Rutahsa Adventures, in cooperation with the Cincinnati Grotto of the NSS, has organized a special trip for cavers to Guatemala, scheduled for April 2007. This excursion will be an amazing mix of caving in some famous caves, exploring spectacular karst terrane for new caves, and maybe some cave mapping. We'll top this off with visits to the spectacular Classic Maya ruins of Tikal, romantic colonial Antigua Guatemala, and a climb up an active volcano. We have planned visits to six or seven caves (more, depending on what our explorations turn up) most of which are active stream systems-- prepare for wet caving, but in waters that are delightfully warm compared to streams in US caves! We will also spend a half day at one of the world's most amazing karst features, the fabulous Semuc Champey travertine bridge. And all along our way we will enjoy tropical scenery, jungle flora and fauna, and the friendly Maya and Hispanic people of Guatemala.
Participation will be limited to approximately 18 cavers, and participants will need to be experienced and properly equipped cavers. Ground transportation in Guatemala will be by private bus. At this time (Aug. 2006) a very few details of the itinerary remain to be worked out, but the final itinerary should not differ significantly from the itinerary described in detail below.
Cost information is given at the end of this itinerary, as is contact information for cavers interested in receiving a trip application blank and/or being on a mailing list for trip updates. Comments and suggestions are invited.
Day 1, Sat. Apr. 7: Flight day. Caver group arrives in Guatemala City airport. After clearing customs and changing some money at an airport bank, we board our chartered bus and head out to the important coffee town of Cobán in the heart of the limestone belt and mountain karst of the central cordillera of Guatemala. The drive is approximately four hours, on paved highways. Our route descends from Guatemala City, located on the central volcanic plateau at around 4500 ft, down into the deep and impressive Motagua Valley, which marks the boundary between the Carribean tectonic plate on the south and the North American tectonic plate on the north. Crossing the valley floor, we then ascend, first into high metamorphic mountains, then cross another major fault zone to enter the limestone highlands that provide the picturesque and beautiful karst of this region. Overnight in the Hotel El Alcazar de Doña Victoria, a comfortable, moderately priced hotel. We'll plan to have supper at the excellent and interesting restaurant, Casa D'Acuña.
Day 2, Sun. Apr. 8: The caving adventures begin! Today we'll warm up with a visit to Cuevas del Rey Marcos, a well-decorated commercial cave (explored and mapped some years ago by Mike Shawcross and others; Mike, we hope, will be with us for this trip, and we expect to be able to explore beyond the commercial section). Here's a link for more details and some photos of the Rey Marcos cave: Rey Marcos Cave.
Not far away from Rey Marcos a small river is shown going underground then reappearing...Mike says that as far as he knows no cavers have ever looked at this...so we have a target to check out --if we can get to it-- after visiting the Rey Marcos cave. So today is one of our "we're not sure what the day will bring" days-- but it's sure to include great karst scenery, some good hiking and good fun.
Second night in El Alcazar de Doña Victoria. Tonight we might sup at La Posada, another restaurant with excellent food.
Day 3, Mon., Apr. 9: After fortifying ourselves with a hearty breakfast, we will head east into some rough karst terrane to Cueva Río Oqueba. This river cave is a through trip--sort of-- with its upstream entrance conveniently close to the road. The cave runs under the road and ends in a cliff face above the Río Cahabón, with the cave stream pouring out of the cave in a waterfall into the river canyon below...so while it is indeed a through trip, it's not one you want to go all the way with! We will enjoy the cave, including a rappel down a waterfall, take a gander at the view from the downstream entrance, then retrace our path back upstream. For details on this cave, which was explored and mapped by Steve Knutson and company, see the story in the June 1995 NSS News.
Third night a El Alcazar de Doña Victoria.
Day 4, Tues. Apr. 10: Today we pack up and head north on a good paved highway through primo karst terrane to visit one of the greatest river caves of Guatemala...the Candelaria System.
At Candelaria-- we'll stay in a rustic "eco-lodge" created, owned and operated by French caver, Daniel Dreux, who first explored the Candelaria Cave System in 1974. One has to admire Dreux's optimism in creating his lodge long before tourism reached this region on any significant scale (it still hasn't!), and for having faith that people will come to a lodge that requires a hike of a kilometer to reach! But for the visitor who makes the effort, it is worthwhile... Lodging is in charming thatched cabañas, and all meals (excellent food!) will be included in the cost of lodging while we are at Candelaria. In fact, we should arrive at the lodge before noon, so sampling the cuisine may be one of our first pleasant chores.
This afternoon the group will enjoy the lovely grounds of Candelaria Lodge, and perhaps have the opportunity to visit a short section of the huge cave. Cavers will certainly be impressed upon viewing the gaping entrances near our cabins. In the meantime your trip leaders will be finalizing arrangements for the through trip tomorrow.
Lunch and supper at Candelaria Lodge included (except for beverages).
Day 5, Weds., Apr. 11: About the Candelaria Cave: The Río Candelaria goes underground through a cave of very large dimensions, (typical passage widths: 20 - 30 m; height 10 - 60 m; the largest room is 200 m long, 200 m wide, and 60 m high). The cave system has been mapped at 22 km long, but is broken into segments by numerous skylight entrances and karst windows formed by collapse. Negotiating the cave requires swimming, and flotation gear is a must. [Note: An excellent but simple and economical flotation device can be made from the inner tube of an old-fashioned fat-tired bicycle: you remove the valve core but retain the valve cap; carry the tube deflated in your luggage and caving pack, then blow it up orally when needed; twist it into a figure-eight and put it on like a vest; far cheaper and easier to carry than an actual lifevest; heavy-weights might want to carry two such inner tubes.]
The cave was considered by the ancient Maya to be one of the doorways to the underworld of Xibalba, and the cave contains archeological sites. The Q'eqchi' Maya still come to pray in Candelaria. It is said that the Lacandón Maya (living in Mexico, just west of the border with Guatemala) believed that every night the sun is carried in a basket by the Díoses del Mundo Subterráneo through a long cave from west to east, to emerge again at daybreak. Perhaps Candelaria is this great cave and nocturnal pathway of the sun.
Obviously, Candelaria Cave is a cave worth seeing!
In 2003, we saw several kilometers of very impressive cave downstream from Dreux's Candelaria Lodge. This year we intend to see the upstream section, and in the process, add a bit to the income of the local Maya communities. Our plan for today is to walk back out to the highway, with our caving gear, board our bus and drive a few kilometers to the small Maya town of Camposantos. Here we will enter the Candelaria cave with a local Q'eqchi' Maya guide leading the way through the section of the cave now under the control and guardianship of the native community of Camposantos. Eventually we will pass, underground, into a section that is under the jurisdiction of the neighboring Q'eqchi' community of Mucbilhá. After several hours of caving we will emerge at the Mucbilhá campgrounds and tourist development. Here we will have a lunch of comida típica. And after lunch we will don our hardhats and continue downstream through the cave, now led by a Mucbilhá guide, until we re-emerge at Candelaria Lodge, ready to dry off, imbibe some liquid refreshments and have a good supper.
For more details on the Candelaria System, follow this link: Candelaria.
Breakfast and supper at Candelaria Lodge included (except for beverages). Second night at Candelaria Lodge.
Day 6, Thurs., Apr. 12: Today we drive north about four hours, mainly on paved roads, to Tikal National Park. After arriving and having lunch, we will go on a guided introductory tour of the site.
Tikal National Park includes the sprawling ruins of the Classic Maya ceremonial and civic center of Tikal, plus beautiful tropical hardwood jungle and great wildlife and bird watching. Tikal is the "New York City" of the Maya, its skyscraper-like pyramids soaring up out of the jungle canopy. Today airspace over Tikal is restricted, to better preserve the calm ambience of the jungle; however it is still possible to view how the roof-combs of the temple-pyramids emerge above the canopy by climbing Temple IV and taking in the view from this lofty perch.
The ceremonial center of Tikal is the Plaza Mayor, seen here with Temple I on the left and the Central Acropolis in the background. Looking across the Plaza Mayor from the Central Acropolis, we see the North Acropolis, where archeologists have discovered the remains of more than 100 temples. There are some tunnels to explore here, so you'll want to carry a flashlight into the ruins. Excavations have revealed the remains of giant stucco masks that adorned earlier temples, now buried by more recent ones.
The ruins of Tikal amply justify a visit here, but now add to this the fact that after over 30 years of protection in the archeological zone, tropical birds and other wildlife are far easier to see and approach at Tikal than under normal circumstances. You will certainly see spider monkeys. Howler monkeys are shyer and require more stealth to see, but you will certainly hear them, and the first impression is quite memorable, especially should you find yourself alone on a jungle trail: they don't "howl", they roar like a lion!
The birds you can count on seeing include parrots (go to the Lost World section of the park and sit on the pyramid at dusk to watch parrots come in to roost for the night), parakeets, toucans, toucanettes, oropendula (making their weird, "bubbling" cry and living in colonies of hanging basket nests), the ocellated turkey, black vultures, and others. Sighting a scarlet macaw would be a rare, but not impossible thrill. Hummingbirds, crested guan, the Central American curassow, the tiger bittern, trogons, hawks and many other bird sightings are possible.
Other animals you will likely see are agouti (known locally as "guatuzas"), foxes, and coatimundi (known locally as "pisotes"). Deer, peccary ("jabalí"), anteaters and alligators also are seen from time to time. The jaguar and other cats live here too. You would be very lucky indeed to get a glimpse of one, but in fact one of Rutahsa's travelers on the June 2001 Guatemala trip walked up on a jaguar sprawled out on a trail-- he and the great spotted cat stared at each other for about 10 seconds before the cat got up and ambled down the trail with the astonished visitor following behind taking pictures! What a lucky sighting!!
All this and the wonderful lush flora of the tropical jungle too!
Lodging for the Tikal extension will be the Jungle Lodge, a mere five-minute walk from the entrance to the ruins. The lodge has a small swimming pool, which will be very welcome after long walks through the far-flung ruins: it is HOT here!
Day 7, Fri. Apr. 13: Early risers can--with a bit of luck (yeah, right, on Friday the 13th!)-- get into the ruins before dawn and make their way to the top of Temple IV for a view of sunrise. Officially the ruins do not open until 6 AM, but often there is no one at the guard station early in the morning, or if there is, sometimes you can sweet talk your way in early. In any case, you'll want to spend a good portion of this morning in further explorations of the archeological site, and to pay a visit to the Tikal Museum, which displays stunning artifacts and features a replica of an important tomb and burial.
After lunch at the Jungle Lodge we'll reboard our bus and head south across the Petén lowlands to the town of Poptún and Finca Ixobel where we will be headquartered for the next three nights. The finca, or farm, run by Carole DeVine, an adventurous American ex-pat who settled here some 30 years ago, is a delightful and unusual place. It is a farm, an injured animal rescue site, and a well-known hostelry with accommodations ranging from very comfortable motel-like units to bungalows to tree houses! The food is home cooked and some of the best in all Guatemala. We will enjoy our stay here here. Here is the Finca's website Finca Ixobel.
Breakfast and lunch at the Jungle Lodge included (except for beverages).
Day 8, Sat., Apr. 14: Today our group may split up into two parties, according to the interests, abilities, appetite for roughing it, and stamina of the various group members. One group will begin a two day trip consisting of hiking in to Chiquibul Cave, camping, a long caving trip in Chiquibul, Central American's largest cave system, a second overnight in camp, and a return hike out. Note: hiking in the Petén lowlands during April-- the hottest, driest month of the year-- is no picnic! A second group may opt to stay at Finca Ixobel which offers three other caving experiences, plus swimming, horseback riding, bird watching, partying at the bar near the swimming pond, and just relaxing and hanging out.
The hardcores of the Chiquibul group will get up early-- try 4 AM!-- put our caving gear and sleeping bags aboard the bus, and head up the highway about 24 km to the town of Dolores. Here we turn off on a good gravel road for a few more kilometers, until we reach the turn off to Sacul Abajo. Here we will have a truck awaiting us, to take us where the bus can't go, over a bad road for about an hour until we reach the village of Las Brisas. This is our jumping off point for Chiquibul Cave!
Chiquibul is a huge river cave, the largest and longest known cave in all Central America, and a world class cave. It lies (or should we say, "under lies"?) mostly neighboring Belizean territory, and has been explored and mapped from Belize. See the April 2000 issue of National Geographic for the story of the exploration of Chiquibul. Even better, read the articles in the Mar. 1989 and Jan. 1990 issues of the NSS News. Or, for more immediate gratification, visit the National Geographic website Chiquibul; but be sure to use your "back button" to return to this itinerary!
Fortunately for us, a major section of the Chiquibul system, including the downstream entrance, lies within Guatemala, and we know how to get there, having reconned this in March 2006. During this recon we not only learned how to get there, we learned who to use as a guide in Las Brisas and who can have some mules ready for us so we don't have to carry all our camp gear in the blazing heat. Even so, you should expect a pretty rigorous hike of 3-4 hours, and for the last hour to hour an a half, everyone will have to carry their gear as the mules cannot make it all the way to the cave-- To give you an idea of how rough the terrain can be, during our recon we were practically at the cave, in sight of the great high white cliff overhanging the 200-meter-wide downstream entrance...and it still took us a half hour to clamber up to it! Here's a partial view of the entrance, showing the left-hand or smaller of the two passages: Chiquibul entrance. And here's a view down into the main passage...note the five-foot high Maya wall near the left corner: Chiquibul entrance to main passage.
The plan is to try to reach the entrance by mid-day, set up camp in the twilight zone in a flat area below a massive stone wall built by the Maya. After camp is set up, we'll leave one of our local guides as camp guard and go explore the huge passage on the left side of the gigantic entrance cliff. Like the passage where our camp is, this passage also boasts Maya walls, lots of pottery fragments, and at least two burials. Further back in the cave there is more evidence of Maya occupation and probable ceremonial use of the cave. And there are huge formations galore!
After exploring and photographing, the Chiquibul crew will return to the entrance campsite to fix supper and spend the night.
Meanwhile, back at Finca Ixobel, what's the rest of the group up to? Well, those who want to go hiking and caving can and should visit River Cave, also known as One Day Cave since it takes just about a full day to hike to it, visit it, and return to Finca Ixobel.
The hike to River Cave takes about two hours through karst hills, and will be led by a guide from Finca Ixobel. The cave is, as you would guess from the name, a cave with a stream in it. Not a raging river, but a good stream with some pools and sections that require swimming. You should take your flotation gear. In 2003 half of our group mapped the first section of the cave, 580 m THC, and here is the cartography by Howard Kalnitz: River Cave Map.
The other half of our 2003 group explored the second section of the cave, reached by a short free dive through a sump at the end of the first section. This sump has been dived various times by visitors, and is rigged with a permanent handline. But before attempting this you need to consult with the guide.
Our group of sump explorers reported the second section of River Cave to be about as long as the first, and characterized by large rimstone dams, pools and cascades, before ending in yet another sump. If there are cave mappers in the group that stays at Finca Ixobel, passing the sump and mapping this section in 2007 would be a good challenge!
After exploring and/or mapping River Cave, this group will return to Finca Ixobel for a second overnight.
Day 9, Sun., Apr. 15: The Chiquibul crew will start into the main cave right after breakfast, headed upstream. The passage is huge-- sometimes 100 m across. And it features lots of breakdown, and breakdown blocks near the river have been eroded so that they feature grotesquely jagged surfaces. This is definitely a cave in which you knee and elbow pads are recommended (for protection, not because you are going to be crawling), and you need to watch where you step. We will work our way upstream, anticipating that we can reach a second entrance (the sinkhole entrance) in three or four hours. If we are making good time, we will continue on upstream, part of the time in the flowing river, and part of the time in a series of long, deep, still pools, until we reach the beautiful Zactun entrance, approximately two cave miles from our camp at the downstream entrance. The return trip will be (we hope) faster and easier, as we will be going with the flow. Nonetheless, we expect this to be a long day-- 10 or 12 hours in the cave.
Second night in camp for the Chiquibul crew.
Back at Finca Ixobel, for the entertainment of the group there, two other cave trips are available, both of which are shorter trips than River Cave trip. (Note: You have to sign up for these trips on the Finca's trip sign-up board.) Those that wish to have a relaxing day after yesterday's hikes and caving can hang out at Finca Ixobel. And there are other options such as sleeping in late, going horseback riding, swimming at the Finca's swimming hole, or strolling about the area birdwatching. Sometimes rides in an ultralight are available, and the the karst topography is neat to see from the air.
Third night at the finca for the Ixobel crew.
Day 10, Mon., Apr. 16: The Chiquibul crew breaks camp this morning and hikes back to Las Brisas, meeting our muleteer and pack animals en route so as to not have to carry all the camp gear all the way back. At Las Brisas our truck will carry us back to the waiting bus, and the bus will return us to the comforts of Finca Ixobel, hot showers and good food!
The Ixobel crew can visit a third cave today, swim, or indulge in other activities.
Final overnight at Finca Ixobel for the whole group.
Day 11, Tues., Apr. 17: On the move again! We head south on a paved highway for about two hours until we reach the small town of Chacalté. Here we'll stretch our legs with a hike to a place where the 1:50,000 topo sheet shows the Río Chacalté to go underground then re-emerge about 400 m away. As far as we know this potential river cave has never been checked out by cavers in spite of being close to the highway! We don't know what we'll find-- a river sinking into boulders with no possibility of human entry? Or a gaping, beckoning entrance draped in jungle vines? We'll have to get there to find out!
After checking out the subterráneo del Río Chacalté we will continue south, leaving the Petén lowlands behind, and climb back up into the high karst north of Cobán. The road this afternoon will be gravel, narrow and winding, and slow, but the scenery is terrific. If the air isn't too hazy with smoke from burning milpas (remember, this is the dry season, time for the burning part of the traditional slash-and-burn agriculture) we may get views of limestone mountains, where karst features are dominant. We could see examples of haystack karst.
Just before reaching the town we drive by the Nacimiento del Río Lanquín, or place where Lanquín River is born-- and indeed a river emerges full-blown from a great resurgence just below the entrance to the Grutas de Lanquín.
Lanquín, with its ancient church, sits on a knob a short distance above the rustic Hotel El Recreo, where we will take our lodgings and meals for the next two nights.
After checking in to our lodgings, we'll have supper at the hotel's restaurant, and discuss the options for tomorrow's outing.
Day 12, Weds., Apr. 18: Today we will visit the fabulous Semuc Champey, and we also have the option of visiting a recently discovered cave known as K'an Ba (or Cueva Las Marías). First, a review of the Semuc Champey, then a brief description of K'an Ba.
The Semuc Champey is a karst feature that is truly thrilling and breathtakingly beautiful. But let's start with a very important caution: a single misstep at the Semuc could easily be fatal.
At the Semuc Champey , the Río Cahabón has cut a narrow canyon down into the limestone, to a level somewhat below a number of spring orifices. The carbonate-charged springwater has built immense travertine dams and platforms that completely bridge the raging river for a distance of some 340 m. Thus the foaming river plunges into a tunnel that passes beneath a series of utterly placid, crystalline spring-fed pools that must rank very high amongst the world's most beautiful natural swimming holes. A selection of photos follows.
In 1993, during an unusually dry spell, a team of cavers led by Steve Knutson attempted to force a passage of the Semuc Champey. From the upstream maw they were able to penetrate only a few 10s of meters of highly risky cave. Then from the downstream end they made it to within 50 meters of the upstream survey, but no connection could be made through the sumped passage. For full details of this valiant (but perhaps a bit beyond the pale) effort, see the Sept. 1994 issue of the NSS News.
You can spend the full day here relaxing, picnicking, swimming, taking photos, and just being amazed at the contrasts between the Eden-like tranquility of the inviting pools, and the raging watery hell below.
OR...you can visit K'an Ba, 3.5 km long stream cave a short ways downstream from the Semuc, on the opposite side of the river. Ironically, this cave should have been discovered on Rutahsa's 2003 trip for cavers. While the group was enjoying the Semuc Champey, trip leaders Ric Finch and Mike Shawcross hiked in on this side of the river. They saw a small stream coming in from above the trail, depositing travertine on the boulders, but their focus was on another objective (and travertine is so common in this region), so they didn't check it out, and thereby missed a good discovery!
K'an Ba was explored and mapped by Matt Oliphant, Nancy Pistole, Mike Shawcross and others, and consists primarily of a long, winding, high canyon-like stream passage, with just a few side leads. It is mostly walking and wading, but with numerous swims interspersed. Although some trash washes into the cave from unknown sinkhole sources, the cave is highly decorated and completely unvandalized. A couple of climbs have been permanently rigged with ladders, so no vertical gear is needed, but flotation is a must. This is a great cave, and you can see it all in a long push, but that takes a significant effort!
So the choices are...all day at the Semuc Champey; the morning at the Semuc and the afternoon spent seeing a portion of K'an Ba; or for the really energetic, making a push to see all of K'an Ba. But we don't all have to do the same program, we can break into smaller groups with different objectives-- all we have to do is agree upon a meeting time and place!
After our Semuc Champey/K'an Ba adventures, we will return to the Hotel El Recreo for a second night there. If we do this well before nightfall we have yet another possible cave experience...we can go to the Lanquín cave just down the road from our hotel to see the bat flight.
Grutas de Lanquín is a two-kilometer-long cave (explored in 1966 by an NSS group led by Russ Gurnee) is a national park, and the well-decorated front portions of the cave have been partially, if somewhat rudimentarily, developed with lights and trails. To watch the impressive bat flight we need to be actually in the entrance to the cave, which means we need to get there before closing time and give the guardian a tip for allowing us to remain in after closing hours.
The rear portion of the cave is undeveloped, but entry is permitted for those equipped with lights and who show a willingness to tip the custodian! Beyond the electrically lit section is a drop-off into a very large, high-ceilinged room-- the bat chamber. Droppings from the bat colony provide the basis for a plethora of invertebrate life-forms, including crabs (no, not crayfish, but actual crabs!) and fearsome-looking whip scorpions. This section of the cave is quite warm, and has several branches, some of which pass through nicely decorated chambers, and end in the swift-flowing waters of the Río Lanquín.
Here's a little Grutas de Lanquín photo gallery:
So, a nighttime visit to Lanquín cave is another possibility for those who still have the energy after the Semuc and K'an Ba!
Second night at Hotel El Recreo.
Day 13,Thurs., Apr. 19: After breakfast we load the bus again and this begin an all-day drive back to Guatemala City, leaving the karst region behind. But the fun isn't over yet...we'll pass right through Guate City and continue on another 45 minutes to the beautiful Spanish Colonial city of Antigua.
In Antigua we will stay at the Hotel La Posadita. Antigua is a gem of colonial architecture, and is one of the most romantic cities in the Americas. Set in a valley flanked by three towering volcanic cones, and blessed with a delightful climate year-round, the city is one of the touristic highlights of Guatemala. Hotels, restaurants, shops, language schools, and monumental earthquake-shattered ruins abound. To see more of Antigua, visit Antigua Guatemala, then use your back button to return to this trip description.
Overnight Hotel La Posadita.
Day 14, Fri. Apr. 20: This morning will be free time for exploring some of Antigua's many intriguing ruins, markets, and stores selling Mayan textiles, jade, and many other items. Some may find Antigua too fascinating to leave and choose to skip the planned afernoon excursion...
In the early afternoon we leave for Volcán Pacaya. After about an hour's drive to reach the village of San Francisco de Sales we have a two-hour hike and non-technical climb to summit Pacaya at around 2560 m (8400 ft); the actual peak elevation varies from year to year as the cone continues to build upwards, then blows itself away. Whether or not we can actually get to the peak depends on the degree of activity, which can vary from quiet steam emissions, to small ashy steam explosions, to streams of lava, to violent blasts flinging boulders for kilometers. If eruptive activity is mild, it may be possible to look right into the crater and see what's going on. In Nov. 2005 we stood right on the edge of a vent just 10 feet away from glowing redhot lava rock. If steam explosions are occurring we may have to hold back a hundred meters or so from the actual vents; if powerful blasts are taking place, then we have to watch from a safe distance on an old, lower, crater rim. Volcanoes are moody, and we will judge the situation when we get there. Whatever Pacaya is doing, it is always fun and fascinating. And if we have the luck to have the right combination of favorable weather and explosive activity, the nighttime fireworks show can really be awesome. [The return down the volcano's slopes will be at night, so do bring a light-- not a problem for cavers, eh?]
To see what the climb is like, and see Pacaya volcano in a variety of moods over the years, click here: Volcán Pacaya.
Second night at Hotel La Posadita.
Day 15, Sat. Apr. 21: Time to head back home for most of us. A shuttle will pick the group up at the Hotel La Posadita, and take us to the Guatemala City airport to catch our flight back to the U.S. of A. Customs may look askance at muddy boots and grimy gear, but what do we care-- we've had a ball and are taking back memories of great caves, great caving companions, beautiful jungle, friendly Guatemalan people, and a terrific life experience.
But if you have more time... You might want to consider spending a few days more in Antigua-- what a fine place to hang out for a while! Antigua is also a great place to stay a few weeks and study Spanish at one of the numerous Spanish schools, while living with a Guatemalan family.
And Guatemala has much more to offer than caves and karst. World famous Mayan ruins for example. Beautiful volcanic lakes. Colorful native markets. Lots of choices...all you need is time, and a few more dollars.
Speaking of dollars, what about the cost of this caving excursion? See below..
The costs of the trip vary according to the number of participants to share the fixed costs such as bus rental. We plan to take up to 18 participants, with cost ranges of:
The basic in-country trip price will include the chartered bus, a professional driver (who has driven for Rutahsa Adventures for several years and who is familiar with much of the route for this trip), all lodging, meals as noted in the itinerary, cave entry fees, and the services of a bilingual tour conductor.
The trip price does NOT include travel to and from Guatemala, but we know good agencies that sell flight tickets at discount price. Meals, except as specifically mentioned in the above itinerary description, are not included; allow about $15 a day for food and drink. Other expenses to be borne by the participants: Guatemala exit tax of $30 (paid at the airport when you leave the country), souvenirs, tips, and other personal expenses.
Participants must have a valid passport to enter Guatemala, but no visa is needed for US citizens.
Participants are expected to have sufficient caving experience, must have their own caving gear (including flotation gear), be in good physical condition for the planned activities, and be able to swim.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THIS CAVERS' EXCURSION TO GUATEMALA AND WOULD LIKE AN APPLICATION BLANK, OR WANT TO BE ON A MAILING LIST FOR UPDATES AS THE TRIP DEVELOPS, e-mail Ric Finch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE TRIP ORGANIZERS:
Dr. Ric Finch, NSS5560RL, is a lifelong caver, with significant caving experience in Honduras, and Guatemala. He is a geologist, and retired from 25 years of teaching geology at Tennessee Technological University. He has been poking about Central America for over thirty-five years, as a geology graduate student, mining exploration geologist, caver, and sometimes vagabond. Since 1987 he has led an annual geology or cultural adventure trip to Guatemala, and in 1997 incorporated a small eco-adventure travel company, Rutahsa Adventures. The present cave trip is being offered under the aegis of Rutahsa Adventures for economic/insurance reasons, but is not an ordinary commercial venture. It is a cavers' trip in which all participants will share the responsibility for the success of the venture.
Mike Shawcross is a British ex-pat who has made Antigua Guatemala his home. Although he is truly a citizen of the world-- having traveled, caved, lived and worked in various corners of the world-- he has been now in Antigua for over 25 years, and Guatemala is his adopted nation. Mike is well known in international speleological circles, and has done a lot of caving over the years in Mexico and Guatemala. His home in Antigua has served as base of operations for numerous caving groups. We are fortunate to have Mike making the in-country arrangements for this caving excursion. Mike can also supply carbide for visiting cavers, so you don't have to worry about sneaking carbide (considered a hazardous material) into Guatemala hidden in your luggage!