Monday, December 15, 2008

caving at the dark cave...

N has been telling me about this caving adventure since forever, but i've only had the chance to go try it out last weekend.

this cave is called The Dark Cave, and it's a part of Batu Caves. not many ppl know abt it, coz it's only until recently that they started advertising and commercializing it. i think the management of this cave was taken over by MNS (Malaysian Nature Society) only recently, coz the 2 previous trips that N went (this is her 3rd trip), they were not so organized and did not provide the necessary tools for the cavers. there were also minimal rules and regulations as compared to now. of course, the entrance fee were also much cheaper then.

anyway, we arrived at the batu caves at 10am. as our group consisted of only 2 adults and 2 children (N's 2 nieces), we were asked to join another group for the adventure trip. the fee for a group of 5 adults and above is RM80 per pax, while 4 adults is RM90 per pax (children is at a flat rate of RM60).

we need to climb abt 180+ of the batu caves steps to get to the dark cave's entrance

fee inclusive of safety helmet, headlamp and boots...
but N and i opted not to wear their boots, coz it's so icky!

the group we joined was a troop of scouts from SMK Confucious. we later found out that 2 more canadian girls are to join us as well. the 4 of us were the first to arrive, followed shortly by the group of 30+ scouts. after some waiting, the canadian girls arrived and we were ready to start!

a short briefing and some educational facts before the start of our journey...

take the opportunity to cam-whore a bit, while we're still clean!

did you know, batu caves is actually a part of the titiwangsa range? i didn't know ler...

our guide (we didn't find out his name) explaining about the rock formations, the sea water level mark on the cave walls, the plate tectonic movements etc...

at the entrance to the dark cave, the stench of guano is overpowering. but that's just the beginning. the smell gets stronger when we went into the cave, especially at one particular spot where there were millions of bats hanging overhead! we were reminded to close our mouth when we look up at them, lest we get a taste of the yummy guano! haha...

the beginning part of the journey is the educational route, where we were shown some cave wonders such as stalactites and stalagmites, flowstones, rimstone pools etc and how they were formed.

the inside of the cave is pitch dark!

at the end of the educational trip, we were brought to sit in a small chamber and then asked to switch off our headlamp. boy, was it dark in there! it's so dark that our eyes hurt, coz our eyes were trying hard to focus on something, but there were only pitch darkness. it's like the darkness was pressing down on our eyeballs. we were then asked to keep very quiet and very still, and just listen...

at one of the few places where we're allowed to use the camera flash. sudden bright lights will scare away the bats, and considering the number of bats in that cave, it could result in an 'air stampede'!

after the educational trail, we began our adventure trail. from here onwards, we had to keep our cameras in a sealed plastic bag, coz our whole body would get very wet and muddy! take note of how white Ke Shin's and Ke Er's t-shirts in the picture above. and look at the pic below!

all wet and muddy! at another spot which allowed flash photography

in the adventure trail, we were brought through a series of small tunnels and confined spaces where at some places we need to bend down, walk like a duck, crawl on all 4s or even creep along on our stomach! some places were so small, we can't even do the commando crawl because there weren't any space for our elbows and knees to protrude from our sides. all we can do is stretch our hands straight in front of us, legs straight behind us, and use our fingers to grip on the rough ground to pull while using our toes to push ourselves forward. sometimes, we even need to turn our heads to our left, coz if we look in front, our heads would get stuck in the small opening due to our safety helmet. but why look to the left and not right? coz somehow, the left side of the openings are bigger than the right.

and every time we creep along, we'd only move abt an inch forward! it's really a slow and labourious process that leaves us totally exhausted and need to take a rest while crushed in between the rocks! after a while, we just couldn't care abt being dirty anymore and just rested our whole being, including our faces, on the wet mud!

one day before this trip, a friend cautioned me that this adventure will be a big challenge for those with claustrophobia. and i went "oh shit! i think i am slightly claustrophobic!" so he was trying to reassure me, asking me to relax, do not panic, just go at my own pace etc. and at the beginning of the adventure trail at the entrance of the first 'hole', where our guide did a 2nd round of briefing, i kept looking at the hole and ask myself if it's really possible for an adult human being to go thru it??? the holes could get as small as abt 30cm (h) x 40cm (w)! but luckily the guide is quite fat, so if he can get thru, surely i can too!

but all those crawling and creeping took a toll on my shoes! at just the beginning of the adventure trail, the soles of my left shoe gave way, flapping at every step i took! argh!!! so i just tore it off and passed it on to the guide as a souvenir! kaka... no lar, he took it from me to keep in his sling bag coz we're not supposed to leave things in the cave and furthermore, i needed both my hands free to move about in there, as well as to help Ke Shin (who was under my care) and sometimes to hold her hand. then later, on the last leg of the journey, my right shoe began to flap! gosh, those nike shoes are really useless! i didn't even bother to bring them back. just threw them into the rubbish bin in the bathroom... that'll be my last pair of nike ever!

and in the confined hollows of the caves, we can see fine particles of lime dust floating about the whole chamber. it's like inhaling the dust from the whiteboard chalks from our school days, which is actually the same thing. imagine inhaling all these dust for more than 1 hour! i think my lungs must be pretty clogged up now!

well, this whole trip was estimated to take abt 3 hrs (as per advised by the liaison person when we called in). so when we exited from the cave, i expected it to be around 1pm, or 2pm at the most. as non of us wore any watches (coz we knew we'd get really dirty), i only found out abt the time after we got into the car on our way home! in actual fact, we came out from the cave at 3.30pm and finish our bath at 4pm! 5 hrs in there! no wonder i was famished! i think the extended hours was due to the group being so big. nearly 40 of us... and for most of the adventure trail, we need to go one by one, very very slowly.

overall, this trip is really educational and adventurous. and N's 2 nieces really enjoyed it! so we've promised them we'd go again next time, when they start to learn abt rock formations, stalactite and stalagmite etc in their school books. but u know, i think by then i'd be too old for such exhausting activities! even now, my arms are still aching and my body (esp my elbows and knees) are covered with bruises and scratches. i feel like a big splat of rock has dropped on me, or i've been beaten up by someone! hmm... maybe we'd just drop them off and then come pick them up again after we've done our shopping! :P