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To dive in a dark cave

My Scholarship entry - Seeing the world through other eyes

GUATEMALA | Thursday, 12 April 2012 | Views [345] | Scholarship Entry

Three barefoot and dark skin guys stood up besides Cahobón River. This river is part of ‘Semuc Champey’, a nature reserve formed of rivers and waterfalls, in northern Guatemala, near the Atlantic Coast. These guys were barely 12 years old, and hardly spoke Spanish. They offered us to be our guides through a nearby dark cave, where one of the river’s streams is born. Pushed out from the cave, this stream then joins the flow of the Cahobón River. The cave is dark, and cold. In most parts of the cave, one has to swim against the stream. The water’s deepest part is 5 meters. The length is 100 meters.
These guys proposed us a tour inside the cave. It cost 40 quetzales (equivalent to 5 USD) plus 15 quetzales for the ‘rent of the equipment’ (equivalent to 2 USD). The equipment consisted in a candle, a life jacket, and a pair of used shoes with non slippery soles. I told them ‘Where do I sign?’ They gave us our equipment, and we dived in the water.
The youngest guy was our guide. He lighted my friend’s and my candle. We swam against the stream. The wind turned our candle off. In the darkest part of the cave, our candles were the only light. When we reached the darkest part of the cave, the child asked ‘Who want to jump from the 10 meters cliff?’ in Spanish with a strong indigenous accent. I said ‘Me’. He said ‘All right. Miss, you have to watch out not to jump so high, nor so close from the cliff. There’re stalactites coming up from the roof. You have to fall there’. His index finger pointed out a black hole downwards that he assured me it was water. I told him ‘Ok’. And then, I plunged in the black hole.
This nature reserve is located in Alta Verapaz, one of the departments with the most unequal land’s tenure in Guatemala (and one of the bloodiest scenarios during Civil War). Administrators of this nature reserve are agricultural producers. As agricultural revenues are scarce, they must devote to parallel activities in order to complete their annual’s income.

Tags: travel writing scholarship 2012

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