San Ignacio was the next stop. A town near the Guatemalan border, packed with activities to do, from cave exploring (spelunking), cave tubing, to day trips to surrounding Mayan ruins like Tikal and Xunantunich.
You could destroy your budget trying to do all of them so, we decided to just do Actun Tunichil Muknal, or ATM for short. Then head to Tikal on our own the following day. Tourists not knowing about the cave and just arriving, would laugh when you say all we did in San Ignacio is the ATM. Thinking you only spent time taking money out of the ATM machine.
Belize is described as being like swiss cheese. Meaning there are caves everywhere, cutting through the limestone. Caves that the Mayans have used hundreds of years ago. ATM, "the Cave" is one of the most famous. A guide takes you for an hour long hike through the jungle, where you have to wade almost waist deep cross a river three times. Then for 2-3 hours he takes you deep into the cave to explore the ramains of an old Mayan burial chamber.
My personal very educated guess, since I had lots of time to study the cave, is that the cave isn't a burial chamber, since there aren't more then 15 bodies found in them, but rather a place where a Mayan group maybe hididng, was found and killed. Why should you believe me? Besides the fact the all the skulls have trauma to them, one skeleton bound with his legs and arms behind his back and his head bashed into the cave wall, I do have two PhDs. One in post hole digging, and the other in pot hole dodging.
At the cave enterance, you strap on your helmet, turn on your light, wade into the river, and swim your way back into the cave, hoping the fresh water lobsters and crabs don't think your toes are something good to eat.
When you finally can touch bottom, you follow the river back into the cave. Bats hang from "bat holes," in the ceiling. When the guide pointed them out, it sounded like he was saying butt holes.
The cave gets extemely narrow at points. Some spots called the neck ripper, is just wide enough to squeeze by 6'5 frame through, my neck just fitting through a guilotine like crack in the cave.
You head nearly a mile back into the cave, the guide entertaining you with shadows from the formations that look like different people, animals, and body parts. I'm sure you know which body part was pointed out the most.
Almost a mile back into the cave you climb from the river and head back into other passages, some places opening up into a cathedral like opening. You can spot Mayan Artifacts, pass Mayan Skulls, and bones. Finally you arrive at the grande finale, which mades the cave famous, and attracted National Geographic and Ghost Hunters, to come film here. A full well preserved, skeleton of a women rests at the end of one of the passages.
After a full day climbing around a cave like monkeys, our bodies were sore. The trek back through the jungle the bugs had a field day, biting into our wet bodies. When I walked into our hotel roomafter going for some food, I found my girlfriend on her back with her legs over her shoulders. Trust me I know what you are thinking. Just like me I got a little excited, but then she laughed and said, I'm just trying to count how many bites I have on my legs. :)