Swimming with the ancient Mayans
11/12/17 - 11/12/17 78 °F
It’s been a long year. Life hit me hard and I needed a break. Around July I started looking at flights just wanting to go somewhere - anywhere. Europe? Central America? South America? The list was endless. I finally found a good fare for Belize. I’d been thinking about traveling to Belize for a few years. They have some great Mayan sites and plenty of natural beauty.
Lots of folks stick to the coast but I’m not a ‘sit on the beach’ kind of person. I want to see exciting places and learn new things. San Ignacio looked to be the best place to base myself and then do day-trips from there.
My first day in San Ignacio was just an unwind and get settled kind of day. November is still the rainy season so it’s hit or miss whether it will rain or not. I want to see a few sites that require a guide so I visited several tour companies and settled on MayaWalk. They have good prices and great customer service. One of my must-see sites is the Mayan site of Caracol. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any tours there Sunday but they did have the ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) cave tour. I was a little reluctant since it involved spending hours wading around in water. The owner of the company assured me it was better than it sounded so I signed up. Plus, the weather forecasted 100% rain. If I’m going to get wet, I might as well do it on purpose!
The tour starts with a swim across a river and then a hike through the jungle crossing that same river two more times. Once you reach the cave, the tour starts in earnest. We waded and swam upstream through various chambers looking at amazing rock formations. Some of these chambers are huge! However, the prize at the end of the trek is the ‘dry cave’. The Mayans used this cave for ceremonial purposes. There are over a thousand pottery artifacts as well as human skeletons. Our guide, Juan Carlos, did a great job explaining the reasons for the ceremonies and some of the Mayan history.
Unfortunately, due to previous tourists who dropped their cameras onto artifacts, cameras aren’t allowed in the caves. It’s difficult to explain the vastness of this cave. The cave keeps going on and on. Many of the artifacts are partially hidden in the calcite deposited over hundreds of years. Who knows how many more are completely hidden from us?
Once we had seen all the cave could show us, we had to traverse the caves back to the starting point. It was much easier going with the flow of the water! Our guide was nervous about the water level when we came in and he was watching carefully as we left. Luckily, we made it there and back without an incident.
Although I was originally hesitant to take this tour, I’m so very glad I did! It was an amazing experience and the sites were not something you could see anywhere else.
(I’ll add photos when I can get them from the tour company.)