Cave discovery: Charcoaled fire pit with small figure
Deep in the Chiquibul, while kayaking an unexplored part of the Chiquibul River, we came upon a huge cave with a boulder strewn entrance difficult to navigate, especially with camera gear. Inside we found pottery and terraces and steps hewn into the limestone and plaster covered floors. After hours of exploring, as we headed out, one ranger spotted a flat area across from the terraces. I was exhausted and opted to head back down to the kayaks to rest and wait while two rangers made their was across the cave to the flat area. As I reached the kayaks there was a shout from the cave, as if in alarm. Then another shout, more in excitement. They we yelling "Tony! Bring your camera gear!". These rangers knew how exhausted I was, so I knew it must be something important.
Making my way back up through the maze of boulders, I came to the flat area, which turned out to be a large plastered floor leading back to a tunnel entrance. Inside the tunnel was a wall of thin limestone, rippled like a curtain with a square opening like a door leading into a domed room; in the middle a formation of stalagmites about two feet high, a charcoaled fire pit in front with pine sticks blackened on the end as if just used as fire starters then laid back down for use next time. In front of the firepit, wrapped like a blanket by the stalagmite formation stood a figure about 1.5' high, arms out stretched, eyes and mouth in a trance-like state. The scene looked so fresh, so used, I felt like the Maya would return at any moment and we should not linger.
This hidden wonder is part of our Belizean spirit, a symbol of our past, a part of us that needs to be rediscovered, reenergized, and reignited to take back our country from those that have no soul, no appreciation for our natural wonders or rich heritage-from the Sarstoon where Guatemalans set gillnets breaking our laws and sovereignty, to the Chiquibul where Guatemalans illegally destroy our forests and watersheds as they have in their country; to Cara Blanca, where Belizeans and foreigners alike foul a national treasure and poison our water supply with pesticides and wastes; to countless other locations where our natural heritage is sold and destroyed for greed and power on one hand while the other takes blood money ... will it only stop when we've lost our Belizean soul completely and become Guatemalan? A proud Belizean will not just talk any more, we must take our place in history now, before our beautiful country of today becomes a hidden forgotten artifact of tomorrow.
Photograph by Tony Rath
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