Cavern Exploration


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Published: September 2nd 2014
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Trust, submission, surrender, yielding; all words that I detest. To say I hate giving up control is an understatement; I see it like handing over the reins and being driven off a cliff.

But when you’re caving, there are no cliffs, just endless holes that lead to the belly of the earth and since I have no sense of direction underground and there’s no map to follow, I indeed do have to surrender to the greater knowledge of my guides. Imagine how that feels.

For this lesson in surrender we find ourselves in Waitomo. Not much to look at above ground but once you squeeze yourself through a hobbit-sized hole there are massive caves in which to go exploring. The area used to be underwater, when New Zealand was nothing but a small rock in a large ocean. After thousands of years, bones and sediments were compacted to create limestone and when the god Maui hooked the North Island and pulled it out of the ocean, waters receded and what was left was a labyrinth of underground passageways and rivers. Basically an amusement park for crazy adrenaline junkies.

Even though I am hardly one of those types, I
still must be outfitted for my underground adventures. First you put on a wet suit that looks really lovely on everyone. I requested one for “larger thighs” but I think my guide and I had different understandings of what larger meant. Anyhow, sexy gear with wellies and helmet included, and you’re ready for caving. Normal caves, to my reckoning have a great big gaping hole that you walk into, paved pathways and illuminated features. Not so much in Waitomo. A small break in the ground barely wide enough for the skinny bean Austrian to fit through and in the blink of an eye the sunlight disappears, headlamps come on and the sound of rushing water reverberates off the walls and fills your ears.

One step in and freezing cold water, so cold your skin starts tingling fills your boots and your wet suit goes to work. Footing is uneven, rocks are sharp, stalactites bump you in the head, stalagmites hit you in the shin, and it’s all good fun. You’re guided down passageways where rocks are sweating water in some and jagged as dragon’s teeth in others, and once you switch off your light the cave comes to life
in the steady blue pulse of the glow worms. (On a side note, I recently learned that glow worms are not, in fact, worms at all but are actually maggots. And their glow, though beautiful, is a byproduct of them taking a dump. Mystery ruined.) If you’re a good opera singer, there’s a chance to show off your skills in the aria tunnel while you float on a tube, your voice echoing across the open space, bouncing back and forth, light and airy with the ceiling far above alive with glow maggots. There’s also a chance to simulate birth, though not the pre-birth activities mind you, by crawling through a narrow passage without a headlamp on. Now to say that it’s a tight squeeze isn’t quite accurate: you and the rock are one and it feels more like you’re just pushing the rock along behind you instead of pushing yourself through the tunnel. I for one am glad I can’t remember actually being born; I think it would be quite traumatizing.

All in all, it’s a completely different world. No sunlight, no wind, just those scary, unknown sounds that are part of life beneath the ground. When you hear
the words “keep going till you see sunlight”, there’s a lump in your throat like a quivering nerve that you can’t suppress till that golden green ray of light is glimpsed. And as you step up and out, the air is a thousand times sweeter and a thousand degrees warmer, and you’re led like the sunflower in summer out into the bright afternoon light.

This experience for me, as I said before, was simply a lesson in submission. Going beneath the ground is much like me exploring the darker sides of my faithless existence: it’s frightening, unknown, and I haven’t got a map but I still have to attempt the trip. And if I follow where the passageway leads me, trusting that eventually and through it all I will discover a way out, then Love will reveal the divine within.


Submit to love without thinking, as the sun rose this morning recklessly extinguishing our star-candle minds.


Because I do believe that divinity lies within. It simply needs to be discovered. So with wet suit and wellies, head lamp lit and Love as my guide, I’m off to explore the caverns of my soul with my mystic’s voice echoing in the darkness:


Human beings, you have a great value inside your form, a seed. Be led by the rose inside the rose.




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