Darer Cilau.

Cruising down the M6 thoughts of endless horrible crawls deep into the Welsh mountains floated gently through my head. Pac—Man Pacey grimaced at the wheel of his sleek new hotrod — yes we were in a traffic jam. I cracked a can of Guinness, it frothed everywhere so I stuck it out of the window and sprayed some cars.
Eventually we rolled into the sleepy welsh equivalent of deadsville. You couldn’t help admiring the grandeur of the towering slag heaps — I could only think of one comparison — boils on the backside!

We were to meet Neil’s friends from the Wessex Caving Club in the pub. They weren’t there, neither were Andy and Anne. What Godforsaken place had Neil led us to? Finally everyone landed, Andy and Anne just made last orders after following Neil’s directions to nowhere.

At least we had a comfy doss, so a good nights sleep was had. After a four star carbohydrate injection breakfast, a swift drive saw us slowly donning caving grots, everybody desperately trying to think of excuses. Nobody had any — shit! we had to go down. The entrance is low, miserable and generally squalid. It never really gets any better, you simply spend the next hour or so thrutching on your side, sometimes it’s tight, sometimes it’s easier going, but it’s never very pleasant. No, really folks, once you get your head down, it’s no more than a pain in your you know where.
Soon, though, we skipped down spacious ture1s following Neil as he led us to the Epocalypse Way. Some very impressive helicites greet you in the White Company, Andy plays with his new camera, and straight away the reverse midas touch starts to work — his slave is damp — every thing he touches turns to shit! We wally around on an awkward climb near the Antlers, and andy the compulsory epic. Hanging on by his fingertips; and shaking violently, he yells at us to; “Stop laughing and bloody well help me!”
After a wander up Urchin Oxbow we backtracked to the big chamber nowhere near the entrance and had a bite to eat. Pac—Man greedily tucked into a huge bag of dried apricots, the effect of which I’ll reveal later on. Feeling refreshed we continued towards the Time Machine. Neil was up front, biting off chunks of rock, Anne and I stumbled in the dark yellow glow of our crappy lamps, Andy followed slipping and sliding in his racing slik wellies. What a merry band we were.

I reached the bottom of the seventy foot pitch first, there was already a party ascending before us, so I switched off my lamp and took a breather. Suddenly there was a cracking noise, and a yell of ‘BELOW’, and rocks whistled through the air. I leapt away but with my light out I stumbled, tripped and fell heavily on a heap of boulders.
Rubbing my knee I contemplated being hit by a falling rock when down Daren, not a pleasant thought — those rocks should have a government health warning.
Up the ladder, across a greasy traverse over a yawning void, down some interesting climbs and we reached the Time Machine. It’s big, but it becomes bigger. It’s certainly the largest passage I’ve been into in this country. Memories of the Berger floated back as we plodded through huge spaces. Occasionally we stopped, looked around, and made profound comments like; “Bloody ‘ell it’s big’ and “I wonder if I switched the gas off?”
Next we climbed down to the Bonsai Streamway and splashed off merrily. Helicites and Gypsum crystals poke out of the wall at regular intervals. Finally we reached the Bonsai Tree. This is a tiny, delicate helicite formation which resembles a Japanese miniature tree, we only just managed to stop Andy pruning it. By this time everyone was starting to feel rather jaded. After some mind numbing calculations we realised our exit would probably take five hours — so we’d miss the pub. Time to head back, but first a feed! It was at about this time that we started to smell the effect of dried apricots on Neil’s bowels. Staggering from the noxious fumes a hasty retreat was made.
The journey back to the entrance crawl was swift and uneventful, it was a tired sweaty bunch of cavers that sat down for a rest at the start of the crawl. No—one was relishing the thought of groveling and thrutching out, when suddenly somebody glanced at the time. It was only eight o’clock, we must have travelled fast — we could still make the pub. A creamy pint of ale appeared before my eyes, my mouth watered in anticipation. With renewed vigour we set off. It was horrible, our knees became sore, as they pummeled against the unyielding rock. The twists and turns seemed worse than on the way in, as our aching muscles pulled our protesting bodies. Slowly we progressed towards the beer. About two thirds of the way along, painful spasms of cramp shot up my legs. I tried to pull along on my arms, this just knackered me more. Wincing with the spasms I pressed on, safe with the knowledge the end was near.

Eventually we popped out to a cold clear dusk, it felt good to stand up again. We hot footed back to the cars, changed, and then off to the pub. The beer flowed down easily and soon our aching muscles and joints felt better again. Warmth returned to our bodies. Neil’s hot—rod let us down, the lights had packed up. Tim solved the problem by jamming’ a penny on the switch. On the way back I held the penny in place whilst Neil drove, occasionally my hand started shaking (as it sometimes does), when this happened the lights flickered on and off, sometimes we were plunged into darkness as I lost my grip.
“There’s no rest for the ‘ard!” Next morning, despite feeling stiff and tired, we set off for OFD. Our intention was a trip from Cwm Dur to Bottom Entrance, if our trusty guide, Andy could remember the way. At the entrance we all ‘stood back admiring Andy’s manual dexterity as he fiddled and swore at the stubborn padlock.

As I stood there I became aware of a pungent smell then I realised what it was. Some dirty bastard had laid a large Henry the third about three feet away from the entrance. It stank, and they’d managed to smear it everywhere. Gingerly we all backed past the offending objects and climbed down the entrance tube.
The trip through went smoothly, apart from a few route finding difficulties, nobody had quite the same spring to their step, due to the efforts of the day before. After four hours we emerged feeling pleasantly knackered. We all retired to the pub to lubricate ourselves after an excellent weekends caving.

Chaz Frankland.

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