Kazakhstan mountains as seen from Almaty's Botanical Gardens.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Bangkok, Thailand.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Not sure!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wild Cave Tour

Had a totally peaceful sleep last night…didn’t hear a sound. But it did get chilly. We usually leave the furnace off when we go to bed, and only turn it on if one of us gets up in the night to do so. When we got up at 6:30am or so it was 41F (5.5C) in Sherman and the furnace worked for almost an hour to get things reasonably warm.

Took Whiskey for a long morning walk because she would be left alone all day. Then we rode our bikes over to the visitor center to start our Wild Cave Tour at 9:30am.

It is going to be difficult to describe exactly what we did on this tour without being able to provide pictures, but I’ll do my best. Actually, I found some pictures online from somebody who did this tour and actually made it through with his camera intact. So maybe I’ll post some of them further down if I can find them again.

There were 16 people on the tour…10 men, 4 women, and the two male tour guides, Jackie and John. We were probably the oldest at almost 49, with the exception of John. Never asked his age, but we’re pretty sure he was into his 50’s. A real mix of other ages ranging from late teens to early 40’s.

First, they brought us to the equipment room where we got changed into coveralls. We were told that we could bring what we wanted, including cameras (nobody did) but that you were really way better off bringing nothing at all. Even a water bottle was too much to carry. They also supplied us with gloves, helmets, headlamps, and kneepads. And they gave Ruth a fanny pack for her lunch that she had brought, although you were also told that you would be able to buy a box lunch for $7.50 halfway through the tour.

We took a short bus ride to get to the entrance that we were to use. We entered the cave, and had to go down a series of steps. Once underground, the first thing the guides want to do is to find out how well we would cope with doing some of the cave activities that we were to face over the next 5 hours or so. They also told us that they have a lot of choice as to the different activities available, and that they tend to make up the route as they go along depending on the ability of the participants. One of the guys had been on this tour before, and he suggested we go into “The Bear Hole”. Or it may have been “The Bare Hole” because past participants had been known to emerge from the hole with their pants around their knees!

So we saw this smooth hole in the rock that led downwards on an angle. It was oval shaped, about 18” wide and maybe 9” high. Yeah, okay. Our leader Jackie went in, head first with his arms outstretched in front of him. His body squirmed a little bit and, sliding downward, his feet eventually disappeared!

One by one, we disappeared down the hole. Now, it wasn’t only the entrance to the hole that was that size…once you got in there, you had to slither like a snake for about 6 feet in an opening that was not much bigger than I am. Lying on my stomach, I could feel my back touch the roof of the tunnel when I inhaled. I mean, it was tight. I’m a tall thin guy and I would not have wanted to be any bigger than I am to do this tour. Also, I have experienced episodes in the past that make me feel a little bit claustrophobic. Never anything serious, but enough to know that spaces that tight do bother me a little bit. So this experience was interesting for me. My heart was definitely thumping watching the first few people go in. One of the ladies refused to do it, and she was allowed to bypass the really tight parts of the tour. I ended up doing fine, and once we had done a couple of the tighter areas I didn’t really have much of a problem. Interestingly, when we had struggled through some of that section, we made it close to an exit and word was passed down the line that we were now going to exit through the same hole that we slid into…except no we didn’t have gravity helping us through the hole and it was very tough to slither back through that opening.

Ruth was more worried about the climbing activities. Women naturally have less upper body strength than men, and so she was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to do that part of it. But she did great, and there was only one area where she needed some help. Ruth’s favourite saying for the day was “Holy Crap!”. Evertime the guides showed us what we were about to do…or even halfway through an exercise, it was a pretty safe bet that Ruth would say “Holy Crap!”

Everybody on the tour helped one another, and it was a good team building exercise.

The climbing and canyoning was certainly the part we enjoyed the most. The crawling in tight spots was good for me mentally, but it was definitely hard on my elbows and forearms. They are a little scratched and sore just now, and will probably take a couple of days to feel better. And my back and neck are a bit sore too. I wonder how much worse it will be in the morning!?

The most interesting part for me was “The Ledge”.

As we’re crawling through this one section, I could kind of see the person two or three in front of me get to a rock ledge, and start to slide over the edge. But the perspective you had from that direction said that there was no way a person could fit through that gap…and yet they did. It was very cool watching people ahead of you slide into that crevice and disappear. And when it was my turn, I did the same. And it WAS a tight fit, but it looked like you wouldn’t have fit at all.

And then there was “The Cheese Grater”.

Crawling through the dust and dirt was fun, but this part of the tour got you wet and muddy. We actually paid for this? Imagine crawling on your hands and knees (and sometimes on your belly) through mud and water at some points 4 or 5 inches deep. I have to admit that I didn’t really “enjoy” this, it was just a part of the experience.
However the climbing was fun…over boulders and with your feet spread 4 feet apart over a drop 20 or 30 feet deep. That was kind of fun.

Overall, a great experience and we’re glad we did it. Would we do it again? Probably not at this same location, but maybe at a different cave system.

For now, we will relax our bones and muscles for a couple of days and I’m sure we’ll be right back to normal!

Here are some pics I found online from this tour...this is NOT us, but it may as well be!


  1. Wow, just looking at those pictures makes me think that that's something I would not enjoy. I would be frightend that I would get stuck. But that's just me. I'm glad you had a good time and I love reading all about your exciting adventures.

  2. Thanks for the info! I'm sure it was a great experience, but I think I'd have to pass on that one!!

  3. Whiskey,
    Aren't you glad that sometimes dogs aren't allowed! I'm sure my Mom, even though she's only 4'9", would have preferred to stay with me for the day! Tomorrow is my birthday (nobody really knows what day I was born exactly but we've always celebrated it on Halloween), I'll be 16. Take care and tell your parents to keep posting photo's of you.
    Mojo (and Kelly)

  4. I did that one with my son when he was in high school. Now I don't know how I did it but I think I'll read about it... Great job with no pictures!

  5. Wow, what a great experience. I've been looking forward to reading all about your cave tour. My heart is poundng just reading your words. You really did a great job describing it. It is certainly not on my bucket list but what a great thrill and adventure.

  6. Holy Crap!

    Sure wish I had done the tour when I was young and skinny - no chance for it now!

    You did a great job of describing it and the photos you found were great.

  7. Not my cup of tea, but glad you two nailed it. Shame about no pictures, but you did a great job describing it.

  8. I think I'm going to take a pass too! UGH, tight spaces + me = awful experience for sure!

    I think I would rather take a nice long hike.

    But it looks like a good experience for you, I will live vicariously through your experience!


  9. Your caving sounds appropriately scarry for Halloween.

  10. Yep, "Holy Crap" just about describes it perfectly. That being said I always said it with a laugh and then got down and got the job done. We really had fun and still are talking about the experience. I look at those pictures and I say the same thing, "how did we get through that".

    We were a bit sore and stiff yesterday, today I feel better. Definitely some scrapes and bruises.

    Kevin did a great job describing it, but it was a shame not to have had a camera (I can see why they say not to bring one, not sure it would survive the experience intact!)

    Mojo...Hope you had a Happy Birthday, Whiskey sends her wishes too, hope Mom gave you a nice special treat, at 16 years old you deserve it!

    Kevin, Ruth and Whiskey

  11. Thanks for doing it for us, we by passed that last year and are now glad we did.

  12. George and Suzie...No problem, happy to help out anytime. We sure had a blast doing it.

    Kevin and Ruth

  13. All I can say is closterphobic!! (sp?) I have to give you a lot of credit for doing that, there is NO way I could have done it! A nice experience though...

  14. Judy...I don't think a lot of people could do it. Kevin wasn't sure if he could, but we really did enjoy ourselves. It was definitely an experience, one we won't forget.

    Kevin and Ruth


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