Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cueva Ensueno - Dream Cave

It all started with a dream...the dream of making money by starting up a "tourist" spot in Puerto Rico. A dream that never did come to fruition for many reasons. We had been to this cave before but did not know the history. Ron Richards let us borrow his copy of "The Ensueno Cave Study," which was made by Russell and Jeanne Gurnee (with others) in 1988. The Gurnees are responsible for major exploration and "discovery" of the Camuy System. The expedition into this small cave was in February of 1987. It was being considered for development as a show cave by the Cordero family which owns it to this day. They managed the Camuy show cave for 5 years and had plans for a Hacienda presenting a turn-of-the-century coffee plantation in addition to the show cave. They purchased property around the cave and there were plans for a road to the location, plans for how to get lighting into the cave and water services. There were drawings of the whole shebang and it all seemed well thought out. About the cave: The cave is part of the Lares Limestone Formation formed in the late Oligocene (24 - 30 million years ago - unless you believe earth was made in 7 days and hasn't been around that long). It is an upper remnant of the Rio Camuy Cave System formed by "undersaturated water flowing into carbonates off of less soluble rocks in the interior." The river used to be at a higher level than it now flows. It used to flow through this cave. It is a decorated cave with a walk in entrance, small constriction in the middle and then a nice room of helictites.
We parked on the small road outside the gate of the property owner's house. There were caretakers out trimming and we asked for permission to cross the property and enter the cave. Ron was collecting temperature information and we just wanted a nice caving day! Inside we saw some evidence of where they were thinking of putting lighting. There were also damaged stalactites.

We saw a few scorpions. We had to go through a constriction that regular people would never go through. The plans had the owners tunneling a parallel hole alongside the cave so visitors could walk on a flat surface and see into the cave without having to duck or crawl or go through this part. After the constriction there is a room with some large stalagmites and stalactites and possibly evidence of earthquake damage (large things at odd angles that clearly have been broken and have regrown). Ron is in front of one of these. Up close you can see the cake-like formation has toppled! The cave then gets lower and lower and ends.
The stalactites on the roof of the cave in the main room had many helictites on them. You had to look closely to see them but once you start looking they were all over! If the cave had been developed it is doubtful you would have been close enough to see them. Here's Jeff under an impressive drapery with bacon. It is all very Doctor Seuss looking.
So why didn't this come to fruition? Many reasons. The cost to tunnel around the constriction, build the Hacienda etc etc was around a million dollars. The break even point was 189,000 visitors which means Puerto Rican's have to visit it. They estimated that more of those visitors would be Puerto Rican than would be from other places. If you live here you know that people here generally would not be interested in something like this in the numbers they projected. At $3 bucks a person for entry there is no way this would work! They could have made it work if they could provide food in a nice setting that was served reasonably fast and was well-priced, and in a clean environment but we all know that that indeed would be a DREAM...

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