Tuesday, 5 May 2015

April 30: To the Caves

It dawned gray, cool (14°) and raining. Fortunately, we have enough days here and enough things to do so that we could can our planned activity (hiking in Wilderness National Park) and instead, drive back into the desert to visit the Cango Caves. This we decided over breakfast at our hostel.

Dining area in the common space
On our way to the caves, we stopped at an overlook of the Wilderness beach that we wanted to stop at yesterday but didn’t because of time. Wilderness is a carbon copy of the Oregon Coast.

18 km of beach
That was at the Kaaimans River Pass.

All the passes are labeled
And this is the Kaaimans River.

Lots of sand from eroding sandstone cliffs
Apparently at this rest stop, it’s illegal to stack your cannonballs without putting an extra one on top. Or something like that.

Huh? What am I not supposed to do?
To get an idea about how big this beach is, look for the two dots in the photo below: people on the beach.

Wow. Humans.
While we were in the desert yesterday, we noted to someone it was raining on the coast. They said it always rained on the coast but never in the desert. Sure enough, as we went up the Outeniqua pass, it stopped raining at the top, and was sunny within 10 km. So we retraced our steps from yesterday for about 100 km, and went to the Cango Caves.

The "public" portion of the 4+ km of cave
I was impressed by the visitor’s centre, which has an amazing geology and natural history section, including replicas of the earliest human fossils ever found (australopithecus, Mrs Ples and others). 

We picnicked and then went into the Adventure Tour. The shorter tour shows a couple of the caves biggest rooms, but the adventure tour makes you do belly crawls, chimneys and slides.

Getting to the area, you don’t think there’s much limestone around. It’s all red conglomeratic rock. But the cave entrance is obviously limestone.

Precambrian limestone in the middle of sandstones
The formations in the first rooms are dried out and not active, but still very impressive.

50' tall 
Columns 75' tall 
Formations for scale
More columns
The “adventure” tour is different than the "historical tour". It’s 20° and 100% humidity, meaning every section where you have to work -- and there are a few -- leaves you dripping in sweat. Our tour guide seemed to be in a rush, so we spent little time focusing on the incredible helictites, flowstone, cave popcorn & curtains and other formations that were in the adventure section and still wet and growing.

Way in the depths, glistening and growing
I always think I’ll get good pictures of just how tight some cave features are. But in a cave, I’m too busy to take pictures. So here’re the only ones I got: KC making it down through the Letterbox Slot.

She didn't fit the right side 
Slipping out
There was a very slippery chimney we had to climb, and a narrow passage we had to slide through sideways – all the while making a mess of the cave features. Sigh. 

On our way home, we stopped for one last overlook of the “Oregon Coast”…

…and to see an overlook optimistically called the "Map of Africa".

To me, it looks like a river valley
Allegedly, that river valley causes the mountains on the other side to look like a map of Southern Africa. Stretches my imagination, but sure, if they say so.

We headed for town to dinner at The Girls, the most expensive restaurant we have eaten at so far this trip ($75). Really good seafood, which given the proximity to the Indian Ocean isn’t surprising.


Today’s Travel Tip: Wildlife Dangers while Driving

So far (and only so far), I’ve seen road signs warning about tortises crossing, some kind of ungulate with spiral horns crossing, baboons crossing, and ostrich crossing, the same kind of signs I see at home about deer. I see big warning signs about not feeding baboons (that’s apparently pretty stupid; some baboons are learning to open car doors, which my grizzly bears never do). And I’ve already seen animals on the road, especially baboons, which travel in large troops.

Road hazards are just different here.

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