Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dehydration and the Jenolan Caves

There is nothing I love more after hiking than alcohol, beer whiskey whatever give me a god damn celebration drink. Unfortunately I have a terrible habit of not drinking enough water especially when hiking. Therefore my post walk drinks generally leave me with a hangover from the depths of hell themselves. An Appalachian trail 20 mile hike was the catalyst for this discovery. Worst 10+ mile day of my life, my dog will agree, I got us lost somehow in my haze of giving approx. 0 fucks. These are headaches that feel as if in my brain the fabric of the universe is separating, dimensions of reality and imagination curb stomping each others skulls; the ultimate battle for control. I exist half awake wishing I could be in a coma. After the Blue Mountains wander I expected to feel meh in the am after 3 beers but alas meh was the best of it.

The night of the hike I woke up various times with the development of a headache. Armed with one bottle of water I was poorly prepared but did my best to keep the beast at bay. I woke up for the caves in the morning knowing it would be tough. As I opened my eyes slowly waiting for sensation of pain to register, I to my surprise found it was minimal, a bit of grogginess and a twinge of needle-like pokes to the head but otherwise tolerable. Breakfast made me feel all the better delicious hotel food and coffee. Food of champions as far as I was concerned, I lived off almonds the previous day. After the meal I packed my bag, mainly camera gear and filled my modest water bottle. I was excited. Oldest known caves in the world this was history, its mind blowing stuff if you really think about it, 340 Million years old....

The bus journey took a quick hour and 15 mins the guide was full of cool and interesting information. I stared at the landscape happy to see it pass as we grew closer and closer to these Jenolan Caves. I had two tours that day the Lucas Cave and the Orient. Both were extremely close to one another with only about a 30min break to eat lunch and refresh. As I waited to get into the first cave I looked at all the rocks in awe staring wide eyed at the outdoor formations and felt ever so slightly in the middle of my mind squish a poking pain emerging. Shit.

I could use a bit of a snuggle right about now

As the tour commenced I was told that this journey contained quite a few stairs, stairs to me at this point were not a friend but if its between stairs and experiencing the caves its no contest at all. I hobbled my way up, each step increasing a pain in my head until after no time at all it was a raging beast ripping apart all the sweet pink mush it could lay its claws into. That was towards the beginning of the tour mind you about 20 mins. The pain was not fun but the caves were. I tried my best to enjoy them and enjoy I did. However looking at the unbelievable rock formations becomes disorienting when the constant flashes around you make the stones themselves appear to move. I was in bad shape. I cursed myself over the beers and suffered through the pain enjoying every second I could. I really did enjoy it as well, to hear the stories of the discovery of these caves was truly remarkable. You haven't seen darkness until you stand in one of the Jenolan caves and have the lights turned out. There is nothing but blackness; if there was complete silence you would surely go mad. To have been one of the first people in these caves must have been a thrilling and terrifying adventure.To climb into the unknown armed with a candle stick for light takes some serious guts. Its a shame the early explores took so many pieces from the cave, they however still retain many quite beautiful formations. An unbelievable amount of time went into the development of these caves and it is a sight that is awe striking. For a mere inch of length in a stalactite to develop takes longer than the human lifespan, these are not by any means small formations.

The Lucas cave ended and I was hurting but insanely happy. I figured it was alcohol and strange lighting that was causing the pain and retreated to the bus to eat some almonds and banana. Being the derp at heart that I am I forgot to drink my water. The time for the Orient came in a flash, before I knew it I was walking up to the entrance wishing I had my bottle on me because my head was pounding more than just a hangover possibly could. Creatures were beating the crevices of my skull to escape.

The Orient cave is worth the extra ticket, the Lucas cave is nice but the Orient is spectacular. It is a marvel of the ancient world and like nothing I have ever seen before. I stood dumbfounded in the Persian room admiring the walls like they were crafted by god itself. It seems a smaller cave tour than the Lucas but there is infinitely more to see, in fact despite there feeling like there was a brick planted firmly in the center of my brain, time in that cave flew and for the shape I was in thats incredible.

The tours at the caves were worth it for sure, but if your as appreciative of history and geology as I can be when properly intrigued one day is not enough. I found myself wishing, not only because of the sickness, to stay at the cave house and continue exploring tomorrow as well. I will be back for adventure caving and possibly a tour of the Ribbon Room, an extension of the Orient tour.

The bus ride back was hell. I was now convinced this was no hangover, this was dehydration. I had not drank any water that day and a pathetic amount the day before. I felt nauseous literally holding back throwing up for a majority of the ride. When the bus came to town I was disoriented and horribly aware of my condition. Of all times I ran into a friend from Hawaii living in Sydney, he had been up the weekend as well. I tried to act normal, I think i did alright for the most part then ran off to buy water and waited longingly for the train hoping I wouldn't vomit on the way home or worse right on the platform.

In and out, I wished I could switch of my brain. I sipped water slowly knowing if I took it in too fast I wouldn't be able to hold it and all would be in vain. Little by little, and seriously little by little it took for fucking ever, the headache got better. I fell asleep for a bit and woke up to a nicer world each time. I felt the eyes of an Asian gentleman watching my bizarre behavior of holding my head in my hands and nodding off in increments trying to relieve the pain as if a I could massage the pressure away.

5 hours it took to get home, all 5 were painful the first 3 especially.

The Jenolan Caves were worth all that and more. Never have I been somewhere where I felt as insignificant. These caves are older than anything else I'm likely to knowingly encounter on this planet.