Published: March 18th 2011March 18th 2011
I woke up in a much better mood. I also woke up in a different tent – G’s. In my mood yesterday I couldn’t do with putting my tent up so asked if I share with G the previous night.
Anyway my feet were showing signs of improvement already.
Today’s drive saw us start climbing some mountains, and provided the perfect scenery for our lunch. We stopped just short of Guadalope Mountains National Park. These are situated near salt flats on the Western side of Texas.
The rest stop was just a layby with a picnic area, surrounded by rocks and the backdrop was the mountains of the National Park. Looking down at where we had come from, there is a view of vast openness as you can see the Salt Basin far below. It really was breathtaking. And we are the only ones there. Barely any other traffic passed us in 10 minutes, and when a truck did, we got the driver to pull his horn.
There was no rush to get lunch done with and head on, as our next stop, Carlsbad wasn’t too far away, so we even tried to be inventive with our group photo, climbing one
of the ledges surrounding the picnic area and standing in a group, whilst Neal desperately tried to set his timer and climb the ledge to join us in time. We just about pulled it off, all striking different poises, so much so that we even dared to try some adventurous. At the right moment, we were all jumping in the air as the photo was taken (and Neal had raced up the ledge to then jump up!) Needless to say we didn't get it first time, and it took us another 3 or 4 attempts before we got the timing right. But when we did, it made for one of those unique, awesome picture.
When we hit the road again, we headed on to Carlsbad, and I’m pleased to say that after 5 days we had now crossed Texas and had entered a new state in New Mexico.
When we reached the site, we were giving the plots right by the entrance and main building. Tents had been erected and dinner preparations had started, but there was plenty of time to kill so the rest of us check out the building and also get some laundry done. At the
back was a games room, with foosball, table tennis, plenty of arcade games, and a pool table. I ended up playing Graham, and so badly wanted to beat him after the other night. The 3 games got very intense, going back and forth, but I came out on top 2-1.
Soon after we headed to Carlsbad Caverns, not before being held up by more road works on the main road to the Caverns. Todd advised us that Barack decided that more funding should be given to all the State and National Parks, who all seemed to decide to spent it on road improvements. It’s even worse as summer is the only suitable time for them to be done, so there was a lot of waiting around for long periods of time as traffic from the other way slowly gets lead by pilot cars along the winding roads. Sadly these roadworks aren’t small, and the Parks are considerably huge.
Carlsbad Caverns is a National Park with its main attraction being the Caverns down below which can be reached either by the natural entrance, or the elevators at the visitor centre. Todd told us that socks and strong toed
shoes needed to be worn in the caves, so when we parked up, everyone booted up. This was the first time that I had worn socks and shoes since my swollen feet, so it took me a little longer than everyone else.
At first when we walked to the visitor centre, I just about felt fine apart from the odd itch here and there. When we got our tickets and were rounded up by one of the rangers to the briefing area just outside the centre before the caves, that’s when it all became too much. Just standing there listening to the briefing was causing me pain, with my feet too hot and swollen to walk properly. In the end I had to head back to the centre and take the elevator down to the caves. The entrance and part of the caves I would miss take about an hour to walk. An hour I don’t think I could take.
When I arrived in the caves, there’s little instruction or signs, and after a few minutes, I followed one trail that seems to lead to somewhere other than the toilets or a gift shop. Only in America is there a
gift shop inside underground caves. I was soon thankful for the tour as it was so cool and refreshing down below (as you’d expect for caves!) that my feet no longer hurt, and I could walk more comfortably. I went down with the mindset that I couldn’t walk too far otherwise the others would think I was being lazy and getting out of more walking, but as soon as you get into the main chamber you either had to commit to the tour or turn back and head back up with the elevator.
I decided to carry on walking and came across some awesome and spectacular sights of 117 known caves, all formed when the sulphuric acid dissolves the surrounding limestone. I must have taken 250+ pictures down there, and even get caught up by Sarah, who wasn’t that interested at stopping at each spot to take photos.
We left the caves and headed back to camp for dinner, but returned just as the sun was beginning to set to witness a pretty spectacular experience. We passed the visitor centre and headed to the amphitheatre just before the natural entrance. There was a Ranger already taken to the quickly
growing audience about one subject – bats. Here we got confirmation that bats aren’t actually deaf and that they have to eat about 5 buckets of insects for a proper meal. And that’s the reason why we were here now –the hunt. Only after the sun goes down and its pitch black do the bats leave the cave and go hunting for food.
The wait is drawing out, even so long that the Ranger, who seems to know a lot about bats, was struggling to fill time.
Then suddenly a special sensor is set off, and all electronic equipment is shut off to stop interference with the bats. The seconds and minutes passed, then finally the first bats escaped into the dark night, although we struggled to see them, with only the moonlight helping. In the end 500,000 bats left the cave taking around an hour or more and the sky was now partly blocked out by these small winged creatures. They just kept on coming, even after we were finally summoned away by the Rangers as the show ended and we all had to leave again.
Then on the journey back to camp, a firestorm is seen in the distance, capping off a awesome evening.