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Caving through Mexico Part Three: Chuch Baxal

Cavers are weird.

This would be expected from people who enjoy spending all day crawling in dark muddy places for fun. Sometimes they give the caves they find rather amusing names, like Chuch Baxal, which is Mayan for “Lucky Boob.”

During the typical breakfast meetup at the Arbolito taco stand, Peter gave out the daily cave beta. I ended up on a trip with Mike & Andrea Futrell to a newly discovered cave called Chuch Baxal. The cave had been located in the jungle but not explored – until now. One catch is that the cave was in the same guarded piece of land as Chango Mistico Cave as written about in my previous story here:

Chango Mistico Cave, Mexico

Given my rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, I was the designated guy to talk to the guards. Fortunately, it worked. We were good to go caving in virgin passage.img_1288

Since the new cave had no good trail, we brought along some loppers to cut a small path through the jungle. After a bit of wandering off-trail with the GPS, we found the entrance and got to work.

Andrea took up station setting, I was Disto robot, and Mike on speed sketching. The station setter, Andrea, takes flagging tape and crayon/nail polish/whiteout to mark and label a survey point. The Disto person, me, gets the distance, inclination, and compass bearing using a laser sight. The sketcher, Mike, takes this survey data to plot the station points to scale & draw a map as you go.

Right in the entrance room there was a hole in the dirt dug by some residential rodents. This loosened up the dirt of the floor fairly well. I left a few deep footprints and Andrea sunk up to her knees at one spot.

The survey pace here was pretty quick, the cave mostly flat-floored stooping & crawling. Mike, being a very efficient sketcher, was egging us on along the trip. img_1332As we continued along the passage, the cave forked out into a series of parallel routes. These routes then crossed each other numerous times, making lots of loops. A few of these went down dead end crawls, which we pushed to the end (for completeness sake.)

Down one of the dead-end passages, we saw a tarantula and a white millipede the size of my hand – very cool.img_1312

A bit further on was a foot-deep hole in the floor with tree roots going down it. The upper parts of the roots were encased in calcite, concealing the main shaft of the roots. But the small hairy bits that branch off roots were poking out of cracks in the calcite, enabling the root to still collect air and water. In essence, the cave formation was also a functioning tree root. The formation grew there due to the root and the root was still living inside of it.img_1330

Off to our right was a dirt and leaf filled slope, leading up to a tiny skylight. A small determined person could have squeezed out to the surface through here, but we settle for a survey shot & a GPS reading since my arm could reach out enough to get a signal. Back down in the cave heading on we saw a pile of bat guano. Normally it’s’ something gross to be avoided, but this shit was special.img_1315

The pile of bat droppings was rainbow colored, resembling Fruity Pebbles cereal. This was likely due to all the different fruits & insects the bats were eating. I snapped an up-close picture, the only time I’ve ever found a pile of shit interesting enough to photograph.

Past here, the cave got bigger and even more beautiful. There was a walking passage with formations everywhere. Within the first chamber of this section, the walls and ceiling were entirely stalactites and flowstone, not a single inch of bedrock visible. Not far ahead a huge flowstone column divided the passage.img_1349

To the left was a lake and to the right more dry passage. Nobody wanted to get wet so I volunteered to scout it out. Luckily I find a route that completed a survey loop around and didn’t even get my feet wet.img_1303

Once this was done the cave again divided up into a series of parallel crawls, this time with a steady breeze. We were running out of time before our scheduled post cave meetup, so we called it a day with a few hundred meters of new cave mapped.img_1318

What was 6-7 hours of survey work, only took us 10 minutes to get out of it, a testament to how complex the caves here are as well as how easy they can be to travel through. Once back at the car I showed some pictures to the guards of the cave and thanked them for letting us go caving in my best broken Spanish. After that, it was back to Puerto Aventuras for data sharing & dinner at Boy George again.

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