Posts Tagged With: claustrophobia

Caves: Who Knew?

I have never really understood the fascination with caves. Dev used to go “caving” when we lived in England, which always involved helmets, flashlights, and lots of dirty clothes. And in my imagination at least, lots of sheer drops, ladders, and narrow, dark tunnels. As inviting as that may sound to some people, it wouldn’t really float my boat. And maybe the caves he went in were like that, and maybe they weren’t; I don’t know. But after yesterday’s trip to Les Grottes de Grande Canalettes, my views on caves have changed quite dramatically.
There were no sheer drops, or at least, I didn’t have to go down any. There were no narrow, dark tunnels. Or again, none that required me to duck. And no ladders of any sort. (I researched extensively beforehand to ensure that this would be the case). In fact, there was nothing even remotely claustrophobic about this enormous, cavernous even, system of caves. Surprisingly, there was nothing scary at all. Except for the oddly deformed cat that was hobbling drunkenly around the gift shop after us at the end of our visit. Now that was scary.
Anyway, back to the caves. Saying they were amazing is so inadequate. I can’t think of anything that has filled me with such awe. And we’ve been to some awe inspiring places over the last couple of months. The beginning of the caves is a pathway of tunnels that were hollowed out by underground rivers millions of years ago. You can see the rushing water in your mind and imagine it carving away at the rock, millimeter by millimeter over the years. There are some stalagmites and stalactites here, and it’s really cool to see the water dripping onto the stalagmite, building it up even more. The kids held their fingers under the water and swore they grew!
But it’s when you get through these tunnels and come into the first of the chambers that it becomes suddenly mind-blowing. I can’t really describe it – in this case, the pictures will have to speak 1000 words. But the sheer vastness of the chambers, the columns of calcification that you can’t even wrap your arms around, the 30 foot high stalagmite towers, and the thousands of icicle-like stalactites hanging from the ceilings are just so unbelievably impressive. And they just keep getting more impressive as you move along. The chambers get bigger and bigger, you come across a lake full of cauliflower shaped calcifications, there are draperies of mineral deposit like lasagne noodles stretched across the ceilings, and the colours of the columns change depending on the prevalent mineral, from the pure white of lime, to iron red, and manganese black.
And finally, as you climb up to the most enormous chamber of all, it’s just everything. Everything combined and more. Accompanied by coloured lighting and classical music, we sit on benches here and just take it in. Weirdly, this is one of the most spiritual experiences I think I have ever had. Maybe it’s just the realization that you are sitting under a mountain in a cavern that has been shaped by Mother Nature over millions of years. Or you feel the presence of an omniscient being in such stunning, yet completely natural phenomenon. I don’t know, but it makes you feel very small and insignificant. Such a minute part of this vast, incredible world.
In any case, I’m a cave convert. Obviously.
Oh, and the educational implications….just an afterthought really, but still. Our oldest said it was one of the most amazing things she has ever seen. She wouldn’t let any of us speak as we went through! The middle one said, “Did you take a picture of this?” approximately every 4 seconds, so we’ll assume she concurs. And pearls of wisdom from the youngest? “This place would be so much better if it had burgers and fries you could eat on the way around”, and “This opera is giving me a headache”. Oh, well, you know what they say – two out of three ain’t bad.







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