Actun Tunichil Muknal
Belize Student Volunteer Trip
What an amazing spelunking cave experience! We split into two groups. One group had David as their guide and my group had Hector.
I MADE IT through our cave tour today by making sure I walked right behind our guide, Hector. He told me what to do, how to do it and then helped if I needed it. It was a gnarly tour, especially the aluminum ladder part (very wobbly). Going up the ladder was ok. Going down was very frightening as I hate heights! I had to swing way out to get my foot on the 1st step of the ladder. Yikes!
The first part of the cave tour involved swimming into the cave so only waterproof cameras could be carried with us. The guides carried our regular cameras in a waterproof bag. Once we got to the dry part of the cave, they gave us our cameras so we could photograph the Mayan ruins and artifacts that were on the cave walls and floor: human bones, skulls, pottery bowls, plates and a grinding board. Most of the Mayan artifacts had become calcified and were now part of the cave floor. Over the years calcium carbonate deposits dripped from the cave ceiling onto the Mayan offerings and they became adhered to the cave floor. These artifacts cannot be removed without some damage being done to them. The Mayans used the cave from 250 AD to 950 AD for ceremonies and to make sacrificial offerings to the gods.
We had to slog through water far into the cave system to finally reach the dry part of the cave. That is where the aluminum ladder was 'tied' into place. Once we climbed the aluminum ladder, we had to remove our shoes. All of us had worn closed toed shoes due to the rugged terrain in the cave. We were not allowed to wear shoes (only socks) into the 'dry' part of the cave as we might cause undue wear on the paths. The dry cave is called the Cave of the Stone Sepulcher. A sepulcher is also called a tomb. At the end of the dry cave there were several sets of bones that are thought to be sacrificial offerings to the gods. This site is protected by the state and we were not allowed to touch any of the ruins, bones, pottery pieces or the reflective stalagmites/stalactites.
At one point during our exit we had to slither through a very tight area where our necks were right up against a very sharp, thin piece of stone. I did NOT wish to be guillotined so I took it very slow through that section of the cave!
We ended our cave tour by swimming back out of the cave entrance and then hiked to an open area with some log benches where we had a picnic lunch.
The students had fun but were very tired! The cave tour took about 4.5-5 hours!
3PM- I was the only taker for an afternoon jungle hike. I went alone and survived!
Night hike- I was the only one to go on a last jungle hike. Another family went with me. I saw 2 kinkajous in the trees, lots of spiders, a black scorpion and the ugliest cockroach (HUGE one) ever, plus the typical millipedes, night hawk birds, toads, frogs, crickets, cutter ants carrying huge pieces of leaves and a swarm of army ants with drones.
The students wanted one last night of getting together to listen to their iPods.
I am sure they will have even more stories to relay to you as I am not with them 100% of the time. They are DEFINITELY ready for American food and NO BUGS!!!!