This past weekend, I crawled on my stomach through a hole no bigger than the size of my body, repelled about 100 feet into a seemingly bottomless pit and waded through 4.5 feet of water to finally emerge above ground. This coming from the woman that can barely get in an elevator without having a panic attack.
Spelunking, which is just a much cooler word for caving, involves a lot more than a leisurely walk through crystallized rock. It started with an intense hike to the top of one of the peaks on the mountain in the area. The climb was so high that you had to clip your waist harness to a safety rope attached to the side of the rock. One misstep and you were dangling hundreds of feet over the side of the mountain.
The entrance to the cave would have gone unnoticed by the average hiker, but our guides instructed us to get on our stomachs and crawl through the hole only slightly bigger than my body. Once inside, the impossibly small hole opened just wide enough to switch position, preparing us to slide and land feet first at the bottom. A guide at the bottom steadied us and made sure we didn't slide down the 200-foot bottomless hole. Instead of sliding into the unknown, we dropped down into it. Attached only by a thin rope, we carefully slid off the edge of the rock, hanging hundreds of feet in the dark, and slowly lowered our bodies to a promised solid ground.
In that moment, everything was mental. Without the mental strength to keep going and push past the fear of the dark and weightless descent, it would have been impossible. Once we all had both feet on the ground we sat in the cave, switched off the lights on our helmets and sat in silence for a full two minutes.
The darkness completely blinded us, making it impossible to even see your own hand in front of your face. The silence was so deafening that only drops of water could be heard hitting the ground, one by one. The faint sound echoed off of the cave walls and rang rhythmically in our ears.
Soon after we left the cave, and the only way out was through 4.5 feet of ice cold water. We wore coveralls, so our clothes weren't ruined, but water seeped through our sneakers and mud threatened to encase our feet forever, trapping us at the mouth of the cave.
The water was refreshing after overheating from adrenaline. The wind slapped sharply against our now sopping wet clothes, and we stood at what looked like the top of the world. Covered in mud, we descended the mountain, unable to accurately articulate the transformative experience.
Spelunking, or spéléologie in French, is a once in a lifetime experience, and everyone should take the opportunity to try it. Whether you're adventurous or scared of anything that involves the slightest risk of death like myself, it's worth the fear of the unknown.