Monday, October 18, 2010

Dupnisa Cave

(Photo by Rob Pieh)
This weekend I went to the Dupnisa Cave, near Demirköy\vaguely near Kırklareli on the Bulgarian border. The cave has some kind of historical and linguistic relation to Dionysos, although I think some unsubstantiated writings of "ceremonies, including human-sacrifice" in the cave are a bit suspect.    I went with BÜMAK, my school's cave exploration club (and I think one of the very first in Turkey.) The 3.5 hour bus-ride became an (enjoyable) 6 hour ride  thanks to frequent stops and lively dancing in the center aisle of the bus. We made a rather surreal stop in a very empty and restful Kırklareli around 3 am to buy bread from a local bakery that had just opened for the morning. One sleepless local told be of a nearby town called Ceremi (Jeremy), but I haven't been able to find it on any map.

We got to the camp at around 4 or 4:30 am, and luckily I wasn't in the first group going to the cave so I was able to sleep in the next morning. I have a Turkish nickname now among the other members of the group after a story I told some of them... One late night I was walking down İstiklal Cd. in İstanbul while absentmindedly whistling. A deranged man approached me and yelled "Are you a shepherd!?" in Turkish as they frequently whistle to communicate with their sheepdogs. For whatever reason it stuck and I was known as "Çoban" (Shepherd) at the camp.

Dupnisa Teashack in Demirköy, Turkey.
In classic Turkish fashion, although the cave was very far away from any human settlement, it had a small tea-house shack outside of it for the handful of Turkish and Bulgarian tourists who visit its small tourist-accessible portion. I didn't realize this until a day into the trip when some of the others in the group took me around a corner and it came into sight, and so we took a curious break from camping and sat for a cup of Turkish tea served by the local parkranger's daughter and made by his wife.

Finally it was my sub-group's turn to enter the cave. We prepared our coveralls, doubled up our wool socks, and fueled up our foul-smelling carbide mining lamps. The lamps are interesting and depend on a reaction between water and carbide to create acetylene gas. I must admit, however, that it can be strange having an open flame resting on top of your head, and I did have a few unfortunate forgetful moments when adjusting my helmet. We began by walking through the paved first 100 ft. of the 2 mile long cave. We then passed over a chain railing and began down the cave. The 15 minutes or so involved walking through knee-deep painfully frigid  water, and then continued through tight passages and massive galleries hundreds of feet tall. I had fun playing melodies on various resonant rock formations, perhaps inspired by reading about the Stalacpipe Organ in The States. After two hours we reached the end of the cave and we all turned off our headlamps. The feeling of absolute darkness was something I had never experienced before, and it was amazingly peaceful, while at the same time quite uncomfortable feeling. With nothing to fix on, I felt my eyes begin to cross, and I lost my sense of spacial perception so that it quickly felt as if the ceiling was much lower than it was in reality.

We turned around and continued back to the main gallery of the cave, and some of us began to climb what was really a huge mountain of dust and rock. After perhaps 5-10 minutes of climbing straight up, the ceiling, and its hibernating  winged inhabitants were finally within view. A guy who had been in the cave before took us to a very small constricted passage. After another of 5-10 minutes of very tight squeezing and belly crawling we came to a new open room with some amazing formations within it. Little did I know, however, that we had to climb back up the tight passage. And it was strange to think, 6 hours later in one of the larger cities of the world, that I had been deep into the earth on the very same day.

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