As I am here in Belize with my family I am being MIND BLOWN and it is only the second day. Read on to learn about the amazing ATM Caves (Actun Tunichil Muknal which means Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre) and our experiences…
It was basically Narnia. That is not even an exaggeration. We started out by hiking through three rivers with our tour guide, Carlos the Caveman, who is awesome, knowledgeable and I will always remember. If you are traveling to Belize any time soon, Carlos is the man and you need to see the caves with him. He can teach you how to live off of the land and respect everything Mother Earth has to offer.
On our hike to the cave he would stop at all these various trees and have us try different plants and other things. There was one root that made your mouth numb if you chewed on it. So naturally I said I wanted to try it because I thought hey that’s awesome let’s do this… Wouldn’t try it again.And then we all actually ate termites. I almost didn’t try them because I hate termites but he said they tasted like carrots so…..I ate it and yes they legit taste like carrots.
Then we saw those little leaf ants that carry pieces of leaves in a perfect line. Quite amazing actually. One of the smallest things to notice but seriously, so organized. As we continued to hike, on Carlos gave me his machete to hold. And yes I know what you are thinking, she probably felt like such a boss-and yes you are correct. Well actually I felt more like Jane from Tarzan minus the sexy Tarzan but you get the idea. Adventure woman ready to slice some trees..
So we finally show up to the cave entrance after about 45 minutes. Which by the way Belizean minutes are much longer than actual minutes. Example-he said it was going to be a 2 and a half hour tour…it was four and a half. But no one is complaining.
So Carlos tells us to jump in the water and swim into the cave and I, being a priss for a second, tried to climb the wall to avoid the water… I got over being a priss in 30 seconds and went into adventure/survival mode. The water was “refreshing” as Carlos reminded us 1oo plus times. “Refreshing!” meant that we were about to fully submerge into water from the rocks to get further into the cave. Which by the way is 3 miles long. But the tour only goes half a mile, which trust me is plenty. We were also told to “sit and slide” which basically meant try not to fall on your face or fall to your death because we easily could have. But there was no way I was going out in sandals with socks, not in this lifetime. No way.
So to give you some visuals just imagine those fake rock climbing walls where you are harnessed in. Now minus the harness and add sharp rocks and flowing water…Yeah. Literally the most insane experience ever. This adventure taught me to fear nothing and just go for it. Carlos kept reminding us to not look back or down and this was one time in my life I actually listened and respected everything someone said. I’ll admit I am one to appreciate a lot of the little things in life, everything amuses me, but the experience today was honestly one I will have in my mind forever and I am so happy to have shared that experience with my family. Oh and if you are not somewhat athletically fit and coordinated, this isn’t for you. There are passage ways where you literally squeeze through two rocks and one is called the execution rock because the sharp edge almost cuts your throat. Hashtag adrenaline rush.
Okay so we finally show up to the mystical cave rooms where the Mayans used to hallucinate, hold ceremonies and make sacrifices for their 9 gods they worshipped. Limestone, granite and marble formations everywhere. Some rock formations looked like faces of emperors. It was exactly like “The Emperor’s New Groove” but jaw dropping. It all sparkled. Except the skulls on the ground that had extra big foreheads because they used to flatten the heads of all the children. It honestly made them look alien like but it was rather cool.
At one point Carlos had us all turn off the lights on our helmets and we had to go around saying what we experienced and what it was like. I naturally said mystical and reminded me of Disneyland. Yes, I just made that comparison. Disney honestly replicated some of the cave pretty well for an amusement park and they definitely explored these caves because there is no other way they would have known how beautiful it was. Photos do not do the caves justice. And it sounds really weird but I felt so safe in this cave. It felt like a safe haven. Not your typical feeling you have when you could easily die and everything is dark with just your small headlight leading the way for you.
The Mayans were seriously incredible. Climbing these rocks where we could have easily slipped and fell to our death was thrilling. It was adventurous, spontaneous and made us all work together to get through the trail quickly and safely. It was like self survival mode except in a beautiful place. I can’t get over how fearless we all were.
I feel that artists should really travel as much a possible. The inspiration it is able to feed is beyond. Experiencing new cultures, going with the flow and trying new things. It is in our blood. We can keep these shared moments with us forever. It helps us grow as humans. The visuals I experienced blew my mind. Something that beautiful should be seen by and shared with the world. It looked like a palace. A place of healing. A place of adventure. One of the many wonders of the world.
So we were not allowed to take cameras into the cave…this was good and bad and made me think about a lot of things. Clearing my mind out here is nourishing. Cleansing. I feel more in the moment. It’s nice being able to just stare at something without trying to get the perfect photo for Instagram. But it also made me appreciate cameras because photos do last longer you know? Made me really appreciate photographers and their skill as well. Without you guys, no one would be able to see other parts of the world. (And let’s be real I would not have a job.) People would have no idea what is out there. However, photos of these caves would not do it justice, you must experience something like this.
You guys, last thing…he showed me the reefa. He first said it was like tobacco and got you a little buzzed but then when I was about to smoke it his friends and him said it was the equivalent to weed. I asked how to smoke it and the other couple who went with us told me to light it and smoke it out of my hands. When I lit it up it definitely had that ganja smell. Dad didn’t find this that hilarious but when in Belize, do as the Belizians do.
Lesson of the day: Sometimes things are just beautiful and you take them as they are. They don’t always have to make perfect sense or have some deep meaning, they are just a work of art.