Off to the Mayan underworld

Up early and hit the road for a day of adventure, exploring the Mayan underworld. Actually we were just heading over to Jaguar Paw for a day of cave tubing.

Over the river and through the jungle
Fallen tree across our path

Once we arrived we picked up a guide, got all the necessary equipment and started our 45 minute hike through the tropical jungle which included wading across the river a few times. Along the way Edwin (our guide) cracked open cohune nuts for us to taste, grabbed leaves from an allspice tree for us to smell and told us all about the Mayan’s and the underworld.

Entrance to the underworld
Inside the first cave

The vapor and clouds at the entrance to the caves suggested to the Mayans that this is the place where the wind and clouds are born. Here dwelled the gods of nature and the caves were the portal between the human world and the invisible world of the gods. This place was called Xibalba a place where the most sacred rituals were performed.

Once we got to our spot it was time to get in the water, it was a little chilly at first but much better after the initial shock. As Darren makes his graceful entrance into the tube we all hear a loud sheeeeeee sound from his tube. Could we be loosing Darren before we even get started? Turns out that the plug on the pillow part of his tube was not connected and had popped out, so Edwin shoves some small twigs into it to slow it down while he looked for the plug. The plug is back in and all is good until I get in and my foot knocks the plug out again. Now I’m sitting behind Darren with my finger on the hole trying not to laugh and trying not to let Darren sink. Plug is recovered, all is good and we are on our way.

Trying to keep Darren afloat (he looks a little concerned at my abilities)
All set and ready to go

We had planned this trip on one of the days when we knew there wasn’t a cruise ship in port, so we were pretty much the only ones on the river. The float immediately starts off into a dark cave where eventually you can not see each other without the help of your headlamp.

The sights inside the cave were spectacular, something that you couldn’t even imagine. These are living caves loaded with stalagmites and stalactites all still dripping and forming right before your eyes. Many of these formations resemble different things such as turtles, sharks, lions and even a woman holding a baby.

Looks like a turtle coming out of the water
They say that it looks like Mary holding baby Jesus

Part way into one of the caves our guide suggested that we beach ourselves and climb up to an ancient Mayan site, where we saw broken pottery that was more than 2000 years old. Climbing up in total darkness with sandals and only your headlamp was not the easiest, but it was definitely worth the hike.

High up in the cave where the pottery was
2000 year old Mayan pottery

Once out of the caves we floated lazily along the river through the jungle, spotting all kinds of birds and iguanas along the way.  The river was deep but in places where it did get shallow our guide Edwin would holler “Butts up! Nuts up!”. If you didn’t get a little higher on your tube guess what parts of you would be hitting the rocks on the bottom of the river.

We think this was a Butts Up, Nuts Up moment.

Edwin took us on a little longer trip down the river past where we had gotten in. I guess this way he could show us the the new zip line they recently put in that goes right over the river. All in all it was about a 7 mile float down one of the most amazing rivers in Belize. This is a must do if you are ever in Belize.

Zip lining over the river

On the way back to our place we stopped for a little lunch at a small roadside restaurant. Kelley and I ordered the cow foot soup while Darren and Bonnie ordered meatballs and chicken over rice. Everyone who serves a cow foot soup in Belize makes it a little different from the next. Some are definitely better than others, and this was one of the better ones. It was so good that Darren even gave it a try, and we think he liked it.

Darren trying cow foot soup for the first time

After a great day of learning all about the Mayan’s and their gods of the underworld we thought it was time to head down to Burns Ave for happy hour and sacrifice a few beers ourselves.

Sacrificing a few Belikin’s at the end of the day