The Cow and the Horse

I walked, walked, walked. I then walked, walked and walked. I met a farmer who was excited to see me. I spoke in bad French with some English, he spoke in Berber with some Arabic thrown in there. Surprisingly we understood each other and he pointed me in sort of the right direction. The kid with him (human not goat) asked a lot of questions after I left. I suspect I left them with more questions than answers. I set off back across the plain. I perhaps had drank half a litre by that point. I’d acclimatised to the heat by that point. I walked and walked and walked. I got to a bus shelter and had a rest. The walk along the road was long. I kept myself amused, singing – obviously, much to the delight of a few local Moroccans. I walked and walked and walked. I then got into radio contact with Henry who was at camp and with Tweb who I was aiming to meet. I talked to them and decided to go back to camp.

I then came across Tariq. He was surprised to see me and I spoke to him in bad french – after about 5 minutes with some input from Rosie we decided to walk across to meet Tweb & co. I decided to take advantage of this opportunity and talked to Tariq. I learned some Arabic words, he learned some more English. We talked about football, caving, Morocco, SRT (for quite a long time – insert joke about my technique here) and farmyard animals. The language we talked in was a mix of English/French/Arabic and Moroccan which is a curious mix of French/Arabic/Berber. This echoed the audio tape we had listened to on the way there.

We talked for a long time, we walked for a long time. We ate some fresh lentils from a field. We got to a village which we confirmed by radio and then set out to climb in the forest, however we went up the hill side too early. I was beginning to flag at this point – me and Tariq split the water between us. We made good progress through the forest and kept going. I began to slow down and told Tariq I needed water – we had agreed prior to setting out that we would not go far from such a source. He, sensing others close by told me to wait by a rock as he went to try to find them – to no avail. We set off back down the hill, getting to a water source a parched half hour later. Definitely the best water I’ve ever drank. With my main worry over we set off back to camp, only to look over my shoulder to see a figure atop a coll on the horizon. I radioed and found out that it was Tim and we walked up the valley and came across Chris who was squeaking at someone and surprised to see us. We soon found Rosie and she and Tariq spoke in French and I carried on up the hill. And so ended the story of the horse and the cow (one of the few jokes I was capable of making in our shared language).

Karst of a Kind

I met up with the others who fed me the leftovers of the food and we looked at some stuff and then went back to camp. It was a thoroughly (un) productive day. The next day was better, we went to have a look at Abdamame. I spent the next 5 days there. We started on the north hillside above where Tim was diving. He and Mehdi played around in the water (this may have happened the following day), the rest of us did some prospecting in the mean time. We didn’t find owt. We followed up some holes marked out on GPS but couldn’t find them.. Late in the day Peachey found a good going 30m lead that crapped out. Mehdi and Tom2 joined him. I had been poking around in a lot of Epikarst. There were lots of not-really-caves but it was good fun to go weaseling. I showed Peachey and he explained what it was and why. You’ll all be fascinated to learn I found a rock toilet. This was more than what the team on the opposite side of the valley found.

Going back, we had our first exposure to the suicidal chicken who everyday without fail would run across the road when Chuck drove round. The next day,  we returned to Abdamame resolving to find some entrances. We walked up to the basin and went left up the valley. I quickly trod on a snake who was most displeased and raced away. It took me a while before I shat myself. I carried on, me and Alys covering one side of the valley and Peachey and Tom 2 the other. Tom2 didn’t get the concept of straight lines and so we spent much of the day trying to find him.

There were lots of holes that didn’t really go anywhere, however they gradually got bigger as we travelled up the valley. Close to abandoning hope I nearly fell into a 3m diameter hole. I became very excited. It went nowhere. We put it in the GPS and wrote the immortal words: this would be a good dig if in the UK. We carried on, spurred by the hope of other caves and right at the end of the day Peachey and I came across a fairly big pot that… crapped out. It was big and indicated that you have to higher up to really start to find any holes that were big enough to fit down. On an unrelated note I saw loads of dry trees that powdered when you touched them – they turned out to be a special method of strip deforestation to grow bushes for goats.

On the way back a farmer beckoned me and spoke to me in French (though a LOT of miming was used). He wanted to know how far the resurgence went (he knew we were diving it) I said 30m and he looked confused. He then said that it carries on for 4km and comes out at the top of the mountain over there. He told me a French bloke had dived it over 10 years ago and had popped out of the trees but had to go back through the cave as he had no idea where he was. This story is of questionable validity looking back but it got me quite excited. I wanted to go back and arrangements were made to have a guide take us to caves.

It turned out there were a lot of caves. I returned with Mehdi, Jeff, Mike and Ellie. We went up to the basin and were shown a hidden entrance covered up to protect goats. We ploughed on, walking quite a way, it was a good chance to talk to Mehdi and learn a bit more about Morocco. We got to a horizontal cave and I went in had a bit of a look and then Mike came in and found an obvious way on. We passed St Paul’s Stalthedral and went further. We got to some pretty pools, and found a nice stal…. with a hat on. Nonetheless we surveyed it (I climbed an aven but it went nowhere) and it was a good 70m of horizontal cave. It was very different to all the other cave we had come across as it had no proper vertical bits. This got us quite excited. We met up again with Jeff, Mehdi and the Guide and prospected a few holes. I got to bolt and rig a promising cave, only to go down, say it’s fine and then realise a massive snake was beneath me (but enough about my penis). It slinked off but this didn’t let me relax. Mike didn’t like the Snake either and we were relieved when the second pitch went nowhere. Ellie was fascinated by it.

Window Shopping

It was a long walk back but we had some (only 1 really) good caves under our belt. I was enthusiastic about going back to try the cave at the bottom of the basin that could well link in to Tweb’s dive. The following day, along with Mike and Alys (and someone else that I’ve forgotten!) We popped down what was named death trap pot, primarily because when I was bolting it, large rocks were falling down into the pot we were about to explore. So we carried on.

I descended onto a ledge, bolted and rigged a re-belay and continued down into a sheltered alcove. Mike came down, (sending some rocks down) and we had a look at the final mini pitch that we didn’t stay long in (it was full of rocks and all the falling ones were going there). Alys came down and surveying was done (lazily). As I went back up I noticed a window (this will become a theme) and bolted an awkward traverse into another small chamber above two pots. This was exciting. It was out of the way of the death trap and lay behind said pot. We dropped the first one and as I went down I could see into the one behind through small windows, they joined together towards the bottom. The cave crapped out. I prussacked up and noticed a small window on the ‘wrong side’ of the cave – it might lead back into death trap but isn’t it the wrong direction?

I dug the window out a little, stuck me helmet through and shouted up to the others ‘Can you see my light?’. I tried a few times and they couldn’t see it. This was getting exciting… Mike bombed down to have a look and dug it out properly – we then ran out of time but had a going lead. We could connect it to the dive, we were going to find a proper cave system. We were in high spirits.

Returning (and bringing a Liz this time) a proper survey was commenced and me and Mike set out to push the lead. We got into the chamber to find and absolute[swear word] of a pitch head that was razor sharp and really tight. Mike used the hammer to rectify this but not much came of it. We rigged it and went down. It lead to another chamber and what looked like open streamway. It wasn’t. It was choked up with smooth boulders, and was a short small crawl. We inspected the Aven and I had a climb up to have look – it was fairly high but went nowhere. It got its name when I went to grab a hold but it came off in my hand. A rock that looked like a cock. What a shock. It had a head, urethral meatus, veins and everything. We took it back for Alys (this is before the Rapey Sam incident). It didn’t make the journey – it was actually a mud cock not a cock rock.

We went up (I saw a few more windows – alas they went nowhere) and rejoined Alys and Liz. I noticed that the Aven above the two pots went up a fair way. I was ready to bolt climb! Mike belayed me and I went to the top (which must have been very close to the surface (see the window shopping survey for details). On the way down I noticed something – that’s right, another window! I got into it and found a largish sandy chamber that had partially collapsed and went a small way. It was full of tree roots and had a small squeeze that came out over death trap pot. With all the leads pushed and nothing more to do we went back to camp.

Where to now I wonder?