Actun Tunichil Muknal

13. September 2018

The cave of another missing tourist… Daniela is not the biggest fan of darkness, closed rooms and especially not spiders. All of which we expected to experience on this cave tour and she still wanted to do it – I am impressed by her braveness.

After a 1.5h drive and a 45min hike during which we crossed the same river three times – once swimming – we arrived at the hour glass shaped entrance of the ATM cave. We entered the cave swimming and after putting on our helmets and headlamps we started our trip into the darkness.

We climbed over rocks, through water, squeezed our bodies through tight passages and passed some alarmingly big spiders. One was even called scorpion spider and that was exactly how it looked like. And when we turned off our headlamps, to experience complete darkness, its image was still visible to our inner eye.

While making our way through the cave we always had to be careful not to touch the glittering calcium covered surfaces of some of the rocks. But that was easy as we would have never touched something that beautiful and fragile. Whenever the cave opened up into larger halls we starred at its ceiling and turned absolutely silent when admiring these immense sculptures formed by water and time. After more than an hour we finally reached the dry chambers where we removed our shoes and continued our exploration on our socks to prevent any destruction of the artifacts.

And there they were, broken potteries with sacrificial offerings the Mayas had left there for their rain god. But sometimes the rain good wasn’t satisfied by potteries and demanded to see blood. The Mayas therefore stung their tongues with the stings of a stingray or cut their ears and foreskin with knifes.

But when the droughts continued human sacrifices had to be given. It is believed that the ones sacrificed did so out of free will, as it was a huge honor to die for the gods and a guaranteed shortcut to the afterlife. And therefore, we found many skeletons in this cave one of them perfectly conserved and placed in a way it appeared to be dancing. So far it was believed to be a young woman but latest research showed that it must have been a young boy of less than 18 years.

Even though our guide had joked about sacrificing the Finnish girl of our group, he didn’t proceed. And the translation of the name in the beginning isn’t true either. We made it all out of the cave, unharmed but richer in experience and knowledge and some of us proud to have successfully conquered their fears.


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