Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Our trip is fastly approaching our departure and among the many things I am grateful for, is the time we have been able to explore this beautiful country.The places we've been, the people we have met and the adopted humbleness that has fell upon us while here. We are forever changed. Our minds and eyes have reached new levels of openess and our hearts have most definatly softened. You would think that zip lining over the jungle canopy, snorkeling in the carribbean, spending nights in treehouses, touring an iguana sanctuary and hatchery, working at orphanages, floating the river and rope swinging into it, washing dogs at a animal rescue, spearfishing at the barrier reef, jumping into the blue hole, eating termites, touching turantulas, feeding Jaguars, sleeping at the zoo, learning to make tortillas with the locals would ALL be enoungh BUT we wanted to know more about the Mayan culture and not just from the ruins of xuantinitch. We heard there were caves in the Mayan Mountains where the Mayans gave offerings to their Gods and performed Human sacrafice. So we continued our Quest to learn of their culture by visiting what is known as one of the top 10 cave experiences in the World. Actun Tunichil Muknal otherwise known as ATM. National Geographic, discovery channel, man Vs. Wild, Ghoast Hunters International among others have all done varied segments on this extrodianary cave. Our tour guide Oscar picked us up from San Ignacio at 8am. It was a hour long drive along the northern highway and across some of the most uncomfortable terraine we had yet experienced. We had to stop once to move some passengers around for the ride was so turbulant over pot holes, sickness was threatening. Our guide Oscar was silent on the ride and I began to get cross in my thoughts at the lack of information, but soon came to realize that he was so passionate about this cave and the history it beholds, that he was saving his words for our time in the caves. We assembled in a parking lot randomly placed along the jungle floor, we were fitted with helmets, headlamps and a box lunch with a water bottle, we were gruffly told to drink up for whats ahead will drain us of liquids. Tennis shoes and sockes required, we found ourselves squishing behind our guide along a well worn path through the jungle, Crossing through the river 3 times sometimes waist high. At the mouth of the cave, our energy turned into overdrive as the intensity of our guides voice reached a booming level with the much needed and invited information about the caves... AND the obvious ONLY path inside the cave, was to swim through the d
eep pool at the mouth of the cave. The water was brisk but fresh. Shoes socks and clothes on, we jumped in and swam. The current wasnt so bad, but Ava's shoe was lost so we had to spend some time locating and diving for it. The ATM caves were re- discovered in the 80's and opened to the public in 1986. The artifacts there are 90% remaining. The cave goes up and deep about 3 miles..we were only to go 1.5 km to the upper chamber. Along the journey in, we saw 2 of the 3 upper entrances. We could litterally smell our fear as we treked in using our 4 points (sometimes 5) of contact. Climbing over giant boulders which collasped 1000's of years ago, we entered the cave. It took our breath away. Enormous stilagmites and stilagtites glisting from the cathedral ceiling and floor. This cave is obviously huge and our minds raced into ideas of what lives here now and what happened years ago. Our hearts beating faster we ventured further into the cave bewildered about the climb up and stopping often to view the incrediable natural beauty that water over thousands of years has created. Also noting some deliberate ajustments in areas where the mayans bulit alters and broke the jagged edges of the stilagmite formations to cast shadows of jaguars and old woman from the flames of a cooking fire. It is believed the Mayns would come to the cave for specific reasons, to offer to their gods through food offerings and often times through human sacrafice. The upper chamber of the cave is where majority of the artifacts remain. Wet, scraped, chilled an bit tired we boulder climbed to a high ledge where we were instructed to take our shoes off but to leave on our socks as the oils from our bodies would expedite the wear on the limestone. As we climbed through the upper chambers, our visual education began. Ceramic artifacts including many pots placed deliberatly in formatioms of a completed offerings dotted the cave floor. The pots remained in their found placements, one up, one upside down and the final on its side with a "kill hole" suggesting the offering had been completed. When we reached the highest point of our climb we were surprised with yet another climb up a 15 foot latter to take us to even a higher pocket in the cave. Zig zagging through hundreds of artifacts left from the mayans, careful not to lose our balance and crush one, we finally came upon the Crystal Maiden. A girl to believed have been approx. 18 yrs old, historians believe she was one of possibly 14 human sacrafices. Just a few feet from her was the skeleton of a child who it looks like had been tied from behind. Although scientists, archeologists and historians worked for years to suspect the happenings before opening the cave to the public, what went down in those caves 1000's of years ago and the reasons why can only be a fraction of the reality. To stand over crystalized bones of human sacrafice a feeling undecriable in words washed over me and a new sense of curiosity prevailed. I wondered how their Gods would expect such ritual and thanked Jesus for only wanting my heart. What a confusing culture that would have been to live among. My thoughts ran to the vastness of the Globe, of the triillions of people who have walked it and the kajillion things that have gone down throughout history. The world grew even larger for me that day in the cave, as I was just one person in in a tiny pocket of a vast cave, in this forever mind boggeling exquisite world. The trip down the cave was swift but not to swift to squeeze our way through different chambers of rocks and in some places submerging in water and turning our heads to just barely squezze through the opening. In this said opening a wolf spider the size of Troys hand extended lurked for our enjoyment and was just inches from our faces. That night and the days to follow the visions of the caves, the imaginations of the offerings and sacrifices flooded our brains to distraction. A day and a place to remember forever. Definatly a monumental day of discovery and am so blessed to have actually witnessed the physical change of my childrens eyes widened. Two days later we journied on to Placencia, Only to be stopped in the tiny village of Poloma with a busted fuel pump...a broken down van...the hours to follow will require another blog....of another "flava"..stay tuned.. MUCH Love to all back home:-) Caroline

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