On Sunday Evan and I went spelunking. Spe-whatting, you might ask? (I did) Spelunking. It means caving. Exploring underground caves. It was pretty overcast while we were at the cottage on Sunday, so to make the most of our day we were looking for things to do and we stumbled across the Warsaw Caves, which aren’t too far from the cottage.
Neither of us had ever really been caving before, and it seemed like it would be pretty interesting. We also figured if it rained we’d be in the caves so it wouldn’t be a big deal.
Now I assumed Warsaw Caves was using the term “spelunking” loosely. I thought it would be amateur caving. Like we would just leisurely walk through a giant cave. When Evan explained how he pictured the caves, he said he pictured it like this:
Like a cartoon cave. I agreed. We didn’t have high expectations for anything elaborate.
Nope. Nope nope nope. Wrong. It was one of the most insane, intense experiences of my life and I have never done anything like it.
We arrived at Warsaw Caves Conservation Area and saw they were selling headlamps at the gatehouse to the park. We only had a handheld lantern so we asked the girl who was working if a headlamp was necessary, or if we would be okay with our lantern. She looked at the lantern and said “Oh that’ll be fun!” and we thought she said this seriously but in hindsight I’m pretty sure she was being sarcastic. It was a “Oh, that’ll be fun! You won’t be able to see anything, and you’ll definitely need to use both your hands, so a handheld lantern sure does sound like a good idea!” But we did not pick up on this. We didn’t buy the headlamps, and we just went on our merry way with our stupid lantern.
Excitedly though. We were excited. We took a guidebook and noticed there were seven caves in total, and it was when I started reading about each one that I realized we may be a little unprepared for this caving experience (but at least we weren’t in flip-flops).
We arrived at the caves.
The white marker on the tree above marked cave #1, but it looked flat to us, so we were all “where’s the cave?!”
According to the guide book we could “easily enter the cave by either of two large openings,” so we went over to check it out.
Here are the two “large” openings that we had to descend into:
WTF is that and how exactly are we supposed to get in there? Obviously I made Evan go first.
It was pitch black in there, and he needed both of his hands to get down. It was really scary because it had rained the night before and the rocks were very slick (VERY slick), and you had to kind of lower yourself while frantically scraping your feet around to feel for some sort of foothold. Basically you just hoped when you lowered yourself into the darkness that you weren’t immediately going to slip on the rock and fall. Or that some sort of supernatural being living in the cave wasn’t waiting to get you (I’ve seen The Descent, unfortunately). It seemed dangerous, but I told myself it was a touristy area and they wouldn’t let children in there if it was unsafe, so I followed him in. We made it.
It was crazy. The chamber we descended into was maybe three feet high and I could touch all sides around me. I DO NOT recommend this if you are claustrophobic. You will panic. I kept saying to Evan in the first cave “This is not what I was expecting, this is not what I was expecting, why are we doing this, WHY DID I THINK THIS WAS GOING TO BE FUN?!” I try not to use profanity on my blog, but honestly I lost my shit for a minute.
I know I look like I am really enjoying myself in that photo, but I can’t help but smile for the camera. Just can’t stop myself. I don’t know what else to do with my face. Also, white shirt? Bad idea there. I got ridiculously dirty from the rocks. It was impossible not to rub against them. But I made it back out safely.
I should mention that all seven of the caves connected to each other underground, and although we checked all of them out, we did not get to each one underground, because to do that you had to BELLY CRAWL through a tunnel. Belly crawl. Underground. Surrounded by dripping wet rock and probably spiders. In shorts and a t-shirt. No. No no no. That would not be happening. Just getting in there and exploring was enough for me.
If I thought the cave opening for cave #1 was bad, they pretty much got progressively more narrow after that.
After the first cave I got more used to the idea of the whole spelunking thing and I loosened up a little bit, but getting into the caves was still not easy. Well, it was not easy for me anyway, I should speak for myself. Certain, uh, areas of my body liked to get caught on things. But Evan seemed to have no issues.
No fear in that one.
Guess who’s not claustrophobic in the least? Do you want to hear the first line of the description for the cave Evan is entering above? “You will have to wiggle your way into cave #4 feet first.” Sounds like a good time. Oh wait, no it doesn’t. There was also a giant spider at the entrance here (my number one fear), but Evan was on spider removal duty so he took care of that and it was all good. We made it in there.
Seriously, how crazy?
This was probably my favourite cave because the cavern was the largest and it was really cold in there. I’m pretty sure it was hovering around zero, I could definitely see my breath. It was muggy and gross outside, so this was a big relief.
Apparently there’s ice in here also, but I’m pretty sure you have to belly crawl through a tunnel to find it, so again, not happening. The most annoying thing was that I had to squat and I do not like to do that for long periods of time (who does?).
Though this was my favourite cave, I had a bit of a moment in here. We were squatting around and reading the guidebook and it was so dark and I started to think about what I was standing (/squatting) on, and how much rock was above me, and if I needed to get out right at that moment, how was I going to do that? I started to get just a little panicky, but I shimmied my way back over to the entrance area and I was okay.
I think I might take the squatting over the legit planking we had to do in the next cave though. That was awkward.
Again, smiling like a maniac while I’m probably holding in a meltdown.
Cave #5 was the most open and spacious cave, and you could almost stand in there.
There was quite a vertical ascent to get out right behind Evan, so the plan was to climb out there. Keep in mind the rocks are extremely slippery.
I was going to follow him up, or try to, as I’m not sure if I would be able to pull myself up, but then I saw the biggest, dirtiest spider of all time on the rock beside me just after I took this picture. So…
I quickly ran back to the entrance we had come in. Can’t deal with the spiders.
But here’s Evan with his conquest.
There were a few people in the area, but not many people actually went in the caves. As we were leaving we came across a group of people who were clearly from the city, wearing flip flops, carrying purses, and had no lights (not even handheld lanterns), and their plan was to take on the caves. Evan and I did not think this was going to work out well for them, and we told them that straight up. They, like us, didn’t know what they would be getting into, so they appreciated the advice.
I realize a lot of this post is a nightmare city for many people, so even if you don’t want to go in the caves here, it’s still pretty to explore! We did some exploring after the whole cave thing.
And if you don’t get caught in a downpour like we absolutely did, you can have a picnic by a very nice lake that is in the park.
We were exhausted and dirty and absolutely soaked by the time we finished our adventure, but sweet baby Jesus what an adventure it was.
So, the big question. Would I do this again? Yes. I actually think it’s kind of addicting. But I feel like the website was kind of misleading and didn’t convey that this is really real, serious caving. Or at least it is for someone who has never been caving before. It was not a walk in the park. If you’re planning on going here, I have some tips for you:
- Get the headlamp. Bring your own or buy one from the gates, but it is very necessary so your hands are free and you can see what you’re doing.
- Don’t carry anything (umm, like a camera…or sunglasses, I don’t know what I was thinking bringing those)
- YOU WILL GET FILTHY. It is unavoidable. Wear clothes you don’t care about. Probably don’t wear white.
- If I did this again I’d definitely wear pants and long sleeves so that you don’t mind brushing against the rock as much. Pretty sure serious spelunkers wear elbow and knee pads.
- If you are at all claustrophobic, don’t go in the caves. I really am not usually at all, but a few of them really affected me.
- Watch out for the spiders. If possible, find someone who is not afraid of spiders to be on spider-removal duty.
Anyway, that’s all. It was a crazy experience but I’m glad we did it!