In 2008, along with 2 others, I entered one of the larger caves in Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park. Fifteen minutes later, we got spit out in a ditch on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. I only mention this because Being John Malkovich is my favourite movie and has been since it was released 20 years ago. If you haven’t seen it, I can guarantee that it’ll be more interesting than this post.
But you’re here to read about me, right?
Now, it’s 2019, and I wanted to introduce Yann to the wonderful world of being inside the earth’s innards.
Now, spelunking doesn’t seem like the best activity for a mildly claustrophobic person like me who specializes in graphic answers to the question, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
It’s a cave. It could, you know, cave in. You could get your face bit off by bats. You could trip and impale an eyeball on a stalagmite. You could bonk your head on a stalactite and pierce your brain.
More realistically, you could infect bats white-nose syndrome by entering the cave with contaminated footwear and clothing. For this reason, in 2016, BC Parks installed a bio-cleaning station before the trails leading to the caves. This very homemade-looking bio-cleaning station had an Astroturf to shuffle over before stepping onto a detergent-filled patio chair cushion. This rinky-dink set up supposedly protects the bats from fungal infection.
This stage was preceded by a park ranger trying to convince us to rent helmets and succeeded by a bouncy suspension bridge. I did not remember any of this from 2008.
We started with the Lower Cave which had a gated entrance to keep out midnight spelunkers. How nighttime caving is any different from caving during the daytime, I do not know.
At the back of the Lower Cave, was a small opening, much like the portal to John Malkovich’s subconscious.
The passageway narrowed to about 2ft high: not too small for us to squeeze through, but undeniably panic-inducing. My face says it all in the above animation.
The second cave was the imaginatively named Main Cave. Only the first 10 metres of this cave is open for self-guided tours. The couple who came out upon our arrival didn’t appear to have lights at all. What’s the fun in feeling around in the dark? One of them was dressed in a white top which had stayed suspiciously white.
We ran into them again at Andrew’s Annex, the third and final cave of our little adventure into limestone arteries. Again, this couple emerged from total darkness, and the white shirt remained unsoiled. I was wearing primary colours and cave mud. And a headlamp!
None of the three caves we entered felt familiar. Yes, eleven years had passed, but why don’t I remember a suspension bridge? There was no visitor’s centre selling keychains and sweatshirts either. I guess this is what happens when people Geotag cool places on Instagram.
I later asked a friend from the 2008 expedition if she remembered which cave we explored and she said no. She also seemed to suggest that Thai boys were to blame for the closed-off areas.
The 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue is still fresh in everybody’s head, right? Twelve boys and their soccer coach were trapped in the cave for eighteen days! One of the proposed escape plans had the team LEARN HOW TO DIVE WHILE TRAPPED IN THE CAVE. Then Elon Musk was like, “Hey maybe I can attach a propeller to a watertight mailing tube?” In the end, they went with the more sensible option of giving the kids the drug Ketamine and tethering them to a Navy SEAL.
Happily, all boys escaped and went on to win a soccer match or two. Multiple books were written about those 18 days of their lives and Netflix is currently working on a miniseries. ScarJo is probably playing all of them. The team had a happy ending to their shitty adventure.
For us, we had a happy ending to a non-shitty adventure. The day after spending a night in a tent in front of Horne Lake, Yann and I concluded our trip with a refreshing dip in the Sooke River.
Sooke Potholes Provincial Park happens to be another place that I hadn’t visited in eleven years.
Since I’m revisiting all the places I visited 11 years ago, it looks like I’m headed to Switzerland next.
(I am not going to Switzerland.)