Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tecoh Caves/Grutas de Tzabnah

On Sunday Pablo and I drove southeast down Highway 18 about 35 kms. to seek a new adventure. We stumbled upon the Grutas de Tzabnah, more commonly known as the Tecoh Caves. This extensive underground cave and cenote system is located just a few kilometers south of Tecoh pueblo, between Acanceh and Mayapán. There is a sign on the left side of the road announcing the Grutas, and this palapa pictured below is the office and entrance. We were charged 50 pesos per person, including lights and a guide. According to the map we were shown, there are 13 cenotes that have been located to date in the underground labyrinth.

I am recuperating from a back injury, so I was wearing tennis shoes, long jeans, and a back brace. We were able to make it back to ten cenotes. I think you had to crawl and climb to get to the last few cenotes and I was not ready for that. Next time.

The entrance is about 6 feet high, and the first cave full of swallows is the tallest ceiling we saw. After that there was a lot of bending, careful plodding along on hands and knees, sometimes using a rope to get around slippery and steep corners among the stalactites and stalagmites. These cenotes are completely underground, so there is no light at all other than what the flashlights give off. There are a lot of legends and superstitions involving cenotes in the Yucatán. The Mayans call them dzonot, and they are considered magical, enigmatic and unique in the world. They represent the entrance to the underworld. The cenotes are also the major source of fresh sweet water for many Yucatecans. Our guide told us the castes hid/lived in these caves during the early 1800's when the Revolution was taking place. He also told us a spooky story back at cavern number ten, but I didn't really get the gist of it.

Another interesting aspect of the hike was the high humidity in the caves. It was a rather cool day outside and once we got about 15 feet into the cave the temperature and pressure increased noticeably. We worked up quite a sweat on our walk, and drank all the water we brought to rehydrate ourselves.

Not much to look at above ground but flat rocky land. I am about to enter the cave.

Some of the stalactites are dripping salt. These are two salt deposits that resemble piles of ice. You can see the white lines where the salt is dripping from above. The entire Yucatán Peninsula is made of limestone rock, and the cenotes are an important part of the entire underground river structure. There are a lot of salt deposits within the Yucatán area as well; most of the salt water comes in from the surrounding Gulf of México and Caribbean Sea. The fresh water comes up from the aquafir and at some point they meet. Fresh and salt water have different densities, causing water in cenotes to appear brackish, but the salt deposits underground....this is a new one for me. I tasted the salt.

There is a naturally formed stalagmite that represents the Virgin of Guadalupe, and farther back in the caves is another pose of Mary feeding Jesus.

The photo above shows two of the cenotes, and how clear the water is. I stepped into it up to my thighs by accident...it was invisible!

More clear water in Cenote Five and Number Six is an "Ojo de Agua", or eye of water. It would require scuba and spelunking gear to explore in there further.

The rock formations are really something. The bottom photo is a turtle's head, but from the angle I took the photo in the dark it looks more like a lizard.

The guide called the above formation an octopus. On the right I am drinking sweet water from the ceiling at Cenote Number Ten. This is where we turned around after the guide told us that the muddy cenote we were looking at was full of eels, and it would not be the best cenote to swim in. Well, that and the smaller more slippery and steep conditions. We don't know to what depth we walked, it was a walk in the dark mostly, luckily the camera picked up some light.
Check out this eel. He is blind. The skin has grown over where his eyes used to be. I remember the fish in the cenotes in Quintana Roo had the same condition. These are simply called "anguilas ciegas". I don't know where the fresh water eels came from, but it was really interesting to find this photo online when I looked into the blind eels. They are found in limited cenotes in the area. It was unusual to find out they live so far inland. Great excursion!


Merida Mikey said...

Wow! Great blog! I rather wish I had been on that adventure with you guys! There is so much to see and do in the Merida, Yucatan, area, if only people would take the time to do so and put forth the effort to explore and enjoy their surroundings.

Keep on keeping on, and keep on blogging!!

Merida Mikey

Anonymous said...

Hi Lin. Wow, those pix remind me of our excursion to xcaret in 1984. I recall we took a dip in the crystal clear cenote there. The water was cold, but, as you say, invisible. Glad to see you are recovering from you recent tumble.

Love ya. Bob S

Treacherousdslik said...

blind cenote eels...how freaky!!