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Published: March 10th 2015
Last week's visit to the poort, the pass and Prince Albert included a visit into the belly of the earth, to the Cango Caves near Oudtshoorn (the ostrich farm region)
That was quite a visit. First because I had to rush to catch the start of the guided tour.... it's not a DIY kind of place. That meant I had 2 minutes flat upon arrival at the reception area, to buy a ticket then run up three levels of long sloping inclines to the start point at the entrance to the caves. I was out of breath and barely breathing but I got there just as the young woman, our guide, started her introduction.
It was a well thought out tour..... It begins with all lights being switched off leaving you in a pitch black hole except for a tiny red speck of light in a far corner against the wall .....to give you the sense of what the first person to enter the caves 200 years ago experienced ....he was lowered by a rope from the cave entrance, holding a little lantern. In truth, the cave was known for centuries to the Bushmen who revered it
as holding the spirits of the ancestors, and out of reverence they never entered the sacred space, approaching only as close as the cave mouth. So, guess who came along later and climbed in, but saw only darkness for his trouble.
The first chamber is huge. 97 meters long and 20 meters tall. The cave system itself is enormously big. The tour has two stages. For one hour, the Heritage tour descends the first 600 meters. The continuation descends another 600 meters and is called the Adventure tour. That last part requires severe contortions like crawling on your belly to slither through narrow passes etc. in fact in 2013 a woman got stuck at the point fondly known as The Postbox (27x30cm). Not content with getting stuck, and against the orders she was given, she struggled .... becoming more and more wedged into place the more she struggled. Nightmare. Not to mention trapping the rest of the group on the INSIDE chamber. So yes, nobody could get out of the lower cave at 96* and without water, for ELEVEN HOURS! Not a good advertisement. Cango need to implement the hand luggage dimensions check like the airlines use and BAN
FOR LIFE anybody who cannot fit in the box.
I learned something new.... In addition to stalacTites and stalagMites there is another formation called a Downflow which is formed directly off a wall face. Stalactites and mites form by free fall dripping from the cave roof to the floor below. Using effective lighting, our guide illuminated the areas and gave us stories about the formations. In one chamber we were shown Neville the Devil across the hall from the Book, the cross and the wings (of an angel of course).
An interesting aside, in the 1960s a platform was set up just inside the cave entrance in the main chamber. Every year the Passion Play was performed because the acoustics were so good. Hundreds of persons came to the shows. The practice was stopped in1964 because so many of those noble concert goers were breaking off pieces of the various forms to take away as souvenirs. Much damage was done to the main chamber, large formations destroyed.
The Caves are not a place that photographs well with an iPad. So I have memories and anecdotes but few photos to share.
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