Continuing Adventures in Cave Exploration
Gua Sireh, Malaysian Borneo – The last time we visited this cave was back in August when we had our dear friend, Dr. Jerry Drawhorn of California, with us. However, we had forgotten our flashlights and could only examine the opening which extended back only about five meters.
This time, we brought with us our Canadian colleague, Alex Curnow, and enough illumination to power a lighthouse out on the coast. Well, not that much, but close. We had two head gears plus two hand held apparatus that we hoped would show us the rock art.
We hired the same car and driver that had brought us the last time. We made sure he knew his way, and we asked him several times if he was aware of the location. Of course, he said yes; and, of course, he had no idea where we were going, even though my wife Suriani spoke to him in local Malay.
We drove to a Japanese hot springs which we told him we didn't want to go to, and took the road back out to the main highway. Then, we drove up and down looking for the turnoff. Suriani called our friend, and, after a while, she returned the call and gave us direction.
We arrived at a small church and decided to walk in because of the monsoon rains likely would have disabled the car. The journey was pleasant under partly cloudy skies. Pepper plants, about a meter high, grew on one side of the path, while rice, also about a meter high, grew on the other side. All indications were that it would be a good harvest come late February or early March. The aroma was sweet and peasant.
We crossed a couple of small streams on a board and I ambled across quickly because of my balance problem. If I didn't travel fast and didn't think about it, I figured I would be okay, and I was.
The climb to the cave was up 50 meters of scaffolding, straight up. One would climb about 10 steps, rest on a landing, and climb another 10 steps. The stairs were covered in lichens, moss and a green slime, so the going was treacherous in the jungle. Everyone took it slow, especially me since I am 65, five but think I am 30.
We arrived at the mouth and ate a couple of candy bars and drank bottled water. We then entered, and I started moving my flashlight up and down in a scientific motion looking for the art. We were searching for black somethings on the cave wall because that's what we were told to look for.
We walked back to where the cave took a spill even further downward and decided to stop there. I had found nothing and was bitterly disappointed. We decided not to go further down because the floor was slippery with a trickle of water running through it, spreading out at intervals.
And it became very slippery with my damn balance problem!
I walked back and methodically checked the other side of the cave – and there they were. The images finally stood out, but you had to search for them in the dark.
Well, I didn't see them, but Suriani spotted them. I have learned from experiences back in Java and other places to trust her judgement. She would point them out with a flashlight and I would say where and she would have to outline them for me. "Oh there," I would exclaim as the images finally came into focus for me. I could find the black spots, but nothing else.
The caving was fun and exciting. However, my ancient thighs were aching and throbbing after this adventure for at least three days afterwards. And, yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Images from the cave can be seen on Facebook, Tom McLaughlin
...Life is good. . . . .