Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Our first caving adventure in Zatyzine, Ukraine

We planned to go hiking on the Ukraine Independence Holiday weekend with our CS host, Andrii in Ivano Frankivsk, however, as a mountain guide, he suddenly got a job appointment for a 3 days trip in the Carpathian mountain.  

To our pleasant surprise, Andrii introduced and arranged us to spend our weekend with his friends, a couple who moved to the mountain in Zatyzine, some 2 hours drive away.
We were accompanied by another CS-er from Hong Kong, who was staying with Andrii on the same night. And Chin Wang is the first Hong Kong couchsurfer we met on our trip.

Jeremy waited for us at the bus stop and we were led into the mountain, among bushes and forest. After walking for about 20 minutes, we finally arrived their cozy little house among the forest, with only one or two neighbors afar.

Jeremy and Svitlana are excited to have guests and are very happy to meet us. 

They believed in the benefit of eating food uncooked and preferred eating everything raw including meat and vegetables. Hence, our first lunch together was salad and bread.
We had some exchange and learnt that  the couple are speleologist, serious cavers who had spent as long as one week continuously underground! They took almost a whole year making maps of their cave, discovering virgin passages and naming them with their team. They moved to the mountain for the love of caves and nature. 

In fact, there are many caves in Ukraine, especially in that area. We are told that when there is a patch of trees in the middle of the farm field, it means there is a cave underground! As they cannot harvest in a hole. 

After lunch, they took us out to explore some gypsum caves nearby. 

We are advised to wear enough warm clothes and something that can get dirty, with hiking boots ideally, plus head lamp. 

Svitlana is the one who led her husband into caving and she is also a cave guide, who take amateur spelunkers to caving adventure. She is very educational in teaching us about the structure of caves, how to move our body inside the cave safely, how to use equipments for cave diving and how to preserve the minerals, by not touching them. 

We hiked around the mountain after a short drive from their home and there are more than five caves at least. Unfortunately, they were covered by mud and trash, until we found a clean entrance that is more deserted.  Svitlana is an adventurer, she is always the first one trying to get in and explore how it is like.  After a few attempt, she eventually  found one in a good condition for beginners, like us, to try. 

The entrance of the cave was small and the path that followed was even smaller.  We have to squeeze ourselves in.  There were some 10cm big spiders inside the cave, near the entrance, then some baby bats. But further inside, there were only rocks, crystals without insects nor animals.   Moving further in, there was a really difficult part that need to crawl like a worm, then we have to climb down by 1.5m to find a wide open area. We climbed one by one slowly, while Adley came last.  We were all standing in the cave looking, but he suddenly fell down among us! Luckily, there was no injury! Just cramp.

It was a wonderful experience to try caving, the cave was dark, cool and quiet. In fact, it was the same cool temperature all through the year, somewhere around 15 degree Celsius I suppose. But I can't imagine living inside the cave for a whole week!  I appreciate the calmness inside the cave but I can't wait coming outside to see the sun.  

We tried a second one with a huge entrance and not very deep inside. That's quite enough for me for my first time and all I can think of are: hot shower, laundry and a warm dinner!

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