Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The De-scent

I recieved an invitation from Alan, a friend from Raleigh International, to join a cave exploration to Batu Caves, an outing organized by the Malaysian Nature Society. When you're stuck doing nine to six and the last definition of dirt you had was the delicate hand lotion-y fingerprint blurring your bespectacled vision, you know it's about time to get out there and start remembering how life is meant to be lived.

As advised, I pack my extra set of clothes, water bottle, torchlight and resignedly mandatory inhaler, and head off for some Saturday morning madness.

My long overdue re-acquiantance with Batu Caves is emphasized by my memory of the steps being a lot bigger than they were the last time I visited.


Entrance to the Temple Cave


A total of 272 steps: making athletes out of Hindu devotees for over a century.


The world's tallest statue of Lord Murugan, standing at 140 feet. I am unaware that it was unveiled just weeks before.


Contemplative macaque monkey.


Our trip focuses on scouring the Dark Cave, a restricted access area.


We are led into the cave by a few members of MNS, including Darren, who works full-time in a bank and moonlights as a spelunker. I take a perverse liking to his shin pads.

There is another woman decked out in hardcore caving gear. I think it was quite nifty that her helmet had 'MINER' labelled on the side. That is before I hear her name being really called out as Min Er.


Cave dogs possess some of the sexiest bodies in existence.

The guides lead the 25 participants into the cave, the screeching of bats omnipresent. We step into soft ground. I reach down to run the feathery texture through my fingers. "What you are stepping on is guano - bat poo - and it's highly sought after as fertilizer," I then hear Darren explain. I stiffen while the other participants giggle over my head.

We are split into small groups and probe deeper into the caverns until we are in complete darkness. We trudge along stone pathways, and I turn my torchlight to the floor to see hundreds of small cockroaches scrambling for their lives. It is inevitable to avoid all of them. I cringe partially out of critter-loving compassion, partially out of a slight case of heebie jeebies.

Our group leader Darren shows us around with the deftness of a real estate agent pitching the latest innovations in natural property development. He warns us not to touch any formations, no matter how intruiging, as human intervention has led to the disentigration of many promising masterpieces.


Stalagmite in the making.


Stone formation


Temptations run high in my fingernails.


Malaysian crystal, apparently worth jack.

There are some chambers that are rich in silence, and Darren sits us down for a little 'meditation' break. We switch off all our torchlights and stay completely silent for a few minutes, the energy encircling us making our ears ring.

We move on into a few more small cavities, signatures of past explorers etched into the walls. I even see messages dating back as far as the 1940s, when according to Darren, the caverns were used as training ground for communists.


Even the darkest corners of the earth are not spared from the art of vandalism.


Jaws of the abyss


The one they call 'Little John', explanation unnecessary.


A gour pool


The antithesis of artificial intelligence.

We reach a resting point, above us a large crevice allows a hint of sunlight in to bathe us in color again. We take a quick breather and leave our bags and cameras here... No more tourist-friendly terrain from here on in.


Take me to your leader

We enter a gargantuan chamber, where we hear the distant roar of a waterfall. We are lucky enough to encounter a 2-metre long cave racer snake, stretching itself languidly atop a large rock at a safe distance from us. It is here that we also see cave centipedes scuttling across the walls on their legs of threateningly sensuous length.


The roar grows in resonance as we walk further in. The ground is a bright orange goo. A soft breeze teases the fine hairs on our arms; the air is soaked with the acrid stench of burnt plastic. Darren does the silence test again. Torchlights are switched off and mouths are zipped shut. I suddenly start feeling a little edgy.

Darren turns on his head torch and I cower at the mass of flying mammals darting just a few feet above our heads. There are bats by the thousands. The stench is the guano. The roar is the flapping of their wings. The wind is from the same source. The asthmatic in me writhes in intolerable pain.

We leave the chamber and follow Darren until we reach a part that narrows itself into a dank tunnel.

"Ah, it's a good thing it's a wet day," Darren quips as he crouches down and pats the ochre puddles at his feet. "Who's first?"

Being the macho retard I am, I step forward and follow him in. My hands and knees sink into craggy wetness. The walls close in, and a shiver rushes down my legs as I my belly embraces cold mud. There is a tight spot ahead, and I see Darren already having difficulty squeezing his large frame through the uninviting cranny. Then it's my turn. There is no space to keep my eyes ahead. I look down, angle my head to fit the shape of the fissure, and use my toes, hips and elbows to inch myself through.

After three more hours of crawling, climbing, wading, slipping, sliding and unfathomable filth, the blanket of pitch black ahead of us is eventually torn apart with a ray of dappled light, and we end up back at the same point where we left our bags. We emerge from the cave looking like a band of thieves, top to toe in gravy of questionable origin. I have never felt more at home.


I look relatively clean as my tee is black and my cargos are the same color as the mud.

The MNS guys congratulate us on a job well done and inform us of their future caving expeditions around Malaysia.


Alan, Mr. Whatshisname, K.K. and Min Er.

It's time to wash up and head home.


Unfortunately, I do not live up to the physical prerequisites of the female restroom.

I travel home with the disposition of an invalid. I try hand-washing my soiled clothes, and by the seventh pail the water still runs opaque brown so I surrender them to the washing machine. The day is still young, and I utilize it to its optimum extent by switching off my phone and hitting the pillows.

But not before I leave on the porch table a little memento which my father's plants will worship me for.


I admit, I fancy any excuse to play with muck for all its worth.

12 Comments:

Blogger Adam said...

Great post and nice pics.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Joy / Quilana said...

Heh, Steve and I went there sometime in December. We hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before and went all the way to the top, up the slippery wet steps. I think I nearly fell over about 8 times.

The statue was still under construction at that time. Before it was covered with all that "gold" . ;P

7:58 PM  
Blogger Aeric said...

OMG ... those centipedes would be the end of me ... major wiggage!

11:52 PM  
Blogger kepala_angin said...

envious, envious...would love to try spelunking, but those critters are a big deterrant. scary if were to find them in one's pants.

1:51 PM  
Blogger disco-very said...

adam,
thanks!

joy,
yeah. those are scary steps. i felt like falling even when i was intentionally leaning forward while climbing up. thanks for the info, they must've worked pretty quickly on the statue.

aeric,
yeah! they were HUGE buggers. the baby ones were cute though.

kepala_angin,
the creatures you encounter aren't too much of a hindrance if you pretend they're not there... um, yeah.

3:08 PM  
Blogger cheesemeister said...

Magnificent!
Especially the pink knee pads...
But I fear that even if claustrophobia wouldn't keep me out, the cave centipedes would!

5:10 PM  
Blogger J said...

Tight blue spandex-y bicycle shorts + Guy = W-R-O-N-G
O_O

The pink shin pads are cute tho.
haha

7:03 PM  
Blogger cyber-red said...

oo la la guano LOL.. smelly ka?

maybe i should join raleigh too sounds the funn

12:57 PM  
Blogger disco-very said...

cheesemeister,
yeah, the centipedes were fairly daunting. they moved REALLY fast.

j,
the shin pads redeem EVERYTHING.

cyber-red,
the guano has a strange stale, inorganic smell to it, and apparently some people have thrown up because they couldn't stand it. but my room already smells like that so i was fine with it. i'll keep you updated when i come to know about any upcoming raliegh events :)

10:10 AM  
Blogger Muddy said...

babe, the pictures are really great. really dig the one titled "take me to your leader". :)

gosh, i have never been to the caves. haiyoh, i am so sad. :(

9:04 PM  
Blogger disco-very said...

muddy,
thanks, that one is my fave too. if you're ever offered the chance to go spelunking, GO. it's the bee's knees.

3:59 PM  
Blogger mob1900 said...

buahahaha, so much more better than the mo-vie...though your attire never come close to Juno's(Natalie Jackson Mendoza) tight and body-hugging outfit.

Love the gore, though.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0435625/

4:51 AM  

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