Conquering The Caves

March 14, 2009
As our chatty group of 16 young women from The Traveling School entered the cave in Lanquin, Guatemala, I experienced a moment of panic and thought,
'What am I getting myself into?!' Koky, our 15 year old local guide, led us into a cave full of bats, giant spiders, and I could only imagine what else. The limestone floor felt exceptionally slippery and I could not help but think to myself
'I hope I don't fall and sprain my ankle!' Climbing higher up narrow steps and ladders I suddenly realized I had a new opportunity to conquer my fear of heights. When I am at great heights, my stomach fills with flying butterflies and my palms begin to drip with sweat.
'Here goes nothing!' I sighed to myself. The cave scene before me resembled the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland; the dimly lit path and narrow hand railings guiding us as we proceeded further into the cave. Koky stopped, pointing out a rock formation containing ancient animal hieroglyphics. My favorites included what appeared to resemble a giant toad with boils popping out its skin. I felt a pang of guilt when Koky explained that the oil from so many tourist fingerprints causes the limestone to disinigrate.
Suddenly, my train of thought was broken by a giant spider that sent shivers up my spine and quickly scurried behind a glistening rock. I focused on keeping my feet in constant motion to erase the eight legged creature from my mind.
Time slipped away as we walked through the darkness and before I knew it, we reached the mouth of the cave. Here is where the real show began. The sky grew dark Koky explained we were about to see the cave's entire population of bats fly out at once for their evening dinner prowl. I ducked as bats flew rapidly over my head. Numerous cameras began to flash upon them like lightening striking.
I survived my first cave expedition! I knew the next day we would continue on exploring another cave, again challenging my fear of heights. In the morning, we found ourselves swimming up to our necks in cold water and scrambling over limestone by candle light. Climbing up shaky ladders held by only a few thin ropes re-ignited my sense of fear. This time, I would not allow it to take over me. As I continued climbing steep ladders and walking up slippery steps, I was reminded of rock climbing in Seattle, Washington with my dad. When we climb, I feel the same fear no matter how many times I attempt the same wall. Dad will then tell me,
'You're not going to fall!' I held onto that thought throughout the day's many scary moments. I knew I could conquer my fear of heights.
Just as the tour came to an end, I felt strong, supported by my peers, and encouraged to keep going. With the motivating thought of my dad and me climbing, I knew I was capable of anything; all it took was support, confidence, and a little help from the bats.

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