Early start, left the Villa by 10am and were soon wiggling our way up the fantastic bends of the C710, then down towards Sa Compana - flying over the beautiful Scalextric inspired 270 degree bridge bend. We were faffing with rucksacks in the pull-in when an enormous "Mountain Police" 4x4 roared up, and three men in oh-so-tight lycra dived out clutching gleaming tackle bags of prepacked kit. Gerardo applied his language skills, and discovered that these three men in tights were three eighths of the entire Cave Rescue Organisation for the Balearic Islands, doing a light spot of training for the day. They shot up the mountainside, we waddled slowly after them; following the many cairns along the ridge walk, then the vast quantities of red spray paint around to the entrance. The limestone was sharp but grippy; though if you stumbled on the scree - it was an awful long way to the valley floor!
Catching them up at the entrance, we eyed up each other changing with equal amusement / bemusement; us with disbelief at their shiny entirely scratch-free Pretzl metalwork, them at the sight of finest Yorkshire mud that we had imported into the country. I really wonder whether UK cavers have an entirely inverted [jaundiced?] view of caving equipment compared to the rest of the world; we view new + shiny kit with suspicion and an assumption of inexperience, the continent sees inexperience in not keeping every item gleaming and serviced.
Entrance pitch was a pleasant daylight 10m abseil down a steep slope, into what would be a very large chamber indeed for the UK - something you could easily squeeze Beit into. Once everyone was safely down, we wandered around the corner into the cave itself.
Big doesn't even start to describe it. Enormous formations, stalagmites and flow stone (a smooth calcite deposit) larger than houses, curtains (lines of moulded together stalactites) larger than facade on Oxford Street, gour pools (crystal pools formed by water dropping onto flow stone) more at home on Brighton beach. Amazing stuff; we orbited the little tea-lights showing our path back out the chamber, calling to each other across the many-second echo and generally exploring this wholly out of the world landscape. The chamber is the size of 4 football pitches side by side, and tall enough to consume the Blackett laboratory.
We continued down on rope, along a 60m long piece of smooth flow stone that started out horizontal, then got steadily steeper till almost vertical - not a place for the unwary! Just beyond, there is a little muddy chamber, absolutely filled with candles from previous cave trips sitting on little stumpy garden-gnome like stal. We cracked open our Darren drum of baguettes; a very pleasant lunch by candlelight!
Just beyond, the rest of the extensive cave is reached via crawling through a gap not much larger than a tv, and here you can notice the very strange 'breathing' of the cave. Three seconds breathe in, two seconds hold, three seconds breath out. The very bottom of the cave is just three metres above sea level, and it is believed that there is a submarine tunnel too small for a human (or merely as yet undiscovered) connecting the two - resulting in the Mediterranean waves causing air to be sucked in and out. Truly a freak of nature!
The Speedy Spaniards soon overtook us coming the other way; after sorting out the inevitable cats-cradle of rigging when two groups do the same cave, we decided it was getting late & so started our ascent. It was Gerardo & Pella's first SRT [Rope] trip, so progress was fairly sedate but very pleasant - lots of whistling to the Prussickers, loitering on the rebelay ledge and lighting candles!
Sunshine was glorious as we exited; gobbling Bananas and L's seemingly endless supply of Haribo before ambling along the 90 minutes of steep mountain back to our cars. We drove the last couple of klicks to the seaside resort, sitting outside for a coffee in the gathering twilight. While having a hopping race from the beachfront back to the cars, we bumped into the Rescuers staying in the resort overnight; managing a stilted conversation about the size and impressiveness of the cave while pretending not to huff and puff from our wacky race.
ICCC is planing to run one last weekend trip this year suitable for first-timers - exact date TBA, but some time in June - see our website for more info! http://union.ic.ac.uk/cavingrequire('../footer.php'); ?>