Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Level 1 Cave Rescue NCRC Training

I (Jeff) have been at the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC) training for the last 8 days ending on Saturday. The NCRC is a great organization that teaches cave rescue and other vertical types of rescue. None of the instructors or assistants are paid. In fact they pay their own way to teach the class. That dedication and their effort has saved many lives. There is a large group of NCRC trained rescuers here in Puerto Rico. Assuming you didn’t die from your injuries the NCRC trained rescuers will get you out safely and quickly. The training was held at the Guajataca Boy Scot Camp near San Sebastian. Lodging, meals, and snacks were included in the price of the class. This was the main component of the cost of the class. The other component of the price of the class included getting a moving van full of cave rescue gear from the states to PR as well as other incidentals. IMO the class was incredibly inexpensive. That being said the accommodations and food were what could be expected for approximately $30 a day per person. The first day was spent in class and after dinner we had our entrance tests. We had to ascend, change over, rappel down, ascend again, and then down climb. Then we had to tie 11 different knots all of which we would use repeatedly in the class. The second day was spent in and out of the class room. We packaged up a few patients and carried them around an obstacle course in the camp ground. One of the obstacles was a 24” 10 foot long drainage culvert.
The third day had class room work in the morning. Then in the afternoon we went out to a cliff. We practiced rigging hauling systems. We lowered and hauled several kinds of patients.The fourth day was similar but in the afternoon we went to Cueva Minga to practice moving a patient around in a cave.The same thing on the fifth day but we went to Cueva Resergence. This time we had to lower and haul the patient like we did on the cliff.
The sixth day was spent doing a mockup of the mock rescue at Cueva Lechuga. The seventh day was the mock rescue at cueva Matja. All levels of classes were involved. We treated this as a real rescue. That meant a lot of misinformation and waiting around for some people. We all couldn’t be part of the hasty search team. There was a lot of uninteresting work that needed to be done. I got tasked with trail maintenance for the first couple of hours. Then I waited for a couple of more hours doing nothing. Then I got to go in the cave for the rest of the day. We had to get 3 patients out of some tight spots. Some of these spots were belly crawls. Everything went well and there were some level one students who stepped up and took the lead of several teams. There were over a hundred people involved with the rescue.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What? No Internet? (and other stuff)

So after a slew of "things gone wrong" (truck steering fluid pump, fuel pump, bathroom hassles etc) we list the house for sale on the internet and our USB Sprint internet stick thingy goes bad. Of course this cannot be remedied at the mall...or by requires waiting and waiting etc. I went to the mall who sent me to the Mayaguez "repair" store near Home Depot where they tell me it is broken (hey guys, that's what I just told you and is why I am here). As the only "repair" Sprint store around do you think they have a replacement stick in the store? You guessed it - no. They can't repair these things, they replace them (for $35 bucks but at least I didn't have to extend a contract - it is almost up thank god). Can they replace them on the spot (as in "this is our business, we'll pull one out of the back") - no. I have to come back in 3 days because they "order" them and when it is sent to them I can come get it. Well I know I live in Puerto Rico and I understand how things work. I call to see if it is there and wait an extra day after they say it is in case they are just trying to please me and it isn't really there. (yes that really happens) I bring the laptop with me because I know the inevitable will happen and it does - I stick the replacement in and internet doesn't come up. I have him reinstall the software and get it working and I am now able to contact the outside world! This is good since people email about the house and Jeff is taking a cave rescue class and isn't looking at email at work - without it at home we were screwed! Now it is resolved. So what's going on? A bunch of things. The house is for sale like it or not - Jeff is sick of driving and I wouldn't mind living closer to caves either. Jeff has been in a cave rescue class since last Saturday so I have been alone showing the house to people and working in the yard. I found this dead bat in the yard gripping a mango leaf... Look at the cool little cadaver feet!

The bathroom is almost done - needs a couple new faucet handles and a couple tiles put on. I like this one better than the last one. We'll enjoy it while we can.

The Mano-de-Buddah citron tree fruit is growing nicely and creepily..

We are thinking about all of our cats and how we are going to move them when we do sell the house. We have decided that moving 11 would be more difficult than moving fewer than that so we would like to try to find loving homes for some of them. The first candidate is Blanco. He will warm up to you - he comes up to me, I can pick him up and rub his tummy and he hangs out near the house. He would be even more lovey without the others around since he is mellow and the others sometimes pick on him. He is gorgeous! If you know someone who lives in a safe place and is looking for a good pet please let us know. I would rather part with some of the others but they aren't as sociable and might be disappointing. Here's the angel sitting on the swing.

Mars (on the left) and Pollo (on the right) are best buddies. Pollo cannot be picked up and will run from you but will return to rub against you and will sit with you. Mars isn't as spooky. She is quite vocal. They are best friends.
Blanco and Pollo are good friends too. Everyone is spayed or neutered and they all get Revolution each month for worm and flea control.
We have been getting a little afternoon rain for a week now and there is an explosion of new leaves and flowers going on. This tree just popped into bloom over night!

The flowers are the most yellow yellow ever! It's a common tree you see all over but is spectacular because what you mainly see is flowers - not leaves.

So wish us luck on selling the house. Jeff will be a happier man if he doesn't have to drive 3 hours a day and I will get to see him more - both good things. It'll be rainier further north but I'll manage! And if you are interested in any cats (outdoor spooky ones included) let us know.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

This is Why We are Here...Caving in Utuado

Jeff is in New Mexico for work and is eating at wonderful restaurants that have good service and good food...he is driving 5 minutes to work with courteous going to stores that have things in them...but he missed an excellent jungle/cave trip. Don't worry honey, we will do this one again because you need to see it! It started in the typical way...someone doesn't show up on time (or at all in this case)...someone doesn't have lunch etc etc. Despite all that, those of us that appeared left for the cave in a reasonable amount of time. Tom suggested I leave my car. I figured something was up so I did. We drove around and around between magotes ( these "hills") and finally came to the place. I never know how he knows these places even though he shows us topo maps etc. We drive up to a house that is in the middle of all this (no other houses around). It is of course disgusting with garbage all over, too many dogs, animals in cages etc. I never understand this because the road to their house has obviously been planted with wonderful flowers and shrubs for quite a ways. Well, let's skip my anger about that.

The people, who despite their self-made living conditions, are very nice and point us to a trail that this time really is a trail. It goes for 30 or 40 minutes down the steep hillside. We get to an entrance that doesn't give a clue about what is inside. We scramble in and immediately I can see how immense this cave is - it is wide, tall, and has formations that are absolutely huge. This first one is just inside the entrance. This column at some point fell over and another column formed on top of it. It is HUGE!

Diana is looking up at it. Everything is fused together into one structure but you can see time flash before your eyes as you look closer. Tens of thousands of years.The cave is free of garbage and spray painting which is unusual for a walk-in cave. There is a lot of damage to formations where careless cavers or other visitors have put muddy hands on growing stalagmites or have broken off formations by leaning on them, grabbing them and who knows what else. There is also a lot of natural damage where things have collapsed or fallen. Diana is looking at a broken formation here.

Photos don't give you a clue about the scale of things here. Crappy cameras aren't wide enough and you can't light a completely dark expanse like this. Here Juan is entering a room. There are helictites, curtains, bacon, flow stone, dams, sorbetos, columns etc on a huge scale here.

The cave is extremely muddy - cakey muddy - but amidst the mud are actively growing formations. How beautiful is this?

Helictites are the circ-de-sole of the underworld - anti gravity formations that curl off in multiple directions. There are many helictite chandeliers that are just too high up to photograph.I don't care how many times I see things, I am still astounded at the magic of it all. What if we could live long enough to see these formations 100 years from now...1000 years from now?

We always see maria tree seeds inside caves that have bats but these sprouted quite tall given that they are deep where there is no light. Must have been a large seed with a lot of energy stored. The leaves were perfectly albino. Just look at this...

and this. Tom is having a look around. Diana is posing near another column. It was really hard to try to get the whole thing in the photo.

Here is one of the many beautiful, white, newly forming (time is relative here) formations in danger of being wrecked by backpacks, muddy gloves and careless people. There are many white formations in this cave. This cave is spectacular because of the size of the formations. It is just amazing!So when it was all over we washed off, hopped in the car (and then out of it multiple times) and went down a "road" Tom knew about. He told the other non-4-wheel drive SUV not to try it. We drove over trees, limestone chunks, around steep drop-offs, through muddy puddles etc etc. What an adventure! It was a long 5 miles of extreme fun! It was something I would never ever do and the car didn't bottom out until the very last part! When Diana forwards photos of that part of the adventure I'll post a couple! Wow is all I can say. (and of course "what's next"?)