Camping in Caves: Release the Inner Kid!
Looking up the 10 meter vertical wall of damp, mossy rock, I glanced back down at the cumbersome hiking shoes on my feet. I wish I had my climbing shoes right now!
I was relieved when after a pause Luke spoke up, saying he'll lead it. Thank you Luke!
The way in was unprotected, if anyone fell it would be disastrous, and we had no idea what would be at the top or how hard it would be. A gaping hole of a cave was all we could see from the ground, and it was the reason we were here.
A Weekend Trip to Search Some Caves
Like many good things that are hard to find, these caves were no different. Trying to find information on them was… difficult.
Once I had narrowed the search and found the approximate location, I set about organising a weekend to go explore them. With my good friends, Luke and Josh, we packed overnight gear as we weren’t sure where we would stay the night, added a few ropes as well, and headed off to do some exploring!
Heading along a well formed track that passed alongside the volcanic plug that supposedly contained the caves, we stopped once we were approximately in line with it. Looking into the thick rain forest, all we could see was Lantana vines as far as the eye could see.
We weren’t strangers to Queensland's infamous Lantana vines, so we knew exactly what we up for. To make it even more interesting, it was also quite steep. We didn’t wait, it was going to suck so we might as well get it over with, right?
Close to 2 hours later, after a few hundreds meters of travel and lots of cuts and scrapes, we hit the rock wall.
It was very steep, too steep in fact, to get up! The rock walls reached 40 meters high or more, so we would have to find another way up there. We starting circling around the base, hoping for an easy scramble to present itself.
What we found instead was simply a section that was lower than the rest and would be around 8-10 meters of vertical climbing, unprotected. No bolts, no chance for placing gear, which we hadn’t brought anyway, and no way of knowing how hard it would be until we made it up there.
Thankfully, Luke was happy to lead it up first, so in hiking shoes he clambered his way up. A few tense moments, but, it was all relatively easy climbing if you rock climbed and knew some basic moves.
Setting up the ropes, Josh and myself followed and we hauled our bags up.
A big cavern is just at the entrance of the top of the climb and is a pretty spectacular welcome. Like little kids, we couldn’t wait to explore. We could see passages leading off from the main cave.
I'll be honest, we were so excited I don’t even remember the exact paths we took. We just slapped headlamps on our helmets and went for it!
I still know the caves off by heart, even years later, just not the first path we took. Once we had explored some of the passages, tried a few narrow squeezes, and exhausting the obvious cave passages, we got our rope and explored the top of the volcanic plug for more holes.
We found a few openings, abseiling in to have a look, but unfortunately none of them went anywhere interesting. But we did find plenty of bats! By now the sun was close to setting and we found a big cavern section we could camp for the night.
Luke had his hammock, I had a tent, and josh had a little bivvy bag. We were all set to stay the night!
I could have slept out in the open, but we had already seen a few snakes so I was worried they might join me in my sleeping bag. You hear of those stories, always rumours, about how they like to cuddle up to you for the warmth, though I've never seen actually spoken to someone who had it happen. Maybe it doesn't, but I don’t like chancing it!
It was pretty awesome to camp in a cave for a night, even better as it had a great view at its opening half way up a cliff. We spend the next day exploring a little more, always hoping for some more caves to appear in the ground, alas, we never found any more.
But nevermind, we were stoked with what we had experienced!
Get out and give it a go!
Experiences like these remind me how important it is to release the inner kid every now and then.
I ended up taking quite a few groups there over the following years, with everyone always having a blast and getting their inner kid on.
If you want some adventure, you don’t have to go book an expensive trip overseas, or pay for some experience. You can often get the best ones in your own backyard. It just takes some initiative, exploration and sense of adventure to get started.
If you want any tips on getting some mini adventures started, check out my ‘How to have a mini adventure on the cheap’ post!
So get out there and explore a little, and let me know if you find any of your own cool little caves!