Friday, July 21, 2017

Day 5: Searching for Amanda

March 19: Amanda and I woke up and ate the breakfast provided by our casa particular which included fruits, bread, ham, cheese, juice and scrambled eggs enough for an army. After brushing our teeth and getting ready for the day, we headed off--in different directions.

Amanda would take a taxi to Indio Cave while I would walk there on a network of walking trails until reaching a paved road I'd follow the rest of the way. I figured it would take me at least an hour to walk. Amanda said she'd wait for me at a restaurant by the cave until my arrival.

The walk, at first, followed some of the same trails we covered yesterday and the number of people riding around on horseback astounded me. I must have passed a hundred of them! And I did, in fact, pass them, as the horses seemed in no particular rush tromping down the trail. Much of the trail had split into two so I took whatever path the horses weren't using to get around them.

Eventually the trail veered off into new territory for me. I didn't have a good map of the area--just a very rough one with many smaller trails and landmarks not listed at all, but I knew I had to eventually come out at a road to the east so as long as I only went north and east, I'd eventually get to the correct place. I wasn't too worried about getting lost.

The only obstacle of note that I came across was a small creek with no bridge. Not really inclined to get my feet wet, I walked upstream a bit to where the creek narrowed and leaped across to the other side, then followed a barbed-wire fence back to the trail.

The trail eventually led out to the main road, which had more buildings, people and animals to see, but I didn't much care of the narrow or non-existent shoulders on the road and the busy traffic passing by. I intersected the road much earlier than I had expected and still had another 3 kilometers of walking to reach the cave entrance.

At one point, a man being pulled in a cart by a horse offered to give me a ride to the caves for a fee--which was tempting since at this point I was on a fairly miserable road walk and it might shorten the wait Amanda would have, but we were running low on Cuban currency and I decided to pass to stretch it out a bit.

Oxen pulling karts was a common sight! =)

About 80 minutes after I left, I arrived at Indio Cave but looking around, Amanda was nowhere to be found. Perhaps she stopped to use the restroom? I took a seat on a bench. It was hot out, and I was sweaty and needed a rest. After about 10 minutes, my bathroom break theory was starting to deteriorate. Where the heck was Amanda? Taking a taxi, she should have beaten me here by an hour! I wasn't concerned about her... just a little annoyed that she wasn't where I expected to find her. I had no way to contact her. I couldn't call, or email, or leave any other type of message. Had she gotten here and left for some unknown reason? Or maybe she went shopping in town thinking she had plenty of time to meet me at the cave then lost track of time?

I ended up waiting for about a half hour, and still there was no sign of Amanda. I had another theory about what might have happened to her. I thought we had agreed to meet at Indio Cave, but maybe she thought we were meeting at an earlier cave that I passed about a kilometer back? I saw it on the side of the road as I walked by. This area is littered with caves all over the place. Perhaps we had gotten our signals crossed?

The cave was maybe a kilometer away--not terribly far--so I decided to walk down there and check things out. I didn't know what I'd do if she wasn't there, though. How long should I wait at Indio Cave before giving up?

I didn't make it to the other cave, however, because halfway there, I ran into Amanda walking up the road from that cave. Turns out, Amanda never took a taxi at all and had walked all the way in from town! That was one theory that had never even crossed my mind. She said she couldn't find a taxi in town, and she didn't have small bills in any case. I'm not sure why it mattered if she had small bills or not since the taxis would most likely be able to provide change.

I walked back the rest of the way to Indio Cave with Amanda who sat down for a much needed rest. While she was resting, I went ahead and used the bathroom because--why not? Fortunately, everything went well. =)

Then I got in a line to get a number, which was then called out about 10 minutes later which I turned in so I could buy us tickets for the cave. The process seemed strange. I had to take a number just to buy a ticket?

I stand around waiting for my number (40) to be called in order to buy us tickets.

Anyhow, with tickets firmly in hand, we arrived at the cave entrance to wait in another line before they finally let us in.

The most remarkable thing about this cave, in my opinion, was how incredibly warm it was inside. It was a comfortable temperature, but I'm used to caves being cool--cold enough that I usually wanted to add an extra layer to stay warm. In this case, however, the inside temperature was only marginally cooler than the outside temperatures--and that's probably only because outside we were in direct sunlight.

From a natural perspective, the cave was in sorry shape. It was dry, and what used to obviously be magnificent cave formations were broken, dirty and not particularly impressive. They didn't even bother putting up "no touching" signs because really, at this point, touching everything in sight wouldn't cause any undo damage.

The cave wasn't particularly long and included one tight squeeze that large people might have trouble navigating. I had trouble ducking through the low opening.

The main highlight of this cave was the river running through it. Large enough for a couple of small boats to pass each other side by side, we queued up in yet another line for the underground boat ride. We were in that line for probably 15 or 20 minutes. While waiting in line, I took off my long-sleeved shirt. I wore it to protect me from the sun--not to keep me warm, but in the cave, the sun was not a concern, and even in the cave I was a bit too warm with the shirt. So I took it off while waiting in line.

Inside Indio Cave....

We unexpectedly got moved to the front of the line when they were looking for two people to fill the last two seats in the boat. Turned out, none of the dozen or more people ahead of us were a party of 2 (or smaller), and Amanda and I gladly cut in front of everyone to score our seats in the back. =)

The boat driver pointed out formations on the cave walls and what they supposedly looked like--in Spanish, of course, but even if we didn't understand the Spanish, we could usually figure it out based on the formation itself. He pointed to the rock formations with a laser pointer and if we didn't understand it, made educated guesses about what it looked like.

The boat ride lasted for all of about five minutes before exiting the cave and ending our tour. It wasn't particularly long or exciting but for $5 (each), we agreed it was worth it.

Amanda wanted to check out a pool at a nearby hotel to visit tomorrow, so we did that, then decided to walk back to the other cave we had passed a kilometer before--El Palenque. It had a bar set into the front of the cave, which was shaded and wonderfully scenic, so we sat down and ordered drinks. Amanda was in serious need of a good long rest--she had walked here all the way from town, after all! And this was such a wonderful place to rest!

We lingered around for over an hour, then finally paid our bar tab and entrance fee for the cave ($3). The cave wasn't really anything to write home about. It too was warm but had only a few people in it when we entered rather than the large hordes that went through Indio Cave. There was no boat ride at the end, although there was an optional horse carriage ride from the exit back to the entrance for an extra $1 each. We decided to pass on that.

Drinking inside the Palenque cave.
It took all of about five minutes before we made it through the cave, then followed a road around the mountain back to the entrance and continued walking down the road. We were prepared to negotiate a taxi fare, but none of the drivers in the few taxis we passed seemed to even look our way so we never bothered and started walking back to town.

We stayed on the road all the way into town--it was the most direct method into town and Amanda definitely wanted direct. We stopped for dinner at a small, Italian restaurant while live music was playing in a nearby plaza.

Afterwards, we headed back to our room at the casa particular, but only for an hour until just before sunset when we headed out again to watch the sunset. We found a decent vantage point for the sunset at a baseball field where Amanda and I watched four separate groups of kids playing soccer and baseball. Amanda got really excited whenever one of the kids made a good catch played really well, even going so far as to hollering out at them, "Good job!" Keep in mind, we were the only people in the bleachers. They probably thought we were those "crazy Americans" they always heard about. =)

After sunset, we retired back to our room for the night. The day was done!

Lined up and waiting to get into Indio Cave
While waiting to buy our tickets, we were entertained by these fellows and their animal props.
Inside Indio Cave
Even inside the cave, there was another line we had to wait in... the line to ride the boat through the cave! But we should skip ahead a dozen people or so when they were looking for two people to fill up the boat and everyone else ahead of us were in groups larger than two. =)
The exit from Indio Cave
Outside of Indio Cave
Amanda watches, wondering if one of the boats would go over the weir!

View from inside the bar/cave looking out.
Watch out for snakes! I almost missed that one! =)
Escaped slaves supposedly hid out in these caves, so the decor was themed around those. Here, I'm defending myself from an attacking former slave. *nodding*
Exiting from cave number two, we find... another bar/restaurant!
Okay, I'm going to say it: That's a seriously weird mural! Decapitated naked people and dead babies in a bowl being pecked at by birds? What the hell?!
Tobacco leaves drying

Dinner! (I had lasagna.)
Watch out for dinosaurs in town!
Sunset over a mogote

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