“You know I’m a bit claustrophobic… right?” I shared a slightly worried but mostly excited anticipatory glance with Theo. What had I gotten myself into? Was I going to freak out halfway through the cave and ruin it for myself and everyone else? Or was this about to be one of the most epic adventures of my life?
Everyone said we had to go to the ATM caves near San Ignacio, Belize. I had spoken to a fellow who worked for my hostel in Bacalar, Mexico, who had actually had a job where he tested out all of the tour companies in the area, finding out which company did it best. He promised I wouldn’t be disappointed if I went with MayaWalk Tours. And so I contacted them.
Two days later and there I was with my buddy Theo, trekking through the jungle and into a gigantic cave – a cave that was, in fact, voted as the #1 sacred cave in the world by National Geographic. Okay, so this seemed pretty damn awesome. But I’m not in good shape, I’m a chain smoker, and I’d never spent three full hours in a cave before. Um, frightening.
Not so much.
Every moment was an adventure; whether our tour guide was pointing out a tiny plant growing in the darkness or showing us a scorpion spider, it was epic. As we swam and tramped our way through the cave, squeezing and climbing, watching our every step with caution yet ease, our guide went above and beyond, explaining all about the history of the Mayans and the cave.
While we entered the cave alone in our small six person group, other tour groups kept catching up to us and overtaking us. We would be listening eagerly to our guide as he explained exactly where the Mayan people would lay their pots – below the water line, as the rituals in this cave were specifically to ask the rain gods for water – as other guides would glide past not saying a word.
My brain may not be able to retain all that info, but man was it cool. I listened attentively to every word, gazing at the beautiful cave all around, and the human remains lying on the ground. From 820 to 910 AD the Mayans would leave sacrifices – humans – in this cave as a prayer for rain. But around 910 AD they stopped… because the gods weren’t listening. Sorry, Mayans. That’s when they moved up North and South of this area, to Mexico and southern Guatemala.
Or at least that’s what I remember of it. But if you go on a tour with MayaWalk Tours, you’ll learn a hell of a lot more than my brain can retain. Be ready for the adventure of your life, but don’t worry, the pace is slow enough that even the most unathletic smoker’s lungs can handle it.
Oh, and forget your camera at home and enjoy every moment of this epic journey. All photos courtesy of MayaWalk Tours.