I lean back, the rope pulls taught and I begin my descent. I’m dangling in a cavern some 10m deep and 15m wide. I turn on my headlight illuminating a world few people have ever seen. Stalactites fill the cave roof, bats hang awkwardly from their feet and a parrot looks up from its nest just above me. We are the first group to ever enter this cave.
I reach the bottom and it’s time to explore. Squeeze through an opening on the left and you land yourself in a small pool, maybe 2m wide, stalactites ring the sides and the roof sparkles as drops of water catch the light. At the other end of the cave water flows out of an even smaller passage, too small to fit through. It’s a reminder that this cavern is part of a much greater network of underground waterways.
As we head back to camp Fernando tells me of the 20 or so caves he has discovered on his land – only a handful of which have ever been explored. He shows me where ancient stone ruins lie strewn across the forest floor, he tells me of gold in the rivers and points out ferrous rock on the surface. This land has towering hardwood trees, a richness in biodiversity that cannot be compared, yet making a living is a struggle he says.
The problem is Mera is not a tourist destination and Fernando does not have the finance, knowledge or resources to prove the mineral richness of his land or excavate his ruins. So for now this sanctuary of cultural heritage, of biodiversity, of beauty and tranquility remains silent in the Amazon