Monday, November 9, 2009

I Survived… Cueva Cerdo Infierno

I am going to dramatize the fun adventure from Saturday but the story is still true. This is my version, Katrina will provide her own with pictures.

Saturday we were off to explore another cave. Katrina and I met Tom, Bret, and Paul at panaderia Lourdes in Camuy. Tom graciously invited us to join him to do some surveying in the cave system Infierno. The cave will now be called Cerdo Infierno from now on. We left the panaderia and followed Tom to the cave. We drove by the closed old Camuy tourist center and parked somewhere in the jungle. We got our gear together and hiked to the cave. This was the easiest hike to a cave we have done so far. A dry river bed ended 10 feet above us and the cave entrance seemed to double back under the river bed. This must make a nice waterfall when it rains. Into the cave we go. The river does drain into the cave so careful attention is paid to the weather! The cave floor is very slippery and there were lots of river trappings all over including some plastic embedded in the ceiling of the cave. This part of the cave was around 10 feet tall. We walked for 10 minutes and started to notice an unpleasant smell. It got stronger as we walked for another 10 minutes.

We get to what looks like the end of the cave and we are standing on the shore of a small 20 foot pool of very dirty water. It stinks to hog heaven. At once we all see the bloated maggot infested pig. Yuck, yuck, yuck! Ok now what? Without hesitation (ok, maybe a little) Tom walks up to his hips into the swine brew and poses with the floating pig. He tells the photographers to hurry up with their picture taking. Normal people would turn around at this point but no, not us. To our surprise, disgust, dread, Tom floats over to the cave wall and starts reaching under the water. He is up to his neck in this stew with the pig and maggots just a few feet away (I think it started to float towards us!). Tom finds the rope and holds it up. He then takes a deep breath and disappears for a few minutes. When he reappears he tells us its only 12 feet to the other side, no problem man. The rest of the group had a nervous discussion about this. Enthusiasm took over and we decided to go for it. Tom went back again. I say what the hell I free dive and can hold my breath for a minute on the bottom this should be easy. I dive down and pull myself along with the rope. 10 seconds go by and I am starting to run out of air. I keep bumping my helmet on the ceiling looking for air. I find a small patch but its not enough room to breathe. I inhale a few drops of water then Tom grabs me and pulls me to him. I gasp for air. I can’t breathe. Looking at him with my eyes wide open I continue to gasp for air. He must have thought I was drowning. After 30 seconds the water clears from my lungs and I tell him to go back and tell the other guys not to go then come back for me and we will exit the cave in a different exit. Without hesitation he goes back.

Here I am, alone, worried that Katrina was next and she and Tom would collide under water (Important lesson learned, must have rope signals). Tom comes back and said they were fine and we would meet them at the car. We moved through the cave and found a seldom used exit. We crawled on our stomachs through the mud and then we were out. We find our way through the jungle and I walk into a wasp nest and get stung on the face, free Botox. We get to the car before they do so we go back into the cave and find them. We decide on an alternative place to survey. Up into a small side passage we go to a place that Tom hasn’t explored before. This is small, not tall enough to crawl on my knees. Tom and Katrina crawl ahead, I follow for 10 minutes and I finally quit. I turn to Bret and Paul, Bret squeezes past and continues but Paul and I turn around and tell the others we are going back. Did I mention this was Paul’s first cave! This is tough going on our stomachs in the mud and rocks but we continue out. Katrina, Tom, and Bret continued on in amazingly small passages.

10, 15, 20+ minutes go by. We start entertaining the idea we didn’t come in this way! The water was clear in front but there were definite drag marks in the mud. Then we come to a big room! Were not in Kansas anymore Toto. We did not come in this way but more importantly we have no idea how we got lost. This room was big and it was a safe place to wait out any flash floods (happen frequently) if we had to. We forged on for 5 more minutes and the cave got easier, we could almost stand. Then we get to water and a quick duck under. Paul said we should stop. We turned around and went back to the big room to await our rescue. We assessed the situation. We were lost, not far from the others but lost none the less. We leave only one light on on low power. I tell Paul I am not eating my food because it could take them a day to find us. We were safe and we had no doubt we would be found but it was going to be no less than 6 hours and probably 18. We were exhausted from the stress. Shit. We were wet, covered in mud and Paul has no shoes left. Both of them totally fell apart, socks only. We get “comfortable” and wait. And wait. About 20 minutes later we see lights and hear voices. In pops Katrina and Tom. Only one time before was I happier to see Katrina than I was now and that time involved chumming with 12 ‘ sharks at night (I thought she was shark food). I say, “what are you doing here, we didn’t come in this way,” “Oh, this is the side room I wanted to survey” Tom says. But, but, but, I stammer still confused. How did we/you get here? Apparently, (not so apparent when your face is in the mud and your crawling on your stomach) there was a side passage that Paul and I never saw on the way in or on the way out but we managed to take it.

I break out my lunch and enjoy. We rested then it was time to survey. We surveyed a bit but its slow going and we still had some anxiety that the way out would be passable. We got tired and cold so Tom stopped the survey and we headed out (Sorry Tom). Little did we know the exit was only 100 yards away from where Paul and I turned around the first time. We were happy to be on the surface. We found our way through the jungle back to the cars avoiding the wasp nest this time. We had some dinner together and went home. Katrina showered first while I got the inner-tubes ready for Sundays Tanama river float. We had fun and learned some lessons.

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