Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Going Down


While Christchurch sweltered in the summer heat, BamBam and the Tiny Dynamo and I explored an underground cave, complete with rushing subterranean river.

My favorite phrase from the gubbment's website: Please observe the warning signs about entering the cave - it has claimed lives. You must be properly equipped if you plan to walk through the cave.

We had jandals and shorts and one flashlight between the three of us. Most of us survived.

The limestone cave twists and weaves for about half a kilometer underground. The water is cold and strong, the rocks beneath the surface rough and punishing. Lots of places, the going was tough, but there were no helmets, guideropes, safety barriers or anything else. You slip, you whack yourself on the rocks and try not to be washed away.

A lot like writing, in a way. Of course, the cave is a lot easier to navigate than a seat-of-the-pants plot-- all we had to do was keep crashing upstream until we hit the waterfall at the end. ;)

Just downstream from the waterfall (near the end of the walk) is a beautiful wee lagoon, calm and deep and perfect for a swim, if you can stand the temperature. (having the body fat of a nine year old child, cold and I don't get along...) Of course, coming back to the city to find the tar melting on the roads, an icy underground river didn't seem so bad.

Today, I'm pleasantly banged up and lightly bruised.

It was awesome.

18 comments:

Lisa said...

"Most of us survived."

Wow, what an adventure! I have never been "spelunking" ... is that what it's called? I'm not sure I'd be able to go into an underground cave. I have a weird fear of them and I'm not sure if it's more claustrophobia or fear of really creepy stuff living down there. Did you see any creepy crawlies?

Charles Gramlich said...

Well banged up and bruised isn't so bad, although banged and bruised is better.

Glamourpuss said...

Wow, it looks amazing. But I'm terrified of caves - maybe all those childhood stories of pirates and smugglers affected my psyche...

Puss

Angie said...

Sounds like a fun trip. :D

Most of us survived.

So who'd you lose? And who gets their stuff...? ;D

Angie

liz fenwick said...

I'm not sure which I would prefer - the cave or writing. Hmmmm being totally whimp - writing. Loved your descriptions....

Barbara Martin said...

The comment from the second link: "A ladder of iron rungs in the rock climbs up beside the waterfall and a chain and step help the crawl along the overhang ledge to the exit. If care is taken, fit, inexperienced cavers can go through."

Is the chain and step to prevent a person from falling and drowning?

After reading the material and seeing the photos, it was enough for me. Very interesting place, though.

Lana Gramlich said...

Just awesome! I had a fave cave back in Canada. My friend & I would go there for Samhain nights. There was (non-running) water inside & if the moonlight didn't reach it, we'd light floating candles & send them on their way. It was a great place.
The caves in the Niagara gorge are also a great way to get out of the Summer heat for a while, come to think of it.
Charles & I went on a really cool cave tour while in Austin, TX (after Katrina.) We saw tiny cave crickets & such & the bones of animals that'd fallen in & died in ages past. There were also smilodon claw marks in a rock (or so they claimed--I mean, how would anyone KNOW what made those marks?)

Steve Malley said...

Lisa, no creepy crawlies: the raging torrent washed them away...

Charles, I agree. :)

Puss, I was rather hoping for a smuggler or pirate. No luck, I'm afraid...

Angie, it was me. I was swept away by the current and thrown against the jagged rocks.

Fortunately, I am a *very* old man from a much tougher age: I walked it off. :-p

Liz, some days the writing is definitely harder!

Barbara, hanging from the chain and clinging to the water-slimed rock over the waterfall, one's imagination refuses to go beyond 'unspecified bodily harm'... :)

Lana, you have many, many dimensions of cool!

Riss said...

ohmygod. (c: I wanna play. Now I'm going to have to come down there and hang out if only to find a way to coerce you into taking me into neat underground caves. I love spelunking though I'm a bit of a pussy when it comes to getting cold and wet and bruised but it sounds like an awesome time. We used to go crawling around the giant water tunnels in my neighborhood and when I went canoeing in MO we ended up treading into a freezing cold natural spring. It was pitch black and freezing and we pulled ourselves along by the sharp rocks that made up the walls of the cave. It was neat. And, did I mention, cold?

And charles-right on. hehe.

FANCY said...

That is one amazing story...I cant help it I just wish I was with you there. Who want face the thriller and be in that waterfall. On the other hand I see it like a hopeless romantic Woman...;)

You have mail... :)

Shauna Roberts said...

Sounds like a great adventure, except the "cold" and "wet" parts.

Steve Malley said...

Rhys, we'll see how close we can come to being killed! And cold. Which, for me, is worse... ;)

Fancy, come on along! What better way to beat those Swedish winters than spending them in a New Zealand summer?!

Shauna, it's been my experience that the best adventures always involve words like 'cold', 'wet', 'hot', 'gritty', 'rash', 'exhausted', 'aching', and, occasionally, 'projectile vomit'.

Those bits fade in memory! :D

cs harris said...

Looks like a neat place.

That's one of the things I love about Australia and New Zealand, they figure if you want to risk getting yourself killed, it's your choice. The U.S. would fence the place off.

etain_lavena said...

Sound amazing:)...Ill post you some of my body fat....hihihihhi...:)

Sidney said...

Wow, "down to a sunless sea," eh?

Avery DeBow said...

Cool. The last time I went in a cave was when I was three and my parents took my siblings and me to Loray Caverns in Virginia. Rumor has it I screamed the entire time.

Steve Malley said...

CS, that, or they'd have it widened and contoured so that you'd have safety rails, wheelchair access, maybe an escalator. By the end, you'd probably stand on a moving walkway in climate-controlled air watching the reformatted stream chuckle lazily past and wonder what all the fuss was about, anyway...

Etain, I don't believe you've got it to spare!

Sidney, you got it!

Avery, my parents took me down to a cave when I was 3 as well. They even let me go in all by myself! Fortunately, I was able to roll aside that rock they used to block the exit...

Shauna Roberts said...

I honored your blog today with a Prémio Dardos award at my blog: http://shaunaroberts.blogspot.com/2009/01/prmio-dardos.html. Thanks for being a bright light in the blogging world.