Ever since I came to México, people have been telling me about caves in their area. Strange as it may seem, the descriptions are always remarkably similar, although the caves, if we find any at all, may be completely unalike.
“This cave starts at a little hole over there by a Guamúchil tree and goes straight through the whole mountain ...¡SÍ, Señor! It comes right out the other side. But no one has ever gone all the way because as soon as you get 100 meters inside, your light is mysteriously blown out, even if it’s a flashlight! That’s what has stopped us from reaching the treasure ... and then there are the snakes ... no, you’d better not go in that hole!”.
The snakes. Everyone supposes that caves are crawling with them, so I always make it a point to tell people that I’ve seen just about the same number of snakes underground as treasure chests. But a few days ago something happened that has made me change my tune...
Into the 75-Hole Cave
On January 4, 1988, Cynthia Vann, Ray Hardcastle and I made an unsuccessful attempt to locate the unfindable cave atop Tequila Volcano, fabled to contain phosphorescent formations. On our way back home, I stopped to show them La Cueva de La Venta, hoping Ray might shed light on how this cave acquired its 75 neatly spaced entrances. After exploring the lower section of the cave, we used a webbing handline as an aid in climbing down the dirt slope leading into the longer part. As we had originally set out on a cave hunt, we had only one proper (6 volt) flashlight among us, plus Rays feeble throwaway, which was emitting a hazy brown glow. “No problem,” I exclaimed confidently as we made our way down the dusty dirtpile, “there’s plenty of light in this section from all those holes in the ceiling.”
The four-meter wide fissure we were in quick1y narrowed to a maximum of 1.5 meters at shoulder level and a mere 30 cm on the floor. Right at a spot where there was no shaft of light coming from a ceiling hole, Ray, who was bringing up the rear, suddenly began yelling bloody murder at the top of his voice. HOLY SH__¡ JESUS¡ OH MY GOD! Were shouted with such a tone of genuine panic that Cindy and I literally leapt into the air and jumped forward while Ray jumped back.
Up until this moment, we had assumed there were only three of us in that cave, but from a point halfway between us, we could hear inhuman noises that made hair stand on end. “John, shine the flashlight over there, down on the ground!” And we had our first look at the creature with which Ray had been doing a tango in the dark.
There in that narrow slot, the bright beam of my light revealed the coils of a two-meter long snake, type unknown. It was obviously enraged, crazily striking left and right and putting on a terrifying show. As Ray so aptly expressed it. “That sucker as hissin’ an’ spittin’ an’ jumpin’ all at the same time.” And with good reason. Apparently I had woken it up. Cindy had stepped right on it and Ray was left to make the apologies.
Our Backs to the Wall
How do you get past an incensed serpent in a narrow crack? Even when we moved further away, we could see it lunging at every shadow. It had a good 75 cm reach and there was no way we were going to slip by it in that narrow fissure. The possibilities of chimneying up and over it were not too bright, and a little experimenting showed us that one of the sidewalls was extremely slippery.
Cindy and I pondered our situation while stretched across the crack at a spot farther away and too high for the snake to reach. Meanwhile, Ray left the cave to hunt up a long stick. One thought kept coming back into our conversation: what if all three of us had got trapped in this side?
Ray returned with a long pole and we discussed escape plans. Should he prod and push the critter further into the cave, beyond the high spot where we were now perched?. Or should he try to hold its head down while we made a flying leap over it? Both solutions might resulted in the snake taking off after Ray.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a copy of the Guiness Book of Records to find out what this reptiles top speed was, so we decided on option two, which might result in demobilizing the beast for a few moments. Cautiously Ray reached out with the pole ... “Keep the light on it, John! Keep the light on it! ... Ah! Got him!”.
Wild thrashing of rippling coils. Hoping Ray had the right end pinned down; Cindy scrambled over, feet on one wall, hands on the other. ‘EEEEK! I’m slipping!” Ah, what a scene for an Indiana Jones movie! But she didn’t slip, and I took a flying leap, which result in my going right over Ray’s head, of course, as I flew over him, there was no more light on the snake. “Run for it, Ray!” I shouted and believe me we didn’t tiptoe out. Never have I seen anyone get up the steep dirthill entrance faster than the three of us.
Afterthought: How to Spot Cave Snakes
On our way home we acknowledged that our little problem might not have developed had we not broken one of the cardinal rules of caving: each caver must carry three sources of light. One person trying to light the way for three reduced our chances of spotting danger to almost zero. In addition, we might have realized that a cave with 74 holes in the ceiling is 74 times more likely to contain extraneous objects than a single-entrance cave. Breathing frequent sighs of relief, we celebrated the “rescue” with frosty bottles of Carta Blanca. After all, now that we’ve found our first snake-in-a-cave, we do expect to run into our first treasure chest.
Resumen del articulo anterior;
ATRAPADOS EN LA CUEVA DE LA VENTA
UN MIEMBRO DE ZOTZ SIRVIO DE GUIA A DOS ESPELEOLOGOS
NORTEAMERICANOS A LA CUEVA DE LA VENTA QUE SE
ENCUENTRA MUY CERCA DE GUADALAJARA. DEBIDO A QUE ESTA CUEVA SE CONSIDERA COMO “MUY FACIL” Y SIN DIFICULTAD TECNICA, ENTRARON SIN HACER CASO DE UN PRINCIPIO BASICO DE LA ESPELEOLOGIA: QUE CADA PERSONA DEBE LLEVAR COMO MINIMO TRES FUENTES DE LUZ. ELLOS LLEVABAN DOS LAMPARAS PARA LOS TRES.
ALGO MUY PECULIAR DE ESTA CUEVA ES QUE TIENE UN GRAN NUMERO DE AGUJEROS EN EL TECHO. POR LOS QUE PUEDEN CAER GRAN CANTIDAD DE OBJETOS. DEBIDO A LA FALTA DE LUZ, NO VIERON QUE POR UNO DE ESTOS AGUJEROS HABIA CAIDO UNA SERPIENTE (DOS METROS DE LARGO).
LOS DOS PRIMEROS PASARON SOBRE ELLA PISÁNDOLA. EL TERCERO YA NO PUDO PASAR PUES LA SERPIENTE COMENZO A ATACAR. NO HABIA FORMA DE PASAR ASI QUE ESAS DOS PERSONAS QUEDARON ATRAPADAS EN LA CUEVA. DESPUES DE MULTIPLES MANIOBRAS LOGRARON SALIR. AFORTUNADAMENTE LA SERPIENTE NO ERA VENENOSA, Y NO PASO DEL SUSTO.