24.02.2012 - 25.02.2012 10 °C
When you travel you find yourself in situations that, when at home, you would never dream of. You take risks that in your own country would never even come into your mind. For some reason when you are away with your backpack your level headed approach to life is thrown out the window - with the health and safety book.
Linn and I found ourselves in exactly one of these situations while exploring caves in Seamuc Champey in central Guatemala.
After a lovely morning of walking through jungle and swimming in beautiful turquoise pools on the River Coban we decided to take the recommended Seamuc cave tour. 18 other intrepid Gringo explorers and 1 guide joined us on the adventure underground. As we entered the flooded cave system we removed our shoes and were given a candle for light and nothing more. No hard hat. No head torch. No briefing or map. As we paddled deeper into the cave the water became cooler and deeper, eventually finding ourselves swimming in the dark water, holding a candle with water lapping round the wax. Trying our hardest to keep the wic dry and the flame burning. Slowely the group became disjointed as we clambered over rocks, avoided under water obsticles and struggled up rope ladders. At one stage we were asked to climb a rope up a waterfall. The height was only just over 2 meters but a fall would have resulted in a broken head, at the very least.
As time went on it was clear the group had become spread over several hundred meters of cave system. Myself, Linn and four others found ourselves cut from the group and standing on a small silt island in the middle of a larger part of the cave. As our 3 remaining operational candles began to run out we decided it best to ration them and blew two out. Minutes later our guide arrived from the entry side of the cave looking as confused as we were. We then realised our inept guide had been hanging around at the rear of the group and failed to notice everyone had cracked on into the system and were wondering along a 10km long spur. With a mumbled Spanish slur he ran off down the cave after the group leaving us in more confusion. After a few minutes two Dutch girls appeared. They too had been standing around wondering where everyone had gone. Several minutes later the groups lights came into sight and they rounded the corner, swimming in the freezing water. They had thought the guide was in front, as you would expect, but had become lost and thought the best thing to do was to keep going...?
On returning to the over world we were asked to squeeze through a small crevis through which a river flowed. Not knowing how high or what we were going to land on we went through one at a time. As we got closer to day light we were down to 4 or 5 candles for the remaining 20 people.
Getting out felt like we had really survived. We walked back to the 'reception' and dried our selves off. The guide appeared some time later and never took a head count. I like how confident he is in himself.
As far as we know we all made it out!
Parents and loved ones. We are all fine and we have decided not to go in any more caves.