Wednesday, September 9, 2015

9-8-2015 Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave with Gabby

Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave is the most popular cave tour in Belize, and Gabby was fit enough and up for adventure, so we booked a tour with Carlos the Caveman Tours.  Carlos let the tour and was absolutely wonderful - very nice and informative!  And, the cave is truly AMAZING!  Unfortunately, ever since someone dropped their camera onto a skull, cameras are no longer allowed.  So, we don't have any of our own pictures, but we did find a few for reference:

First, you hike about half an hour through the jungle, and ford a river three times, all the while paying attention to the guide,
who is telling you about different plants and what they can be used for.  Smell this...taste this...put this in your water bottle
(key lime leaf - it made the water taste like Fruit Loops).  Then you get to the main entrance to the cave - you have to get in
the water and swim into it.  You continue to swim/wade/walk/boulder through the rest of the cave.  There are some tight
spots to swim through, but nothing too extreme.

When you get to a certain point in the cave you must remove your shoes and wear only socks (to help preserve the cave and
artifacts).  Here you find a huge room where the floor is all flow-stone, and there are human remains and pottery everywhere!
On one side the stalactites and stalagmites have met and are being crystallized, so it looks like a huge wall of shimmering
curtains.  Oh, and the pottery was too big to fit through the way we came in, so the only entrance would have been one where
you must be lowered down on a rope.  It was wild thinking about the Mayan priests using this cave back in the day.  They
first fasted to cleanse their bodies, then they did a hallucinogenic enema, and they would have only had torches to dimly
light their way in the cave, so the shadows made by the torch light would have been TRIPPY.  No wonder they viewed caves
as Xibalba..."place of fear"...the entrance to the underworld.

The last place they take you to is to the "Crystal Maiden", a fully intact skeleton that is also
being crystallized.

So, yes, it kind of stinks that we couldn't take our own pictures, but what our guide, Carlos, said made sense.  Without my camera I wasn't focused on framing my photos, directing people to get in them, or seeing if they turned out.  Instead, I was wholly in the moment, fully taking in my surroundings and the information the guide was giving us.

That night we headed back into downtown San Ignacio to branch out and find a different place to eat.  Martha's Guesthouse
Restaurant hadgood ratings on Trip Advisor, so we tried it.

They had lovely outdoor seating, and the food was good.

Eric's Maya Steak

Gabby's Mestizo Vegetables

Cara's Chaya Tamales (chaya is somewhere between spinach and kale)

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