Monday, April 15, 2013

Cueva Cuerda- An Adventure

After a nice dive on Saturday we decided to cave on Sunday. Saturday's dive was nice but we were disappointed that we didn't go caving in Cueva Juan Nieves - a cave with LOTS of water and a 150 foot straight-down drop (and ascent). We didn't have enough people to do it. Tom, however, came up with a couple options for a Sunday cave trip. One option was to do some bolting so we could climb above the garbage slough in Cueva Mantilla (I didn't want to go) and another was to visit Cueva Cuerda, a cave Tom had been in many years ago. We opted to do this. The trip started when we met Julie and Tom in San Sebastian. We packed into Julie's nice clean Mercedes and headed toward Lago Dos Bocas. We ended up on "highway" 123 behind 3 large trucks that repeatedly (for 20 minutes) blasted their horns on every turn (which means every minute). One had a normal horn, one had a siren-like one and another had the train horn. Yes, all three blasting away at 9 in the morning unnecessarily. Great start. 123 is super windy and both Jeff and I start getting barfy - me more than him. When we finally get to the bridge to rendezvous with Bro I am pretty car sick! I am having a moment and not thinking I am going caving. We get back in the car for more twisty stuff and end up on a beautiful property with cared for land and animals - a first. We chat with the owners and then gear up and go! We had been warned that machete work was required but for a bunch of it there was really NO trail. Tom always knows where things are so we hack away in the jungle (the yellow pack in on Jeff's back) and get to the opening. Hmmm. Looks nice enough but not huge.

Inside it looks like a cross between Cueva Minga and later like a worn down Zumbo minus sthe water. The main cave is pretty much straight, but then Tom points out an unexplored (by him) passage. We start our way down it and quickly have to decide whether to go down and follow the floor or go up to another level. Turns out we end up heading up and down.

There are different levels that require climbing, crawling, squeezing, kneeling. We make our way through picking what ever way goes on. I go down a little muddy shoot, round a bend and see a sliver of green! I go back and send Jeff and Julie knowing Jeff doesn't want to crawl. Then I go back for Tom and Bro to give them the news. They have explored an upper passage that didn't go anywhere. We make our way out the exit and are looking into an unknown sumidero we call the Lost World Sumidero. In this world the trees are bigger, the limestone walls vertical and with GPS devices left behind in packs in the cave the overland trek back to the entrance was not advised. Back we go. By now I have gone up and down this little section 8 times and it is not an easy section. We make our way and then Tom says he found a nice little hole in the upper section that needs a quick peek. It involves climbing a steep muddy section to get up to it. I am the shortest person so Julie (5 inches taller) heads up there after Jeff.  She is able to get her head in I guess but it is too small. It is determined to be a "Katrina hole" and my presence is requested! I make my way up wondering how I will get down!

I have to take the helmet off and decide which arm should go forward and which one back. If I had thought about it I could have taken the elbow/arm pads off but I didn't. I was able to wiggle on my stomach inside and then I could stand up! At the back of the room was a glorious, big, looked-like a tunnel. I walk back there though and it doesn't continue on. Bummer. I wiggle out disappointed.
Then we all continue out crawling, squeezing and climbing as needed. We make our way back by making new trails and clean up at the car. I have figured out I do not have shorts or pants other than my muddy ones. I try sticking my legs through the arm holes of my fleecy surfer shirt and it kind of looks like a skirt but is hot. I wear that in the car until we try to figure out where to eat. This is always a problem. Tom will eat anywhere, I don't want to eat anywhere and Jeff doesn't want to not eat, but isn't happy with the few disgusting choices that exist. After an adamant "oh please not THERE in the refrigerated meat locker that takes 2 hours to get a crappy too expensive for what it is meal" we decide to try taking the ferry over the lake to the restaurants there. This has been on my list for a long while.

We go there, park, and WAIT with a herd of others for something to happen. The boats are empty and without drivers. I go to the bathroom where there is no toilet paper, paper towels or soap (a reverse trifecta). I want to rinse my hands and the whole faucet lifts up when I pull up. Then a boat zooms up, drops people off and takes off empty. We start talking to people and apparently you wait, when there is room at the restaurant they will take a few people, you wait some more there to sit down, and then more to order, wait more to eat, pay the bill and at some point they ferry you back. No thanks. They decide to get gyros. Bro is following but doesn't arrive with us. Where could he be? We try calling and he is not answering. Has he gone off the road again? Is he sleeping on the side of the road? Then he does answer his phone...he stopped for a bottle of water a block away and doesn't know where we went! We give directions and all round up for the meal. I have brought a salad. We sit down at the sticky table with onion rings on the floor and every one digs in. No one is happier than I am when the feeding is done and we can get out of there! It is always an adventure. The cave was wonderful and not at all what we expected. At first we thought it was a straight, simple and short cave. Not true! I always like the Katrina holes...just hate the lack of food choices after. When I dream about the adventure I always add in a nice cafe with an awesome sandwich with melty real cheese, good quality meat, condiments and a big cookie. Some day I'll have the food and not the cave.
Hopefully Saturday is the big challenge- Cueva Juan Nieves. We've decided a picnic dinner will be the choice of the day so we get a nice end to the day! Big thanks to Tom, as always, for his amazing memory and knowledge. He gave us a lot more information when we were inside the cave than usual - really enjoyed hearing about the geological formation of Puerto Rico...

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