"We have had an unspeakably delightful journey, one of those journeys which seem to divide one's life in two, by the new ideas they suggest and the new views of interest they open."
-- George Eliot a.k.a. Mary Ann Evans

Since my guiedbook stated the last tour departed at 14:00, I hurried southwest.   anticipated another nauseating ride because all las carreterras were wavy (&, as I learned yesterday, even straight carreterras on the map curved).Yet, the way was short – an unexpected reward in karst country!

I stopped at the security post at the entrance to Parque de Las Cavernas del Rio Camuy a.k.a. Rio Camuy Caverns Park. A genial, tall guard with very tan skin approached the Toyota.  He pointed me in the direction of the DRNA office & asked me where I was planning on eating dinner that evening.  Of course, I had no clue & responded honestly.  The guard in his mid-40s persuaded me to visit a specific roadside restaurante two miles away from el parque.  Like most Puerto Ricans I spoke to (or encountered) on this vacation, the man made a referral & explained his connection to the owner. I told the guard if I stayed in the area I would surely stop for a visit for which he insisted that I did one more time.

In el estacionamiento, I was welcomed by the planet’s largest coqui frog perhaps. It seemed caricatural though, almost cartoonish.  The “lobby” was comprised of wooden roofs, walkways & benches, but completely exposed to the elements.  Therefore, aromatic & neon flowers painted the green scenery (& ground, with fallen petals).
As I stood in line, I counted five tickets.  Obviously, one was for parking; one for admission; one for the headsets (offered in English/Spanish); and two to waste paper.  The group of about 30 people was ushered into a tiny, lackluster movie theatre. Afterward, the crowd waited outside for the actual tour to begin.  Here, the clouds opened up the floodgates.  I was the only person who carried gear – I couldn’t leave any valuables in the car just in case it was broken into – however the bulkiness of my backpack paid off because I was also the only person to have a raincoat handy (note: the gift shop sold panchos, but it was closed upon my arrival to el parque).  Solo, I got a front row seat but had to share my seat with the driver & another skinny Puertoriqueña a.k.a. female Puerto Rican.

Eventually a basic, orange trolleybus with wet seats pulled up.  Once all the visitors were situated, it wound downward on a spiral driveway.  El autobus stopped halfway down and – in the pause of the motor’s unnatural revving – more native, jungle sounds resonated: chirping birds, falling rain, drifting water.  It reminded me of an alarm clock with a “rainforest” wake up call.
The tram sunk deeper into the earth. Where the pavement flattened, the bus parked to let passengers off.  Each section of it became a small group.  As I sat in the last section, headphones at the ready, & waited my turn, I discerned shapes in the darkness of la cueva.  They looked like tree roots, delving into the Earth’s core.  
My group proceeded alongside la cueva’s rock wall towards estacion uno a.k.a. station #1. I noticed the sinewy roots were in rows & everywhere!  Closer, they actually looked more like teeth & their appearance altogether was like stepping into a Great White Shark’s mouth. 
Due to the steady rain, my group descended the slick cement walkways single file.  Everyone ahead of [and behind] me took baby steps and held the solitary railing with a death-grip.  Now a hectometer beneath the trolley’s origin, we pierced one of Cueva Clara’s 16 entrances.

On level ground, I stood in the grand hall with a cathedral ceiling and smooth, arched walls. Cueva Clara reminded me of the underwater “cathedral” in the Steven Spielberg movie about caves, Sanctum, because it could undoubtedly house the Titanic.  Stalactites were draped everywhere and threatened to knock out anyone taller than 6 feet.  Pock-mocked – but beautiful – rock formations sprung up from the earth throughout Cueva Clara, including La Bruja a.k.a. The Witch. The earthen colors ranged from dark, bubbly rocks that resembled boiling tar to fine, gold powder dustings on stalactites. 
Throughout the audiotour of Cueva Clara, I was cognizant of the sound of rushing water in the background. It was sort of creepy to always hear el Rio Camuy a.k.a. the Camuy River, the powerful force that hollowed out the solid earth I now stood on. Out of the darkness the group emerged into the gentle drizzle that penetrated Cueva Clara via a sinkhole overhead.  When I stepped to the ledge & lowered my gaze, there was Rio Camuy cutting its way through the entire park, south toward the Caribbean Sea.  This same rio carved more than 2,000 caves in the area (only 500 have been surveyed). 

I had only explored two caves, and although Cueva Ventana & Cueva Clara had distinctly different appearances, they both were awe-inspiring.  Never in a million years did I expect to adore caves.  When I rented the 11-part series Planet Earth, the most boring episode was Caves – so much so it was the only episode I fast forwarded through.  Desert, Tundra & Deciduous Forests all appeared more interesting than Caves. Five years later, I had a newfound appreciation and wonder for caves.  I no longer cringed at the sight of bats.  Cueva Ventana & Cueva Clara made me an inquisitor of these ancient, natural wonders.