Crystal Cave with Carlos the Caveman
This travel review has loads of great pictures from the Crystal - aka Mountain Cow - Cave. They relate that going with Carlos the Caveman was 'one of the highlights of our entire trip.' Mountain Cow Cave is really getting some good publicity lately, as it should, with all of its amazing formations.
San Ignacio, Belize – Tues, Jan 8: One of the highlights of our entire trip…
As mentioned previously, the cost of tours to surrounding areas is really high. We knew that we wanted to do one in particular and were willing to shell out for it. It was a tour of a cave called ATM. On this tour, you hike to a cave and then swim through some rivers and pools in said cave and see Mayan artifacts that were never removed from the cave (somehow it escaped looting). It’s supposed to be an amazing tour. However, every day that we were there, it was closed due to the rain (the water level was too high to be safe). So, we decided to do another a tour of Crystal Cave (also called Mountain Cow cave according to the interwebs) which is a dry cave so unaffected by the water level. We had read about a particular guide named “Carlos the Caveman” and after some worrying emails (hard to get in touch with him and get a straight answer), we finally booked the tour for 7:30 Tuesday morning, which he changed that morning to 8:00am. He arrived at 8am and we got into his truck with him to go pick up another couple. We picked them up, went to the gas station to get gas and to change vehicles (to a van), back to the couple’s hotel for them to get a change of clothes, stopped at a local restaurant to pick up our lunch (burritos) and then we were on our way. At this point, we were a bit uneasy about what we were getting ourselves into (and for $95US each!).
After about an hour’s drive to the park with cave, with Carlos spouting interesting facts along the way, we got out and got geared up with backpacks, helmets and headlamps. We started off down the path for a 45 minute very muddy walk to the entrance to the cave. He pointed out different medicinal plants and small insects. We got to eat a root similar to rubarb and taste a very bitter quinine plant. The first steps into the cave consisted of rappelling down about 10 feet. This cave is definitely not for the elderly, out of shape or the nervous!
On the hike to the cave.
So much mud!
A little froggie along the way.
Carlos with his machete.
Trying to avoid the mud.
Up to the cave entrance.
What a start!
Ready for this?
Heading into the depths of the cave.
Sitting on thousand years of rock formations.
Our climbing partners Peter and Shorey.
After that, we proceeded on a four hour scramble through the most amazing cave we’ve ever seen. I don’t think at any one point were we ever walking on any kind of flat ground. We were always going up, down, around and through different rock formations. Carlos evaluates each group and decides what route to take, depending on their abilities. The other couple with us, Shorey and Peter from California, were both young and in good shape, so I think we got the difficult route, which was awesome. We went into some small places that made my heart race, wondering if I was going to fit and get through! There were times where we would slide down on our bums on the muddy, slippery rocks and be very close to a 20 foot drop down to the bottom (and surefire broken limbs or worse). We went into several small side crevices to see human remains that were still undiscovered by archeologists (unearthed during a particular rainy season). Carlos was a great guide and truly loves caving. He was very good at pointing out the best route to take and to lend a helping hand when needed.
Carlos showing us the way down.
Climbing down into a hole.
I can make it! I hope!
Made it through!
Mike was worried for a second!
Flexible Shorey making her way through.
More fun climbing.
Some pottery shards still around.
Cool hanging formations.
More pottery shards.
A rare fully complete pottery jar.
Giving love to a stalagmite.
Amazing creamy white formations.
Climbers in the depths of the cave.
Getting a helping hand from Peter.
Then, we went to Wonderland. Most people don’t get to go here. There are only a few guides who know the way and are supposed to go there (not that there are any rules 500 feet underground). In addition to that, it is a tough climb up and down to get there. But oh, so worth it. Throughout the tour at each different place in the cave system, we would encounter amazing formations. The sizes and shapes of the stalagmites were incredible and some of the rock formations were just unbelievable. In wonderland, I felt like we were in another world, or a fantastic movie set. There were amazing almost pure white formations, small towers coming up from the ground, and giant 40 feet high formations towering over us. We had to take off our shoes to climb up and around in Wonderland (in the puddles!). We just stood there for a while, gazing at all of the jawdropping things to see. Pictures absolutely do not do it justice.
No shoe zone.
Climbing in sock feet up to wonderland.
Climbing up and around the formations.
Mike trying to avoid a giant pool of water.
Walking through the cool environment.
Shimmery white rock formations.
Deadly sharp stalactites.
It was so amazing – it almost looked fake.
Standing like little soldiers.
Looks like snow!
After the four hours, we had a quick bite to eat at the mouth of the cave and then began the very muddy hike back (it had poured rain while we were in the cave). I don’t think we’ve ever been so muddy. We changed at the park and then drove back into town. At this point, some muscle soreness was starting – we knew we would feel those stretches and climbs the next day! We had dinner with Shorey and Peter and hit the sack early as we were exhausted and rightfully so!!
We made it out!