Sunday, January 17, 2010

San Ignacio Belize - ATM Tour

I wrote this last night but wasnt able to post it until today.

We did the big ATM tour today and had a blast. We had debated whether or not to do this tour since it was pretty expensive but after talking to other people, it seemed that this one was not to be missed.

It was a nice, small group with just 4 other people and then our 2 guides. After waiting awhile for everyone to get together, we got in the truck and headed out toward the cave. Then there was a short 30 minute or so walk to get to the cave entrance. We knew it would be a wet day and the walk to the cave alone had us crossing the river 3 times. After a quick snack, we locked our packs in the truck and headed into the cave. I quickly handed my camera to our amazing guide, Gonzo, and we jumped in the cold water for a very short swim into the cave. I let Gonzo take the camera for the entire tour and he took amazing pictures which I uploaded to picassa.

The whole way through the cave, we waded through the river deeper and deeper into the cave. The water was anywhere from ankle deep to chest deep. We finally made our way to an area that we climbed up and out of the water, where they had us take off our shoes and put socks on so that we wouldnt step on any of the artifacts that litter the cave. This was where it got really interesting. Gonzo, a real archiologist, explained how the cave was used by the Mayans as a sacred spot. They would bring offerings in ceramic pots and then would eventually break the pots, leaving them in the cave for us to look at hundreds of years later. Even more interesting was that the cave was used for human sacrafices and thanks to the perfect conditions, the skeletons are well preserved. I think that the pictures really say it all so I wont get into the history too much. Every bit of it was fun and interesting and we finally emerged from the cave, wet and dirty at around 4 realizing that we had been in there all day.

The cave was discovered only around 15 years ago and it has only been open to the public for the last 10 years and widely open to tours for only around 3 years so we feel very priviledged to have seen it.

After showers and dinner, We all kind of ended up back at Eva's for some beers and I uploaded the pictures to Picassa so that everyone could see them since Gonzo took such great pictures of all of us and the caves with my camera. Honestly, some of these pictures were of things that I didnt even see. We ended up sitting there all evening and had some of the most interesting conversations.

First we talked to Gonzo for hours. We found out that as an archiologist he actually has a specialty in Texas and he comes to Dallas every year to do archiological work locally. He has found artifacts at DFW airport and all around north texas. I learned so much about the practical aspects of archiology which apparently fall far beyond Indiana Jones and the Egyptian pyramids.

Then we spent more hours talking to a new British friend who was on the tour with us and who has been traveling for a long time. He was very reassuring to us of what we can expect as we continue our travels and we are even more excited to move into Guatemala. We have both been a bit nervous about leaving comfortable, English speaking Belize but we are feeling a lot more confident.

We are going to try to send our clothes for laundry tomorrow or monday if there is no laundry service on Sunday. Then we will move on to Guatemala on Monday or Tuesday depending on when we get clean clothes.


Anna said...

That must have been an incredible experience. I guess once you start on a tour like that, there is no turning back. Bats, creepy crawlies in the water, wiggling through samll openings...glad I was "in your pocket" and not actually with you.
Fabulous..hope to get more explanation of what you saw.

Brandy said...

So we totally watched a " Man vs. Wild" (pretty sure at your house) and he was doing the same thing and we talked about how crazy he was and here ya'll go doing it! I think i would have had a mild panic attack! haha sounds like a blast so.. was there any snakes or creepy crawlies in the water you trudged in??!?!

Brandy said...

those pics were awesome! Smart move giving the camera to the guide!

StephSegal said...

Wow, that sounds amazing. We can't wait to see the pictures. Keep in touch with Gonzo. Would love to here about his Dallas archeologic finds.

deblet76 said...

They swore that the only thing living the cave was those cute little bats. Everyone knows I'm not the most actively adventurous person but the cave was a once in a lifetime experience and it barely bothered me. The crazy parts were when they would tell us to turn off our lights and we would sit there in the pitch dark and silence. Thank god for our guides who kept us laughing. Gonzo said he would take us to a site near Austin where we could do some volunteering.

StephSegal said...

Just stumbled across a show called "Bone Detective" on the Science channel and they are exploring the ATM cave! I'm recording it, looks even more amazing in live action.

deblet76 said...

Keep an eye out for Gonzo our guide. I think he said that he was on that show.