Thursday, October 25, 2007

I have found my calling.

all this time, I thought I was meant to spend my life in a treehouse high in one of the more remote corners of the swiss alps. all these years, all these hours of study - I was preparing for the day I could escape civilization and burrow into a snow-covered hermitage.

and burrow is what I was meant to do, but not into a treehouse. I was meant to burrow underground, into caves. that is what I did last night. I went caving, and it was totally the best night of my life.

we drove out into the hills of the peak district, past the village of castleton, down a windy dirt road to a cave called giant's hole. under the watchful eye of a few dozen sheep, we dressed in mudsuits and wellies and helmets with headlights. it was much less icy cold inside the cave than out, since they tend to stay a constant temperature year-round.

that lasted until we came upon a small pool (about 7.5 meters deep) and thought we'd all have a swim. frigid doesn't do justice to the temperature of the water, which was at whatever just-short-of-frozen-solid temperature water has to be to make it impossible to breathe. much colder than the mediterranean in spring or lake superior in early fall. colder too, than the glacial runoff that flows through gstaad or a certain pond in western new york I took an accidental dip in early one january morning. after that, there was much wiggling on your belly through muddy holes, bending and squeezing through meters of passageways you could only just fit through sideways ("crabwalks"), climbing over gaping crevices and going up and down calcified walls attached to ropes. on one descent, I lowered myself down about 30 feet using a rack - this metal bit attached to your harness that the rope is threaded through. you hold the spare end in your hand tighter or looser, depending on how fast you want to fall. I think they used one in alias. we saw stalagtites and stalagmites and shivered convulsively. well, actually, only I shivered convulsively.

afterwards, we and most of our mud stopped at a pub that had a fireplace and two begging dogs. we ate a lot of crisps (n. american chips) and I continued to shiver convulsively.

it was brilliant. and sweet. and super awesome. and totally the best night of my life.

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