Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Migraines and Caving Don't Mix

I think my problem started on Saturday when we went south to our friends' house in Guanica for some kayaking (in the wind which I hate) and floating near Gulligan's Island and Ballena. I am pretty sure that being on the water with reflections and getting dehydrated contributed to my Sunday migraine. I think I was pretty bitchy on Saturday and didn't connect the dots of my irritation. It has been about 12 weeks since I have had a migraine which is a very long time for me. I think eating raw and eliminating refined sugar, bread, meat and cheese has really helped me. I didn't recognize the signs of one coming ....and then it came....about an hour into the caving adventure. Tom Miller, Diana, Brett, Jeff and I went to the Camuy area to a cave Tom wanted to map. He was armed with a 30 year old map that had only partial information and he wanted to map a side passage we had traveled on a previous trip. Mapping is difficult, kind of boring, but can be exciting when you push into new sections or leads that may or may not go somewhere. Sometimes what you have to explore to get a complete survey ends up leading to the unexpected. It is also very satisfying to see the cave on paper and make deductions about surface features in the same area. We drove to the cave entrance, spoke with the property owners and then geared up. The walk to the cave was only 5 minutes which turned out to be a very good thing at the end for me! Tom and Jeff got the rope tied off and then we rappelled down the 15 feet, tied another rope and dropped the final 15 into the hole that is the entrance of the cave. When there are heavy rains this cave floods all the way to the ceiling so weather was a really important factor. It was supposed to be clear although Jeff was a little freaked on the way to the cave when we encountered scattered rain in the north . In super heavy rains you can't even enter the cave and I don't think I ever want to see that! Here Jeff has come through the entrance squeeze and Diana is right behind him (you can see a swatch of shirt). After the entrance squeeze there is a long section of what I call the "coffin tunnel" since it is a very flat, low ceiling and the sides are solid. This section is about 600 feet. The whole tunnel is kind of anti-gravity looking - it looks almost suspended and unreal. But that is caving.

Here Diana is entering the coffin tunnel. It starts out low and then gets lower so you have to crawl on jumbly rock. There was more water here than I remembered and the tunnel was longer than I remembered.

After emerging from the coffin we then encounter the "luge." This section looks like the sports track and I can hear the roar of water in my imagination - a roar that carved out this curvy waterway. We are now knee high to waist high in water. I had forgotten how cold it was. When I get migraines I get irritated at nothing, glare bothers me, sound and light bother me, smells REALLY bother me and the cold bothers me. Sometimes I see floating colored circles move from the right to left in one or both eyes and sometimes a pupil will blow out and I get "sci-fi eye." It is creepy. Anyway, I started getting cold.

We went through this area and traveled some more until we met up with the junction where we needed to hang a left. Look at the ceiling of this cave - it is white and smooth and kind of other-worldly.

At the branch I made a critical error and decided to leave my pack. This is always a mistake. I had made an error and brought my non-waterproof "good" camera since the cave was beautiful. I had intended to take shots of interesting features and of surveying in action. Hah! So the camera is in 2 zip locks which are difficult to open with muddy wet hands. The damn thing won't focus and I am starting to have trouble with just the cave climbing itself. I opt to leave the camera and bag at the junction while we survey. Big mistake. (didn't I just make this same mistake in Cueva Lechuga?) So we start the surveying and it is slow going as we have to climb muddy slippery spots and breakdown and the inclinometer is giving us problems (it does this a lot). We didn't bring the measuring tape (which always works). Because this section of cave has some turns and some big piles it is hard to get a line of sight. We do our best and then I just max out and can't function. I go back to the junction for my pack which has water, food, migraine medication and a warm fleecy surf shirt in it. There are enough people to continue the surveying which is good. I go back, pop the pill (which didn't work because I waited too long), put on the warm shirt, ate something (the wrong thing) and drank something and then headed back to catch up with everyone. I got to one spot where it was difficult to tell how they continued on. It had to be over or under and both ways looked a little difficult. I figured it out and joined up with the group at the end of the line. I did manage to push a little passage that Brett couldn't or didn't want to push. I really couldn't go that much further than he did, but it was far enough for me to signal with a light and he could see that the light went to a lower room that was a dead end. There were really nice bacon formations and shields. There was still water. It dead ended and we started the way back.

On the way back all I wanted to do was get out. The physical exertion was not good with the migraine thing and I just wanted to be not moving. Being in the dark was good but seeing the headlamps of the others was not so I basically ran ahead as fast as I could muster so I could get out and just stop. I didn't think I was going to get through the coffin tunnel. Moving my head and crouching was hard. I was going to stop and rest when Jeff told me we were at the entrance. I LOVE caving but I have never been happier to get out of one! Here is the squeeze out. So I went through the squeeze, climbed up the first section of rope and then the second section and ran out to the car as fast as I could. I just covered my eyes and laid on the trunk in the warm sun until Jeff came 20 minutes later with the car keys. I slept in the back seat and tried not to throw up. I rested for as long as I could and was dreading the 2 hour trip back. We had been in the cave for a little over 5 hours. Jeff wanted to eat with the others so we stopped for an overpriced meal at El Taino Restaurant (I brought my own raw food). After that I felt a little better and more able to manage the trip back. Monday still sucked but today I feel pretty good. So it was a great cave adventure that I really didn't have a great time at but that doesn't happen much.

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