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The Enchantment of Unfamiliar Danger; Kayaking to the Great Barrier Reef near Ambergris Caye, Belize

If something is challenging you get right back at it and persevere.

This morning it was -18 on our thermometer on this snowy and cold icy November day in 100 Mile House.Yesterday when I was driving my 4×4 blue Dodge diesel “Pearl” to work, her and I met with perilous ice. She has sandbags in the back and has studded winter tires. Just before the highway from our quiet country turnoff, she spun wildly out of control heading toward the highway with traffic ahead. I saw a flash of a semi truck. I heard my husband’s voice”Get your foot off the brake! and turn into it!”. So I did.I turned a fierce left and saw myself going to crash into our neighbouring cattle rancher’s wooden fence line. I clutched and turned the steering wheel a hard left again missing the fence, doing a bumpy four wheel drive fast over the huge snow covered icy mogals on his property then came to a stop.The first thing that came to mind was a wave of relief that I did not destroy my neighbours fence. A woman in a big black ford diesel  and a baseball cap stopped to look. I waved an “I’m fine”, and she carried on. Much about living in the Cariboo is about dusting yourself off and carrying on. If something is challenging, you get right back at it and persevere. The incident was treated as though it was a normal event, as vehicles do go off the road due to ice from time to time, and that is how it is.This mental toughness and resilience is what I have developed after the last decade of living here.

I thought I would bring you this account of an adventure we had in Belize last January 8, which brought about my survival instinct.This feels to me an action to survive without actually thinking. I find it is a systematic reaction like a wild beast that makes its own law.

We were staying at a waterfront location in Ambergris Caye. Many of the beaches appeared under water with sand bags on them and dried sea grass, however this was a white sand beach. The turquoise water and gentle breeze was calling us to enjoy snorkelling. We had done our research, and Ambergris Caye, Belize is situated on the largest Barrier reef system in the western hemisphere which runs 175 miles. Hoi Chan’s Marine Reserve; is a natural channel through the reef and starts off in just 3 ft of water and is only a 15 minute boat ride away.It promised beautiful corals, and colourful fish. We asked a local kayaking business if he knew of any snorkelling tours. He said “Why take a tour when you can take a kayak out to the reef! Look, it is only a short distance away”. He pointed and we could see where the Reef was. It looked distinctively flat near the ocean in the distance. This seemed like it was a great idea, as were avid kayakers, and the Reef looked quite close. He organized us with a double Kayak(my choice) with paddles and snorkling gear. The Reef’s edge looked inviting in the distance, and I was excited to snorkel again. I am a new beginner at it, and loved my experience the previous year in Costa Rica. We pushed our bright yellow double kayak into the calm shimmering turquoise water. There was a song in my heart. What could be a better day than this? The reef was in clear sight and it was going to be a marvellous adventure! With shrewd fearlessness we headed out paddling in sync, and admired the clear brilliant turquoise water. As we paddled it appeared that the Reef was getting further away not closer, and we kept going. We finally reached our destination and found the buoy that was described to us as the spot that the kayak was to be tied to, evidence that others have done this very journey. Glenn swiftly put on his mask and flipper, and was in the water in the time it takes to pepper an egg. Myself, being new at this took my time adjusting mask and flippers and then carefully lowered my self into the water from the kayak trying not to flip our boat. I think this part should could been part of my education, as the procedure was not elegant! Glenn had disappeared into the water. I was struggling still with my flippers while in the water and  one was coming off. At a distance this thrashing would have looked to be a comical and humorous escapade. I took the time to chuckle at myself whole heartedly. Once everything was on it was now time to look in the water. I looked through my goggles and saw nothing but cloudy mud. I paddled to a different spot and put my head under water, and still saw nothing but mirky water. I surfaced above the water to see if I could see my husband to ask him for snorkelling tips. He was still underwater. Then before my eyes I saw a sight that petrified me and transfixed me at the same time. It was an ominous, massive, destructive wall of dark in the quickly moving and changing sky. I quickly aimed to get back to the kayak. I was far away from the boat which was now in the distance violently thrashing in the choppy water. The ocean once turquoise was now a dark raging charcoal. I paddled with my hands and flippers churning madly with my lifejacket bobbing in the waves. I found the edge of the kayak and with a strength I did not know I had, I  pulled myself into the kayak without tipping it. With Glenn nowhere in sight, I scanned the ocean hard, my gaze moving like prison searchlight.I started to scream his name loudly as torrential wind and howling chaos began. I was waving the paddle in the sky at the same time, in a fruitful effort to somehow get his attention. Then with irritatingly buoyant boyish enthusiasm he surfaced out of the water grinning at what he had seen in the water.The massive blackened cloud behind him was unknowingly in the background. I pointed vigorously to the sky .He took one glance at it, and swam furiously toward the kayak. The wind at this point was a sinister roar. He quickly and skillfully was in the boat and was already paddling. The sea lashed in tremendous confusion. We were at this point paddling as though our lives depended on it, and time appeared to be suspended for the moment. We then saw to our left a couple in a double kayak, with no lifejackets paddling toward the Reef. We tried to get their attention but to no avail. The sky then opened up into a fury of torrential angry rain that I had never felt before. The once visible shore in the distance became invisible.The waves were barbarously abrupt and tall. We kept paddling toward what we thought was the shore through the violent sea, the kayak drifting and crashing in the waves. We saw a glimmer of the dock and used all of our strength to paddle toward it. Finally to the shore we quickly pulled the kayak toward the now abandoned beach.I felt a vulnerability and immense gratefulness that was overwhelming as my feet touched solid ground on the shore. The palm trees were swayed, the violence of the wind beating them into a deep arch. Our heads down, we dragged the kayak up and found the business stand where the local expat was quickly rounding up our gear.We told him that were missing a flipper, but he was not worried about it. We explained to him that we saw a couple go out into the storm in their double kayak without lifejackets. He acted quickly and a search and rescue crew went out and safely brought them back. The next morning, the same beach was serene. We watched the turquoise silk sea gently fold in a splash of delicate foam across the sand. Glenn and I embraced on the shore and spent a quiet moment in appreciation. Then I said “Let’s go snorkelling!”

Stay tuned next for our  snorkelling adventure in Belize with Whale sharks and Manta Rays….

Dec 2/2015 We will be arriving in Panama to visit expat communities. I will be posting on our blog throughout our trip.

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By horsecounsellor

Kim Mowatt, a #1 Bestselling author, neuroscience-educated Registered Psychiatric Nurse, Mental Health Clinician and founder of Wise Women on Horseback, has drawn on 35 years of experience to write her soon to be published, innovative self-help book series. In her books, Kim uses solution-focused, scientific and evidence-based techniques to assist others achieve mental wellbeing resulting in lasting happiness.

Kim co authored the #1 Bestseller Emotional Intelligence for Women: Mental Health Matters, an inspiring book offering a set of supportive tools and stories to help women conquer negative influences, harness the power of psychological wellness and thrive emotionally.

A longstanding member of the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of B.C, Kim is registered with the British Columbia College of Nursing Professionals, specializing in stress, anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Verified by Psychology Today, Kim was acclaimed by 100 Mile Mental Health and Substance Use Clinic for her development of client programs using Heart Science Biofeedback, Neuroscience, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

A Certified Riding Instructor and Ride Communications Coordinator for the Backcountry Horsemen of B.C., Kim and her husband raised their family at Chrome Heart Ranch, a therapeutic riding retreat. Here, Kim developed the Wise Girls equestrian program, in response to the mental health needs of young people. Clients visiting this unique sanctuary from around the world learned how to reset their hearts and minds, to help navigate through anxiety, depression, loss and change, to find calmness and inner peace.

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