Fear of spiders? Small spaces? Darkness? Heights? Walk this way…

I am not a cave person. Darkness, dampness, slippery floors, water, bats = not my thing.

However, we’ve had THREE amazing cave experiences in TWO weeks that I would advise anyone to do coming to this part of the world. Especially anyone who secretly wanted to be in The Goonies or Indiana Jones and who is up for tightening every muscle in their body (from fear and an intense workout)!

1. Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave, San Ignacio, Belize

   

A true adventure starting with  3 river crossings and a swim into the mouth of the cave, followed by squeezing your neck through rockfaces into an endless series of caverns where skeletons and pots from ancient Mayan human sacrifices reside. This is the cave version of the Great Barrier reef – with stalagmites forming proud friends with stalagtites, coral like walls and only purple tape on the floor to stop tourists treading on old skulls. Wobbly ladders would fail every European health and safety test so this day trip should be prescribed for those who need to face their fears. All fears.

2.Bat Caves, Lanquin, Guatemala

We just thought we were going to wander into some caves, look up and see some bats, then walk out again. BUT NO – this was another TRUE ADVENTURE! The tour agents are so chilled here, at no point do they have warnings like ‘this is not for the faint hearted’…’people with fear of spiders, the darkness or small spaces should consider this trip carefully’ or ‘if you aren’t in full survival mode, this isn’t probably the tour for you’…

Instead, within an hour we were scaling deep slippery stone steps with just candlelight, housting ourselves up a deep crevice and worshiping a Mayan stone shaped as a Mayan woman who will grant us all our wishes for 2012.

 

3. Caves at Semuc Champey, Lanquin Guatemala

An added bonus of going to the spectacular waterfalls at Semuc Champey is the adventure into the nearby caves.

Swimming with candles, climbing up a waterfall, jumping in darkness – superb fun – again breaking every health and safety rule in the book. A true test of heart and body!

I think I have been in enough caves now for a while…

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Howling in the jungle

 

There was genuine panging sadness to leave our little house in Caye Caulker, our breakfast of fried jacks stuffed with chicken, beans, cheese and eggs, the friendly faces we had got to know (but not the venomous mosquito spray that a van sprayed round the town at 5am every morning). We asked about staying – a wooden house with a kitchen would cost 900belize dollars (£300)./ month. We could make and sell art, spend more time snorkelling on that divine reef and live a mighty fine life….
But it was not yet time to settle.

Straight off the boat into Belize city we got our toenails painted by an enterprising lady, then a cab to the Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS) at Bermudian Landing, an hour west.
Um, hi!?
A wooden hut. A couple of people hanging. Some dogs playing. A noise, in the distant trees, like elephants.
Um, can we stay the night and see some monkeys?
Not many people (noone) stays the night here. Which led us to 2 incredible days.

 

Sleeping on a borrowed blow up mattress on the floor in the community library, watching iguanas, fruit bats and blue herons from a canoe, helping our canoe guide Kade create his Facebook gangster profile, learning Creole from the local old men as we drank rum with them on their van bonnets.

 

Stroking the belly of a black howler monkey baby, borrowing beach cruiser bikes and cycling with Kade  to the next village ‘Double Headed Cabbage’, picking up other kids on bikes along the way as the sun set. Sampling cashew fruit wine, drinking coconuts straight from the jungle, eating rice and beans with a local family and learning all about the fantastic projects CBS do in the local community. We could have stayed longer….but next stop San Ignacio.

 

Beach shack beauty, Belize

Last night, we arrived at Caye Caulker, a little island off Belize.

 

And it is love at first sight. Wooden houses, bright colours, rustic charm, incredibly friendly people and street food to lick lips constantly for.

Since arrival last night we have filled our happy bellies with these things that have come our way:

Shrimp coconut curry, Pineapple and vanilla cake, Fried jacks filled with chicken, cheese, beans, scrambled eggs, Chicken tamales and cherry oats. YUM!!!

And we have a house that is my dream home with a Tennesse style balcony and hammock. Can life really be like this?!

Our home for three nights – M & N Apartments

 

 

Snorkelling

The snorkelling here is insanely good. We went on a full day trip with Ragamuffin tours with three stops – the second one amongst stingrays and nurse sharks, the third to the most incredible coral reef after The Great Barrier reef. We saw green turtles, purple coral and a green eel that snaked through the water, teeth gnashing.

 

Drawing 

We are still waking up at 5.30am and so I used the time this morning to draw the view from our balcony. I did it ‘etch a sketch’ style.

 

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