Below is an excerpt of the note associated with this illustration:
Bolonchen derives its name from two Maya words,—Bolon, which signifies “nine,” and Chen, “wells;” and it means “the nine wells.”
[…] The custody and supply of these wells form a principal part of the business of the village authorities, but with all their care the supply of water lasts but seven or eight months in the year. At the period of our visit the time was approaching when the wells would fail, and the inhabitants be driven to an extraordinary cavern, at half a league’s distance from the village.
There was one grand difficulty in the way of our visiting the cavern, or well. Since the commencement of the rainy season it had not been used; and every year, before having recourse to it, there was a work of several days to be done in repairing the ladders.
Setting out, however, from the village of Bolonchen, by the Campeachy road, we turned off by a well beaten path, following which we fell into a winding lane, and, descending gradually, reached the foot of a rude, lofty, and abrupt opening, under a bold ledge of overhanging rock, seeming a magnificent entrance to a great temple for the worship of the God of nature.
[…] The cave was damp, and the rock and the ladder were wet and slippery. It was evident that the labour of exploring this cave was to be greatly increased by the state of the ladders, and there might be some danger attending it; but, even after all we had seen of caves, there was something so wild and grand in this that we could not bring ourselves to give up the attempt. Fortunately, the Cura had taken care to provide us with a rope, and fastening one end round a large stone, an Indian carried the other down to the foot of the ladder. We followed one at a time; holding the rope with one hand, and with the other grasping the side of the ladder : it was impossible to carry a torch, and we were obliged to feel our way in the dark, or with only such light as could reach us from the torches above and below. At the foot of this ladder was a large cavernous chamber, with irregular passages branching off in different directions to seven deposites or sources of water, from which the village of Bolonchen is supplied.