22 May, 2008

Business and Pleasure - Cave Tubing

Did I mention mountains? Upwards of 3,600 feet worth of mountains. Compared to the coastal area we've become used to, the Maya Mountains seem almost huge.
Mountains Galore
We're going cave tubing!!!

I know Dianna was apprehensive about this as she has claustrophobia - But, What a trooper! She came through in fine fashion. We all had a great time.
The Crew Ready to Go
Showing off her headlamp, Dianna is ready for our trek to the put-in area - about half an hour's hike up the mountain. Just slightly awkward carrying an innertube and life jacket, and water, cameras, and whatnot...
Stylin
We're on our way. Our guide, Fernando, one of seven licensed guides for the park, was a wealth of knowledge about the geology and other wildlife in the area. There was even a termite nest down low enough we could look at it in detail (still couldn't see that much).
Underway on our Trek
Termite Nest
Here we are ready to get wet
Dianna Ready to Do It!
Me Ready to Do It!
Working Up the Nerve to Actually Get in the Water
Working Up the Nerve to Actually Get in the Water
We actually had a bit more hiking to do, some of it underground, where we got our first good look at stalactites and stalagmites.
Craig and Mae Observing Nature's Slow and Inexorable Artistry
Craig and Mae Observing Nature's Slow and Inexorable Artistry
Hike, hike, hike. Ahh, it was a blast. It was really a pretty easy hike.
Heading Into Darkness
Craig Asking Fernando a Question
Now, we're actually ready to get going. We get in the water of the Caves Branch River and into our tubes. We linked our feet under the armpit of the person in front of us to form a train, so Fernando could pull us through the shallows. And probably cause we were a bunch of old farts, but he was too polite to say so.
Away We Go!
Away We Go!
Stalactites or stalagmites, hangy-down thingies anyway.
Lots of 'Em To See
Here's a shot of Fernando pulling us through one of several shallows. The water was really low as it hadn't rained in a couple of months.
Pulling a Train
Can You Lend a Hand?
Fernando issued each of us headlamps. it turns out to be necessary. There's plenty of places in the caves where darkness is so complete you can't see your hand in front of your face without them.
Turn It On Like This
Dianna's Is Shining Brightly
We saw bats by the hundreds. This shot is up a crevace where they're nested and just packed in together waiting for nightfall. They were all fruit bats.
Bats, Bats, And More Bats
We passed and were passed by a couple of other groups of tubers. They cheated, using their flip-flops as paddles.
Passed and Passing
Heading Into the Darkness
Poor Fernando, towing Us Through Shallows Again
One of the commands heard as we approached the shallows, was "Butts Up"! That meant for you to stretch out on your tube as horizontal as possible, not because of low ceilings, but high floor... So you didn't whack your tail bone on a rock in the shallows.
What A Lot of Fun
What A Lot of Fun
After about a half-hour to forty-five minutes unground, we saw our first daylight. Wow. It was so bright it hurt our eyes, and to me, it looked surreal. It took me a while to realize what I was looking at. Strange experience.
Self-Portrait #1
First Daylight
Weird Formations in the Light

I thought these formations looked like something out of Lord of the Rings. I wouldn't have been surprised to hear someone whispering "My Precious" as we passed by.
Gollum's Lair
A Rather Suggestive Formation
Galleries Are Quite Large
It's hard to say just how large the cave rooms or galleries are, but suffice to say, they are big. If there was somewhere to stand, you could do so with no fear of banging your head on any of the hangy-down bits. And, I guess the galleries in some cases are 10-15 feet across, some even larger. None of them made you feel closed in at all.
Lots of Hangy-Down Thingies
Lots of Hangy-Down Thingies
We even came across an underground waterfall. It was hard to get a decent picture of it. This compact camera just doesn't have the greatest zoom. But I did manage to get a couple decent shots of the waterfall.
Underground Waterfall
Underground Waterfall
We came across a couple other tubing groups while we were underground. One, we passed, the other passed us. Kinda fun meeting total strangers in dark caves!
One of the Groups We Met
As we came to the end of the journey, This was the scene that greeted us first. More surreal light and a person on shore. No idea who it was. He never said anything.
Journey's End
Journey's End
We're Definitely Back to the Surface
Civilization on the approach. This is where we put out and had a short walk back to the parking area and turned in our tubes and lights.
Someone Doesn't Want to Quit
It was a total fun trip
After turning in our gear, we decided to take a look at the Jaguar Paw Resort (http://www.jaguarpaw.com/). It's located inside the Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve, it's an upscale place to stay. We went to the bar, had a beer and some snacks, then headed back to town for dinner.
Craig Enjoying One
Waiting for Service

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