Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Special Permission" Cave

We got the call Saturday from Tom. He was working with another professor (Ingrid) and a journalism student to produce an article about karst and was doing something at the Camuy Caverns with Carlos Morales. We don't know any details really. I had a terrible backache from the day's dive, a headache and sour stomach but thought I might be ok the next day. We committed to going. When we got the call on Sunday I still was feeling like crap but this cave we were to visit required special permission to enter and was a short walk from the road. I didn't like the thought of the 100 foot rappel (lower back problems) but figured I could whine at home and miss it or just give it a whirl. We arrived before Tom and Diana and Ingrid finished up so we sat around outside. I had to go to the bathroom and discovered that the Camuy Caverns, one of Puerto Rico's largest tourist attractions, didn't have water that day and the bathrooms weren't working. Of course the sign was in Spanish. The bathrooms were also open so people just pretended they were working and kept piling it on - GROSS. I refused (I'll  pee in the woods thank you). They finished up and now needed lunch so we met them at Panaderia Lourdis. There there were functioning toilets, soap and paper towels but no running water in the sink. I did what I could and then we waited a while longer since only one of the three people needing lunch actually had it yet. After everyone had eaten we met Carlos Morales and Johnsey at the cave and with everyone we headed down the very steep embankment. We arrived at one entrance, the rappel, and were told there was a walk in entrance. The journalism student didn't want to do any more of the slope walking and left with Ingrid to do a car tour of karst areas. Johnsey found the hand line entrance, dropped the hole and found the walk in one. We all went to the walk in entrance and were quite surprised at how HUGE the cave was! Looking in people at the bottom looked truly miniaturized. We made our way down and were just in awe over the size of it. You could see through to the surface in two "eye" like holes and then there was a crest and skylight (rappel hole) then another large area. In this first "room" Tom discovered an area high up that had an odd blue surface - some kind of mineral maybe? We went over the crest to the other "room" and down that slope. There was an area of muddy and a little water and low formations. Johnsey said it didn't go anywhere but I didn't believe him and no one else wanted to get muddy. Good thing I was there - I went through and it opened into the best part...a decorated and huge room with a couple little pits in it! I got everyone else to come in. I went down into a pit that had a squeeze that doubled back and made a room under the room. None of the pits continued on but this area was impressive with sorbetos and an almost furry looking ceiling - very covered. A lot of ceiling pieces were broken off and regrowing. Lots of cracks maybe from long-time-ago earthquakes. Very nice! We examined everything in a couple hours before heading out. Tom worked up a thirst and went to a stalagmite watering hole (see him bending over?). You could see the water line on the wall. This was a nice cave which far met any expectations we had. I still felt like crap but at least I didn't miss it and it wasn't so taxing that I threw up or anything. The crawling may actually have popped something back into place and helped my back and nausea! One of our shorter days but with a big payoff for a small amount of effort! Thanks to Tom for all the arranging - the most difficult part of the trip!

Look at how miniaturized Johnsey looks! See the mud line where Diana is emerging! On the other side is the awesome room.

Tom's watering hole is below on top of the stalagmite - a fountain I guess - slurp! On the way out I just HAD to go up the handling. Tom followed and then we all headed back up the steep slope. I am still trying to visualize all this from the surface. We could see sky. We know we were basically under the road and that this should connect to the chicken-carcass-candle- cave. We didn't see where but no one wants to go down the stinky carcass pit. Hmmmm. Needs to be mapped (NO I didn't just say that!) Hopefully Tom will find a map of it.

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