In Pictures: Casual Caving In Guatemala

Caving in Guatemala is an unceremonious affair. You hike for a while, usually through jungle, and then simply slip in. It’s almost as if you have stumbled upon the ancient geological formation by accident. Ah, a massive cave system: what a surprise!


Ixo Cave was no exception.

Our walk started in the overgrown fields of an old finca. Weathered stables that once held sheep stood in a field of tall grasses. I followed my guide, Manuel, through a few gates each denoting a change in scenery. Our surrounds ranged from areas of newly planted rubber trees to grazing pastures for the local curious cows.

After almost an hour we hit the edge of the farmland and entered a forest. I watched my step through gloopy mud and tried to steer a glance to the trees. Multiple species of birds watched me with caution, signalling to their peers through sing-song calls that made the forest come alive over our heads.

When the path finished it wasn’t the end of our trail. Manuel signalled towards two large boulders and expertly squeezed between the two. I followed diligently and noticed that Manuel had already disappeared again; this time into a cavernous gap in the side of the mountain we had just edged around.

I turned on my head torch and Manuel’s hunched silohuette was dwarfed against the rock-face as he busily lit candles. These would guide our route both in and hopefully, back out of the cave.

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Is there a path? Fields that lead to mountains that hold caves…

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I follow Manuel, my guide

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Pretty wildflowers in the Poptun area are a bonus of local cave hikes

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A wild orchid at the side of the path grabs my attention

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Not man-made, but a huge natural vine as we head into the forest

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Manuel lights candles at the cave entrance

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Looking back to the outside world

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The first chamber held giant stalagmites that were surrounded by tranquil pools

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In complete darkness other than a few candles (and the camera flash!)

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In the second chamber, new stalactites formed at head height

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Different processes of calcite deposits create different shapes within these cave systems

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Watch your head! The route tightens as we walk into the third chamber

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Cave spiders lurked silently above us, always looking ready to jump as our head torches caught them!

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Stalactites drop from the ceiling

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I remembered: “Tights fall down”

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As well as spiders, the cave is also home to fruit bats

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A slice of another world…

 

 

 

 

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