Monday 20 January 2014

YomTov Cave

By Veronica Van Der Schyff - 20 January 2014

Note to self: When someone in SEC says the words “be prepared to get wet”, they do not mean expect a few knee deep puddles along the way. “Wet” means swim! Especially for a vertically challenged person such as myself, this was a very daunting experience at first. Not to mention, this was my second outing with SEC and I am still getting used to the standard of adventure.

When we arrived on site, all the scientist and cavers reminisced about the camp town that was put up on that field during the Rising Star expedition. I was distracted by a huge herd of Arabian horses. We geared up and hiked up to the site of the cave. The majority of the group headed for Yom Tov, whilst Steven, Rick and Pete set out to explore two unknown caves on the site.

The initial descend into Yom Tov was fairly straight forward with a small-ish crawl through and narrow passage ways. However, scarcely a hundred meters in, Dave stopped. In all his years of caving, he had never seen water on that level. The passage the cavers normally took from that chamber was totally submerged under crystal clear water. Luckily John and Selena found another accessible passage and soon we were on our way. The passage was waist deep with frigid water at some spots (or at least my waist. Other people were wet just beyond their knees). When John spotted running water, we all had a sip, just to say we drank cave water.

We scrambled and slipped (a lot!) to the back of the cave. Here John and Selena told the beginners to wait while they surveyed the cave accurately. Not that it was just a boring hole to wait in. A wide enough passage with deep water for swimming and a fairly tricky (but straight, at least) passage for climbing made for more than enough excitement. Or so we thought.

When Steven and Rick caught up with the group, they asked if some of the new cavers were up for an adventure. A few of us agreed cautiously. Before we could protest, we were led to a very narrow crack in the wall. Rick led the way. And suddenly, just his head was poking up above the water. We followed with varying degrees of skill and grace. Strange sounds emanated when the cold water reached our necks. We appreciated the beautiful flowstone, rimstone and aragonite formations that we were shown mainly because they were dry. And beautiful. The part that followed, Rick told us was the part that got him hooked on caving. At first I could not see why. We forced our bodies through a hole in an old caved in section between the boulders. I still have no idea how we all got through and back again. After a brief debate whether we were lost or not we finally found the way to Steven’s spot. Through a squeeze that required us to take off our helmets, we reached a ledge overlooking the lake of Yom Tov. What a spectacular sight! Crystal clean water with patches of dust and fungi floating on it made the water seem to have leopard spots. Nothing moved. We might have been staring at a painting.

The return journey was easier, knowing what to expect. It did not make the water any less cold or the mud any less slippery, but all the cavers made it out into the sunlight world.

A brief inspection into Rising Star cave showed everything (except one power cable) more or less intact. The gate to the Post Box was, however, not Steven proof.

All the cavers reunited around the braai, but the pleasant atmosphere was quickly interrupted by 700kg beggars. The horses had come to investigate our braai, our gear and our cars. But everything stayed relatively in one piece so all is well that ends well.

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