March 15

For our last day in Belize we wanted to visit another cave.  Don had heard of a cave called Chachem Ha that supposedly had lots of intact Mayan pottery.  The cave is located on land owned by a farmer and his family.  Back in 1989 he and his son were searching for palm leaves to use for thatching their roof when their dog chased an agouti into a small opening in the cliff.  When they followed their dog in, they found a cave that had pieces of pottery in it.  On further investigation they found a cave that had over 60 whole pots of various sizes.  Rather than sell off their find, they notified the government (risky) who set archaeologists to survey the cave.  Now the family runs tours of the cave for people like us.

We arrived at the farm and were lucky to find that that a tour was just about to begin, just for the two of us.  We walked about one mile, climbing steeply for the last quarter until we reached the cave entrance.  There we put on our headlamps and climbed in.  The cave is about the width of a mine shaft and gradually drops in elevation.  First we saw a flock of swallows that make their home in the cave, then a few bats.  Suddenly we were shown the first pieces of broken pottery, which was exciting.  But each of the next sights were more impressive than the one before.

We reached a pair of ladders that provided access up to a couple of ledges.  When we climbed up, we found a cache of pots on both sides of the cave.  Wow.  The further back in the cave we hiked, the larger the caches of pots we found.  Some even had lids on them.   

chachem1.jpg (67610 bytes) chachem2.jpg (47498 bytes)

Strangely, some were upside down with lids on their bottoms.  At the end of the cave, there was a small ceremonial circle of stones surrounding a plain stela and a small incense burner.  As we turned off our headlamps and were swallowed by the pitch black of the cave, we could only wonder what ceremonies were conducted here over a thousand years ago!

We were able to make camp near the farm house and in the morning we'll head to the border crossing and into Guatemala.


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