The Grutas de Loltún
One of Mexico’s biggest cave systems is found just south of Oxkutzcab. With woolly mammoth bones and evidence of human presence dating back to the Pleistocene Age, the Grutas de Loltún (Caves of the Flower Stone) served as a refuge to both the Maya and to those who came before them.
In order to visit the caves, you have to hire a local guide. There’s no set price for this service; instead, you’re asked to pay what you think is fair. So before we departed, and throughout the entirety of the tour, our guide was reminding us to tip generously. “It’s up to you. Most people give me 700 pesos. Totally your choice, though! But 700 is normal. Just saying. I have a family to support.” He never stopped needling, and it was a real annoyance. I decided to give him 500 pesos ($40) for the both of us, and he was happy with this.
Luckily, it was easy to ignore the money-grubbing once we got inside of the cave. We began in an enormous chamber named “The Cathedral”. The path wound into another spacious room where a long, heavy stalactite hung close to the floor. The guide, unbelievably, started pounding on it to produce a low booming sound. Apparently that’s allowed. He asked me pound on it too, which I did, albeit more tenderly. One day, some roided-out rage freak is going to take a tour of Loltún, and it will be lights-out for that poor stalactite.
From here, we came upon a section of the cavern called the “Grand Canyon”, due to its uncanny resemblance to Arizona’s natural wonder. We also saw red hand paintings on the wall, left by the cave’s original occupants. The Maya were not the first people to make use of the cave, and they must have been as mystified by such paintings as we are today.
Our tour ended at a section of the cave where the ceiling collapsed, allowing in light to flood in. Along with natural rock formations that look like a lion and a monkey, there are huge piles of stones. During their battles against the Spanish in the Caste War, the Maya would retreat to Loltún, and these stones were from a wall which had been a part of their fortifications.
We loved our walk through the caves, though it was a shame about the guide. When he wasn’t pestering us for money, he was rushing us through the cave as quickly as possible, making it difficult for Jürgen to get pictures. Also, much of the information he fed us was completely contrary to what we had gathered from more trustworthy sources. But hiring a guide is unavoidable if you want to gain entrance, so just be aware.