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Joined: Apr 2004
Posts: 167
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We climb over some rocks to get to the entrance of the cave. At the entrance there is a shelf that's submerged in about an inch or so of water. As we stand there, Patrick throws his dry bag in the water. He looks at me and says 'See? It's also a float. You can hold onto it and I will pull you through the water.' OK, works for me! We enter the water and I hold onto the dry bag while Darren brings up the rear. It was a really short little swim into the cave, maybe about 20 feet? When I reached the other side I told Darren and Patrick that I thought I could have done that on my own without any help. We stop for a moment as Patrick tells us about some of the things we're going to see inside the cave. It was cool inside the cave but not to the point that I was shivering or uncomfortable. Actually I was never cold inside the cave at all. The majority of our walk through the cave was in water, so be prepared to be wet for a good while. Patrick, ever the good guide, pointed out any and everything and answered all of our questions. Not only did he provide info on the ancient Mayans but he also provided info on the cave, its geological formations, and the animals that call the cave home. Very, very informative and I enjoyed every minute of it!

Inside the ATM cave

During our journey into the cave, we came across an area that was pretty deep and Patrick said we would have to swim across. He threw the dry bag in the water for me and I scowled at him and told him I wanted to swim it on my own. He and Darren exchanged a smile. Patrick went in first and swam backwards in order to keep an eye on me. Without hesitation, I headed in. I could see Patrick smiling in front of me and I could hear Darren cheering me on. Who couldn't have prevailed with that kind of cheerleading going on smile ? When I reached Patrick he told me I could stand up now. Cheers reverberated through the cave and I stood with my chest puffed out and a smile on my face. I had done it! Granted it wasn't nearly as long of a swim as the one at the entrance but none the less I had done it.

We climbed up to a ledge within the cave and Patrick showed us some of the artifacts that were up there. He instructed us to sit and showed us where we were to sit. He then began to give us a narrative of the events and ceremonies that took place in the very spot where we were all sitting. Then he told us we would experience the cave as the ancient Mayans once did. He told us that we were all going to turn off our lights and listen to the cave. He told us not to be afraid of the darkness, the ancient Mayans are a friendly bunch :p . That Patrick is one helluva story teller!

Spooky Cave Photo

We turned off the lights and I was totally unprepared for the utter and complete darkness that engulfed us. I knew darkness but this was "advanced" darkness. I literally touched my nose and STILL couldn't see my finger but instead of being scary, the darkness and the sound of the rushing water was comforting. I began to let it lull me into a sort of trance. I closed my eyes despite the fact I already couldn't see anything and I completely relaxed. All of a sudden I sat up. I could very faintly hear the sounds of drums and chanting. I relaxed. Either Patrick has a recorder around here somewhere or I've made myself believe I'm hearing something. I go back into my trance. I can still hear the drums and chanting very faintly and I smile. After, what seemed like, about 10 minutes the first inkling of panic began to set in. What if Patrick has left us here? Can I remember how to get out of here? I know how easily it is to get lost in caves but I think I can get us out if I have to. We hadn't gone that far yet and hadn't made any turns. Just as I was beginning to map out our escape plan, Patrick turns on his light and smiles. Whew! For now, I don't have to be Ms. Survivalist wink . We climb down and head on. After awhile we hear voices and Patrick calls out. Someone answers back and in a little while we pass a guide and another couple on their way out of the cave. I remember Wim and Chantal saying we would just be entering the cave when everyone else was leaving. We stop for a few seconds and talk with the other group and then we move on. Other than the two spots where I had to swim, there was one other spot that was a little deep and I had to stand on my tiptoes to keep my head above water. Remember I'm fairly short though. The water came to about shoulder deep, if that, on Patrick and Darren. Other than that the water ranged from ankle deep to waist deep on me. There was a lot of climbing and there were maybe one or two places where I had a little trouble because my legs weren't long enough to reach the next ledge but when that happened I was able to make some type of adjustment without any help, so no worries there. We did come across one place that, now looking back on it, should have made me claustrophobic but at the time I didn't really even pay it any attention. The only thing I remember thinking is 'I hope I can squeeze my butt and thighs through there.' It was quite close but you get through it fairly quickly. For me, it didn't give me enough time to be claustrophobic. As we climbed to another ledge we met a larger group who were just finishing up. Maybe about 5 or 6 people. They had stopped to put their shoes back on. This is where Patrick instructed us to take off our shoes out of respect and also because of the artifacts. I overheard the guide telling Patrick that we were the last group. I was actually glad we were the last group. We had the place completely to ourselves. Only the three of us observing, studying, and talking. It was really nice. As we entered a separate chamber area there lay before us, a treasure trove of artifacts. If I wasn't in heaven, I was darn close to it! I would have loved the opportunity to study the pieces closer and in more depth but this was just as good! Another side note. My Mom has always said that I missed my calling. I should have been an archaeologist, anthropologist, or paleontologist and after this trip, I'm thinking seriously of going back for a degree. My Mom said when I was 9 years old she found me outside trying to make a bow and arrow from scratch. I had visited an ancient Native American site and had read in one of the Native American history books I had picked up about how they made bow and arrows and I wanted to see if I could do it. She said I did a pretty good job because it actually worked smile . I vaguely remember spending a day or two in the woods looking for the right type of wood, vines, and leaves.

As we entered the chamber Patrick asked us to be careful where we stepped so as not to destroy any of the artifacts but he needn't worry, we were already walking on eggshells as we appreciated the opportunity to be this close to the artifacts. I listened intently as Patrick explained how the pottery was made, what the pottery was used for, and how the Mayans released the spirits after each ceremony.

Patrick explaining the ways of the Maya

Nikki listening to Patrick

Some of the pottery was in such good condition it was unbelievable.

Ancient Mayan Pottery

There was even a pot with what's thought to be some type of logo on it. Patrick calls this little guy "Jump for Joy" because his arms are raised and his mouth is open as though he's jumping and shouting for joy.

Jump for Joy

As we continue to walk, we encounter another chamber. Patrick tells us to stay along the wall. We do as we're told until he tells us to stop moving. He then tells us to look down. I gasp and Darren says 'WOW!' There lying before us is the 'Crystal Maiden', a young lady that was the victim of a sacrifice many, many years ago.

Sacrificial remains of the Crystal Maiden

Ghostly photo of pottery and the bones of another sacrificial victim

Skull of a third sacrificial victim

Before I know it, I'm on my hands and knees studying the remains careful not to touch a thing and asking Patrick a thousand questions as fast as he can answer them. When I look up, I notice Patrick is smiling like a proud papa. I think he's enjoying watching us enjoy the experience so much. We spend some time in the presence of the Crystal Maiden and then we begin to retrace our steps out.

After awhile the entrance of the cave barely comes into view. I told Patrick I thought we had to swim one other time after we got into the cave but we didn't have to swim on the way back. What's up with that? He laughs and tells me he took me a different way on the way back out. He had wanted to see if I would swim it on the way in since it was a shorter distance than the first swim at the entrance of the cave. I begin to pout and tell Patrick that I'm kind of disappointed. Patrick laughs even harder, smiles at me, and says 'I like your attitude. You're a tough little one.' Wow! To be called 'tough' by a bushman was definitely a compliment in my book laugh . When we reach the entrance to the cave, Patrick stops and asks if I want to give the swim a try. I say yes but there's still a little hesitation as I look at how far and deep it is or seemed to be to me. I look at Darren who smiles at me and tells me I can do it. He'll be right behind me. I look in his eyes and see his confidence in me. I turn to Patrick and I see the same confidence in his eyes. I'm ready! Patrick enters the water first and waits for me. I jump in and begin to swim. Patrick swims on the side of me and Darren is in back. I can hear Darren saying 'You're doing it baby! You're doing it!' I'm prepared to keep stroking on when Patrick tells me I can stand up. As I stand up Patrick smiles, laughs, gives me a high 5, and says 'You did it! You did it!' Darren joins us and gives me a big hug and tells me 'I knew you could do it.' As we start back to our little camping spot for some refreshments I see Patrick smiling and shaking his head, mumbling something about me being a tough little something. I couldn't have been happier. So far this trip to Belize has been an amazing journey for me. I've conquered personal and physical challenges that I would never have thought possible at one time. Belize is truly a special place! We stop and have some bananas and water. Patrick asks if I would like my sandwich now but I'm too worked up to eat anything other than the banana.

As we pass the Xibalba Hilton, the field camp, we hear a sound that sounds like the roar of a really big animal. Patrick stops and we all listen. He tells us it is a howler monkey and that it is quite a ways away. I've seen them and heard their call on TV but its different hearing it in the wild with your own ears. As we hike back, Patrick continues our jungle lesson. All too quickly we reach the spot where Lenny dropped us off. Lenny isn't there yet but Patrick tells us he'll be there shortly. We all take a seat and I mention to Patrick that there still seems to be a lot of daylight left and I didn't feel rushed at all during our tour. I wanted to know if there was anything we hadn't been able to see because of the time and he told me we had seen everything that we would have seen if we would have left on time. Patrick knew where I was going and explained to me that he was already going to assess Darren and I when he got to Black Rock. He would immediately be able to tell if we could do the tour in the time we had or not. When he saw Darren and I, he knew we would have no problems completing the tour in the time we had. He said the timing depends on many factors: (1) How many people are in the group, (2) Are there any elderly people or children in the group, (3) Do the people in the group appear to be in good shape, (4) Are the people in the group fearful of anything. Any one of these things could slow down the tour from its normal pace which would cause it to go longer than anticipated. He felt like we wouldn't have any problems. While talking Patrick, stopped and said 'Lenny's coming.' Darren and I looked in the direction of the road and couldn't see anything. We looked back at Patrick and he was smiling. About 2 minutes later we saw Lenny coming in the distance. Patrick laughed and said he could feel the vibrations in the earth.

As we drove back to Black Rock Darren and I were silent. Patrick and Lenny were conversing but I was reliving my experience. As I looked out at the sunset, I actually became emotional as I thought about the things I had accomplished in 2 days.

Sunset over Cayo

I didn't want anyone to see me tearing up so I tried to play it off. After we dropped Lenny off, Patrick said we should still be able to make it in time for dinner at Black Rock, but I noticed he was watching our expression in the rear view mirror. Darren and I looked at each other and asked Patrick if he wouldn't mind taking us somewhere where we could get good authentic Belizean food. Patrick smiled 'No problem mon! You're in for some good eatin'.' Awww yeah! We talk and laugh all the way back to San Ignacio. In San Ignacio we drive around for a few minutes as I take in the sights and sounds. Darren and I decide we will at least spend 2 nights in San Ignacio when we return to Belize. Soon I began to smell a most wonderful smell. The smell of a grill! My tummy begins to rumble. Darren remarks that's where he needs to be and to our surprise Patrick pulls up next to a little lean-to with someone standing outside grilling. There are a few tables and chairs set up and people are eating and ordering. There is a line already. We get out and Patrick introduces us to Ms. Olivia. He tells us to just tell her what we want and she will hook us up. We eagerly wait in line for our turn. As we wait we talk with the others. They want to know who I am. They think I'm Belizean! I get a kick out of that. As we wait others come and get in line. Ms. Olivia's, don't actually know the name of the place, is a popular spot! When our turn comes we order Barbecue Chicken with rice and beans. We have a choice of the wing and breast or the leg quarter. We both order the wing and breast. We watch as Ms. Olivia piles food onto the plate. She asks if we would like pepper sauce and we both nod yes. She tells us to be careful with the pepper sauce and winks at us. I am totally in love with Belize! I have never met nicer people in my life. When I think the plate can't possibly hold anymore she adds heaping spoonfuls of potato salad to it and wraps it all up. Then she wraps us up some homemade tortillas. Two heaping plates of food all for US $7! Nice! From there Patrick stops in town so we can get some sodas for our cabana and then we're on our way back to Black Rock. I'm actually sad that this day is coming to an end but I can't wait to dig into Ms. Olivia's food, it smells so good. It has gotten dark by the time we get back to Black Rock but as we pull up Chantal comes to meet us. She asks us how it was and we tell her it was AMAZING! We say our good byes to Patrick and I tear up a little. We're tired and hungry so we tell Chantal we're going to head back to our cabana. As we walk to our cabana we quickly realize, because we can't see the cabana in the distance, that we'd left our flashlights in the cabana. We hustle to the cabana and fidget with trying to get the key in the lock. Once inside we take our showers and get ready for bed. As we get ready for bed Darren, always the one to make me laugh, jokes that if he would have known Patrick was a bushman, he never would have confronted him earlier. He says when he saw Patrick get out of the truck with no shoes and shirt and put that "skirt" around his waist and the knife between his teeth, he wanted to say 'Hey man, look I'm sorry about this morning. People always tell me I have a big mouth. I need to learn to keep it shut. Friends?' laugh Darren is a riot! Then he says 'By the way. Back in the cave when we turned our lights off, did you hear chanting?' I completely stopped what I was doing and looked at him. Without saying another word he knew I had heard the same thing. While we watch Braveheart on DVD, we dig into Ms. Olivia's food. Oh man is it ever good! What a wonderful end to a truly amazing day.

Coming soon: Monday, November 1st - Day 4: Personal Challenge #2

Link To All Pictures From Day 3

Note: This is a tour not to be missed. It is amazing, challenging, and informative. And Patrick Warrior is definitely the guide to go with. He is EXCELLENT! I can't say enough about him. I haven't toured with any other guides and IMO I don't need to. Why try something else when you already have the best? I never felt as though Patrick thought I was a nuisance or was slowing him down. I highly recommend him for this or any other tour that he does. I know we plan on going back to Belize and we plan on using Patrick for every tour that we do. We're even thinking of camping overnight in the jungle with Patrick as I hear it's another unforgettable experience.

Joined: May 2000
Posts: 3,281
Awesome. I am going to forward this on to Patrick. He will get a kick out of it! Ms Olivia's BBQ - that's the name - great food in Santa Elena. Let me know when you are ready to go back. I have some great places in San Ignacio for you. Real local stuff you will love (since you're almost Belizean now!!) wink

I did this trip with Patrick and this report really does him justice.

Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 4

I've been mostly lurking...but had to come out and say thanks for the great report.

We leave for Belize on Saturday and this cave tour is one of the things on our list to would we get in touch with Patrick while there?

Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 62
Your report is so wonderfully done Nikki...Belize is such a GREAT PLACE....AND IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FRIENDLY BELIZEAN PEOPLE!
Can't wait for your next day!
I love your photo "DARREN AND NIKKI" - you both look so happy....BELIZE DOES THIS TO PEOPLE!

Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 8,880
You rock, fuzzy!

A fish and a bird can fall in love, but where will they build their nest?

Joined: May 2000
Posts: 3,281
Earthbound - you can book the ATM (or any other) tour with Patrick through me (at no extra cost). Email me at [email protected] He books up quickly so I wouldn't wait till you get there. But if you prefer to take your chances, call him at 606-7714 when you get there. He can be hard to get ahold of so keep trying. I know he is already booked for Nov 24th, 27th and 28th.

Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 4
Thanks for the info, Barbara.....I'm pretty sure that the only time we can do it is on November 24...November 23 may work....I will email you when I get to Xanadu

Fuzzy Navel...thanks again for the detailed report....your pictures are great and sounds like you had a wonderful time!

Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 108
Fuzzy Navel,

Your trip report is awesome. But you've got to learn to prioritize better. 1) Trip Report 2)Work stuff (lol). I stayed in San Ignacio my last trip and you're right, its such a great little town. I know that I will stay there again, as I too discovered that I love cave exploring and other adventures that the mainland offers. I can't wait till your next installment. Don't keep us waiting long.

Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 284
Fuzzy,great reading! I can only think of one thing better...being there in person! Awesome reports! Thank you. wink

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