have you wriggling under theirs.

Xtrordinary Xtra
The prehistoric Mayan ruins known as Caracol, located 50 miles south of the town of San Ignacio, contain several pyramids including a massive 145-foot tall example that is still the tallest man-made structure in Belize.

The Facts
Name: Land Rover Adventures
Location: Programs offered worldwide.
Phone: Find the contact information for your nearest Land Rover dealer at www.landrover.com.
Website: www.landroverexperience.com

My Advice

  • Land Rover Adventures deliver a true expedition-style experience without requiring you to give up all the civilized comforts you’re used to at home. That said, things don’t always go as planned, so you’ll likely enjoy yourself more if you keep a sense of humor handy.
  • Because you’ll be spending a good bit of your time driving off-road or hoofing it through interesting attractions, pack accordingly. Study shoes or lightweight hiking boots and a hat are a must, and long pants and long-sleeved shirts are a good idea.
  • My number one rule for traveling in remote places like these is to make sure you’re thoroughly prepared. Don’t let a forgotten prescription medicine or lost contact lens—or anything else you’d have a hard time replacing—ruin your trip.
  • Your Land Rover guides are extremely knowledgeable, highly-skilled professionals. Follow their advice when it comes to driving off-road and you’ll likely to learn a an awful lot in a very short period of time.