The stairs were steep, wet, and winding. Down and down they went, in through a hole in the rock and into the subterranean world below.
Stalactites and stalagmites surrounded a crystal clear pool at the lowest point in the cave. Max and I descended, bathing suits on and masks in hand, and soon found ourselves stepping into the cool, mineral rich, cenote water.
I love cenotes. They are mysterious and mystical. They can also be scary and intimidating. It’s the bottomless depths and underwater cave entrances (yes, a cave within a cave) that both fire my imagination and terrify me. So, my tendency is the stay near the pool edge where I can keep my feet on the ground and look at the black, gaping hole beneath the surface from a safe distance. (Let it be known that I HAVE been cave diving and would do so again under the right circumstances, but that is with very powerful flashlights!)
Max, on the other hand, is a professional cave diver. He talks about the siren call of the Maya labyrinths. The caves are both lovely and deadly and he has made a career out of answering their call.
But today was different.
While I watched from my safe spot, Max pulled on his mask and dove down into the cenote to see if he could find the entrance to the underwater cave system. It was just a few seconds later that he burst back to the surface, visibly shaken.
“There is a very powerful male energy down there,” he said. “And it told me, ‘You don’t belong here.’”
So, let me explain this. There was no audible voice. It was more an intense feeling. Keep in mind that Max is a pro and has been scuba diving in many remote caves all across the Yucatan peninsula. He always feels drawn to them, even to the darkest, scariest places. He was shocked because he has never felt repelled like that before.
He said there were strange formations that seemed to the blocking the entrance to the mouth of the cave and then he grabbed the camera and immediately went back to take a few quick photos so I could see them. He only stayed long enough to snap a few blurry shots in the dim light, but it was enough for me to get a feeling for what it was like down there. Then he got out of the water and I followed him.
Oddly, as he was climbing out of the water, he asked me if I was feeling out-of-breath. I had noticed that the air seemed heavy down there--not unusual for a cave--but this seemed more pronounced than normal. I told him, yes, I was feeling the same. We made note of it and then chatted a bit about his experience. He had calmed down, but was still very puzzled by the intense feeling. We walked around the dry part of the cave, exploring the grand formations and peeking into the water from different angles.
More and more, I felt myself struggling to breathe.
There is a long flight of stairs back to the surface and I always feel winded when I reach the top (I have had been in this cenote probably 5 times and in other similar cenotes too.) But we were not doing anything physically taxing at this point. I had been floating in beautiful water and then we were just poking around in the cave, no real climbing at all.
I want to interject here that while there are generally very natural reasons for some of the things that happen here, it seems like sometimes nature amps things up a bit. Yes, the air is heavy here, but it grew heavier and heavier. The Maya see nature as being an entity, with consciousness. Trees and stones can think and feel. And I believe it. Can you stretch your mind to embrace that?
This is where things got a bit scary for me.
As we poked around, I noticed my breath getting shorter and shorter until I was visibly and audibly gasping for breath. I even started to get a bit dizzy and was concerned about possibly passing out on the way back up the steep, damp, treacherous flight of wooden stairs. Max too, was getting increasingly out of breath.
I called an end to our adventure for safety’s sake and declare that I needed to ascend.
We climbed back out into the sunlight and fresh air. And while I usually am quite out of breath by the time I reach the top of the stairs, (you know they don’t build them to normal regulations. The height between each step is much more than normal and they are not all the same) by the time I reached the top of the stairs, I was LESS out of breath than I was at the bottom!
So, what happened?
To sum up:
1. Max is a professional and experienced cave diver here in Quintana Roo, Mexico.
2. Max saw the strange formations at the underwater cave entrance
3. He felt a very strong male energy
4. That energy forbade him to go further
5. He took photos
6. We started feeling short of breath
7. It is normal to feel a little bit of air heaviness down there (a LITTLE bit)
8. That increased dramatically after the energetic warning and the photos
9. I felt my breathing was reaching a dangerous level of lack of oxygen
10. We left
11. Everything returned to normal
Please understand, I am not trying to make more out of this than what it should be. I have been in that cave before on several occasions. And I have friends who have been there too. It was not just me who could not breathe. Max, who is in excellent physical shape, was having trouble too.
The Maya would say it was a reaction to going where we were not supposed to go. Sometimes going where you are not supposed to go can lead to death. (They have told me stories about that which I will share in future posts, so stay tuned).
Was it a spirit? A curse?
Is there something in the underwater passage that we were not welcome to see? Was it the cave itself that took our breath away?
We will return and see if we can find some answers.
Feeling a bit nervous,