23 December 2009

Caving can be done modestly

I'm still convinced the Caving group can even top last week's trip. But this week was not the time for it. This time we would keep a low profile, and leasurely walk the even grounds of some local abandoned railway tunnels. I presume they owe their existence to Brunel, but I'm not sure.

Picture by Dave

The tunnels were only a few minutes on biycle away from me. Excellent! No need for cumbersome hauling around of cars. But a completely different challenge this time; as the careful reader might have noticed, I travel to such gatherings in alliance with Neil. And he's a Brit. And the Dutch may not appreciate what a non-biking people the Brits are. It is unbelievable. And though Neil is typical in the sense that I never heard of him in association with a bike, he is atypical in the sense that he has a penchant for doing unusual things that his compatriots tend to discard as uncomfortable and ridiculous. So I offered him the use of my spare bike. And he accepted!

Stared at as if I was the world's most skillful juggler, but a shrieking madwoman in a straightjacket at the same time, I biked with two bikes towards Neil's place. There was time for some tea, and some exchange of caving pictures, before we set off. And it must have been a bit like the trip to Wheal Fanny, but then the other way around; for one of us the transport there was all in a day's work, but the other was out of habitat, and a bit apprehensive. And justly: the roads were icy. Neil pulled off his Plymouth biking debut almost like a Dutchman, though, and without incidents we reached the meeting point, which we recognised by almost colliding with Dave and Dave. Soon afterwards Dave also showed  up, and then the waiting was only for Rupert.

Picture again by Dave. The whole lower row consists of Daves, but the middle one is the one responsible for all the beautiful pictures.

When he appeared we could go. I thought the caving group had keys to all closed off tunnels in the West Country, but that apparently was naive; Dave had brought a ladder, and soon I found out why. We used it for scaling one closed fence, and squeezed through the next, somewhat less carefully closed one. These tunnels were obviously in use by some scoundrels as garbage dumps and places for burning random objects, but a bit further in they were acceptably pristine. In several places the humid climate had teamed up with the mortar to create dripstone formations worth photographing, even within the timespan of British rail traffic.

Dripstone formations as Dave sees them

And as I see them, with my modest camera

My camera could only do so much, but Dave had, as he generally does, brought some slave flashes, and these allowed some overview pictures. In a cave you're nowhere without slave flashes, so in the new year I hope to join the legion of slave commanders. Without that the dark and the often dusty, or drippy, air frustrates many attempts at catching the magical atmospheres.

With a modest camera you develop an eye for detail

At some not too drippy place we, again, settled down for a small christmas celebration. This time the whisky came out! The advantage of being able to bike in. And after having managed to scale these fences again, and making it to the pub, we could add some beer to the whisky. The pub was empty apart from us, the bar lady, and a very charming and playful dog. He liked the game of wrestling for a rubber bone, all jerking and growling and whatnot, a game I like too, so now I think the cavers too think I'm mad, but well, I might just as well get used to that.

We had biked in, yet we did not bike out. The other cavers thought the amount of ice on the road was such that we shouldn't. How that means driving cars is reponsible is lost on me, but all these Daves (and Rupert) get away wth it anyway. So one Dave drove the bikes to my place, while we hitched a ride with the other two Daves. Very luxurious! Caving for ladies and gentlemen this week. The new year will bring more of the barbaric version, I trust!

No comments: