Live #20, San Ignacio & ATM Caves, Belize
28/12/2014 Having spent the complete day at the Copan Maya Ruins in brutal sunshine and annoying mosquitos, I am now presenting the second and also last update from Belize 🙂 I visited the Actun Tunichil Muknal Caves (or just known as ATM Caves) and enjoyed the laid back town of San Ignacio, very close to the border of Guatemala. Check out this quick report to see why the ATM Caves have been my best Caving expierence as of now.
San Ignacio is a pleasant and quiet little town close to the border and the Bella’s Hostal over there had a very nice and relaxing vibe to it. I met some people from Caye Caulker again and we arranged a trip to the ATM caves with Mayawalk tours. They gave us a good deal for $90 including breakfast. From town it is a two hour drive through the country side to reach the cave entrance. One of our two guides did a good job explaining all sorts of things along the way. Not really connected to the cave, but pretty interesting anyway. For instance, the Chinese own basically all big supermarkets in Belize and that is something I noticed on Caye Caulker already.
From the car park it was another hour of hiking through the jungle, including three river crossings. We used water shoes since we would get wet in the cave anyway, so crossing those rivers was not a big deal. The guides explained the different Flora and Fauna and even had some plant for me to help healing my leg, which was in a pretty bad shape from scratching all those mosquito bites in combination with a little swim through jelly fish!
To get into the cave, we had to swim through a little pool and from were constantly walking through waste deep water. The pictures below were provided from Mayawalk as we were not allowed to take any cameras inside ourselves, thanks to a french tourist that dropped his camera on one of the Maya skulls inside! The tour progressed and besides the usual explanation of all the Stalagmites and Stalactites stuff inside, our guides had one really special play: We had to turn off our head torches and walked in the complete pitch black darkness for about ten minutes, holding the shoulder of the person in front, while the guide explained how the Maya treated the Caves as a Gateway to the underworld. My favorite part of the tour and really incredible! The guide repeated this procedure once more until we reached some Stalagmites that he used to produce music, also pretty cool.
After a few hours of wading through cold water and squeezing through tiny holes, we reached a higher plateau and started to see all the Maya pottery, which was never moved by any Archaeologist before and provided a pretty cool in-cave museum! After spotting the first out of 13 Maya skeleton remains, we eventually reached the highlight at the end of the tour: The crystal maiden, a skeleton of a young Mayan girl. Her bones have been calcified over time and now she has a crystallized appearance.