The ceiba tree is tall, towering over most of the other trees and reaching up into the sky. They can live for in excess of 400 years. The ancient Mayans believed that the branches of the ceiba reached into the 13 levels of the celestials. The trunk was firmly planted on earth. But the roots go down into the 9 levels of the underworld. So, if you want to see the underworld, the place of the dead, a good place to begin is in the extensive cave network in Belize.
There are two types of caves in Belize--dry and wet. We opted for the later. A van picked us up. It was nice, by far the nicest vehicle we have been in while in Belize. The ride started out comfortably enough, but the farther along we went the rougher the roads became. We were bouncing around the van like popcorn in a hot air popper. And that wasn't even the part of the adventure we paid for.
Before we could delve into the hidden parts of the underworld, we first ascended into the celestials. Well, we got as far us as we could on a platfrom and zipped from one platform to another on a zip line. Not exactly a Mayan style of experience, but it was pretty fun. There were six lines and it was over way to quickly.
We took a hike out to the place where we would enter the Cave Branch River. The river is cold, very cold. But that didn't really keep us from jumping into the tubes and heading downstream. Our entrance was right before the mouth of the first cave and we were quickly turning on the headlamps they gave us and watching marbled kingdoms and "holy" water seeping through the limestone on us. There were interesting rock formations. The guide kept asking us to guess what the formations were. "Looks like a turkey," I'd say. Um, no, it's a rabbit. I guess I'm not very good at identifying rock formation animals. Hm.
We made it through two caves. In the second, we became surrounded by a group of tourists from a cruise ship. Either that or they were strangely clad mayan spectrals. In either case, our guide got us out of the water and we wandered around a side cave until they had passed through. Nice.
We pulled out of the water after the second cave. We survived the underworld. I'm not sure which level we were in, but we lived to tell about it. Though we were pretty exhausted as we bounced back to San Ignacio.