Caving has never been on my bucket list, in fact, I don’t have a bucket list, I tend to just roll along like a Double Gloucester wheel of cheese at the annual Coopers Hill Cheese Rolling Race.
That’s a great way to describe finding love actually, now I put some thought into it. You get thrown down a hill, banged around, dropped into ditches, flung upwards and downwards, all the while being chased by a bunch of nutters until you reach the end. The victorious winner, who finally meets you at the finish line gets to take you home, age you, and enjoy you with a fine wine. Who knew there was so much depth in chasing a wheel of cheese down a hill.
At one point during the caving in Khao Sok National Park I realised that even though we were a group of 20, there were two other groups in front of us, and at least 10 a day, everyday, this may not have been the best life choice. Let’s just say that I won’t be taking up caving as a new thrill seeking venture. www.ang-goes-caving.com is still available, don’t all rush at once.
With three French women and a group of Belgians I jumped on a day tour to trek, cave and swim in the stunning Cheow Lan Lake which is in the Surat Thani Province of Thailand, north-east of Phuket.
Cheow Lan is similar in appearance to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam with its limestone karsts and cliffs, but is a dam built in 1982 by an electricity company. The remnants of tall trees, now dead, still protrude from the water like an obstacle course for the longboats.
The cliffs are a multitude of ochre colours and soar above the turquoise clear water. The afternoon storms leave an eerie mist nestled in the crevices of the mountains, eagerly awaiting to be lifted back into the clouds high above.
As we took off on our two hour trek the sounds of gibbons calling to each other in the jungle high above us echoed over the landscape, silencing the birds and cicadas from their song. While I didn’t see tigers, elephants and hornbills, the promise that there were many left in the wild in the national park was plenty enough for me.
To get to the cave we walked through creeks which came up to our shoulders in depth, thankful I had a wetbag and good shoes for walking in the water, which had been kindly lent to me by the owner of the bungalows I was staying in.
We placed our torches on our heads and in we went, within five minutes it was pitch black apart from our headlamps. Following the creek through the cave we worked up stream, over smooth boulders, under massive stalactites and around water cascading over stalagmites. It was magical and terrifying all at the same time.
Then we found the bat cave, and let’s be clear, it’s not nearly as cool as Christian Bale makes it out to be. For one, Michael Caine wasn’t there with a hot meal, and there was no bat mobile to get me out of there. There were thousands of bats, just, hanging (yep, I went there). In a way they’re quite cute, all cuddled in together and generally grumpy we were shining a light on their nap time. I would be too.
After a swim back at the bungalows we made our way back to the mini bus on a longboat. We had just missed a rain storm, so the wind had picked up and the ride back drenched most of us. At one point I looked up to see that everyone had covered their head and face in a towel. We looked like a group of 90 year old Nona’s on our way to church on a far away island, shielding ourselves from the harshness of the day and attempting to maintain our modesty.
That night I slept a solid 11 hours, which hasn’t happened in as long as I can remember. I think the mental exhaustion of the day knocked me out. Trying to see the rocks in the water we were walking through in an attempt to not be ‘that person’ in the group who snaps an ankle or face plants into a pitch black wall.
One Chang beer, a hot curry and it was Ang out.
Nugget of Wisdom
Always rinse the sweat band of your borrowed torch before use, otherwise it’s bound to stink of the fear of those before you.