Speleo Child Clionel Thierry 2Speleo Child Clionel Thierry 2
©Speleo Child Clionel Thierry 2

My very first time caving!

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On vacation, we tend to look for light, sun and comfort… Going underground and trying out caving… a strange idea! But then again! What a discovery!

Stage 1: Spectacular Gorges de la Jonte

Incredible cliffs and the river at the very bottom. 20 minutes later, we’re parked in the heart of the gorge.
Come on! No time to lose, says instructor Eric! It’s hot, so we’re going to cool off in the cave! Yippee!”

Well, he kind of forgot to mention (laugh!) that beforehand, there’s a short, slightly uphill 15-minute approach walk…



Step 2: Adventurous gear

The cave entrance is beautiful! The very image I had of a cave: a large cliffside entrance and… all black inside. You can already feel the fresh air coming out. That’s promising! Opposite, on the other side of the gorge, there’s a superb view of the Causse Noir. That’s tomorrow’s hiking program.

We were hot on the climb, but Eric asks us to put on another layer! You don’t go into a cave, even an “easy” one, in shorts and a tee-shirt. So, it’s full wetsuit (red or blue, no choice!) good shoes so we don’t slip (!) and a helmet, with hanging over it a headlamp which I already know is going to be my best friend for the next few hours.

A quick photo before heading back to immortalize our super sexy underground look! and off we go.

Stage 3: Between sport and science

Here we go! A few metres and the world changes. Before long, we’re in the first room where it’s 12 degrees! Bliss!

Calm and cool, we turn on our lamps. Eric takes the time to explain the history of the cave. He’s inexhaustible about the geology, the formation of the caves and the first men who came here a few millennia ago.

An emotional sequence when he shows us a small, well-hidden spot where we can still see a few human bones from the Bronze Age. Incredible! Much more than an instructor, he’s a wellspring of science!
You can tell he loves “his” cave! (he’s done a lot of research there with his club to find a possible follow-up)

Stage 4: Too late to back out

This first room is beautiful, and he’s delighted to tell us that there are more rooms to explore! My darling and I are all pumped up! And just as our eyes meet in a “you see, it doesn’t look that difficult!” way, I hear Eric announce that we’ll just have to descend a small shaft, pass through a narrow passage and crawl about 50 metres, the room is at the end… He’s got a sense of humour our guide, he must be joking!

Step 5: Exceeding your limits as a family

Eric wasn’t kidding…
But, past the initial apprehension and thanks to his kind words, we conquered that dreaded narrowing! It must be said that in front of us, a little boy and his sister aged 8 and 11 went through with such ease that it would have been impossible to give up.

We’ve got our pride anyway! I’ll spare you the details of a crawl through some sort of twisted gut where we definitely give up on staying clean… With the added bonus of a memorable nervous giggle.

Stages 6 & 7: team spirit at its best

When suddenly… There it is! Eric proudly shows us a small black hole into which we have to step feet first. A moment of anguish for me… A great moment of solitude for others, whose feet can’t quite touch the ground… But caving, Eric tells us, is a collective activity, where solidarity is essential: So, the bigger ones help the smaller ones.

Step 7 Surprises and emotions

A room, twice as big as the first. Everywhere, concretions, stalactites, stalagmites, columns and other oddities whose names I’ve forgotten. It really is another world! For a first, it’s a first! Don’t laugh, but under the emotional stress of such an unusual sight, my darling even shed a little tear.

Stage 8: Serenity & pleasures of the palate

Another surprise, Eric suggests a little gastronomic game: we stay in the dark but we’re going to “eat some really good local food” he tells us! Not so easy in the dark, but giggles guaranteed! The ewe’s butter fouace, taken from his bag, tasted in the depths of a cave blind, will remain a great memory!

Stage 09: Deliverance & the return to the light

It’s amazing how easy and quick the climb seemed to me. We’re less afraid of slipping, we know the passages, we’re not afraid of getting stuck since we’ve already passed in one direction. In just 30 minutes, we’re back in daylight, whereas it took us almost 2 hours to get to the bottom.

We look really funny with our helmets on and the make-up the two kids made for us using mud (on the sound advice of the instructor)

Time for a good drink (we hadn’t taken any bottles underground to stay light) and we attack the descent towards the car. Before heading back to the campsite near Millau, we took a break to swim in the Tarn, on a really beautiful little pebble beach. Better than a shower! And even though it was a cave considered easy for cavers, I can tell you that we slept well in the evening!

In conclusion:

A very enriching experience, a friendly, passionate and caring instructor and mutual support in the group. That’s what I took away from this truly original underground adventure.

Did you know?

The Grands Causses are considered the cradle of caving in the world.

Under the impetus of the very first of them (Edouard Alfred Martel) the activity was born here, as early as the end of the 1st century. Later, the French federation was created in Millau in 1963, and even today the dynamism of local cavers is recognized and leads to some wonderful discoveries every year.

What better way to experience the underground world for the very first time than to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers…

How and where to practice: Don’t forget that caving is a risky activity. It would be totally irresponsible to venture out alone, without equipment or an experienced person by your side.

All year round: some caves are dangerous in rainy weather, but others present no risk at all. An experienced professional will be able to tell you if the activity is possible and advise you in your choices.

Difficulties: from small “easy” horizontal caves suitable for the whole family, even the smallest, to more imposing chasms requiring the use of ropes, the professionals, offer you all sorts of outings.The hardest thing is to dare!

For regular, year-round practice by becoming a caver yourself: get in touch with the FFS or CDS, which will put you in touch with a local club.

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