Saturday 10 December 2016

Dear SEC Members

In memory of long-time SEC member and Immediate-Past Chairman, Peter Andrew Kenyon, who passed away on 3 December 2016, our Club will be supporting the Sunflower Fund.  We have decided to sponsor any club member who wishes to join the bone marrow registry and save future lives.  It costs R2000 to join the registry, and there are some stringent requirements.  Please read the information in the link below if you are interested.
If you would like to take up this life-saving opportunity sponsored by SEC, please contact me.  We will be sponsoring up to 5 people.
John Dickie

Monday 5 December 2016

Armageddon Cave - 10 December

Hi everyone,
John is organising a trip to Armageddon on Saturday the 10th of December.
SRT members only.
9:00 at the cave.
Please RSVP with John, 073 985 8068.
Also let him know if you need any gear.

Thursday 24 November 2016

SEC Meet-list for 2017

A trip is done once a month on the second Sunday of the month. Extra trips are then done on an Ad-Hoc Basis and a few long-weekend trips to other provinces are also organized throughout the year.
There will also be rescue practises every second month. 

  • 10 December – Armageddon’s mudwall – John Dickie
  • 8 January  - Wonderfontein - John Dickie
  • 12 February - Nico's II - Steven Tucker
  • 18-21 March - Serunecjar and others in the area - Karin Human
  • 14-17 April - Chaos & Crystal Caves - John Dickie & Steven Tucker
  • 14 May - River Passage Cave - Steven Tucker
  • 11 June - Groblers I - Steven Tucker
  • 9 July - Abe Bailey Nature Reserve - Sharron Reynolds
  • 9-13 August - Sudwala area - Sharron Reynolds
  • 10 September - U Cave (Showerdome) - Selena Dickie
  • 8 October - Apocalypse - John Dickie

Please note: These are proposed dates – please see Facebook and/or Yahoo groups for final destinations or contact the meet leader closer to the time. Caving trips additional to those above will also be notified via these avenues.

Contact the Meet leader to arrange to join a trip or find out more info on a trip. See the contact us page for contact details.

Monday 31 October 2016

See website with contact details here
- Message from the organiser:
Dear all,
you are receiving this email, because you either have expressed your interest in participating to next years expedition to Swaziland or because you have participated earlier.
As you might have seen on the blog or facebook, I started checking dates, availability of accommodation, local transport etc. Unfortunately it's a bit slow to get responses. We will either rent a bus and a car (for exploring other areas for caves) or we might be able to borrow a bus (with hopefully functioning brakes - the first year we had a few interesting experiences on the road ;)) and then only need one car.
What will be different from the previous expedition will be that we will stay in Ezulwini, not at the Kapholo estate. This means a (rather low) fee for either bed in a hostel or camping will have to be paid. Everybody will also provide for their own food as we are staying in the village. You can of course in that case cook yourself in the hostel, or we eat out.
The time will be 10 days in end of June/beginning of July, depending still on a few circumstances I am waiting answer on.
What I would need from you is
- are you still interested in participating?
- is the time suitable?
- do you have mapping experience?
- are you member of a caving club and which one?
- Nationality and age
To get an idea about the costs yourself, I encourage you to check flights to see what they will end up at and transport to Ezulwini. If you fly to Jo'burg, you can get a bus to Mbabane and from there either a local bus to Ezulwini (which is an experience!) or we can arrange for a pick-up. I might be there a day or two before everyone else.
Last time we cooked ourselves and kept the costs down by doing that. To eat in a "normal" place is about 50-70 R per person, to eat in a more expensive place about the double. You also need to calculate for water - 1,5 around 17 R, so basically I would say the cost of living (food that is) is comparable to live cheap in Europe:
Cost of Living in Swaziland
Cost of Living in Mbabane, Swaziland. Jan 2016 prices in Mbabane.
Please get back to me about the questions above, I hope I can sort out living and transport the next few weeks.

Gatkop Caves - 12 & 13 November

Hello everyone,

So over the weekend of the 12th and 13th November, there is a trip planned to the Gatkop Caves close to Thabazimbi (3 hours from JHB).

Plan is to leave from JHB at 7 in the morning on the Saturday and get there around 10ish and do Gatkop 1, aka Slotmachine, and get into the cave around 11. Then stay over very close to the cave and have a big braai etc and do Gatkop 2, aka Thabazimbi Cave, the next morning.

There is dormitory style accommodation available for R200 per person and camping is also a possibility. If you want luxury, there is accommodation close by which I can find out about.

Warning! Gatkop 2 is infamous for its very high levels of CO2. If you did not get a headache from drinking too much at the braai on Saturday, you will probably get one from this cave... Those not comfortable with this, are welcome to do Gatkop 1 again as the cave does have lots of potential for exploration.

The second very important point is that there are strict controls in place from management regarding decontamination of gear as this is a very important site for bats. All gear must be cleaned before going there. Before we go in, our boots will be sprayed with a diluted bleach solution and once we get out of the cave our overalls and boots and helmets will once again get sprayed on both days.

I have been told, sarcastically, that I really know how to sell a caving trip... These are two of the biggest caves in SA and both are stunning. One area of Gatkop 2 is named Pamukkale. If you don't know what Pamukkale is, Google it...

It is a members only trip and space is limited, so please let me know if you are going so I can book the accommodation. is most likely to get a response, otherwise message me on 083 212 0817.
Will let you know where to meet once I know who is going.



Tuesday 18 October 2016

SEC AGM 22 October & Armageddon 23 October

Hi to ALL our members

This coming Saturday afternoon we have our Annual General Meeting where you, the members, get to decide what you want for the up-coming year and who will be on the Committee to make it happen.

It is YOUR club…………… please make every effort to attend (and if you cannot be there make sure you have given your views and voting proxy to someone who will) and make you desires known. We’ve been going since 1954 through both fat and lean times. We now have a relatively BIG membership so please come and say your piece on what you want for 2017.

As previously advised there will be a rope practice session at 12, and at3pm the  AGM in preparation for the exciting visit to Armageddon on Sunday the 23rd, South Africa’s deepest dry cave and the oldest cave on the planet, the following day. You’ll need to bring your drinks and meat for the braai afterwards but SEC will have salads, bread etc available. Please let Selena (083 460 4828) and John (073 985 8068) know if you are coming……………if you haven’t already.
Below is a link to the Agenda and Proxy:

Address is 64 Patton Place, Tedderfield, JHB

I look forward to seeing and talking with you on Saturday afternoon.

Dave – Hon. Secretary

Friday 14 October 2016

SEC Meet-list for 2016


A trip is done once a month on the second Sunday of the month. Extra trips are then done on an Ad-Hoc Basis and a few long-weekend trips to other provinces are also organized throughout the year.

  • ·         22 October – SEC AGM & SRT training at John & Selena’s place – Contact John and Selena Dickie
  • ·         23 October – Armageddon – Only for members or those who attend SRT training at the AGM – John Dickie
  • ·         12 & 13 November – Gatkop Caves – Members only – Steven Tucker
  • ·         26 and 27 November – Cave rescue weekend – Open - Steven Tucker
  • ·         11 December – Armageddon’s mudwall – Members only – John Dickie
Please note: These are proposed dates – please see Facebook and/or Yahoo groups for final destinations or contact the meet leader closer to the time. Caving trips additional to those above will also be notified via these avenues.

Contact the Meet leader to arrange to join a trip. See the contact us page for contact details.

Monday 10 October 2016

SEC Freaky Friday Night Caving, 14 Oct, 7.30pm

Meet at Oaktree Engen garage, off Hendrick Potgieter on N14 near Sterkfontein at 7.30pm.
Cave to be confirmed, but it will be close to Oaktree.
Beginners and visitors welcome.
Cost R100 per person
Caving involves some climbing, crawling, squeezing. Wear comfortable old clothes and shoes.
Let me know if you need a hardhat and headlight; bring 3 x AAA batteries.
We will be caving for about 3 hours.
RSVP Selena 083 460 4828

Monday 3 October 2016

Caving Apocalypse Sunday 9 Oct

Hey SEC Members
Caving at Apocalypse with an opportunity to practise your survey reading skills, and there are endless places to get lost in!
Usual SRT proficient only.
Meet 9am at the cave.
RSVP John 073 985 8068

Thursday 22 September 2016

Friday night caving

Caving this friday night!
going to Scramblers cave.

Meeting at oak tree garage 19:45
Visitors R100 pp

Let me know if you are going to come

Phone Gerrie Pretorius 0784234261

Monday 12 September 2016

SEC AGM 22nd October

Hello everyone,

The SEC AGM is coming up on the 22nd October at John and Selena's place. Please try to be there!

Here is the link for the Agenda and Proxy forms (in case you don't make it there).
SEC AGM Agenda

From 12 there will be SRT training in the trees.

The AGM itself will start at 15:00.

After the AGM there will be a braai. Bring your own meat and drinks. Salads and rolls will be provided.

On the following day there will be a trip down Armageddon Cave.

See you there.


Wednesday 7 September 2016

Rescue practise at Nick's Cave - 11 September

Hello everyone,

We're doing a rescue practise at Nick's Cave this Sunday.

The trip is an open trip, so visitors are welcome.

Meet at the Exel garage in Koster at 08:30 to be at the cave at 09:00.

A rescue session in a cave is a very different way to do caving and makes it very interesting.

However for those not interested in the rescue, your welcome to come along and explore the cave. This cave has a mystery, in that a large extension found in 1997 is missing... Perhaps you can rediscover it?

For those interested in the rescue, you can also attend a training session at a quarry close to Rustenburg on Saturday.

Most of us will be going to the property on Saturday night and will be camping there. There are no facilities, so bring everything you need... we will braai Saturday night.

Please let me know if you want to join any part of the weekend's fun.



Wednesday 24 August 2016

Thursday night caving

Hi Everyone, Midweek caving trip this thursday,
Open tor first timers and beginners.

The only catch is, if you dont have your own helmet and or light, you will need to let me know before 8PM Tonight (wednesday)

Also please let me know if you will be joining,
Contact: 0784234261

If you are using a light that you organised with me, please remember to bring 3 AAA batteries with for the light.

Meeting at 19:15 at Oktree Garage in the cradle.

Ps. Space is limited.

Visitor fees is R100 per person

Thursday 28 July 2016

Armageddon Cave - 30 July

Hello everyone,

John is organising a trip to the Dungeon in Armageddon this Saturday.

The trip is for SRT proficient members only.

Meet at the cave at 9.

Contact John Dickie at 073 985 8068 if you want to join the cave.

Enjoy the weekend,


Tuesday 26 July 2016

Armageddon – 17 July 2016 - by Karin Human

The golden brown grass ecstatically dances as the wind gently rushes over the field. Four vehicles parked on the rim of the gaping sinkhole and casual chatter started the next adventure. After all the rigging was done, Steven had his second breakfast while we joined him with an array of other snacks. Laughter echoed through the usually quiet place as we exchanged a few jokes. We were ready for our descent into the infamous Armageddon.

Pedro went down first with Herman following. I was next and Steven trailed. This time around I followed Steven down the slope far left. Muddy clay had us sliding down on our bums. Sometimes at uncontrolled speed, but this added to the fun. Armageddon might be a lot of things, but it has never ceased to amaze me. After a few visits to this magnificent cave system, I remain in the stance that the only easy thing about this is the ‘SRT’ part. The rest demands respect and wrong footing or over eager movements will have you in some pain. 

The plan was pretty straight forward. We were in the company of 2 geologists, Pedro and Herman, who needed some sampling done. This was needed to confirm dating and some more academic stuff. It turned out to be a very informative trip. We climbed up a much less travelled slope and yet again, seeing the small dot of light from Steven’s headlight on the other side highlighted the vastness of this chamber. 

The thrust lines were inspected and small samples of rock were taken from the top, middle and bottom part. This was placed in small plastic bags and marked clearly. Rough sketches were made in a little black book and added to this some info like depth and gradients at which the lines were sloping. It was like watching a tennis match with the conversations that took place on that small ledge accommodating the group. Lots of really big words and small talk about the Vredefort incident and also the bushveld influence. The rock in these fracture lines were referred to as Fubarite, but it is really just an informal name in geology for any rock that has been severely brecciated and metamorphosed to the point that it is difficult or impossible to determine its origin. There is also an acronym for it, but that will remain unwritten for various reasons. 

We packed everything up and were moving to another important area, fondly known in my mind as the bubbly area. Steven and I were climbing up huge boulders and standing on the top of one which had me in awe of the rock formations. When you look up, you become quite dizzy. The wall on the far side looked like it was painted white and lines within this rock seemed to be broken up. Almost like Braille dots and seemingly waiting for someone to decipher the message. It was a real privilege to be in this place with people who were obviously incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about rocks and structures. We would stop and a whole lecture would be given which were absolutely pleasing to the soul. 

Aragonite also featured among the long list of rock and crystal types discussed. This crystal is the high pressure polymorph of calcium carbonate. As such, it occurs in high pressure metamorphic rocks such as those formed at subduction zones. We also found the same cauliflower formations than in Serunecjar although they were much smaller in Armageddon. 

It was time for another detour, compliments of Steven. Peek-a-boo was just above and we had the privilege of learning his secret on how to get up there. A slope awaited us and the scenery at the top was breath-taking. The floor, walls and roof was covered in glittering abundance. It looked like a fairyland. Corridors at the top led to a variety of look out posts high on the cave wall, in particular Peek-A-Boo. This was Armageddon undone. A part of a treacherous cave’s true soul. 

While climbing up I had a bit of a slip and sprained my ankle. Not too bad though, but I decided to turn back. I had some ice packs in my car and wanted to treat it as soon as possible before it became a problem. After all, there is always a next chance. Steven joined me. Pedro and Herman needed more samples and moved on.    

Steven and I were sitting at the edge after climbing out, chatting about general stuff when we saw movement on the rope. We got up to assist Herman and Pedro when they got to the top. Herman was talking loudly to convey the message that Pedro had fallen and hurt his shoulder. We decided to rig a 5:1 hauling system in order to get Pedro to the top. Herman assisted him to get onto the rope and we started hauling. We did not get very far because Pedro was in too much pain. In that moment Steven and I looked at one another and the quiet realisation of a full rescue attempt in motion made our minds scurry in all directions. 

We had the trailer with us and all rescue equipment was within reach. We decided that I would go down and prepare the SKED for the big haul up. While Steven was on the phone getting some man power to assist, I grabbed more water from my car and stuffed it with a few energy snacks into my caving bag. Steven gave me a space blanket and that also went into the bag. We got the SKED from the trailer and I took it out just for a final check to make sure everything is in there that would be needed. 

The blue rope was a real mind-changer. I held it in my hand, staring at it. I screened my mind for some recollection of where it should go on the SKED. I started explaining to Steven how I think I should do it. A few “this should go here and that should be there” and I was set to go. The SKED and utility bag were clipped on my safety and after I got on the rope, I asked Steven again about rigging the SKED. I had to make a decision. This was 50m down. I won’t have someone to check my rigging. What if I make a mistake and the SKED falls or Pedro falls out on his way up? I informed Steven that I’m not completely confident in rigging the SKED. The risk was too high to go down and rely on sketchy ideas of how it should be done. So Steven needed to go down with the SKED.

A few cavers were contacted and also Mountain Search and Rescue. Steven disappeared from view as he neared Pedro at the bottom of the shaft. It became quiet, almost too quiet.  I started undoing the rigging that was initially done. The dust road became alive as a cloud happily tracked John’s Landy on the horizon. I phoned Steven to inform him. John and Selena arrived and actions started falling into place. We de-rigged all ropes in order to get the winching system up. Steven’s car was moved and we scurried around getting the rigging done. 

Dust clouds speckled the horizon as more and more vehicles arrived.  Adam, from MSAR, arrived after John and they had a quick discussion on the proposed manner to get Pedro safely out of Armageddon. It became dusk. Soon no dust clouds could be seen, but lights followed the snaky road in cosmic brilliance. The rest became lost in translation between what we did, said and thought. The bright orange SKED safely made it to the rim and between the original two anchor points manoeuvred closer to the edge. An extra belay line was attached by Adam and the SKED was pulled a safe distance from the hole. Paramedics zoomed in and Pedro was taken care of. 



The rope was let down in Armageddon twice more to get Steven and Herman to safety. We started de-rigging and packing gear away. I remember watching the bright red flashing lights of the ambulance as it found its way to the main road until it disappeared from sight. Ropes were bagged, other rescue gear was checked to a list and also packed away. It was time for all of us to meet at the main road for a debriefing of what had happened to Pedro and what followed.

Just as quickly as this situation evolved, it ended just as abruptly. The freezing, gentle breeze was a stark reminder that we were still here, out in the middle of nowhere in winter time. A few groups gathered around as I drove passed them. My foot was throbbing, I misplaced most of my clothes searching for some gear in my car and two hours from home did not seem fair at that moment. A person can’t help to think that we were all part of something great tonight. Grateful that all turned out well, I turn up the volume. Armageddon still remains an infinitely amazing cave system.
Karin Human

PS – For those who are interested in cave rescue send an email to to get invited on the next practise session.



Tuesday 19 July 2016

SEC Sinkhole Exploration Trip 12 June 2016

The usual suspects were at this year’s sinkhole exploration trip; Steven, Irene, Gerrie, John and Selena. These annual trips have been mainly in the Banks compartment and Venterspos area. In the early days we would drive around with Colin Redmayne-Smith and his memory.  It is always a great Sunday drive, looking down mostly plugged sinkholes. We once found a sinkhole that was used as the local abattoir and one could see the bad smell coming out of it! Nobody wanted to go down it, much to Colin’s disdain, cavers have gone soft he said.
With the advent of technology we started going to sinkholes with Gerrie and his Google Earth. We found more plugged sinkholes; Lemon Pot, Stinkhole, Lucky House, Jockstrap, to name a few. Some were too small to name.  We came upon a group of sinkholes once where panning for diamonds had been happening.  It was a precarious drive among a swiss cheese of small drops.  Another method of spotting caves from the air was done by John in his microlight, with passenger Al Grant doing the spotting.  An expedition was done in 2009 to the Aha Hills of north western Botswana where we scoured the hills on foot searching for caves.  It was a great adventure but we did not find any caves, only giant blackjacks that had to be picked off our overalls daily and still oozed out of our skins two weeks later.
So it was with great perseverance that Armageddon was found in 2013 with the help of Colin and his memory. It was in the spirit of cave hunting that we recently visited the biggest underground lake in South Africa. This is a story for another time.
Last month we looked at sinkholes again with Gerrie and Steven using google earth. John had scoured the area in a glider plane a few days earlier. We peered down ten sinkholes and found reason to SRT down four of them. Nothing exciting found this time, but we will be back next year.
SEC has an annual planned sinkhole exploration trip in winter.

Sunday 10 July 2016

SEC Chimanimani Expedition 2016

Dear SEC Members

Our efforts to bring the club to new lows are well underway.

So far there are 6 SEC members, one Zim climber and one Canadian caver on the team. We have Hilti sponsoring the drills and fasteners, and we are hiring solar panels etc. to charge the batteries.

The plan is to drive straight to Chimanimani, with a pleasant interlude at Beit Bridge. Thereafter we expect to be warmly welcomed by the local police from time to time.

It is a 2 day hike up to Turret Towers and we will be spending 12 days up the mountain camping in a remote and stunning area, see

Our main objective is to find and survey new caves in the area, as well as descend Mawenge Mawena(305m), get to rock bottom and start digging.
Any SEC members wishing to join still, let me know immediately. The cost is approximately R3 000 per person plus transport and food. You will need camping gear, caving gear and your passport.  An important thing to pack is your great sense of humour as this trip promises to be challenging!
Dates: 7 – 24 August 2016.

John Dickie

Friday 1 July 2016

Westminster Cave - 2 July 2016

Hi everyone,

Sharron is doing a trip to Westminster tomorrow morning. Meet at 10 at Oak Tree garage.

If you are interested in joining the trip contact her at 0825535258.

Always a fun cave to do!


Wednesday 8 June 2016

West rand Sinkhole Exploration trip

Hi Everyone, This months trip is a sinkhole exploration trip, we will be going to various sinkholes, go down and see if they go, who knows, the next armageddon might be waiting in one of them.

Most of these sinkholes will require rope work, so only SRT Proficient members can go down them. but if you are not SRT Proficient, you are still welcome to join for the day.

Please let John Dickie know if you need any equipment.

Meeting at corner of N12 and the R28. 9 o clock sharp. dont be late.

Please also RSVP to me (Gerrie 078 423 4261) or RSVP on facebook

See you there!

Sunday 29 May 2016

Serunecjar - 26 & 27 March 2016 by Karin Human

A long and winding gravel road became a wrong turn and finally we managed to get on the right track. The start basically set the trend for our early morning scouting to find Serunecjar. After paying the Queen for the privilege, we set off on our endeavour which eventually had the thick, thorny bushes echoing our laughter and high spirits. 

Climbing towards an idea of a destination became a real eventful adventure. Irene had a stare-off with a few of the cows we regularly encountered. We were in their world and the thought did arise that they were not used to seeing creatures like us. A cow came across Irene and after a few seconds of staring, Irene told this cow Stop staring at me... I’m human!  Belly laughs could be heard from all over the side of the mountain. Selena just moved on. Cows or no cows. One was bobbing its head in an attempt to scare her away, but she met the beast head on. He scurried away. 

Selena and I eventually decided to sit on a rock and do a deep meditation which will float her over the side of the mountain in order for us to find the cave entrance. It was round about this point where a local eventually came up the mountain to show the way. He must have watched the spectacle of brightly clothed cavers scrambling about on narrow cattle tracks. 

Triumphantly, Selena and I were the first at the cave. The group soon after were all gathered on the rocky slopes and one final orientation was given. Steven and Irene were on a mission. There are no known surveys of this cave and they would be spending the day getting vital information in order for a map to be produced. The rest of the group found their way down to the basin of this really magnificent first chamber. 

A steep slope awaited us and loose rocks made for careful stepping. It was evident not much caving is done in this section and it soon became apparent as to why. Every crawl through or climb down were dead ends or ended in sheer drop offs with little hope of getting down without some rigging. John went ahead and after a very slow climb down we found a really slippery chamber. To the left it steeply sloped down. John made it up a mud wall which were shimmering a glow of an almost impossible gradient at which we were to ascent. He had a hand line down and Pedro decided to go first. Three steps up; he slipped and met the muddy floor with little grace. We decided to find another way. 

There were no definite route and it stirred a lot of excitement. John disappeared a lot and we kind of followed suit. We got to a small chamber with lots of tree roots dangling from the roof. Pedro was really excited about the formations in this particular room. There was evidence of huge volcanic eruptions followed by a river time. In other parts we visited huge Stromatolites decorated the ceiling in all its splendour. What makes this finding so significant is that a river time did exist. Shallow seas became rivers as volcanoes erupted forming land. After the river band in the rock, more volcanic ash was noted in the next band. 

Pedro is an encyclopaedia of knowledge and although I can’t remember the names of everything, the process of the evolution we witnessed within the library of layers was humbling and mind blowing. You can’t look at Geology and not feel a tug somewhere in your being. I think this is what is meant by looking, but not seeing. 

We made it up a smooth rock to where we found Irene and Steven getting on with the survey. We decided to get back to the entrance and see if there was not another way in. Regrouped, we found corridor on the left side. This corridor led to a magnificent chamber. A huge snow white speleothem in the middle imitated the image of a dragon holding his head high. The floor was covered in soft mud, but not as slippery as the ones found in the other chambers. The chamber stretched out as far as your light allowed you to see. Enormous stomatolites decorated the roof. I’ve never seen them that big. We found a few crawls, but way too small and seemingly going nowhere. A few promising climbs ended in places we were before. It felt like we were going in circles. The right hand side of this chamber had a very slippery mud slide going down and after inspecting and considering options it was decided that we will have to bring some gear down. 

We returned after a refreshing lunch break, armed with rope, ladders and a few other necessities. John was down first. Irene and Steven were down below the mud slide and it turned out to be the chamber where Pedro slid off the mud wall. John rigged a ladder for Steven and Irene. Selena and I turned left to see if we could find something indicating a route leading somewhere. We found a drop off. John climbed down and while trying to figure how to unroll the ladder, not without some humour, Pedro gave us a hand and the pitch was rigged. While going down, it actually seemed like the ladder was more in the way than anything else, but so we learn.  Soon we were all down on the slippery down slide and moving down on your bum, we made it to yet another 2 metre drop. It does not sound like much, but we don’t have Wolverine claws and the mud covered floor was slippery as hell... not just when wet. 

I sat on the edge and got more rope down to John who was busy rigging a pitch around the corner. Looking down I could see holes in the floor to the right side of the narrow, muddy route we have to negotiate. Bright white stalactites can be seen from here. Instinctively, you just know there is something down there that will blow your mind. Being late, we decided we would only rig the route and then return the next day. Steven needs time for the survey and we will be taking advantage of the opportunity to explore this cave.

Day two started with a huge anticipation of what we might find around the corner after John’s comment You ain’t seen nothing yet the previous day. John and Selena had to turn back to camp to fetch some much needed gear forgotten. The rest of the group, with Steven leading, headed out to attempt the arduous task of finding the cave entrance again. Luckily it did not take too long and did not require any leopard crawling through thorny bushes this time around. Don’t ask… That’s a story that will require a few pages. Just let it be known that some members of this group had absolutely no navigation skills when out in the land of sun and wind. 

Steven wanted to get on with the survey and I decided to join him. Sharron, Leon and Pedro decided to wait at the cave entrance for John and Selena. The spacious corridor leading to the Dragon Chamber makes you feel right at home. It’s like an instant switch that floods your body with tranquillity and a sense of belonging. Steven was asking where the Dragon was that was the epicentre of this chamber, but his words faded into an acknowledgement when his light fell on the enormous speleothem. He found his last marker quickly and the work started. 

While surveying the wall slightly to our back, he found a gaping hole above a boulder approximately one and a half metres high. I decided to climb up. A pile of wood was bunched together on the left side of the opening. Not far from the pile a few rocks were arranged in a circle holding the ashes of a recent fire. Dark burn scars on the roof was evident that this must be a regular spot for prayers or something in that direction. To the right a few small carpets were left on a big boulder. The walls and roof had the texture of elephant skin and seem lighter in color than the chamber just below us. Steven joined me to survey this section as well. Keeping to the left a small and narrow crawl led to sunlight. We found another entrance to the cave. Steven was sure it was the entrance noted in a previous exploration. Snakes were found at this entrance, but we decided that this fact doesn’t need confirmation. We headed back to the Dragon Chamber. 

A small gap on the far left stirred Steven’s curiosity. We headed over and I told him that Selena and I tried the two crawls yesterday. The one to the left was just too small and the one on the right was a dead end about 3 metres in. He tried the first one, but even without a helmet it was impossible. He disappeared into the one on the right while I was building a marker. Steven was heading back out of the crawl after he also came to the dead end. I knew he could move fast, but he cleared that crawl in no time. He basically came running out of there on anything that would touch the floor. Hands, knees, feet, head… Apparently there was a spider in there the size of the cows outside that were lazily grazing in the early morning sun. Obviously I kind of giggled. Truth be told, I cried with laughter. He was long gone, up the hill of guano and just kept running, knees up, mumbling something about the spider while wiping some imaginary stuff from his overall. 

At this point the group from outside came strolling into the Dragon Chamber. Leon went to see what the fuss was about and identified the spider as a Sac Spider. John and Selena also joined and we decided to get a move on to the part that was around the corner. That part we were all waiting for. The ropes were muddy from being there overnight and required some careful handling and footing while climbing down the slippery slopes. The group moved slowly. The first ladder followed, then the bum slide to the next slope. John rigged a ladder on this one as well on his way down. We were finally around the corner. 

Sugar Balls Slide demands respect. The rope down had white patches and John warned that those spots were very slippery. With a few rope twists around my arm for extra friction, I carefully started walking backwards. Fine, greyish clay accumulated in my hand as I went down. Indeed a slippery affair. We all made it down safely. The chamber was impressive. Rimmed pools stretched out in front of us and huge speleothems reaching from the floor to the roof. Moments like this leaves you wordless and makes the journey to this point seem trivial. 

The cave built a wall stretching all the way to the other side with small gaps in between. The greatest surprise of this section was the bats. I have never seen so many bats in one place. Attempts not to bother them with our lights seemed futile because wherever you looked they fluttered around. The strong smell of guano was overwhelming. We decided to walk on the left side of the wall because of all the rim pools on the other side. There was another section further left and water could be seen through the gaps. We ventured closer. The pool on this side was about five by three metres and very shallow. The water was very dirty because of bat activity. 

We moved towards the back of the chamber. A narrow corridor with a few boulders and slight down curve took us to another chamber where some of the group already gathered. I found a crawl and Steven joined me in exploring some more. A rather big, flat section with a very low roof followed. We crawled to the other side and found some more places to squeeze through, but mostly it ended abruptly. One section seemed like someone pushed a few boulders into a corridor. Even the roof looked warped. I climbed to the other side hoping to find something. This cave is slowly earning the reputation of inviting you in, more like enticing you, and then just closes the door on you. A narrow slit on the right gave way to another crawl and we decided to see where that went to. We ended up in the chamber where the group were gathered. There are lots of circle routes in here as well. 

This was also the turnaround time. We slowly made our way back to Sugar Ball Slope taking in the beauty of this place with every step. We lingered at the bottom for a few endless moments. Another small gap was found and we made our way down. This small chamber slowly brings you to your knees and a short crawl brings you to the end. This was indeed a very interesting chamber with very unusual formations. It looked like huge cauliflowers hanged from the roof. Some of the curtain formations had teeth like edges and gave this section an eerie, but stunning vibe. As we crawled out, a single snow white formation looked like a little poodle tip toeing somewhere. This chamber is too small to have more than two people in and as one pair left, the next went in. 

Steven decided to continue the survey. Pedro and I stayed behind to give a hand. The rest of the group decided to go back to the upper chamber and explore a big drop that was found the previous day. I built markers and Steven answered a lot of questions regarding surveys and mapping while we meticulously moved towards the other end of the left side of the bat chamber. Near the end of the chamber Pedro and I got in the way of the laser and we moved to a big boulder towards the middle of the room. Surveys are the best way to explore a cave. You get time to really look around and find some amazing stuff. There was a slit next to the rock we waited on and after telling Steven about it, we decided to go down and look if it goes anywhere. 

Notoriously and almost anticipated, it went nowhere. The survey didn’t take too long. Technology is an amazing thing as long as you have battery power to drive it. Towards the end, or what we thought were the end, we found another drop into a chamber that seems just as amazing as the Bat Chamber. Sadly we were running out of all our resources. Time, batteries, water… Nevertheless, it was a job well done. Steven surveyed almost a kilometre of this cave with a depth of fifty two metres. 

Steven took the last few readings, downloaded it and we made our way to the entrance. While going up, we cleared the cave of all our gear, rolling up cave ladders and ropes. It went rather quickly and before we knew we were back in the Dragon Chamber. I daisy chained the rope after Pedro showed me how. Then Steven took it apart, all seventy metres of it and showed me how to do a mountaineer’s roll. We left the cave in high spirits and it would just not feel right if we did not take a few wrong turns on the cattle tracks. We eventually made it down where the rest of the explorers were waiting for us. 

Our laughter echoed endlessly in the final rays of a nearing sunset and a cool breeze ushered us to the camp.