I sure didn’t know what to expect as we stepped on to the highway and walked towards a small dirt path. Maybe that was a good thing in the end but as nervous thoughts flashed through my head like jumbled up, badly proofread news headlines I sure wished I knew something beyond the fact that the water was fria (cold). My parents looked kind of sheepish as they walked through the streets of Curiti in their- swim trunks and polka dotted blue bikinis, it wasn’t something that we did everyday. We turned down the dirt path and followed our guide and his assistant through a couple of gates before stopping in a small clearing. Our guide handed out headlamps. As we fixed them to our heads, a budding sense of excitement snaked its way through my bones growing thicker and sprouting branches in every which way until I could hardly contain it!
Our guide had introduced himself as Ronaldo and he and his small, Jasper sized neighbour led us down a rickety metal ladder and into the Cueva Vaca. If any of you people know Spanish, you are probably thinking something along the lines of…
“Cow Cave??!? What a random name. Huh, I wonder if it has anything to do with Anna’s very strange title about doomed cows. Weird.”
Well I guess I’d better explain before you complain. Apparently there used to be a couple of cows who lived in the region and sometimes the adventurous ones would go exploring and accidentally fall into the cave! Poor cows they must’ve been very surprised since it was awfully wet in there.
Anyways after the last person had stepped off of the ladder we splashed into the darkness. A small brave stream bubbled and babbled below us. Before long I took a small hesitant step into the water. Brrr. Yeah fria is a good way to describe this water. Soon everyone was splooshing and splashing through the ankle-deep stream, hopping up and over boulders and running their hands along the narrowly spaced walls. Wow, as quickly as the darkness had un hinged its jaws and greedily engulfed us, the ceiling opened up and we found ourselves in a large cavern. A barely audible squeaking noise was bouncing off of the smooth, snow bank shaped walls. Ronaldo angled his headlamp to the ceiling and caught several small winged creatures in its sharp cool light.
“Wow,” I murmured as I caught my Mom’s eye. Ronaldo said something in Spanish which I didn’t quite catch and then we countinued on after my parents had translated. After a few more minutes Ronaldo nodded to us and said that we would crawl a little to get used to the water. Gulp. At first I was hesitant, crouching and half hopping to avoid getting wet but stalagmites loomed out of nowhere threatening to impale me like a human shish-kebob so I reluctantly sank to my hands and knees and crawled along with everybody else. Standing up again I ran my fingers against the walls and picked up a little ball of clay.
“Cuidado” warned our guide as there were lots of rocks and it was very slippery. I dropped my clay and rinsed my hand in the stream. As we walked I looked up at the ceiling to see the beautifull stalagmites and down to see their friendly brothers towering out of the ground. It was an amazing sight. The ceiling sloped lazily downwards as if it was in no hurry to come down and meet us.
The walls opened their arms to embrace each other and we found ourselves in a small bowl shaped cavern. All of a sudden Ronaldo stopped. He reached into the water and pulled out a rough red rope, snaking around our feet in the murky water. As we stepped over it I peered behind our guide at the ceiling who had decided that the water looked like a very friendly person to come say hi to.
” Ahh, darn. Looks like this is the turn around point.” I thought to myself. There was no other way to go. Unless…Unless we swam! Suddenly Ronaldo spoke, explaining in Spanish the we would grab onto the rope and pull ourselves under water for three seconds and then he would knock on our helmet as a signal to put our heads up and take a breath of air. At this point my dad was really contemplating his parenting style. So of course he went first. About six seconds later Ronaldo broke the surface and I somehow ended up standing in front of him (don’t ask me how that happened). He grabbed my hand and I dove into the unknown propelling myself forward like a gazelle who senses the hot rank breath of the king of the jungle searing into their neck. I shot out of the water gasping and spluttering and nearly bonked my head on the ceiling that was just centimetres overhead. Boy it was claustrophobic over there. After our assistant guide had come through making it look as easy as walking to school, we countinued on. Our heads poked up out of the water until the ceiling rose and the water sunk back to its rightful place.
Huge boulders were scattered here and there in slippery clumps. But that just made it more fun. As we got deeper into the huge cave another cavern opened up, the Crystal Cavern glittered with a hundred stalagmites adorned with droplets of water like small crystalline tiaras.
A little further a huge elephants foot stalagmite hung in the air above us.
After a couple more pictures I started shaking with cold and besides that was as far as we were going to go. Apparently the guides had gone for fourteen hours into the endless Cueva Vaca and hadn’t found an exit so far. We found a beautiful underground waterfall and then headed back through the Elephant Foot cavern, Crystal Cavern and Bushy Rock Plain.
We were a pretty muddy sight when we finally got out if the cave but also very happy. Thank you to our great guides a beautiful cave!