Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Espero Volver de Cueva Perdida!

Sunday's journey was another fantastic one that involved driving a bunch, parking where you know some people, walking for an hour into jungle on "trails" and then looking for a small set of boulders with a little opening as the clue that there is something spectacular underground! You have to go with someone who knows the spot or you will never even stumble upon it. As we found with this one, even going with someone who has gone before there are new treasures to be discovered inside ... especially when you are in the Lost Cave (Cueva Perdida). Why is it called the "Lost Cave?" Well, you can easily get lost trying to find it so in a way it is "lost" out there in the jungle. Once inside, the name of the cave makes a lot of sense when you start taking side holes, or scooting into the water on your belly and coming up somewhere totally different that leads to other tunnels or holes or rooms or.... So here we are at the entrance of the cave (yes, it is those clustered boulders behind us) having some water after hiking for an hour or so. Our little group was Iraida, Bro (the leader), Ron, Jeff, myself and Edward? (sorry I forget)

The entrance of this cave did not give any clues as to what was inside. The opening was small, and white and not really decorated. Definitely we were crouching or crawling (depends on your flexibility and size). Here's a photo of Ron maneuvering into the cave.

After the tight passage it opened up and we could see the river below. We could go up river or down river and we went to the left up river. We went down into the little gorge and looked back to try to remember where the exit was. Things always look different on the way back!

The journey started out with terrain sort of like Cueva Zumbo - kind of caramel colored and sculpted. The water was very cold!

We walked around in the cold water following the river for a while.

There was a lot of flow stone (what I call ice cream sundae formations). It was very beautiful and still gave no clue as to what the rest of the cave would be like.

Many areas had large stalactites and stalagmites and flow stone. Everything was dripping and interesting looking. We got to an area Bro had been before and he asked if we wanted to crawl on our bellies into the water to look at a collapsed area. I immediately said yes which got others to agree. Jeff didn't want to get wet this early in the trip and didn't like the little space. Bro went first and couldn't really see the way in. There was a very little hole so after he came back out I went in and slithered up into that hole and peeked around and found a larger way for the others to enter. This area was a bunch of boulders that were collapsed. I started immediately exploring while the others were coming in and was absolutely amazed to find a startlingly bright, white, fully decorated area leading to another room!!!! This area was super bright white with straws everywhere and extremely fragile formations. I am small and flexible and careful so I entered the area to see where it went. Pictures cannot come close to showing the whiteness and delicateness and expansiveness of this area. I had my pack off and had to go on my belly to avoid breaking off straws.

I am calling it the Icicle Radish Room because of the color and the formations and the gnarly, twisty radish looking teeth growing from the ceiling. We all took a very careful look before going back out. There is some extensive surveying going on in this cave and SEPRI isn't doing it. I would sure love to join in on the surveying. After we were out we continued back up river and Bro found another white room that he had been in. After going farther in there were even more side tunnels and holes that he hadn't explored and we had big discoveries of more beautiful, white, breathtakingly fragile areas.

We turned around when a couple people slipped. When you start getting tired it is easy to make mistakes that will lead to real trouble. On the way back every side hole we could peek into turned out to lead somewhere and have more side passages that did not necessarily connect to places we had seen. Now we understood why this was the "Lost Cave" - you could easily follow your excitement and never come out!

I really wish I could take a better camera here - there are spectacular formations and everything is drippy...some of the sorbetos (straws) were 2 feet or longer. There were so many detours you could make but they were small and you had to leave the pack behind and definitely could not and should not drag or push anything down these areas.

Every tunnel offered a new room or another white area that was highly decorated. Unfortunately there were some broken formations on the ground. I think there must be some compromise between mapping and documenting an area that is this delicate - do you just expect a certain amount of breakage and believe it is worth it to document information about it? Limiting access is a great plan but not everyone knows their limitations or abilities and sometimes sheer excitement takes over before the brain kicks in.

We were in this cave for 6 hours or so - it was almost 8 hours from and back to the cars.

So we had to leave the white rooms and leave exploring other side shoots for another time. We went back to the darker river bed and started heading downstream.

Besides the flow stone this cave had a lot of the "fudge formations" that Los Chorros had - the dark, chocolaty, soft looking stalactites.

The passage looked completely different going back. You start to notice things you didn't see on the way in and start thinking that maybe you could be going a different way? Fortunately the river is the river and it leads us out. We just have to look for the one familiar formation so we can climb up and head out the confined area to the sunlight. Once we were out we went down to another "entrance" to wash ourselves off in a small waterfall and in the river bed. I have never had so much fun or been so dirty ever! This other "entrance" was really constricted and since I had done so much climbing around I left that, too, for another day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Art in Nature or Art in the Yard

Silvery, ruffly and kind of blue...

Deep purple

Heliconias are starting to bloom...

Surreal heliconia landscape (the way I see it)

Flower cave - come on in

Deep magenta...

Calabaza bloom and bee...

Banana blossoms

Tee Pee town (thorns on Ceiba tree trunk)


Alien Mouth

Monday, January 18, 2010

Some Before's and After's

When we first got here things were kind of a mess - 10 months of no one here turned things into a jungle. We cleaned things up and even then when it rained the area at the bottom of the driveway would get muddy and was messy. Our non 4wheel drive vehicle has a hard time getting up anyway, but if it is muddy? I started moving plants from unwanted spots and putting them down near the driveway to stabilize the slope on the right. Then some time later put cuttings of Croton on the left side.

Between the Croton I am putting Mani - the hope is to get rid of mowing (I mean grass) down there by having Mani take over. It doesn't really need water and makes a nice carpet of green with yellow flowers at times. The Croton are growing well and helping to hold the soil.

The biggest source of concern was just outside the gate - the slope would lose dirt when it rained and there is a small house up there! We decided to build a small wall to tidy it up and stabilize things.

Then I planted a small ficus (looks like sea grape but isn't) on the left and small trinitarias for color.

Yesterday I repainted the walls to match the house (Tropical Mango). It has been almost a year since I did the house and this kind of finished things off. Look at how big the Ficus is! The trinitaria kind of stink but serve a purpose.

Up at the top of the driveway the old Acuacate was another messy area. I am still trying to get it right. There was a small line of rocks and a bunch of mixed up plants. Messy messy messy.

Today it is looking better. I built a small wall that might need to go higher. I put in my new favorite plant - Firecracker Plant - and it is starting to get some height and spread and flower. Behind them are a hibiscus, bird's of paradise, cordaline and gingers.

The bottom of the driveway needed help. Who wants to mow or weed whack down there? I got tired of sweeping up dirt and of looking at water lines when we drove up.

Today there is a little wall (doesn't look orange but I just painted it yesterday) with some plants growing nicely. I planted teeny tiny silver grey shrubs that are doing well where they get sun and not well under the lemon tree. I put some flowery other shrubs in the shady spot and time will tell how they will do. I put little starts of mani (cuttings off other ones from in the yard) under the shrubs and finally they are taking off! I use cuttings since half of what I plant dies because we can't water down there. I don't mind losing free plants. Anyway, it is almost covered and holds the soil nicely and looks lush and green against the orange. There is always something to do, but nice when an entire area is permanently tidied up and can be forgotten. The wall area along the driveway gets weeded occasionally but pretty soon won't even need that? Once I can get the Mani to spread on the left and the Croton grow up that area will be done. Now we just have to be concerned with the rest!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cueva Los Chorros - Very Interesting...Like 3 Caves in One!

We were invited to join a small group of people going into Los Chorros. Any cave that starts out like this is going to be good! We were told we should expect to be wet, not need climbing gear and that we would be going behind the waterfall to get to the cave. Some how this was not what we were expecting.

The cave is the tunnel (or series of tunnels) made by the water that is in this underground river that cascades out the mountain as a waterfall. To get into the cave you follow the waterfall up to where it comes out.

There was quite a bit of force and the rocks were slippery but Manuel stood at the slippery part to help out any one in need.

Once everyone was through the waterfall and into the cave the water was pretty still and shallow and we headed up river.

This cave reminded us of Zumbo, maybe it is a future Zumbo - the formations were similar in places but not as polished. The narrow tunnel was a darker rock and had all kinds of different formations.

After a bit we got to this spot that required a small climb. Manuel climbed up and added a rope to help those who needed it. It is handy to carry a small rope I think. Up we went. You can see the rope in the background along with a few people on their way up.

What was kind of different about this cave is that it was dark and a lot of the formations and walls were a deep cocoa color. The ceiling had dark and light areas and formations going in all directions.

A lot of the formations looked like misshapen carrots or gnarled teeth.

Other formations were a kind of three dimensional Jackson Pollack painting.

There were layers and layers and layers of twisty root like formations piled one upon another.

Los Chorros Part 2

We came to a spot where the water was chest high and we had to dip under the rock. The water was a little high and to continue required going into a sump and the leader thought the space on the other side would be full of water. We had lunch and then were headed back the way we came.

There were a lot of bats in this cave. This seemed odd since we usually see bats in dry caves or drier areas anyway. There were so many that when our lights disturbed them some were falling into the water, doing a little "bat paddle" and flying back up. In a dry cave when bats fall they cannot fly up from the ground - in the water they just paddle a little and fly up! I don't know what the relationship of these bats was (mother-child, husband-wife, just dating) but one seemed to be shielding the other. Their faces were pretty cute.

We navigated some narrow spots but they were high vertically.

I don't know what these formations are but I call them the ice-cream fountain formations.

When we were near where we came in a few folks left and some of us decided to continue through a side passage and this is where it got really interesting.Manuel had been down this part before. It was very narrow and really cool.

Then it opened up a lot.

Then it constricted some more and we got to this little hole you could climb through or you could go under. Bro contemplated climbing and decided to go under. I prefer wiggling into tiny spots and went through it. A few of us continued and a few stayed back (you guessed it - Jeff didn't want to do it). Finally we ended up floating in a small spot looking at another sump. Manuel thought it would be full of water so we didn't continue.

Here he is popping back up after having gone under. I don't have a problem when it is a short little sump in clear water. We noticed another side shoot that Manuel hadn't been down. We headed straight for it..the thrill of discovery.

The terrain started looking different

The formations looked like fudgesicles. It looks like the stalactites are covered with mud or something but they aren't - the rock or minerals or whatever are a chocolaty cocoa brown. Then the unexpected happened - saw some light and we went to it. We looked out onto the road we came in on above the waterfall. We continued the other way and it led to a very large dry cave that had a lot of guano and lots of bats in it.

There were two Puerto Rican Boa Constrictors eating bats on the floor. (see the little bat wing popping up?) This room was huge and dry which was interesting. It didn't even seem like the same cave. Well, we continued on after this great discovery and it led back to the original tunnel. This cave was like 3 caves in one - a dry cave, a Zumbo area, and another dark cocoa area. This was a lot of fun and a lot of variety. As always it was a nice group of people and was a little exercise. It had so many different areas in it it was like a new discovery at every turn!