An Illicit Cave Tour and Farewell to Mexico

As of today’s writing, Ned and Charlotte and I have been on the road for over two months and have driven nearly 8,000 miles. We spent two months in Mexico, flew to Cuba for a four day side trip and have now crossed the border into Belize, making it country number three. We are still feeling great about the trip, and we still love each other (ok, maybe just one or two spats here and there!). Our only frustration is time. In spite of not having a schedule, we have a schedule! We plan to leave Charlotte safely in Costa Rica while we fly home for a bit. After that we are constricted by weather and seasons as we pass through Central America and on into the Southern Hemisphere. It will all work out, but we do need to keep moving.

Our final days in Mexico didn’t feel much like Mexico at all. Once we hit the Cancun area it felt like we were back in the States, but it was a necessary diversion in order to fly to Cuba. After Cuba we regrouped in the cute but touristy town of Playa del Carmen where we had some great meals and worked on the blog.

Prior to flying to Cuba, however, we had one final Mexican adventure…

On Monday February 17 we woke up in yet another cane field. The night had been peaceful; our hiding place off of the busy highway to Cancun had worked out well. This area was a Mayan Empire hot spot, and ruins, big and small were everywhere. There were also several caves to explore. We were feeling the time crunch having spent an extra month in Mexico, and so opted for visiting just one cave, the biggest one, of course… X’tacumbilixuna’an!

We followed the signs to the cave, but when we arrived the gates were locked, and a big banner indicated that the whole place was closed for maintenance.  We looked around and noticed that the area showed serious neglect, as if it had been closed for years.  Bummer, we really wanted to see this cave.  In our typically rebellious style, we searched for a way around the gate.  The place was deserted.  We might as well see if we could sneak in, right?   Simultaneously, two things happened.  On the ground, I spotted some pages, obviously torn out of a porn magazine, featuring male models.  The pages were carefully weighted down with rocks…okay, weird…and we were approached by a really shady looking character carrying a tattered backpack.  Were those his porn pages??   He was trying to tell us something in his native Indian dialect, and I could barely catch a word.  I finally guessed he was talking about money and wondered if he might be offering to be an illicit guide into the caves.  Hmmm, might be interesting.  “Dinero?” I asked, and he nodded.  In Spanish, I asked, “Is it possible to get into the caves?” He nodded again. “Can you guide us?” Another nod.   “How much?” “50 pesos,” he replied.  That was about 4 bucks. “What’s your name?” “Manuel.” “Okay Manuel, let’s go!”

We followed the signs to the cave, but when we arrived the gates were locked, and a big banner indicated that the whole place was closed for maintenance. We looked around and noticed that the area showed serious neglect, as if it had been closed for years. Bummer, we really wanted to see this cave. In our typically rebellious style, we searched for a way around the gate. The place was deserted. We might as well see if we could sneak in, right?
Simultaneously, two things happened. On the ground, I spotted some pages, obviously torn out of a porn magazine, featuring male models. The pages were carefully weighted down with rocks…okay, weird…and we were approached by a really shady looking character carrying a tattered backpack. Were those his porn pages??
He was trying to tell us something in his native Indian dialect, and I could barely catch a word. I finally guessed he was talking about money and wondered if he might be offering to be an illicit guide into the caves. Hmmm, might be interesting. “Dinero?” I asked, and he nodded.
In Spanish, I asked, “Is it possible to get into the caves?”
He nodded again.
“Can you guide us?”
Another nod.
“How much?”
“50 pesos,” he replied. That was about 4 bucks.
“What’s your name?”
“Manuel.”
“Okay Manuel, let’s go!”


Then the wind shifted.  He smelled as bad as he looked.  Remembering the porn pages, I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.  Would Charlotte get robbed by co-conspirators while we were away?  Would we be ambushed once inside cave?  For that matter, would the cave be dangerous?  It was closed down for a reason!  Oh, what the heck, out on a limb is where all the fruit is, right?   We grabbed headlamps out of Charlotte, and as a last minute thought, I pocketed the pepper spray I keep on my backpack.  I noticed Ned had picked up our huge Mag Light, and I figured that could be used as a weapon too.  We were prepared now.

Then the wind shifted. He smelled as bad as he looked. Remembering the porn pages, I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. Would Charlotte get robbed by co-conspirators while we were away? Would we be ambushed once inside cave? For that matter, would the cave be dangerous? It was closed down for a reason! Oh, what the heck, out on a limb is where all the fruit is, right? We grabbed headlamps out of Charlotte, and as a last minute thought, I pocketed the pepper spray I keep on my backpack. I noticed Ned had picked up our huge Mag Light, and I figured that could be used as a weapon too. We were prepared now.


We climbed over the fence and down some steep stairs.  I was excited, but still apprehensive.  I knew Ned was not worried, but that’s always my job anyway.  I decided that from here on out, I was going to maneuver myself to stay behind Manuel.  I was not going to have a surprise attack from behind!

We climbed over the fence and down some steep stairs. I was excited, but still apprehensive. I knew Ned was not worried, but that’s always my job anyway. I decided that from here on out, I was going to maneuver myself to stay behind Manuel. I was not going to have a surprise attack from behind!


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Down we went, into the bowels of the earth.

Down we went, into the bowels of the earth.


The caves and infrastructure were in total disrepair, and piles of rock had fallen from the cave roof onto the walkways.

The caves and infrastructure were in total disrepair, and piles of rock had fallen from the cave roof onto the walkways.


The lights looked like they hadn’t been used in a decade.  This was perhaps a “Darwin” moment.

The lights looked like they hadn’t been used in a decade. This was perhaps a “Darwin” moment.


The cave was huge, and there were some very deep holes; not the most spectacular we have seen, but still impressive.  Our footsteps echoed in the vast stillness, and we found ourselves whispering to each other.  It really was a bit spooky, considering the circumstances.

The cave was huge, and there were some very deep holes; not the most spectacular we have seen, but still impressive. Our footsteps echoed in the vast stillness, and we found ourselves whispering to each other. It really was a bit spooky, considering the circumstances.


Manuel actually turned out to be an enthusiastic, if not terribly knowledgeable guide, laconically pointing out cool features without explaining their geological significance.  He was even chivalrous, offering to help me over rough spots and lighting my way with his flashlight.  The lack of personal hygiene and the porn pages?  Well, that was his business.

Manuel actually turned out to be an enthusiastic, if not terribly knowledgeable guide, laconically pointing out cool features without explaining their geological significance. He was even chivalrous, offering to help me over rough spots and lighting my way with his flashlight. The lack of personal hygiene and the porn pages? Well, that was his business.


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Overall it was a great experience.  We got a private viewing of a really cool cave.  I was relieved, however, when I emerged alive and bounded back up the stairs into the fresh air and sunshine.

Overall it was a great experience. We got a private viewing of a really cool cave. I was relieved, however, when I emerged alive and bounded back up the stairs into the fresh air and sunshine.


Having survived our crazy cave adventure, we drove into the two-donkey, one house town of Cayal where Margarita ran this tiny restaurant out of her home.  She cooked us a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, refried black beans and tortillas, which we ate with gusto.

Having survived our crazy cave adventure, we drove into the two-donkey, one house town of Cayal where Margarita ran this tiny restaurant out of her home. She cooked us a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, refried black beans and tortillas, which we ate with gusto.


This little guy came out to wish us a warm farewell and “Buen Viaje!”

This little guy came out to wish us a warm farewell and “Buen Viaje!”


We spent our last night in Mexico parked in a lonely campground in Bacalar, just a few miles from the Belize border.  Our final Mexican dinner was in this cute little restaurant where we cracked open the Belize map for the first time.

We spent our last night in Mexico parked in a lonely campground in Bacalar, just a few miles from the Belize border. Our final Mexican dinner was in this cute little restaurant where we cracked open the Belize map for the first time.


Mexico was a gift of amazing memories.  Our eyes were saturated with gorgeous scenery and vibrant colors.  Our bodies were fed with delicious food, and our hearts were filled with the warmth and kindness of the people.  There is something about the Mexican people which is hard to describe and impossible to forget.  Their spirit manifests in smiles, waves, loving hugs, impeccable manners and eagerness to help strangers.  Mexico had become comfortable.  We were sad to leave and will miss the people. Ahh…but new adventures await…

Mexico was a gift of amazing memories. Our eyes were saturated with gorgeous scenery and vibrant colors. Our bodies were fed with delicious food, and our hearts were filled with the warmth and kindness of the people. There is something about the Mexican people which is hard to describe and impossible to forget. Their spirit manifests in smiles, waves, loving hugs, impeccable manners and eagerness to help strangers. Mexico had become comfortable. We were sad to leave and will miss the people.
Ahh…but new adventures await…

3 thoughts on “An Illicit Cave Tour and Farewell to Mexico

  1. Well done you two and congratulations for 8,000 miles. Wow! When in Belize look up ATM cave. It has to be guided but it is a fun 3/4 mile jungle hike and a swim to get inside it. Lots of cool artifacts and shockingly, some skeletons. San Ignacio on the Guatamalan border is a fun town and very close to a number of large Myan ruins. Travel safe and let us know when you make it back to G-Ville. Cold beers await in return for travel tales!

  2. Right on guys!!!!!!!!!! Make sure to keep that eye open in the back of your head on those adventures! Ned your looking a little shabby there in a few of those photos. God Bless, Be safe!!!

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