Welcome to this week’s That One Time In – the feature where fellow travelers share their stories of travel, adventure and everything in between. If you would like to take part please get in touch – email@example.com or @WhereinWorldKP – I would love to hear from you!
This week’s That One Time In features Monica from Globe Trottica on her adventures spelunking in Swaziland! This is her story:
My vision was obscured by someone’s ass right in front of my face. The spot light from my helmet shone on them, forcing me to stare since I couldn’t look anywhere else. The walls around me were muddied brown, and my fingernails had turned three shades darker from the dirt. My forearms dragged on the ground, pulling me forward as my knees ached from crawling on the hard ground for the past few minutes.
I was caving in Swaziland with Swazi Trails. We were deep in the Gobholo Cave; the air around me got harder to breathe and claustrophobia started slowly setting in.
Before I knew it, we were standing up again. My guide shone his light on a cluster of bats sleeping against a wall. I felt my skin crawl; I had no idea what I would have done if they all decided to wake up in that moment and fly towards me.
“Now, we are going to all step up here, and, one at a time, go through the hole to see the rushing water.”
The hole to the water was tiny. One at a time, we each stepped into it. The walls around me closed in as I shone my light on the rushing water underneath the cave. It was truly magical, the rushing water echoed against the dense space and seemed to grow in intensity the longer I stayed down there. Okay, I think this is enough, I thought. With my luck I would have managed to get myself stuck in there.
When we had all seen the river, our tour guide spoke again.
“All of you please turn off your lights.”
One at a time we turned off our helmet lights until my tour guide’s was the only one that was on.
“Now, I want you all to find me using your senses. Use your senses to guide you!”
At that moment, he jumped into the air, turning off his light. My last image of him was his smiling face as he leaped off a rock to who-knows-where, leaving us all there, stranded.
Darkness crept around me. I couldn’t see anything. I put my hand an inch in front of my face and couldn’t even see that. I had never experienced that kind of darkness in my life, and wasn’t planning on experiencing it again anytime soon. I opened my eyes as wide as they could go, and still, couldn’t see anything. It was such a strange experience being in that amount of darkness with my eyes still open.
A few seconds later, I heard a quiet voice echo from what sounded like far away, “use your senses to guide you!”
The five of us were too stunned to do anything.
“Where did he go?!” I said, my voice ricocheting off of the walls and sounding louder than intended.
Then I heard it again, “your senses! Look for my light!” A dim light shone through an opening in the ground where he had escaped to.
I made sure to go second. I did not want to be first, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to be last.
“I feel like I’m going to break something if we keep our lights off,” my friend said, turning on his light. I was immediately relieved.
I turned mine on, following him as he shimmied his way through a tiny opening in between two rocks. We crawled for a few moments until we came through another opening where my tour guide was.
“How was it?” He said, enthusiastically. All I managed was a smile and a nod.
We walked in a straight line through the cave for a little while. Suddenly, my tour guide stopped again. Oh jeez, I thought, now what are we doing?
“There is a big gap here. You’re going to need to get a running start, jump up, and grab onto this rock. I will be there to catch your arm and help pull you up.”
He went first. He jumped up with some super human strength and grabbed onto the rock, hoisting himself up. My friend went next, who is a good foot taller than me, with no problems.
Then it was my turn. I wiped my sweaty palms on my pants, getting ready to leap. Will all my energy, I jumped upwards, grabbed onto the rock, and felt a sign of relief when I felt my tour guide’s hands on my arms.
“Good, good!” He said. I smiled again, wondering if there were going to be any more sudden surprises.
Upon leaving, I thought I would never be happier to see sunlight again. I had completely forgotten that we started the hike to the cave in the late afternoon. After popping out of the cave, it was the middle of the night, completely dark. We then had a forty minute hike through the dense woods back to the beginning, using our lights to guide us. Luckily, we were headed to a hot spring in Ezulwini Valley to relax and indulge in a copious amount of pizza!
It was an exhilarating adventure that I will never forget.
Author’s Bio: Monica is a part-time wanderer, full-time dreamer that prefers living out of a backpack to literally anything else. Most of the time, you’ll catch her either looking up flights or writing in her journal. Follow her journey around the globe as she finds the strange, the beautiful, and the ugly at www.globe-trottica.com, where she hopes to inspire you to do the same.
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