June 22 - 25…San Ignacio Town, Cayo District, Belize

We face the morning decision of suiting up before breakfast or after?  Suiting up before breakfast is convenient for finishing the bike packing, but uncomfortable due to the high temperature and humidity here.  As soon as you leave the comforts of an air conditioned room your bodies natural air-conditioning, sweat, kicks in!  We choose to suit up and embrace the dew!  Ariel, a young Belizean that works at the Coral House is very interested in our set-up, gear, and travels.  Ariel rides a Kawasaki Ninja and proceeds to inform his boss that he is quitting and joining us!  Hopefully he will have the opportunity to pursue his dream of motorcycle adventure…keep in touch, Ariel!

Clear skies this morning…Woo Hoo!  Keep your dream alive Ariel!

Clear skies this morning…Woo Hoo!  Keep your dream alive Ariel!

We really lucked out on the weather today.  No heavy down pours, just a few sprinkles here and there all the way to San Ignacio.  The sun was brilliantly bright that made the trip back over the Hummingbird Highway mind-blowing!  I have talked about how vivid the jungle greens are here…you just never tire of such scenery!  Entering San Ignacio we were redirected around and then directly through the "torn-up" areas due to road works.  I started looking for accommodations and did not see much of anything in town, so we traveled on.  We passed a sign for accommodation that looked promising, so I looked in my mirrors, signaled left and proceeded to turn into a driveway on the opposite side of the highway.  Kev started yelling "Cat, Cat..go" as I began the turn.  I was already committed and saw a car rush by milliseconds after completing my turn…my heart started to pound!  "Phew…Where did he come from?" I blurted out.  "He was the second car behind me and I think that when he saw your left indicator he thought it was a signal to him to pass…I saw him starting to pass the car behind me, and you starting your turn so I moved into the center of the lane to slow him down, then the car behind me decided to pass me on the right.  I had a car on the left, a car on the right, and you in direct sight for a collision…it scared the holy crap out of me!"  This is not the only time that clicking on your turning signal to make a turn has prompted this maneuver by others.  It was a close call and a reminder that the simplest actions of obeying what you think is logical traffic law…may not exist within the country you are traveling in!  Later, I asked about the "driving customs" regarding the correct side for passing and turning and the answer I got was…"The right side of the road is the best side of the road to pass!"…WTF!

Parked and unloaded for the night.

Parked and unloaded for the night.

Buenas dias….Our bungalow!

Buenas dias….Our bungalow!

Fun with the pool!

Fun with the pool!

Our accommodations are large, comfortable and affordable here and we decide to stay on.  A highlight for us here was Spelunking Actun Tunichil Muknal, or ATM as it is known.  This opportunity for us was a once in a lifetime experience and a must do!  The Belize Institute of Archeology has granted small excursion groups permission to conduct limited tours within this level 3 cave (5 in the wet season) in an attempt to walk the fine line of ecological balance and tourism.  This extraordinary cave is approximately 3 miles long.  A long very cool fresh water river travels for 2 miles through the cave system exiting in an underground upstream bog.  Upper prehistoric passages continue for another mile past the bog, and the cave can be excited through a tight crack that opens into a giant sink hole within the jungle.  We only explored one mile into the cave system.  Your first step into the cave is a very cool splash that finds you, quickly swimming, dog paddling or treading water and catching your breath against the temperature change.  Once you swim around the first corner you are in complete darkness.  This is where we turned on our headlights, and from here on you felt the necessary need to remain closer to the person in front of you.  Our small group of six followed our superior caving guide through deep water caverns, over large slippery boulders, dropping into dark rocky pools, hugged sloping underwater ledges, maneuvered up rock formations onto hanging ledges, used worn off stalactites as stepping stones to maneuver through crevasse drop offs, barely squeezing our bodies through water filled openings and our heads through sharp cracks, sliding on our butts over loose foot holds and crawling on our hands and knees through tight tunnels…it was full on intense.  We did periodically arrive in giant openings throughout the cave where we rested before moving on.  This is when I would experience a slight panic and have to consciously control my anxiety level.  The dank musk of the cave did not help the situation and I found myself eager to keep moving as this was when I felt confident and secure. We arrived in sacred areas used for ceremonial and sacrificial purposes.  Viewed the final resting position of possible sacrificial victims, some calcified and crystalized eerily twinkling under our headlamps.  Terra cotta pots, bowls and vessels ominously rest in their final placed positions, suspended in time and fill your mind with mystery, wonder and amazement.  Cave formations were cleverly modified, some to create altars, others to create silhouettes of faces or animals or to project a shadow image against the cave ceilings or walls.  Where in the world could you experience this I continuously asked myself?…The entire experience totally blew my mind.  Now that was an UNBELIZABLE finale to a very interesting country…Ya Mon!

ATM rough cave map.

ATM rough cave map.

We needed to cross a few rivers in the jungle on our way to the cave.

We needed to cross a few rivers in the jungle on our way to the cave.

Cave enterance.   

Cave enterance.  

The first steps in...You just needed to commit... jump in and swim

The first steps in...You just needed to commit... jump in and swim

inside

inside

IMG_8116.JPG
Amazing chambers

Amazing chambers

When we climbed into the higher chambers we were asked to remove our shoes.

When we climbed into the higher chambers we were asked to remove our shoes.

Terra cotta vessels purposely broken and precariously resting in their set positions!

Terra cotta vessels purposely broken and precariously resting in their set positions!

The 'Monkey pot'…how cool is this?

The 'Monkey pot'…how cool is this?

The Crystal Maiden, although testing has revealed that the skeleton is male!

The Crystal Maiden, although testing has revealed that the skeleton is male!

A fantastic experience not to be missed!

A fantastic experience not to be missed!

with an amazing passionate guide!  Thanks for an unforgettable adventure!

with an amazing passionate guide!  Thanks for an unforgettable adventure!

The cave photos were provided via the internet.  Photography is prohibited in ATM.

btw:  We rode all 357 miles of paved road and then some!