San Gil, Colombia
As I prepare myself to go underwater in the frigid water of an underground cave, I thought, ‘How did I get myself into this?’
I blame it on the rain.
See, we have been hanging out in San Gil for awhile, waiting for the water level on the Suarez river to drop. We want to go white water rafting but due to heavy rain, rafting on the Suarez has been a no-go ever since we got here.
I was antsy and bored.
So when a couple of people from the hostel said they were going caving at a nearby cave, Cueva de La Vaca, with little hesitation I signed up. Then I remember that not only am I not a big fan of the dark, I’m also terrified of being in water where I can’t touch the bottom.
But despite my pre-departure trepidations, I’m SO glad I decided to give caving a go.
Because caving in Cueva de La Vaca turned out to be a blast.
Within 10 steps of entering the cave we were already neck-deep in water, making our way into the cave.
We slid and slithered. We climbed and crawled. At one point we were 80 meters below the surface.
At one section in the cave, our guide told us to turn off all of our headlamps.
The darkness that followed was absolute.
Holding hands in a line, we slowly inched forward calf-deep in water in total darkness. Every now and then someone would stub a toe and an ‘Ouch’ would be echoed back and forth in the cavernous room we were in.
When we finally turned on our headlamps again, I could see Jack’s face reflecting a silly grin I know was plastered on my own face.
This is so much fun!!
Then comes the dreaded underwater part
In order to get to the next room, we had to dive underwater. There was a rope to guide us and they key here was not to walk since the opening was not very high, but to just pull ourselves using the rope.
I was slightly freaked out. The guide kept telling us, ‘Es muy facil.’ Then for emphasis, ‘Facil, facil, facil.’ It only takes 7 seconds. Everybody has done it.
Great. No pressure now.
So there I was neck deep in water, shivering slightly from the cold, thinking of the crazy things boredom often has led me to do, and duck my head underwater and pulled.
And pulled and pulled and pulled. Not daring to think of what would happen if I’d get stuck down there.
And somehow I was on the other side.
I made it. High five all around. The guide was not lying. It was really that easy.
And not only that, that was fun!
The last 2 rooms were definitely the highlight.
The ceilings were covered in minuscule stalactites. It was beautiful and nothing like I’d ever seen before.
Our guide told us that an exit out of the cave was still not found despite attempts to do so.
That meant we had to retrace our way back.
So that also meant we had to do the underwater part one more time. No whining on my part this time. This time I was ready.
Then we slid and slithered. We climbed and crawled. Back the way we first came.
We came out into the sunshine feeling victorious. We were drenched in water and mud, shivering slightly and wishing we could’ve stayed inside feeling like Indiana Jones just for a little bit longer.
You’d think after having a mud bath inside a volcano we would have our share of mud on this trip, eh? But apparently not.
Already we can’t wait for our next caving adventure.
Cueva de La Vaca
– Cost: 25000 COP ($13) pp.
– The company we went with was Gua-Iti. The trip can be arranged through a hostel or one of the many expedition companies in San Gil.
– Cueva de La Vaca itself is on the way from San Gil to Curiti. Take a bus from the local terminal in San Gil and asked to be dropped off right before entering Curiti (2000 COP).
– Wear longer shorts since sliding around in very short shorts was… uncomfortable.
Hello, and thanks for posting this. I recently ventured into the caverna at Reserva Natural Rio Claro (just off the autopista between Bogota and Medellin). The whole reserve is gorgeous, and the cave was exciting! You don't have to go underwater, but you are swimming for some of the way. A type of nocturnal bird lives inside the cave, and they make a terrifying noise. If I hadn't known they were going to be there, I'd have turned right around when I heard them for the first time.
[…] read about San Gil on various blogs and it sounded like the sunny, fun, not-giant-city kind of place I needed to be. I’ve […]
I love caving! How did you light the ceiling for your photos? Headlamps?
I've always wanted to check out Carlsbad Caverns – didn't know that they put up a snack bar right in the cave though. It must've been a really big cave then.
I too did some caving at the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Well, sort of. They had well lit and marked paths, plus a snack bar in the cave, so by no means was it a raw experience. I wonder if I could actually do what you guys did without getting too claustrophobic or getting too afraid of the mutated humans (like in the movies). It does seems to be a lot of fun and I'm now motivated to try it myself.
I did caving at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Well, kind of. It was very tourist-like. They had well marked and lighted paths and even had a snack bar with benches in the cave, so it was no means a raw experience. I wonder if I could actually do what you guys did without getting too claustrophobic & being too afraid of mutated humans (like in the movies). It does seem like a fun experience & I'm now really motivated to try it, too.
Ashley and I have been caving in New Zealand. Instead of stalactites (which look awesome) we had glow worms. And the water was infested with eels as big as your leg. We had a blast, and will definitely go caving again.
Eeels?!!! Aaaaacck, count me out! Although I do want to see glow worms. Are there eels free, glow worm filled caves there?
Sounds so much fun, and the fact that the cave has rather minuscule stalactites is so fascinating! This is one of the experiences that makes people who have tried, wants to re-do it. Cool adventure!
I'm glad you had fun in that cave. I'm from Colombia and I live in Texas right now, but 6 years ago I went to San Gil. I was luckier than you, beacause the weather was amazing, so we get to do rafting and to rapple down a cliff. I also flew ina paraglider (parapente) nearby Barichara. I didn't get to go to la cueva de la vaca, but instead I went to la cueva del Indio, which was a very fun. I remember that one of the rooms was full of bats. We didn't expect that. It was really dark and at some point the guide turned on a light and showed us that the top of the cave was all covered with bats. The exit was really exciting, we had to jump into a pond in the middle of the dark, and then we swam to get outside.
Hilarious to think you would endure frigid cold waters but not eat a teeny ant…
Sounds like fun! I hope the waters drop so you guys can go white water rafting!
It never did, unfortunately. And we got antsy waiting so we just left… as far as we know, it's still not raftable.
Wow! What an amazing experience. We definitely want to do things like that when on our trip. Hey – quick question, how did you bring your camera for the wet/underwater parts? Did you bring your dSLR or a P&S?
We're only bringing a P&S for our trip. There are ways to protect your camera – the cheapest one is to get a waterproof baggy (you can get it from the kayaking/rafting department in a sports store) and take it out during the dry part of an excursion. Another way is to get a waterproof case specifically for your camera (try Amazon) – but it's a little pricey. The one for our camera is $170!!! But it's nice because you can actually take pics underwater with it.
That definitely looks like fun, but I think I am with you in the having to dive underwater to get to another room, would probably freak me out a little, but still looks like a lot of fun!
Oh lord you are more exciting than me.
I hate the dark. I hate small spaces. Oh, and I can barely hold my breath under water without holding my nose. You guys rock my socks off and are holding the bar high!
Lol, I'm actually afraid of the dark and the water too. But fortunately, there were 8 of us and we all had headlamps so it never got completely dark (except the part when we had to turn them off).
Glad to see you guys are having so much fun!!!
Leo! Nice hearing from you. What's up, man?
That sounds like such an adventure. I'd feel like such a badass when I got finished!
Lol, that's pretty what what felt too 🙂
You are adventurous! Caving has just not appealed too much to me and I'm not sure if I would have gone like you did. Very interesting and I'm sure beautiful. Thanks for sharing
I have always enjoyed caves and that one looks spectactular. Found you through StumbleUpon.
That "lets turn off all the lights" moment is always amazing to me.
Can't wait to catch up on some of your older posts.
Thanks for coming by, Gene. I in particular never felt an attraction of cave exploration either. Until this time. I'm hooked now!
AWESOME experience! As you know, there are some caves here in California and I did some awesome caves in Slovenia. But the diving underwater part would be fun! I am sure it would freak some people out, maybe even me, but would love to do that!
That looks so cool!! But were there bats in there? I couldn't do it if there were bats in there…
Wow, I've never been caving before but this looks and sounds like so much fun! I was thinking about going to Jenolan Caves in Australia, but decided not to. Now I'm wishing we did!