Monday, December 17, 2012

Dumpster-Diving...Oops, I Mean Caving in Puerto Rico - Cueva Jaguar

I haven't been feeling well lately so we decided to go for a "short" and "easy" cave adventure- off to the Arecibo area to a cave called Cueva Jaguar. I think maybe it is named after the car since there were car parts and garbage of all sorts around. Maybe there was even a mattress on top of the car when it went over the embankment or something. Anyway, both Tom and Jeff had been to this one and warned me ahead of time about the garbage. They also said it was a simple and easy cave with 2 leads they wanted to follow up on. Ha! The garbage was as expected but didn't go into the cave (a relief). Jeff was the first to locate the hole and the look on his face is because he just tossed a maggot infested dead rooster out of the way because I was dry heaving and wouldn't climb over it. Yup - many Puerto Ricans love to chuck garbage everywhere (note their house in the upper left of the photo - bet that smells good)! (Jeff on garbage heap and Tom coming through cave entrance)
Once inside it is muddy without garbage anywhere. Amazing. I don't think we even saw any graffiti which is rare for a cave this accessible. We had to climb under some semi-stable rubble or drop down a short drop to get in. The cave is directly under the road initially anyways, and seemed like a short and straight shot. Boy were we wrong! There was a lot of crawling required even for me. Duck walking wasn't working. We did some ups and downs...some hole wiggling. Nothing super small. The straight-shot kind of ends in a nice big room with some collapse. The guys did a lot of looking on top of the collapse on the last trip. This trip sent me down the "Katrina holes." The first hole kept going and going and going. I called for the guys to follow and they did, up to a point. Then I was solo for another 8 minutes of crawling as fast as I could. I ended up at a small hole I maybe could have gone down, but there was fast moving water down there and no one would be able to follow so I went back. Hmmm, another level in the ant farm? We continued looking along the edges of the room for more passages and found another one the had potential. Climbing and crawling...the big room...formations and bacon..the way on

The next passage looked kind of small so I was sent in. It was low and full of water. I crawled in and submerged on my belly and could feel silt building up. Off came the helmet (no room) as I went further and it was really low but opened up a little. I knew Jeff wouldn't like it. I then looked at a parallel lead on my belly to the right and it looked bigger. I went in and it continued on...and on...and didn't look like it had an end. I went back for the guys and we all headed down the path of no return!
The water got higher and the ceiling lower and in a couple places it was helmet's off or a quick duck-under. We went a little while and the passage forked. I forget if we went up or down stream first, but we ended up in a lot of water. Then came the swimming. My thumb has been bugging me and trying to hold on to rough, sharp rock while swimming for distances you can't predict isn't easy. The further in we got the more we started thinking about what would happen if it starting raining. Already there were waterfalls and spots where water gushed in from the ceiling (above). Not really smart but VERY exciting! We went and went and went. Then we went down the other passage. F o r    e  v  e  r  ... It is always bizarre coming back because you don't always realize how far you have gone. It was a long ways! Then we missed the place where it forked, you know, the way back to the main cave. It all looked familiar because we had just done it! Luckily we got it figured out (and Jeff didn't get us lost) and started out. It took forever!

When we did get out we were back in the big room where we could snack and drink something and rest. We crawled our way toward the entrance and went down to another passage that kept going but we were out of energy and it was getting close to our time deadline (we always tell a person on land to call for rescue if we aren't out at a certain time). Then we peeked into another lead near the entrance and IT kept going. So it looks like we will be dumpster diving again this dry season so we can get a look at these new passages. If they are anything like the 3 we explored on this trip it'll be amazing. This was not an "easy" or "short" trip as expected. Apparently the guys didn't do much on their other trip! We were in the cave for 5 hours or so and didn't explore everything there. So it was back out and over the garbage heap where the throw-the-garbage home owners were really nice and brought out cokes and malta for us. This is the problem with Puerto Rico - love/hate at every turn.

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