ACTUN TUNICHIL MUCKNAL, CAVE TOUR GETS RAVE REVIEWS FROM TOURISTS!
by Ray Auxillou
Winter tourists are really raving about the Actun Tunichil mucknal cave tour in Western Cayo District of Belize. It has to be the most talked about adventurous expedition in the three countries of the Mayan Empire? Recent low budget tourists staying at FALCONVIEW TOURIST BACKPACKERS ADVENTURE HOSTEL, in Santa Elena Town were extremely voluble and excited about their trip to the Mayan underground cave ritual ceremonial center. In between the Christmas and New Year's holidays, the water inside the cave was a bit higher than usual. They were picked up, by Tour Guide Operator at the front desk of FALCONVIEW in Hillview, Santa Elena Town and returned two days later, estatic and fantastically happy.
It was more than they expected! Adventurous, scary and the kind of tour, only college and university age students on the semester break could appreciate. From Montana, these outdoor types, with hard hats, head lamps, rappelling ropes, camping gear and food, they left Falconview Hostel, to see the indescrible ceremonial underground center called by the ancient Maya, XIBALBA.
To get there from the car park is a 45 minute hike and at this season of the year a muddy trail and three crossings, wading Roaring Creek are necessary, just to get to the entrance of this forbidden mysterious cave entrance. The subterranean caves themselves are known to go back at least three miles, but archeologists say the Maya only penetrated a little less than a mile.
Inside the cave system is a lower series of caves and then after swimming across the underground river with the slow moving current ( the water wasn't cold ), they then climbed into the upper cave system. It is here that hundreds of pottery jars, most of which are broken in ceremonial fashion, but there are some whole ones, and fourteen skeletons lay, dead from blunt force trauma to the head, obviously sacrifical victims. In this section, the Tour Guide insist visitors wear only socks, so as not to disturb this now famous archeological site. since one is underground, the blackness is impenetrable without the feeble beam of a head lamp. One can only imagine the terror of victims, thousands of years ago, being taken deep underground using pine splint torches. One could never find your way back out without some sort of light.
The girls were more descriptive than the men who tend to be taller, silent strong types. While the men could wade the inner underground river in their bathing suits, using tippy toes to scrabble from one rock to another, against the slow moving current of the underground river, with the water at chest height. The tourist girls described being unable to keep their feet on the rocks, as the water rose up to their chins. They ended up swimming the short crossing distance to the upper cave system. All this in impenetrable blackness.
Rappelling was another adventure for both girls and boys as they had never done it before. The fearful description of concentrating on following instructions to use the ropes and hand grips, while dangling over the dark seeming abyss, with ropes disappearing below and only the head lamp to see what they were doing, filled them with fright. In hindsight, back at FALCONVIEW TOURIST BACKPACKERS ADVENTURE HOSTEL in Hillview, Santa Elena Town, after it was all over. The two days they spent ( you can do this in one day if you want ( they declared, was the ultimate highlight of their trip. This says something about the ACTUN TUNICHIL MUCKNAL adventure trip, as these guests already had spent four days and been to TIKAL on a day trip, to CARACOL on a day trip, covered CAHEL PECH and XUNUNTANICH on a day trip and also tubed the caves of CAVES BRANCH RIVER and the ZIP LINE adventure in the high jungle canopy. Four or five days disappear fast when you are having adventurous fun.
The Mayan calendar was adopted from the OLMEC calendar of 6000 years ago and the Mayan circular calendar, a 5000 year circular time span is due to expire in December, 2012, just six years from now. The Olmecs of the Olmec Empire we now know, came from Africa in the warming period after the last Ice Age started melting some 13,000 years ago. Atlantis of the Mediterranean, and the Minoan civilization, or Alexander the Great, or Ghengis Khan, or the Greek Empire, or even the Roman Empire, of modern history was still thousands of years in the future, when the Olmec Empire and later Mayan Empre started here.
I would love to hear the stories of their adventures on Caye Caulker, after they spend another week at TINA'S TOURIST BACKPACKERS ADVENTURE HOSTEL. Talk about good planning and an exhausting vacation, this group certainly did a lot to explore Belize.
Internet web pages on this tour are at: http://folkmusicfl.tripod.com/actuntunichilmucknal/
and also at: http://folkmusicfl.tripod.com/adventuresinbelize/