Oh what a rush, what a complete life altering experience. Have you ever felt an adrenaline surge so big your fingertips tingled?
I did. And still get goosebumps to this day just thinking about it... in a good way. Imagine this...
In the complete darkness, pitch black can't-see-your-hand-in-front-of -your-face I stood. In an underground cave. In Mexico. Deep within the earth where things go bump in the night. Then a voice whispered - jump.
Would you have leapt into the abyss? Not knowing what was there, how long the drop was and what would greet you? Talk about leap of faith. And it was exhilarating. Seconds seemed like hours until the cold black water closed over me. Then BAM, flood lights lit the cavern. Coming up for air, in what can only be described as a life altering moment, descending into the darkness and re-emerging into the light, the deep cobalt blue of the water perfectly balanced the white, creams and honeys of the pristine cave. Oh, what a spectacular sight. This untouched, never seen sunlight cenote was deserving of its name.. the Virgin Cenote.
This was the finale to a private tour of seven, yes seven, untouched cenotes not yet open to the public on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. What a rush. A spine tingling experience that still gives a thrill.
Okay so I told a little fib. I knew it was a cenote. I knew I would land in water, but standing in that degree of blackness does something to a person. That one whispered word 'jump' sounds like Satan himself uttered it in your ear and you would land deep within the bowls of the earth in the fiery pits of hell. No, seriously, it did, it gave me the heebie geebies. So laugh if you want, I will never forget it for the rest of my life and am thankful for an extremely unique experience few others had ever or will ever have.
Hidden underground or open out in the daylight, no two cenotes are the same but they all hold a special magic. Some have small beaches and you climb down spiral stairs just to experience them.
Others you walk a little wooden bridge descending stairs straight into their depths.
All of them hold a peace, a serenity that has you believing like the Mayans, that they may in fact be the gateway to the underworld. There is a tranquility in those waters that seems to seep into your skin, your mind, body and soul.
It is as if nothing dare disturb the water. Leaving it perfect. Leaving it clean, untouched and fresh. The caves beacon you to wade into their depths while the open cenotes seem to dare you to jump. Carefree and usually from a height, it is an exhilarating adventure.
This cenote called Cenote Arco Iris (Rainbow Cenote) is said to have gotten it's name because after the rain it changes colour. A little known phenomenon where the rain disturbing the water surface turns it every colour of the rainbow. Locals have reported to see it in pink, purple and orange.
I adore finding local legends like these. A little touch of the exotic to go with the landscape as you stare down into the cenote. It calls to you like a siren, willing you to jump into its depths like sailors of bygone legends did. So you do. And it is thrilling and intoxicating, just as I am sure the sirens were to the sailors.
My favourite was Cenote Mariposa Azul which means the Blue Butterfly in Spanish and all I can say is that standing atop that cenote, staring down into it's perfect deep blue depths, the way the sunlight streamed through the water to form butterfly wings, it was easy to see why the Maya worship Chaac, the god of cenotes, waterways, rivers, streams, creeks and even the rain falling from the heavens. Surely he must have created this masterpiece, it is too perfect not to have been created by a god.
So my darling little travel baggers, if you are ever in the Yucatán, run, jump and leap into the abyss of a cenote if you get the chance. It is a holy experience you will emerge changed from. As far as I am concerned, it is the nearest thing to touching a god or magic that you will ever experience. At least it was for me anyway. And I will return time and again, to immerse myself into these perfect waters till time stands still.