Friday, April 20, 2012

The Loltun Caves

The Lol Tun caves are far enough away to be out of reach to many visitors who like to "do" the Puuc route and all it's charms, but one can make a day trip out of it starting with the Eco Museo de Cacao followed by a drive through the orange orchards 1) getting hopelessly lost, 2) absolutely muddy with thick red Yucatecan earth or 3) both, while looking for the Hacienda Tabi and then the Lol Tun caves.

The drive from the end of the Puuc Route to Lol Tun can be a violent experience, especially if you follow the sign that says Lol Tun and veer off the road to the left. The road becomes narrow and is absolutely riddled with thick potholes that will shake you up and definitely slow you down if you are driving your own car and place a certain value on your suspension and motor mounts. These small holes will become even more craterlike with the advent of the rains which are now upon us, it seems.

It is however a scenic drive through lush groves of oranges, mandarins and lemons/limes, along with other fruit such as mango, zapote and mamey. The occasional farm worker will appear on the side of the road; wave to him and he will invariably wave back.

Once you reach Lol Tun you will find an official price list containing entry fees and a sign advising you that guides are not included in the entry price. Interestingly they are not optional either. You can't just go traipsing around in the caves without knowing where you are going (you can definitely get lost) and without knowing how to work the lights. Lights! Of course!

So you can negotiate with a guide there on what would be a fair price. The rate at Uxmal and Chichen is 500-600 per small group so plan on that. As there are no official prices in LolTun, the actual fee you will pay may vary depending on the time, the guide available, how desperate they are, among other factors. Not really a clear and concise system and as usual the government does nothing to make this experience better for both the visitor and also the guides (who get no salary, no medical insurance and are completely reliant on tourism).

In any case, figure about $600 per tour and try to latch on to other people to form a larger group - if you are a couple or a single person - to bring the price down.

Inside the caves, the tour is spectacular of course. A picture is worth a thousand words so I will let some photographs do the talking.

The welcoming iguana

Looking back at the entrance to the cave



These stones are all over the caves


Strange, these things hanging from the ceiling

Handprints on the wall, apparently from the Mayans

The guide at the bottom gives you an idea of the scale of the cave

Note the remains of a wall built to defend the Mayans against the Spanish during the Caste War

This area will take your breath away

Sunlight streaming in from above

Check out the two MotMots waiting at the exit from the cave!