What We Did on Our Hols. — or — How to be a Football Hooligan.

Yes it’s holiday time again! Most sane people lie on a beach and come back with a Sun tan and a beer belly, (ask Neil about this). Not. us though, three unemployed yobs from Lancaster and Newcastle we were off to the Berger (not again) and Matienzo.

The sleazemobile sweated, burped, and farted across France, stopping briefly to try and meet Fran’s brother (but that’s another story). Eventually we had the portable mansion erected on the Moliere plateau deep within the heart of the Vercors. First priority was to fill the boot of the sleazemobile with cheap French beer and plonk. Not understanding the currency, I had to measure the coinage as to how much beer I could buy with it.

It was about this time that we noticed Frans resemblance to a football thug. She stampeded around the supermarket with a denim jacket, turned up trousers and close cropped hair Occasionally she’d head butt a bystander and yell “Millwall”.

Anyway we’d come to do the Berger, so we had to take a break from our liquid activities. The Happy Wanderers had organized the trip and Kenny Taylor had asked us to come along. It had been arranged that the Wassex C.P.C. who were booked for the week before us, would rig the hole, and we’d de—rig. So we set off on our ‘bottoming’ trip with the knowledge that all we had to do was reach the bottom.

Slowly hut steadily we sailed down the entrance series, pausing briefly to let some knackered N.C.C. members climb Gontards. All the obstacles were surmounted. A quick gawp at the Hall of Thirteen, (pity those stal won’t fit into the tackle bag — they’d look great on the mantlepiece!) Our progress was steady, the cave was much drier that last year, it seemed much easier going with less water.

At camp two Paul Deakin and his helpers were camped, whilst they photographed the bottom section to the sumps. As we trundled into their camp we were amazed to hear the Sex Pistols screaming out of a portable cassette. quick pose for the cameras then off again. The last section of the Berger is all fine sporting caving, little Monkey and Hurricane are fantastic pitches. A fitting climax before you reach the bottom.

Slowly as you plod out, you realise what a bloody long way underground you are. A brew back at camp two then a feed at camp one. Not far to go. At camp one we were in high spirits, Fran looked for some windows to smash, whilst Paul tried his sling shot out in the Hall of Thirteen.

Eventually, after nineteen hours we were all back on the surface, and after staggering up the hill to the plateau we all stretched cut in the morning sunshine, I was so knackered that I forgot to have a beer and promptly fell asleep.

De—rigging went smoothly. Kenny and his crew had an epic nineteen hour session and stripped everything from the bottom to camp one. They dumped a few bags, kipped, then came out. Paul and myself (bowel man and Gut Bucket) hauled everything cut from camp one to the bottom of Gontards. By this point we had four bags each, so we dumped most of them and headed cut. Next day Watto went down and shouted the tackle out.
When everyone was rested we all piled down to Autrans for the expedition meal. The sleepy restraunt just about coped with thirty smelly  hungry cavers who ate and drank everything that as put in front of them. By the end of the evening we were all well oiled and jumped into the van and sped off, Half way back I realised that we’d left Paul back in Autrans, still bullshitting the barman. Luckily he managed to con a lift off a pissed up Frenchman, who nearly killed him driving up the winding roads. That night Paul had the first holiday vom.

Next day was extremely gripless. Throbbing heads meant that the planned trip down the Gournier didn’t start until 3pm, and we didn’t get far in. The day after Fran and Paul decided to mug a few old ladies, and I went to the Gcurnier again, with Watto and Mike Wooding this time. It really is an excellent trip, the dinghy we’d borrowed had a leak somewhere, so by paddling frantically we all made the trip across the lake without getting too wet. The traverse over the pools in the far streamway make the trip really sporting. In places the fence wire traverse lines had rotted or broken away, but things like that didn’t stop Watto. Gingerly we followed him across delicate traverses and launched ourselves out on Tarzan swings. At one point I ended up swinging above a particularly deep pool hanging on an old piece of tat by one hand with my light out. Luckily a few desperate contortions saw me back on dry land. At the end the team mutinied refusing to follow Watto up the waterfalls on grotty old bits of string. A quick exit was made back to the blistering sunshine,

Everyone was starting to drift away from the plateau, the Yorkshire subhuman society arrived with their generators and marquees. We decided to exit stage left, packed the mansion into the sleasemobile and drove away into the sunset. Next stop

French drivers are mad, the Spanish are even worse, They all seemed to aim straight for you, swerving at the last moment, either to show off or scare you to death. Spanish road works are even more exciting — suddenly the tarmac finishes and you are skidding along
a dirt track that they are trying to make into a road. The back seat of the sleasemobile was really horrible A bottle of lemon juice had leaked and everything you touched stuck to you.

We rolled into Matienzo just after everybody had been washed out by a huge storm. The farmyard campsite seemed to be full of muddy bogs, but we managed to locate a dry area the mansion.

As usual first thing was to visit the loca hostelry … a pleasant. evening was spent real icing how cheap the ooze as and finding out how easy it is to get smashed. The first hole we visited was on a hill called Muela. It was found by Terry Whittaker and was affectionately named Talking Pot. Graham and Toby had been down three pitches and had stopped at the top of another large shaft with a magnificent echo. As we scramble down to snatch the glory, Fran realised that the boulders at the top of the second pitch were extremely loose. More carefully we carried on, Graham banged a bolt in at the top of the undecended pitch and zoomed down. I followed him, we ran into a small chamber, but were disappointed to find that the pot ended. A small stream flowed into a digable crack between the rock and a large sandbank.

Whilst we were exploring Paul returned to the cars for the radio we’d been given. On his way back to the hole he became unsure of the way and radioed back to Talking Terry for instructions. These only confused Paul even more.

As Graham prussiked out his tackle bag dislodged a rock and suddenly the loose ledge rumbled off down the pitch. He was left dangling in space and Alistair, who was below filled his pants cowering under a ledge. When Paul and Toby went down to survey they had to beat a hasty retreat with rocks crashing down around their ears.
Next day Fran and I spent slobbing on the beach whilst Paul went and found glory. He discovered a large chamber in a cave called Toad in the Hole. Needless to say this gave an excuse for a mammoth piss up. (as if we needed n excuse!) Fran ended up nearly crawling out of the bar on all fours.

The next trip we did was a cock up, Horrible Hall roped us into surveying the Sawers of Doom in Carcaveuso. When we arrived we realised our error, never try and  follow Talking Terry’s instructions when you are both pissed up. By the time we’d sorted out where to survey, the compass and clino had somehow fogged up. Brassed off and dejected we headed back to the surface and of course ‘the bar.

Next we had a tourist trip down a cave called Renada. It was a very enjoyable hole with some interesting features. At one point you had to grovel through a little hole called the blowhole. The draught whistled through so quickly it blew out expedition carbide lights.
About this point in the trip we started to become Matienzo slobs. Usually you managed to crawl out of the bar by about 2am., but nothing really happened before 1Oam. So life wasn’t too desperate. On several days we had to really search hard for grip. Paul was doing quite well at finding grip, and on a couple of occasions he went off caving before we were even out of our pits.

The day after a particularly large piss up we had arranged to go photographing with Andy in Carcaveuso the night before Juan and Andy had been jumping around with plant pots on their heads pretending to be Bill and Ben the flowerpot men. Consequently everyone sat around till 2pm. waiting for Juans hangover to leave him, it didn’t and he declined to join us. This riled Andy up no end, so we went and did what we could in the time available. Horrible Hall shouted and bawled at his slaves with the slave units for the next few hours as we flashed away. As it turned out the wrong film was in the wrong camera or something. Another cock up.

Our last trip in Matienzo was. down Carcaveuse yet again, this time Toby and Jane took us into Biggo 2, where we started to poke about in some side passages. Fran suddenly found herself peering through a smell rocky choke into blackness. After some frantic.
digging she squeezed through and I followed. We stood up in quite a sizable chamber there seemed no sign of any footmarks, but it was hard to tell, Toby came through, he didn’t recognise the chamber, so we set off exploring. Following the most obvious passage we rounded a bend and were disappointed to see a solitary set of footprints. Toby suddenly realised our location, we‘d found another way into a rarely visited passage called Pudding Passage, Never mind it was an interesting place.

The food was starting to run out, so was the money, and Fran and I had appointments to keep with the DHSS. We decided to have a meal and one last binge, then leave the next day. The meal was cheap but filling, the wine was even cheaper, but much rougher. We then switched venues and went to the Vega Bar. It was Just like drinking in a barn, and it smelt that way. We sat in a room of babbling Spaniards getting sloshed on Gin—Kas, Eventually we burnt rubber back to Hermans Bar. Later that night Fran tried to play frogger on the expedition computer whilst I got lost getting back to the tent. It was Fran and myself to have a holiday vom!

Next morning, with eyes like busted frog spawn and throbbing heeds, we packed the mansion. After throwing everything into the sleezemobile we had a feed at Hermans, then trundled off in the direction of England. It had been a holiday to remember!

Chaz Frankland.

Back to:  Contents