Feb 112014

I was walking past a building that appeared to be under renovations and liked the look of the staircase, so let myself in to take a photo. It was pretty creepy in there. It was quite a bit darker than the photo, lit by the open door, makes it appear. Then, I heard banging and voices upstairs. I didn’t want to have to try to explain what I was doing in there so took this photo as quickly as possible.

Ornate brass staircase in building in Florence, Italy

Jun 212013

**** This is the second part of the story started yesterday, click here to start there****

So, I decided to go into the cave. Even in the first chamber, the light from the door fell off before you could see through to the back of it. I tried to take a photo in here, but even after exposing for a full minute and trying to light paint with the inadequate flashlight I’d rented all I got was a black rectangle. It was clear that I would not be taking photos in this cave. So, I pushed forward.

It was pretty slippery and I was glad I was wearing hiking boots rather than flip-flops. As I entered the second chamber it was clear that, if the flashlight went out, I’d be in absolute darkness. There were signs pointing me deeper into the cave and towards the exit. There were also signs naming the formations in the cave, in Spanish I rarely understood. Light fixtures void of light bulbs were spread about. I’m guessing saving money on electricity and renting crappy flashlights is more lucrative.

As I began to walk through the cavern, I was startled by a snake two feet in front of me. Then, I realized it was just an old cable for the lights. Already, my mind was playing tricks on me. Then, I started thinking, “There could probably be snakes in this cave, sheltering from the heat.”

After recovering from that shot of adrenaline, I started looking around. There were black spots on the ceiling that could only be bats. After shining the flashlight up there and letting my eyes focus I realized they were just black dots. By the time I’d entered the third chamber, my mind was already running wild.

I started to think that if I encountered another person in the darkness I’d most likely scream. Then, there they were, a pair of legs, eerily stationary in the corner of the cave. I didn’t scream, but I did stop breathing. I focused the dim circle of light on them and followed them up. They were actually the legs of a formation eerily reminiscent of an Egyptian mummy.

In the fourth chamber I didn’t find much to look at, but it dawned on me that this would be a great way to rob tourists. All they have to do is wait until some idiot with a bunch of camera gear wanders in, with a faulty flashlight, then call their buddies to relieve you of your goods.

I pushed into the fifth chamber. This one was large and my flashlight wouldn’t light the far end. Maybe they’re waiting for me in here, I thought. Then, I shined my light towards the ceiling. More black dots, and by now I’d convinced myself I could see things flying out of the corners of my eyes, but of course, the view out the corners of my eyes were complete darkness. At this point, I decided pushing on any further would be really, really stupid. I searched nervously for a “salida” sign and carefully made my way back to the entrance. The whole way, I was on edge and just hoping I wouldn’t encounter another person until I reached the light.

Fortunately, when I did find people it was as I approached the exit – two pairs of legs stood exactly where I had as I contemplated whether or not to enter. I called out to try not to startle them as I appeared. They were an Australian couple, also holding a dodgy rented flashlight. I told them what I’d found and we decided to head into the cave, feeling comfort from the fact we had two dodgy flashlights. In the second chamber we discovered their flashlight was worse then mine as it flicked on and off occasionally. They were in flip flops so moved a bit more cautiously than me through to the third chamber. Here, I paused to look at the ceilings. This time, one of the black dots moved. I got excited as I’d finally confirmed there were bats in this cave. I shone the light upwards at them until the one I’d awoken took flight. This startled me and I dropped my flashlight and a metal lens cap from my camera. An expletive echoed through the cave followed by a nervous, Australian, female voice yelling,”What happened?”

I explained I’d just been startled by a bat. We continued to push on into the cave. By the time we reached the fourth chamber, the Australians were suitably freaked out as their flashlight misbehaved more and more. We made for the exit.

I didn’t want to leave this place without a single photo from inside Actun Kan, so when we neared the entrance I paused to take today’s picture. My new accomplices were kind enough to wait with me as I took long exposure after long exposure for what must have been 15 minutes. They even held my water bottle and other bits and pieces for me.

Just as I snapped the last shot a handful of bats flew past us and out the cave. I asked what time it was. Then, confirmed it was getting close to sunset. Realizing that as the sun goes down, bats leave their caves, we made a hasty exit.

After returning our flashlights we began the walk back into town, but found a taxi a short way up the road.

Looking up the path out of the cave entrance to Aktun Kan, Guatemala

Feb 172013

During my layover in London at the beginning of January I tried to find an interesting view of Tower Bridge. I wandered about trying to get down to the river’s edge. I got there, but the view wasn’t very good. On the way there though, I passed this cool stairway in an apartment building.

Blue staircase surrounded by brickwork