This is the place for photos and reflections of my visits to Latin America beginning in 2012. Previous blogs are linked on the main pages of my photo collections on flickr. HAPPY TRAILS!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

CAVING: Actun Halal & Actun Chapat, then on to Punta Gorda, Belize

Roxy and I woke up in this cabin at The Trek Stop in San Jose Succotz (note to best beloveds: this is the cabin Mike, Mariah, and I slept in when we were there in 2003).
We had just a few minutes to enjoy the company of the owner, Tino - turns out he sold butterflies to Roxy's mom, Nancy before Hurricane Mitch devastated her butterfly project.
 A quick visit the lovely butterfly garden


and to check out a few medicinal plants; this 1 is called "piss-a-bed". Ew.
We drove the few blocks into Succotz to Ken Dart's office and headed up the hill in his burly Landrover; as you can see, the roads required it.

We visited 2 caves on Ken's property. Here's guide Leo, Tino's cousin, at the mouth of Actun Halal, a beautiful shelter cave.

Many of the natural formations were altered by the Maya 1000 or more years ago to represent faces and skulls.
A bat skeleton adds to the ambience.
We left Actun Halal behind and headed deeper into the jungle along an ancient Maya causeway toward Actun Chapat, an extensive cave or - perhaps more accurately - cave system with underground lakes, Maya artifacts, and miles yet to be discovered.

Ken gingerly works his way along a ledge to the entrance.

Although archaeologists have removed most of the larger artifacts (darn!) the floor was littered with pot shards.

Yay! A whiptailed scorpion spider with plate-sized leg span.
The curved piece is a metate (grinding stone).
It was hard to take photos because the moisture in the air obscured the formations if I used a flash; I used my small tripod and took mostly available light photos. Some of the chambers are massive but I wasn't able to document that with a camera.
The circular shape just left of center is a jar lid.

 Big flying cockroach.

They call the formation on the left "Gandalf".

 This beautiful grasshopper had the misfortune of finding it's way into the 2nd opening, a smaller one a few hours into the cave you'd need ropes to access from inside. A steady breeze blows in so critters and butterflies would be unable to make their way back out. This grasshopper and the lizard centered in the next photo were alive but we saw remains of blue morpho butterflies that weren't so fortunate.

 Lunch is served - delicious!
 After lunch we snapped a portrait and headed back out the way we came.
 More modified formations

Crystal formations, very delicate
A skull and bones, jaw near the bottom of the photo. A while back a famous Maya cave expert didn't believe it was a skull, reached in, and broke teeth away that had embedded jade adornments; he believes it now. :-P  Leo holds them in the 2nd photo.

 Big spider. BIG.
 There were a few tightish places.
Ken uncovered a scorpion.
At the entrance again!
 We hiked out and headed back to San Jose Succotz in the truck - a day well spent yet still young.
 At Ken's office I scraped away the worst of the mud, threw fresh clothes on top of the rest, and headed to the municipal airport in Belize City with Tash and her (young adult) son, Spider Man held the windshield in place, upper right.
Belize City, Fair Brothers Pawn Shop to be exact (we didn't have time to stop in).
 My boarding pass
My trusty pilot; it was cheaper to fly from the municipal airport than from the international airport, BZE, yet we flew there before heading south to Punta Gorda with a stop in Dangriga.
I enjoyed the water and land art along the way.

Punta Gorda from the air
and from Hickatee Cottages owner Ian's pickup.
 I settled briefly into my beautiful room
before heading to the deck of the bar for chocolate cake and Garifuna drumming lessons with Ray McDonald - a festive end to an eventful day.



  1. You're on the Cayo Scoop! Great review and pictures!

  2. Great review of Actun Chapat! Thanks Stacy for sharing your experience with us. Hope to see you again one day.