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Monday, 30 June 2014

A little bit of caving



The winding staircase of Scărişoara Cave
Caving is listed as an extreme sport. Commercial caving is obviously not.
Depending on people and activities, one usually starts at one extreme to end up at the other. Then again, those keen on experiencing may choose only a few favourites amongst the multitude of adventure sports on offer. I am one of them and getting the hang of one of these risky endeavours equals picking out the same candy over and over again; at first, you are dying to get a feel of its incredible taste, but – as time goes by and as you get used to it –, you get to savour it and discover different and surprising accents and nuances. It can also leave you with a craving for many unknown flavours.
Craving, caving… ah well…
We started (very) commercially with Peştera Urşilor [The Bears’ Cave]. The cave is beautiful – not as beautiful as I remembered it from some postcards I’d seen in childhood, though –, but it’s worth a visit. I would however discourage you to visit on national holidays and at weekends. The crowds will certainly take a great deal of the cave’s charm away and not leave you wanting for more. I was talking about starting small, remember?...
The show had to go on and the optimistic voice inside encouraged me to continue the search. Scărişoara Cave was next on our list. From the start [i.e. going down the circular ‘staircase’ to the underground glacier], I realised that I was dealing with a whole different game. Green, wild, and cooler by the step. This seemed to be the line of the moment. Impressive views would be soon unveiling down below and gleams of ice would catch the corner of the eye in the almost complete, but pleasant darkness. My good moods were back.
Leaving Vârtop Cave
…which leaves me with the last cave explored, this time around. ‘It is an adventure cave, you will love it’ – hmm, the words of the cave curator for Apuseni National Park were whetting my appetite, that’s for sure. I didn’t mind the bumpy road to Casa de Piatră Village or the many minutes it took. I was simply curious. The bad moods would however return, together with a short story. I knew my lessons well: stop at the first house with a blue rooftop, enter, get the guide, and walk together to the cave. We were greeted by a grumpy and commanding older guy, accompanied by his wife. He was parking his car and letting us know that the guide was already at the cave, that we should get warmer coats (d’oh!) and flashlights and even repeated these warnings. At least, this is how they sounded. A proud character myself, I told him to let us be, but in a rather polite and cool manner. As I started walking to the cave together with Marcel and as I didn’t notice any signs, I followed my hunch and continued straight ahead. The older guy whistled and waived at us; apparently, the road to the cave was up the hill. He was damn annoying and I couldn’t stand him, but he had informed us in the parking lot that he’d been to the cave twice before. Younger and fitter, we reached the top of the hill in no time, leaving him and his wife behind. No cave or sign was to be found. What now? I turned my data connection on. We had reception! We were pretty close to the cave, but irrespective of the direction we took, we would only get farther away from it. In the end, the two older guys reached us and he proposed to take a small path to our right. I wasn’t convinced. I preferred to sit and browse the net. I managed to find the numbers of the cave curators for Apuseni National Park. One of the two guys was reachable, gave us the number of the guide, and… take a wild guess! I had been right taking the road straight ahead all along. Marcel came to me and whispered: ‘You were right in grasping those nasty vibes about that man’… I nodded, as he went and informed the two [they had already returned from the path to our right] on the correct route. We continued happily and confidently. Not even the slippery mud on the rocks would stop us. At the end of the path, we found a bunch of grumpy youngsters waiting to visit the cave. Peştera Gheţarul Vârtop [Vârtop Glacier Cave] is its name, by the way. I didn’t care anymore. I only felt restless. A merry and chubby guide returned from the cave in about twenty minutes. We were handed flashlights, we signed that we were going in on our own risk, and the games were on! The rocks at the entrance were soon followed by slippery limestone, narrow corridors, beautiful formations, and a much more adventurous feel. This was what I was looking for! Adventure vs. commercial. An intriguing experience, because it left me pondering over whether to start buying caving equipment or not. Needless to say that my know-it-all ‘friend’ didn’t make it to the cave.             

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