Thursday, April 20, 2017

Do one thing a day that scares you by Piya Campana

“Do one thing a day that scares you” is the sort of suggestion I usually ignore because it doesn’t fit into my cocoon of books, Netflix and chips. But I definitely saw the value in it on my vacation to Belize in March.

Belize is a wonderful country to visit because it has so much to offer—if you like the beach, there are the sunny Cayes. There is ample opportunity to snorkel, scuba dive and kayak. The inland offers beautifully preserved jungle, fresh-water swimming holes, Maya ruin sites and a vast cave system.

Friezes on El Castillo at Maya ruin site Xunantunich
In the ten days I was there, I did many fun and exciting things I’ve done before, like swim in the ocean, read on the beach, explore new cities and eat at least four times my weight in local food (if you visit Belize, be sure to try the fryjack, the papaya, the rice and beans, the stew chicken, the conch curry…). And for the whole trip I had been looking forward to one particular expedition. Well, sort of.

It was with a degree of fearful excitement that I had been describing the ATM tour to others before I left for Belize. ATM, or Actun Tunichil Muknal, is a large cave an hour from San Ignacio, in the Cayo district. It is believed to be a Maya sacrifice site and is home to calcified human bones (including a nearly intact skeleton called The Crystal Maiden), pieces of ceremonial pottery and cave formations that were apparently modified into altars or carved in certain ways to create silhouettes and cast shadows of faces, figures and animals.

No cameras are allowed inside (thanks to one tourist who dropped theirs during the tour a few years ago, breaking a thousand-year-old skull), but that turned out to be fine with me! Because after a forty-five-minute hike through the jungle and shallow rivers, as well as a swim into the mouth of the cave, I needed both hands and all of my energy in the next three hours to squeeze through tight spaces, climb down into tunnels of rushing water and scale slippery rocks as we made our way around.

When we weren’t swimming through the cave’s river system, we took off our water shoes to walk the dry chamber areas in stocking feet to get up close to the artifacts. It was dark, damp and cool and we occasionally shared the space with some cute little bats…and a huge spider that I studiously avoided. I was grateful for my headlamp!

While wildly outside of my comfort zone, the ATM tour was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

In the spirit of pushing limits, what’s a story idea you’ve always wanted to explore but were too afraid to? Please tell me in the comments!

And if you’re interested in learning more about ATM and seeing some photos, here’s a good resource.


Tara Taylor Quinn said...

Okay, I'm claustrophobic feeling just reading this! Kudos to you for taking that on!! Funny, too, I was just thinking this morning that sometimes you just have to do something, even if you're afraid, because it's better to make a mistake then to be stagnate in the same place, going nowhere, experience nothing new. It's better to make a mistake and be fully alive, then to be safe and just existing.

And...what kind of chips? I'm a chipsaholic...

Piya said...

Agreed, Tara, and beautifully put!

As for the chips, I'm not picky, but my favourite flavours tend to be spicy--the jalapeno Miss Vickie's, for example, or Indian brands like KurKure. Otherwise, sour cream and onion. :)

Kristina Knight said...

We visited Belize a couple of years ago (on a cruise)...I'd like to go back to really see the country, not just the port!

Piya said...

So cool, Kristina! It's worth it, for sure.

Nan Dixon said...

This sounds like so much fun! Even the crawling through tunnels. (But we did that in Costa Rica)

The story I want to write - well - book 1 is drafted, is about Genetically Modified Children. Quadruplets who were implanted in 4 different mothers across the country who end up finding each other. (They are 30 years old now) They all have different skills because that was the modification.
And of course there is a super secret gov't agency that sponsored the initial research. And they have now gone rogue and are trying to take over the US by placing the 25 year olds they created into corporate and gov't positions.
Romantic Suspense of course. :-)

Piya said...

Nan, I regret not visiting any caves in Costa Rica! Will have to go back.

Your story idea is intriguing, and so cool how different it is from Fitzgerald house! It has shades of Orphan Black, too, which I love. :)

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