Birder's Eye View

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ginormous millipede
On Thursday of spring break week, we got a day off from working to take a trip to some local caves. Our faithful guide accompanied us, but before taking us to the caves he wanted to show us a local cultural center. I was skeptical at first, but it turned out to be a really interesting archaeological site.

The Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Park is an ancient Taino (native Puerto Rican) site dating back to 1200-1500AD, full of petroglyphs and plazas. The plazas were apparently areas used for civic and religious activities, as well as a ball game known as batey. The petroglyphs portray animals and human faces, thought to represent leaders of the tribes. I was really excited to see this, especially since I’m taking an archaeology class right now and got to geek out on some of the concepts I’ve been learning about.

Petroglyphs -- the middle one is one of the most famous images in PR

Bird petroglyphs! 
After spending some time at the site, we drove about another hour or so on windy roads, before parking at a gas station. I was a little confused at first, but it turned out the entrance to a cave we were visiting was accessible by a small, steep trail leading up a densely jungled and rocky mountain behind the gas station.

There were a couple small caves along the way, but our guide assured us that the cave we were looking for was much larger.

 And indeed it was! We followed a set of natural, steep steps down into a large cavern, switching on our headlamps and flashlights as the light from outside quickly diminished. It was clear that the cave was heavily used by people, but it was definitely an “off the beaten path” sort of place — not ropes, railings, lights, signs, or any sort of safety regulations you might find in a cave that size in the States!

More bats
The photos above are deceiving, but even with flashlights, the cave was pitch black once we got away from the opening. You could only vaguely make out the ground a couple feet in front of you. When we shined lights up at the ceiling, we could see bats swooping in and out.

After a few long minutes of picking our way through the darkness, light began showing at the end of a wide tunnel. When we came out to it, I realized we were hundreds of feet above the ground with a sheer drop down, looking out over the misty landscape. It was absolutely breathtaking.

As we sat there taking in the view, a rainstorm swept across the mountains, shrouding everything in fog. It’s impossible to even describe, but it was just beautiful. It was by far one of my favorite days yet, and a good end to a week of service work, fun times, and many new perspectives.

White-winged Dove

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