I entered the cave in bathers, shorts and flimsy sandals. Oh, and I had a candle. Yep, a tall thin candle that you would have taken to Carols by Candlelight back in the day.
The guide was speaking Spanish and “poco” English. The only words I understood was “chica”, “beautiful” and “go”.
I was on the trip of a lifetime. After exploring the northern regions of Guatemala alongside an education-focused NGO, myself and a close group of friends were having a couple of days of downtime at Semuc Champey.
We hiked, swam in natural lagoons with little fish nipping at our feet and floated down a river in a tube while drinking a beer that a 12-year-old sold to us as he too floated down the river.
Before this peaceful trip downstream, myself and two friends, decided we would go on a cave tour. We were given no safety equipment. I thought this was a sign that it was more a stroll through some dark caves, than what we experienced.
During this cave “exploring” I climbed a poor excuse for ladders (while holding my candle), scurried over a waterfall (while holding my candle), slowly moved across a ledge that only had room for half my foot sideways and balanced on a rope so that I wouldn’t make a horrific drop, coaxed an Italian to not be scared when the fear was trying to stop me from breathing, swam while trying to keep the candle above water and popped myself down a hole that I didn’t know how far the drop was or where I was going.
The adrenaline told me it was fabulous experience. But not until we were back in daylight and floating down that river with a beer in hand. We had to drink the last of the beer quick so that we could make our way safely to the side of the river before the rapids started.
The next day we went white water rafting. Our guide had worked with Bear Grylls and the television team from Survivor. He knew what he was doing. We told him we went on the cave tour. He was horrified. He said he only goes in with all the best safety equipment.
That’s when I realised, that while we had a fantastic experience, we were bloody crazy doing what we did.
Watching the events unfold in Thailand takes me back to the worst case scenarios running through my head on my tour.
Once I was in the cave I had no choice, but to continue. I would be laughing hysterically – it was the better option than crying in a ball on a ledge unable to move. My friends – who were more thrill seekers than me – kept me sane and made me feel safe.
While travelling in Italy I went in another cave that had been discovered by “cave divers”. Underground was an old church and prison chamber used during the Roman Inquisition. Masonic marks covered the walls of a jail cell, torture equipment was found and the church was in brilliant condition. The explorers and those who worked to create safe access to the underground premise referred to Vatican records to confirm the use and purpose of the area.
It was eerie and fascinating to walk the grounds that hadn’t been touched for hundreds of years.
It’s human nature to explore. It’s why we went to the moon and discovered the Earth was round.
We can’t let fear stop us from exploring.
Some of the greatest places in the world and most significant moments in history happened because of the drive to know and see more.