September 12, 2009

Getting lost and finding Candelaria Caves - another day, another maravilla

We are using The Rough Guide to Guatemala to get around. These are usually pretty reliable. Ours, however, was published in 2002, and the research for it was done a few years ago. Some of the facts are out of date. That may or may not be the reason for what happened to us as we left Sayaxche for Aguateca.

Aguateca is the site of ancient Mayan ruins on Lake Petexbatun in Peten, Guatemala. We were driving along the highway and saw a sign for the lake, and turned off onto a dirt road. The road was pretty rough, so we had to go about 5mph. At that speed, it took about 45 minutes to get to the lake. When we got there, there were a few broken down rowboats parked there, but nothing else. No boatmen or boatwomen for that matter. We waited around a bit while the kids got muddy in the riverbank. Nothing. We decided to head back to the village we passed on the way.

We asked at the first house we came to about the ruins. A woman outside with her children told us the ruins are on the other side of the river. She wasn’t sure how to get there, as she had never been. The riverbank was about 500 meters from her house, and she had never crossed the river. We asked at the next house. They told us that the only way to get to the ruins was in those boats, and if no one was there, there was no way to cross.

We decided to head back to the main road. Back on the main road, about twenty minutes later we passed another sign that pointed to the ruins at the end of another dirt road. We kept on driving.

About an hour later, the kids were hungry, so we stopped to eat at a roadside restaurant. They were serving chicken soup and grilled beef. We ordered a few plates of each. That also might have been a mistake, as our stomachs were all hurting a couple of hours later.

Finally, we had a change of luck. We passed a sign for Candelaria caves. The guide book recommended these limestone caves, so we decided to give it a try. We parked our car in a man’s house across the street from the entrance, and walked across the road. There, a guide was waiting. He told us that we had to pay Q30 each adult to enter the caves, and that price included a guide. That sounded reasonable, so we headed to the caves.

We walked about ten minutes through the jungle before we arrived at the caves. The entrance was dark, and the rocks were slippery. I asked the guide if anyone had ever broken an arm or leg. He assured me that people had fallen, but that no one had experienced any serious injuries.

Undaunted, the kids ran ahead. Then, they shouted, “snake”! I told them not to touch it. They ignored me and poked it with a snake. When we got there, it turned out to be a copperhead that appeared to be sleeping. The guide killed it with a couple of rocks. Thank goodness nothing happened to anyone.

We kept going on the slippery rocks. The cave was quite impressive. It was a huge limestone cave, with an underground river running through it. I forgot the camera, but was able to borrow a picture from the internet.

After we left the cave, we were able to swim in the river that runs into the cave. Hot and tired, this was the perfect way to end our day. The caves were magnificent, and this swim in the river was divine. There was a huge cave with a series of small waterfalls that came out of it. The waterfalls created small pools that led to a larger pool of refreshing water.

The kids had a blast swimming up to the waterfall, and then letting the current bring them back. All of us enjoyed cooling off. It was spectacular, and it is a shame I forgot the camera. I tried to find a picture of the river online, but don’t see any.

After an invigorating day in the river, we headed to Coban. Two hours later we arrived, hungry and tired. Ian and his kids went to Dominos. We went to a Chinese restaurant that was not very good. Filled up, we set out to find a hotel in the rain. It took us a while to find a hotel, but we settled on the Terraza Hotel, the cheapest, but not noticeably different from the more expensive ones.

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