Wednesday 30 March 2016

Easter weekend caving - By Sharron Reynolds

Jocks cave.

John found the cave with very little effort although Selena and I thought it was a lot further down the cutting. The entrance is a pretty steep decent low and through thick sand and tree roots. The  sand fleas I remembered from the last trip were less evident. Though Karin found them replaced by spiders. The passages to where the Pretties were  are pretty big with not to much crawling. I did not make it through the short passage out the "flag" chamber despite lots of encouragement from Karin. I am sure John or Selena would have talked me through but they were long gone by the time I got there. Amazing how caving is such a head sport. I did then manage to spend some time exploring the flag chamber while waiting for the rest to rejoin me. We either didn't find the "straw" chamber or because the cave was so much drier I just remembered it differently. On the return of the group they were all complaining of plenty CO2 so was somewhat glad I had not pushed through. John found a different and much shorter route out with some nasty sharp bedding rock to crawl over. While waiting our turn through the passage, Steven found a really impressive section with stunning water pools so clear the water looked green. Karin was especially excited about that. The trip back to the bottom of the exit slope went very quickly, however the crawl back up was more difficult with three steps forward and one back. Although the spiders helped with motivation. Once down at the landy we realized we had kitted up at camp, and our overalls were extremely dirty,  so had to ride home in our underwear.
The party around the supper table reflected how much fun we all had, as spirits were high and cave discussion was animated. The prospect of another exciting day caving lay ahead.

The plan for the next 2 days were to be spent at Serunecjar as Steven had plans to survey the cave.
John took us for a short sightseeing trip through the small village eventually parking outside the "queens" house. With permission granted and the refusal of beer and a request for a coke we spent an hour or so thrashing around looking for the entrance. With a little help from a local, Selena and Karin found the entrance. It's more in line with the river, with an obvious cow path to follow, well once you find it that is. The large prickly pear and tree at the entrance should remind us next time. Steven and Irene remained in the upper chamber to survey while the rest of us followed John to find the rest of the cave. With no survey and a 5+ year gap between this trip and his last trip, memories were a bit fuzzy. The section we were in did not look at all familiar with lots of climbing and some big drops. John managed to get up a very slippery slope, but after Pedro took a scary slide it was decided to head back to camp for extra equipment. Taking a slightly different route we poped back into the chamber Steven was still busy in  and a right turn had us at a different entrance with an easy route into Dragon chamber. After a bit of scouting, John found the route into the rest of the cave but it was confirmed ladders and rope would be needed for the slippery climbs back out. Leaving Steven and Irene to survey duties, the rest of us headed back down the hill and back to camp. I took a rather nasty tumble on the mountain and decided to stay at camp.

When the group returned Selena insisted that I should put on my big girl panties, drag Leon along as the section they got into was way to beautiful to miss.

Selena cooked us a fantastic supper. Leon and I put up a bat net and were lucky enough to catch 3 species of bats, and had the opportunity to educate the owners, who hopefully will now live with the bats and not play tennis with them.  With the group a lot more subdued and the prospect of some great caving the next day it was an early night for all.

Serunecjar is by far one of the most beautiful caves in the area. Unfortunately a lot drier than 8 years ago - my last visit - there were 2 things I remembered about the cave. The miner helmet & bones covered in flow stone and the low chamber with lots of mud, pools and lots and lots of spiders, I found neither of these, either not looking properly or just because I remember it differently.

John had rigged 2 drops with ladders and 2 with rope that helped with both the decent and more importantly the ascent. Pedro's hand jammer also proved a life saver for me on the one muddy slope.

Back in the dragon chamber, John and Selena rigged a ladder and rope down a steep muddy slope but nothing terribly exciting was found. Leon and John confirmed the spiders in the dragon chamber were sack spiders .. nasty!!

Fortunately Steven did not complete the survey so a return trip soon is in order.

Bats in Serunecjar

On day one we found a few bats flying around and though we could not get close their inquisitive behavior and wing shape led me to believe they were horseshoe bats. Until we entered Dragon chamber I was rather disappointed in the number of bats and bat guano. However evidence in Dragon chamber suggested huge numbers recently in the chamber. I was very disappointed I had missed them assuming they had left for winter. Day 2 and the trip into the next chamber revealed the bats had not left. Just moved further into the cave. There is a huge colony of Natal long fingered bats in the cave, so a winter trip would be strongly discouraged. With the huge development of fruit farms in the area this colony will become vitally important and I sincerely hope that winter trips will be avoided.

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