The marvel under earth’s surface

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

Limestone towers in the caves of the Cacahuamilpa National Park

The first time I heard about stalactites and stalagmites was in sixth grade geography class. My textbook had few very uninspiring black-and-white sketches of these limestone formations and my teacher had a knack at presenting even the most fascinating geographic phenomena in a dull and boring manner. Until recently, other than seeing a picture or two since that geography class, I was more or less clueless about the scenery inside a cave, and my imagination was influenced by cartoons and movies like Journey to the centre of the earth.

So since I ended up staying in Taxco longer than planned, I decided to take my very first journey inside the earth and checkout the natural vista under the surface. The extensive cave system at the Cacahuamilpa (ka-ka-hua-mil-pa काकाह्वामील्पा) national park is only 30km north east of Taxco and a convenient day trip from either Taxco or Cuernavaca.

The sheer magnitude of the underground system is hard to conceive. Vast chambers upto 82m high and a 1.2km network of paths under the mountain made me wonder how such a seemingly inconspicuous system could develop and be discovered under a huge mountain.

Every step I took inside the cave made my smile wider as I saw pictures from my geography textbook leap into reality before me. 🙂 From cute little stalagmites along the path (I was so tempted to crush them) and gigantic ones about ten times my size, to thin stalactites that hung precariously over my head and mammoth ones that seemed like pillars supporting the mountain above, the caves were full of fascinating calcium carbonate structures. The points at which the stalactites and stalagmites met had developed into quite interesting surfaces. Just like people, I thought, each formation had a peculiar personality. Some had a smooth surface, while others had granular ones. Some edges were curved while others were sharp. Some stalagmites, soaring high in an attempt to reach the roof, appeared foamy and energized, while other stalactites looked ancient and cratered like the surface of the moon or Callisto, the satellite of Jupiter.

As you can imagine, this place, with its dark and empty chambers filled with natural formations that had stood the test of time, evoked pensive emotions in me. Ironically, the feelings were similar to what I felt the other day when I was seeing the sun rise from the mountain range that ran right over these caves!

The visitor experience was somewhat disappointing though. You are expected to signup and pay for Spanish-only group tours that depart every hour. The guides do not speak English at all, which is fine, but I did not see the reason to force them on everyone, especially because at the end of the tour they let you wander off on your own. So why bother to regulate in the first place?

Thankfully my tour guide was understanding when I told him that I couldn’t understand Spanish, so he let me explore the caves at my own pace. With high humidity, darkness and less oxygen (you can feel it just from climbing 10 steps!), the time one can spend inside is limited, but nevertheless I managed to get some satisfactory pictures (most of these are HDRs), as seen below. Click to make the images real:

Getting to Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park from Taxco is pretty straightforward. There are collectivo mini-vans every two hours from Taxco’s bus terminal. Alternatively you could hop on a bus to Ixtapa, get off at the ‘Grutas’ intersection, and walk for a couple of kilometers, which is what I did.

I have to read further on how to take proper pictures in such environments. But that would be another trip! Hope you enjoyed this tour! Have you seen a cave like this before?

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery