Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Caves of Balankanche

Along the Maya Route

After touring the ruins of Chichen Itza, my travel buddy and I hailed a taxi to take us to the Caves of Balankanche, only six kilometers away.  The last tour of the day had already left and if it weren't for the persistence of our taxi driver, the guide wouldn't have let us in.  A few extra pesos changed hands that afternoon!

Some guidebooks call the caves a tourist trap, but anytime I have the opportunity to go underground, I take it.  I thought it was worth it.  The artifacts strewn throughout are not original, the lights are a bit garish and the music cheesy, but wow, what atmosphere!  The caves are hot and humid and sometimes breathing was difficult, but the high humidity contributes to the amazing formation of the stalactites and stalagmites.  It's something you just don't see everyday.   Be sure to wear sturdy shoes. (I didn't!)  The ground is very slippery and I had to hang on to my buddy's arm the entire way.

The Mayans used the caves for religious ceremonies.  They believed the caves linked man to the underworld, and indeed, they do.  Many of the artifacts were carved with the face of Chaac, the rain god.  The vases and statues found in the cave were carbon dated to 860CE.  The place has that "otherworldly" aura about it.  An ancient civilization worshiped here.  That modern man can walk in their footsteps more than a thousand years later connects us to that long lost world.

  Our clothes were soaked with sweat when we got out, but our taxi driver was waiting.  He seemed pleased at how much we had enjoyed it.  When we got back to our hotel, we went straight to the bar for an ice cold cerveza and toasted our magical day.

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