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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Cave Adventures

I can’t stop thinking about the caves we’ve been exploring in Laos. I am obsessed with caves. Here are three descriptions of some caves we explored a week ago when we were in Vang Vieng.

I. This first cave started with crouching through a small hole in the wall of a mountain. We didn’t actually know what this strange hole was going to lead to, but we decided to go in anyway. Eventually, it lead us to a more open space with a ladder, which we started to climb. We were very unprepared obviously, which meant our group of 12 only had three headlamps, which made the cave even more spooky. There were mud handprints all over the walls and some people who had been here before us wrote their names in mud too. The clay on the caves walls were very slippery and wet, and the walls themselves were pretty small. But we kept going forward into the darkness, and it went on for a while. Some parts of the cave had mineral deposits that shimmered and sparkled in the light which was very beautiful, and when we got to the end of the cave, there were smaller tunnel entrances that led even deeper! Jeff said to me “Hey, you’re small!” and somehow I ended up having my feet pushed into the mud wall so I could stick my head through to see how much further it went. I saw several crickety-spider things inside, and did not want to go further. After this, I wanted to climb up one of the mud walls of the cave to sit on a perch maybe two or three meters above. Thomas was spotting me, but somehow when I reached the place where I had to hoist myself up, my upper body strength was not cooperating. My lower body lay dangling off, and people were screaming at me to just push myself up, but I really couldn’t, so I just dangled there laughing (all of this noise was echoing through the cave as well). Eventually a couple of people were able to shove me up to the top where I could roll onto the perch, not without struggle though. I’ve been eating a lot of rice on this trip.

II. This second cave was huge and more visited, and because it had some lighting so we could see the shimmery limestone all over. There were very abstract structures all over the walls and ceiling and floor, and we walked through a paved path. This cave was huge, an extremely open and wide space to walk through, with a very high ceiling. There was one dark part of the cave, the no entrance zone, which Jeff logically concluded there must be a dragon living there. We sat there in silence, and it was the most quiet I have ever been in before. It was so quiet, I could hear my heart beating and ears ringing. It felt like the walls were absorbing sound. We left soon after because it was closing soon, and when I started to walk out of the exit, the man working there flipped off all the lights with a single switch, leaving the cave in total and complete darkness.

III. The last cave we explored that day was pure magic. It was a cave that began from a swimming hole, which lots of local Lao kids were splashing and playing in. We swam into it and there were some holes in the ceiling that light could come into. But then there were some other tunnels that looked like completely black holes leading into darkness. We grabbed a headlamp and started to swim in, further and further until we were very very deep. The water was blue, and so deep you couldn’t see the bottom. There were also underwater tunnels that we saw with our light that I can only assume went as deep as the tunnel we were in at the moment. The walls were sharp limestone, which we clinged onto when taking a break to explore and see certain areas. Noah brought his underwater camera with him, and we all rested on some rocks, turned off our headlamps, and he turned on his camera flash underwater. All the water around us glowed a bright, icy blue glow, which we were enveloped in. We stayed quiet for a few minutes and it was completely silent besides some strange loud booming noises that were coming from way deeper in the cave…