After lunch we started the long trek back to Jungle Dome, with a few stops along the way.
Our first detour was to the Rio Frio Cave, which was located near the Army post. To get there we had to drive through the now abandoned village that used to service the national park system. Shacks boarded up with broad numbers painted on the sides, outhouses in the back, many with empty chicken coops. Luis, our guide, lived here with his family back in the 70’s. His father was a mechanic. He showed us the hill where he first rode his bike, his family’s house, the school and the clinic. The village has a surreal movie set feel to it. The houses feel like shells, maintained but not loved. The grass is mowed, yet weeds spring up close to the houses. And it is silent. There are no cars, no children’s laugher, and no women’s voices. Just the silence of the lonely houses, sitting there, waiting for the people to return.
Along the road to the Cave we come across the burned remains of a car, the smell still in the air. We find out later that it belonged to some tourists and it had caught fire at 9:30A that morning. (Nobody was hurt.) Everything in the car had been destroyed, the steering wheel melted, all the windows shattered, the charred rim of the spare tire still attached to the rear door. Can you imagine that conversation with the rental company?
Rio Frio Cave is a short walk from the turnaround where we park. I can imagine Luis playing here as a child. The cave is deep, around 100 feet, but not broad. Sunlight pours in from both entrances and the Rio Frio River runs through it. The locals have parties and bbq inside. It is majestic in its simplicity. There are no ruins or pottery remains but it still feels magical. Luis said the Mayan’s used this cave for simple offerings but no sacrifices.
Our next pit stop is the Rio Frio Waterfalls. Here the Rio Frio River cascades slowly down the side of the mountain, forming swimming and wading pools. The others (I have forgotten to tell you that Lael-yes, that is the correct way to spell her name, it rhymes with sale-and Mark are with us on our Caracol adventure) change into their swimming suits and begin exploring. I decided to just get my feet wet and enjoy the natural beauty. There is something soothing about the sound of rushing water and waterfalls. I lay back on the warm rock, close my eyes, listening to the sounds. I begin some deep breathing and silent chanting. I feel solid. As one with my surroundings, as if the water is flowing through me and I am rock. And all too soon, it is time to go.
Back to the worse road in the history of roads. But the journey to Caracol and back was worth every minute. The road is a reminder that it isn’t always easy to get to the things that are important. Don’t let the path deter you.