Wednesday 23 April 2014

The Wonder of Wonderfontein

By Veronica Van Der Schyff 23 April 2014

A note to all aspiring cavers who have not yet ventured with SEC: Anything said on Facebook is an understatement! After my visit to Yom Tov cave, I thought I will be more or less familiar with water caves. At least this time they were honest about swimming.

I was worried about being a laughing stock and overreacting by bringing a life jacket along. Boy was I wrong. People arrived with body boards and scuba fins, a truckload of pool noodles, another life jacket and two kayaks tied to the roof of a white Volkswagen Golf. Go big or go home, I suppose.
Steven's car and Pedro dragging a kayak out of the cave entrance 
As a relatively new caver, everything involving the expedition was new and exciting, including the process of getting to the cave. A sinkhole in the middle of the road will be a dismay to most normal minded people, but we first had to investigate. Unfortunately, the sinkhole was deemed too unstable to explore so we continued to the intended cave. This was an adventure in and of itself. The seasoned cavers were not the least fazed when the road disappeared into a field. Apparently off-road routes are not uncommon and a general "that way direction" took us to a random cluster of trees in the otherwise grassy field. This was the main entrance to Wonderfontein cave.

We waited a few moments to give the kayakers a head start. While we descended, I can not for the life of me imagine how they got those boats in and out, but they did. The first chamber, even before the water, was my personal favorite. As I stated previously, I am still a rookie caver and even the most normal sights are a marvel. I adored the bats!!!! The water was as cold as I had feared and I was suddenly grateful for the uncomfortable wetsuit and bulky lifejacket.

A real treat for the expedition was the presence of two 11 year old boys (or at least I think they are 11. Between 10 and 12. Sorry for the possible mistake). Their excitement and wonder of the cave was contagious and the cold water was soon forgotten in the thrill of the adventure.

John took us on a circle route for most of the swimming parts. In the main chamber we met up with the kayakers, Steven and Pedro, with Rick hitching a ride with his body board. They were not keen for any more hitch-hikers and avoided our attempts at catching a ride. So we left them to their dry boats and continued our route. We were given the option of returning to the main entrance/exit, or following another route to another exit. Although the idea of drying in the warm sun next to a braai fire was extremely tempting, a sense of adventure drove everyone along on the new route. This was where the more typical caving fun started. Wet + Dirt = Mud= Slippery. We had the option of going over or under a particular section. John took the kids under to experience a tricky squeeze, but most of us chose over. I had momentarily forgotten I have traded in my old trustworthy tekkies for a pair of scuba booties. Note: Scuba booties do not do well as climbing shoes. But all's well that ends well. For the next part, John had us stay put while he sets up a safety rope for another climb. We took the time to appreciate the vastness of the cave by switching off our head lamps and enjoy the dark. The climb was thoroughly appreciated by the rock climbers in the group. As John was still helping cavers with the rope, the next (albeit very small) section was a semi-solo mission to the outside. Only to discover we were still in a pit. The rock climbers had the time of their lives, free climbing the rock face, but some people (wearing scuba booties) needed some assistance.

My only regret of Wonderfontein cave was that we didn't find the cave monster from the Youtube video from the previous trip to Wonderfontein.

"Cave Monster" - John Dickie and Pedro Boshoff

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