Monday, June 10, 2013

To get to the cave of dream you must first endure the hill of nightmares.
On arrival to the huay Pakoot I was told of a cave that I must see, and that it was only an hour’s hike away. Like a fool I said “that sounds great. Let’s go!”
So the next Sunday morning we headed out to the caves. Little did I know what was to come. Walking down pass the mahout village I was feeling confident and excited because talk the night before was all about the caves and how amazing they are. We get to the bottom of the first hill 15 mins in when the Neil, the intern taking me on this expedition points to the monstrous mountain before me and says “ not far now just over this hill” My mouth dropped, soon followed by my stomach. This thing looked like it would be the death of me. So we wonder on up and in about 10 minutes I’m sweaty and panting. The sun is beating down, the hill is steep and my back pack feels like it weighs a ton. The trees around me are sparse and have little or no leaves on them ( it’s the dry season) so there is no hope of shade, my team mates are powering on ahead and all I can hear is my heavy breathing and heart pounding in my head.
After what seems like a life time (only 30min ha-ha) we reach the top and my legs are burning. But as I stand up and look around my fatigue melts away. The view is amazing! From up here I can clearly see the village on the opposite hill amount the trees, enveloped by the forest and the sounds of the birds and insects all around. Its breath taking. After a quick 5 min break we walk down the other side of the monstrous mountain , that on looking back wasn’t as bad as all that, the forest transforms into a lush foliage canvas of greens yellows and browns. The smell is that of moist dirt, clean air and of ancient trees that have remained untouched for centuries.
The mouth of the cave is a wide opening that narrow’s into a passage that can only allow one person at a time through. It’s so hot and dank, like a sauna that was made out of mud. Its silent but for the occasional screech from a bat, which have left “guano” absolutely everywhere. It’s slippery. Like a poo riddled slip and slide.
Unlike the tourist treks through caves, there is no lighting in the caves. Pitch black. You turn off your head lamp and it’s hard to see your own hand. It’s amazing. Throughout the walk there are a few Sketchy “ladder” climbs and crossing which just enhance the ambiance and feeling like you’re the first to explore these caves.
On the walk out I left with a sense of wonder, the rock formations are enticing, the bats, spiders, fire flies and months were intriguing, the quiet and heavy atmosphere humbling.
So on the walk down the steep monstrous hill , with my smile broad on my face I think back to the trek up and concur that it was well worth the sweat and heat, and that in the weeks to come I hope to visit them several times more.
Tammy Bushby

Australia 2013