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June 12th

Today we did the ATM tour. ATM stands for Actun Tunichil Muknal. On our way to the cave it began to rain which made me kind of sad, but it cleared up. Then the car started malfunctioning. Soon it went to a complete halt. The guide was able to turn it back on, but it only drove on for a couple of meters more. I was so glad that I could see a building not far from where the car went completely off. If it would have stopped in the middle of the jungle I would have been worried. Anyway, we all walked on to the building which turned out to be where our tickets were going to get checked anyway. We waited here for a while and met a couple of parrots on the premises. We then hitchhiked with another group that was headed to the ATM cave as well. We hiked for like half an hour in the middle of the jungle, crossing the river several times, until we came to the entrance of the cave. I’m glad I had a live jacket on. For what the tour guide said was the first ½ kilometer of the tour, we were in water. Whenever actual swimming was required I pretty much floated to where I needed to get. I also decided to take these Velcro strap on shoes which are pretty comfortable, but turned out to be disastrous for the trip. They kept on coming undone. Delayna had a very good idea about how I could tie them. That worked well, but I still felt like a dork. We climbed and hiked on these huge boulders inside the cave. Inside the cave, it was like Carlsbad Caverns, only a thousand times better. There were so many crystals that shined when you put the light of your helmet on them. We squeezed through tiny openings and jumped from rock to rock. Oh it was marvelous. And everything was pitch black so you really depended on your helmet light to see. In the water, we saw some shrimp and catfish, and other little fishes too.  On dry land, we saw the underworld. When we climbed to the top of a ledge, we all took off our shoes and continued the hike in socks. Then we got to the main chamber. We had to step on only the ridges of the pools. In these pools, there were numerous potteries left behind by the early Mayan civilization. In one of the pools, not only were there pottery remains, there were also human remains. There was a skull of which the guide identified belonged to a middle aged man. Some bones were scattered around as well. Again, I was bait for a sacrifice. J From this chamber we climbed onto some other boulders which led to a ladder. The ladder took us to another chamber, but this chamber was fenced off. Unlike the first chamber where the human remains were in danger of being stepped on by a careless tourist, the second chamber was better protected. Upon reaching the top of the ladder you are greeted by who the guide referred to as Princess. I don’t think she was a real princess, but it sounded exciting. Anyway, her whole skeleton was pretty much intact with the exception of her missing rib cage. It was such a Kodak moment. From here, we repeated the whole tour, but backwards to get back to our world. Again we hiked back to the car (another car had been provided to us while we were in the cave).  It was so weird. I didn’t feel tired at the end of it, but for the first time while I have been here, I briefly slept in the car ride on the way to the lodge. Most of us slept actually which is a huge surprise since all the roads here are rocky and extremely bumpy. Once at the lodge, it was nice to lay back and read for a little bit before dinner. I have to read to complete trilogy of “The Hunger Games”. Lesson of the day – lace tennis are a must in this country.

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