We continued our drive West across Belize and spent the night in San Ignacio a town right near the Guatemalan border. This is a mountainous region and includes an area called Mountain Pine Ridge (MPR). On a map MPR didn't look far at all from San Ignacio but we were told it would take us a while to get there. We booked a local guide named Jaime for the next day to take us to MPR and show us through several caves and natural pools. Jaime was 30 minutes late to meet us and was on foot sans his vehicle that was supposed to transport us. He said his transportation "wasn't reliable" so we decided to go it alone. This is the part of the story where the seriously rough roads come into play. It made sense to us WHY his transportation wasn't reliable. It took us an hour and a half to get the the entrance of MPR during which time we were jostled to the bone and praying that our little truck (with no spare tire) would make it. We asked the gate attendant how much further to the caves and pools and he explained that it was 14 miles to the first one. Not far at all IF the roads were the least bit easy to traverse, but they weren't. Our truck was getting more and more beat up and making bad sounds even though Randy was only doing 5 miles per hour. We really wanted to see what we'd driven all this way to see but decided we, our time schedule, much less our poor truck just couldn't handle it. We left the MPR discouraged.
However, on the way out, we stopped at a place that said "CAVES" on the sign and a little guy came down to greet us. He explained that he had a cave on his property that beat those in MPR so, eager to see a cave before we left the area, we set off with him. His name was Bol. He was a Mayan fellow and quite pleasant. The entrance to his cave was padlocked to keep looters out and he unlocked four different locks before removing the iron chains and lifting up the big iron gate that lay over the entrance to the rock cavern. He went first with the flashlights, then me then Rand. We negotiated our way down the eleven foot ladder that descended into the thick, moist air of the cave. Our flashlights guided us as Bol showed us the various exhibits of pottery, jewelry, tools and even some bones and skulls left by the Mayans of old. In my mind's eye, I'd seen a huge beautiful looking cave with its internal aesthetics and twists and turns being the highlight and not a smallish cave with the emphasis on artifacts but Bol's personality and special twist on a banana leaf made us glad we'd come and seen.
Little did we know that the roughest road yet lay between us and our next destination. It looked like a short cut on the map but it was in fact something even an authentic Hummer would struggle to maneuver through. We held our breath for 2 hours hoping against hope that we would emerge with our rental truck's tires and two axles in tact.