Date of JourneyMarch 2015
Ken & Gill Mackinnon
We visited the sacred Mayan cave Actun Tunichil Muknal on our trip to Western Belize in March last year and it was fantastic. Actun Tunichil Muknal is an archaeological burial site that includes skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. "The Crystal Maiden" is the famous skeleton of possible sacrifice victim, whose bones have been calcified to a sparkling, crystallized appearance.
After being driven for about an hour into the jungle, we disembarked and trekked for three quarters of an hour, fording 3 rivers before reaching the cave. Then it was strip down to shorts and T-shirt before entering the cave. The only way in is by swimming about 30 metres. Thereafter, our wonderful guide Arun led us wading, swimming (again) squeezing through tight spots, scaling a cliff (no ropes!), climbing a ladder and then padding in Rohan socks (to preserve the integrity of the site) amongst thousands of Mayan sacrificial items including pots, cooking utensils and even skulls.
When we eventually arrived at the inner sanctum, there was the 500-year-old calcified skeleton of a sacrificed teenager.
The entire site has been designated a heritage location by the Belizean Government and absolutely nothing has been removed. It was an awesome five-hour trip that we will never forget. Unfortunately, a previous visitor dropped his camera on a sacred skull, damaging the skull irrevocably, so now cameras are totally banned. The photo shows me in the background in my Rohan T with my hand on Gill’s shoulder, and she is in her blue Rohan shorts and top.
We were really glad of our quick-drying shorts and tops but the one thing we really appreciated at the end was our micro-towels.
The highlight was sitting in the absolute darkness hearing the history of the cave from Arun and then being faced with the final sacrifice when Arun switched on the red light on his helmet.
The South American jungle is host to a range of other dangerous insects. One of my particular favourites is the Bullet Ant, the second biggest ant in the world and named as its sting feels like a bullet has hit you, with the pain lasting around 24 hours.
An equally terrifying creature around our campsite was the biggest tarantula in the world, the Goliath Birdeater, which came out every night. We also encountered the Brazilian Wandering Spider (sometimes found in bananas in the UK) and hundreds of poisonous caterpillars.
Rainforests are equatorial and the change in climate from the UK is huge, expect to be constantly sweating! It’s important to wear light, comfortable clothing which dries quickly. The insect-repellent Rohan gear also had this great feature as well as UV protection. My favourite item from the range was the Sanctuary Shirt in Grey Check.
We travelled in the wet season, probably the most difficult one to handle. You are usually so hot that the rain is a treat, but the downside is everything is constantly wet! I wore the Vapour Trail Long Jacket when we had a big storm, it’s incredibly lightweight, breathable and 100% waterproof. Perfect for when it's extremely hot and wet to stop not only me but my camera getting soaked!
Back on UK soil
Back in the UK I spend a lot of my time in the Peak District, which is near to where I study in Sheffield. I go out into the field for research or birdwatching but I often have to return to Sheffield for teaching and other research commitments – Rohan provides great looking technical clothing so I can go from the Peak to the office without having to go home first and change.
Vapour Trail Long Jacket, Trailblazer Convertible, Sanctuary Shirt and Women’s Trail Socks.Back to the Map