Sunday, June 27, 2010

Downstream Cueva YuYu - Water World

Jeff, Tom and I headed back to Cueva YuYu to pick up the surveying where we left off the last time. Mapping is time consuming and difficult when you are floating in water over your head so the last time we didn't get really far. I forgot how long the drive was just to get to the walk-in spot. Tom drove and it seemed like we went round and round all these back roads forever. Once we parked the weather looked good, the river was low and it was a go!. I remembered the hike. First we had to basically walk in boggy tall plants and up a slope before getting to a kind of "real" trail which then disintegrated into a "kind-of-trail" that would be hard to get out on alone in the dark. Tom knows the way which is great, but it would be better if we knew it too! We rigged up the rope, tossed it into the hole and one by one went down. Our hundred foot rope brought us to the first landing. We put another rope down the final drop that ended in the river. Here Jeff is on the final drop. This ladder I suppose was used at one time or another but isn't usable now. We try to avoid touching it.

Once we are in the river we head downstream. This cave is wet, foggy, drippy, waterfally (like that's a word) and kind of gargoyly. This giant stalactite was a waterfall making lots of noise, mist and beauty. In wet caves like this with moving water and lots of drops it is hard to hear because the cave acts like an echo chamber. This makes it hard when reading out numerical measurements. On this trip we went low tech and used a tape measure for distances. After a while we get to the waterfall where we have to go up and over and do a second drop down a rope into the river. The mist makes it look like Tom is getting beamed up like on Star Trek.

When we descend we continue on. Lots of water and lots of great formations. Lots of water. This cave is cold and this section requires being in water about a third of the time. A lot of that is water over our heads. It is physically harder for me than the climbing-type caves...I have a hard time with all the arm work required for the swimming. I had a wetsuit, surfer shirt over that, life vest over that and my cave pack. We also kept the harness on for a lot of it since we needed it for drops. Once we took off the harnesses we had to carry them and when you are in the water the packs get heavy despite the drain hole in the bottom.

We liked this formation that just touches the water surface. Wet caves always have nice, clean formations since the water levels rise and fall and clean them. If you think too much about that (and about all the recent rain) sometimes you wonder what you are doing inside an underground water chamber!

After a while we get to the dreaded "sump." A sump is a spot where the water ends at a wall but it has been explored past that point and is an area you can dive under and arrive at the other side so you can continue on. In a swimming pool it is easy to swim the length under water, but there is a mental problem about being underground in total darkness (except for your lights) going under a wall that has a hard ceiling (rock) and you don't know how far you need to swim to get out from under it. Add to that the problem that we are wearing flotation, entering the sump from a floating position and carrying a pack that can snag on formations we can't see and it can be a mental challenge. When we arrive though, it turns out to be our lucky moment and the sump is just a "duck under" of sorts requiring only a small breath hold. So under we go. Crazy, huh?

Here's Jeff in another "duck under" type spot that actually has room.

Now we travel via swimming and it starts to get cold. The formations are interesting and clean and we are trying to make good time and look around at the same time. I am trying to take some photos, but you may notice that things are a little blurry since the shots are taken while floating around!

The coolest thing about caving (besides the physical work) is the geology. It is like an adult amusement park with slides, dripping water, waterfalls, huge formations, lots of sound and it lets your imagination take over. You can't say that about many places you can visit. We love diving, but you don't imagine things when you dive. Caving lets you imagine and observe and do physical work. It is also a mental challenge at times.

This area had a low ceiling and the squareness of it was intriguing. The way the stalactites drip down from the ceiling is pretty neat. While floating I looked up into the high areas and could see immense formations. I imagined gargoyles flying down and fighting with each other. Gargoyles can fly, can't they?

The rock was all polished but dark. The water adds an element of "creepy."

More formations.

To get an idea of the scale of things you have to look at the yellow blip on the left. That blip is Jeff traveling past some gigantic blocks.

(continues with part 2)


Rosa said...

Hi Jeff & Katrina
Amazing....that is the only word to express it!

Anonymous said...

Hi Rosa - In person it is just amazing - it is hard to show it with a little point and shoot camera and tiny flash. Everything is huge and so much more than the mind can imagine. We never went underground until we came to Puerto Rico and it is now our favorite thing to do!