And still more from our amazing 15 days in Nov/Dec.
When last we visited the weary travellers (or the weary traveller and the idiot who can eat, drink and talk endlessly with anyone regardless of whether or not she can speak their language...)
They had just left Xunantunich (the stone maiden temple in Northern Stann Creek--eerily beautiful)...and made it to Ian's (Cave Branch).
Before we begin, I'll mention that a friend in Placencia (outside of earshot of Robt), mentioned that they LOVE Cave's Branch, but cautioned that it's easy to overestimate one's physical ability. Ugh.
Admittedly after our amazing, more-than-somewhat-not-experiences-recommended-by-Dr-Mom events at Ian's...maybe she was right! In fact, I would venture to admit that I was POSSIBLY somewhat lucky that it was a rainy time in the old rain forest...as...even with all the excursion cancellations, Robert wanted to run an MPEG of all the the contusions I now have from head-to-toe. I *AM* Rand McNally, thank you very much! (I think it's my Dad in me! I may be like Bambi on Ice, but gosh darn no one can stop me once I put my mind to something!) I've had the best time here!
Bottom line: due to the rain and the scant few guests, both our night time jungle hike AND my rappelling were canx. DOH !!!! However, to
compensate for all of this, the guide who took us on our river cave tubing trip, added a trip into a typically "restricted" cavern of Footprints Cave.
Before each day's excursion begins, Ian's staff feeds you the biggest, heartiest, most American breakfast you can even begin to imagine. After
all of the grilled fish...and rice and beans I've joyfully eaten over the past week or so, I could actually hear my arteries clogging as his cooks brought out the open-air buffet each morning. Eggs, bacon, sausage...and just about anything else that would fill the rainforest with aromas that don't exist normally in nature! I gotta admit, it was HEAVENLY.
After that, they pretty much encourage you to put on whatever clothes you're planning to sacrifice to the jungle gods that day. I put on my hiking pants (they already looked like heck from all of the temples,etc we'd been scaling in the rain)...two pairs of socks and a borrowed pair of men's hiking boots. (Mental note: take the time next time to find a pair that fits. Besides, Bozo needs his booties back.)
After jumping into the back of a tall "flat bed" (pls recall we're in a third world country here) filled with tubes and 20-somethings spelunking
into a previously unexplored cave, we were hauled through miles and miles of sweet-smelling citrus.
More mountains, more cool breezes, more 4-inch beetles...and voila--we're there! Deep in the jungle in a perfectly clear running river just
SCREAMING to be jumped into!
The tubing was glorious and the water cool and crisp. Within 30 minutes, we had each paddled backwards upstream to the enormous cave's mouth.
As we approached, (and because I'm so easily impressed), I literally shrieked with delight upon spotting a tyra (think a rock-climbing love child of a large weasil and an ant-eater) scaling the cave's face. We were outfitted
with our head lamps and proceeded in.
Early on, life was slow and easy and moving along quite well, even in the inky darkness. Some paddling...some hiking over internal rock formations. No biggy. Of course, we weren't seeing anything too amazing either. Two
hours...some pastrami burritos (go figure!)...and 2 rooster eggs later, our guides felt that our tiny group of four was ready for some more
significantly treacherous activities. (Of course, this was mentioned *after* the point I finished congratulating myself on not adding any fresh DNA to my clothing or the cave.)
Enter "wet face scaling in the pitch black"...with god only can guess how
deep wickedy-bad drop-offs if you misstepped. I have sincerely learned the profound message behind "NEVER LOOK BACK!"
Dumbly, I was somewhat worried about Robt's persistance, however...turns out the man is NIMBLE! It took him half the time to crawl, jump, shimmy, scale anything that they put before me. He didn't even BLEED !!! The FREAK! I was so jealous...and so stinkin' MUDDY!!! (GOD, what fun!)
Three hours into this extravaganza, we arrive at the Fertility Cavern. Apparently the ancient Mayan mucky-mucks experiencing difficulties in
replicating had their women go before this idol deep in the stomach of the cave
beast and do some miscellaneous blood-letting rituals. Also, rather counter-productively (nyuck, nyuck!), once they conceived and delivered their first child, the new moms hauled their babies back into the cavern to offer their
babies (in some type of relatively fatal manner) back to the fertility god in thanks. Hmmm. Overall, the ancient Mayans were incredibly ahead of their time (and maybe in some ways ahead of ours, too), but I'm still working the math out on that one.
The moment of highest comic relief in the Fertility Cavern was actually seeing a nearly pre-historic version of "HBO after 10"...when our guide quickly jiggled his flashlight back and forth over two carved stalagmites and was able to illustrate for us IN FULL DETAIL just how the fertility god was planning to assist said women in need.
I'll spare Mom the specifics of most of the remainer of the trip (trips? falls? spills?), but I will say that the crystalline formations of the
stalagtites and stalamites were simply other-worldly. Also, we were treated (?) to an extra hour of wall scaling which took us into
restricted Cavern 3. In addition to pottery shards, which we had seen all along the
way, we were lucky enough to see the roughly 2000 (?) year old tiny footprints of what as likely a Mayan shaman or somesuch. UNBELIEVABLE !!!!
We scaled out...and then drifted in our tubes (maybe 30 minutes) without our lamps on back to the cave's mouth. What an experience! It all
becomes so easy to understand the Mayan beliefs and fables once you experience some of thier history firsthand.
Latent Post Script from Kim:
Hats off to the folks at Cave's Branch! Our tour was educational and simply awe-inspiring...our guides, amazing (even in the face of dealing with a Left-Footed-Worley)...and the food was perfect for the experience. (The dinners were enourmous, gang!)