One of the highlights, although a rather scary one, was going into an undeveloped cave network - no paths, no electric lights installed, no handrails. Just a hard hat and headlamp and a local guide. I've always been fascinated by caves and wondered what it would be like to go in one without all the modern conveniences. Now I have an idea!
I almost turned back at the very beginning because it just looked like we were climbing into a deep dark hole in the rocks - and they were closing the gate behind us, locking us in. Somehow I made myself not think about what I was doing, and took some deep breaths, and made it in. It was unlike most caves I've been in - most of the ones I've seen before are nice and cool inside; this one got hotter as you went down, and there was less oxygen as you went down too. Eventually we were all panting even though we were mostly just sliding down slopes.
At one point the guide showed us a candle they keep down there to measure the oxygen. He didn't light it, just told us that it burns if there's enough oxygen. Then he started walking on and left it behind. "Aren't we taking the candle?" "Oh no, sometimes it goes out." ?!!!
Once we got to the lowest point of that particular network of tunnels, the way was blocked by a lake filling the lower tunnels. Two of the guys we were with were convinced they had to touch the water to see what it was like. Next thing I know, one of them had climbed down and jumped in! I thought they were completely crazy and was not at all tempted to follow. Anyway, they made it out okay and seemed glad they'd done it.
The sad thing was, most of the formations inside the cave were dead. Unfortunately, when there aren't paths or handrails, you have to grab whatever you can to help climb/lower yourself down, and as soon as stalactites or stalagmites are touched, they stop growing. Definitely not the most beautiful cave I've been in, but good for the spelunking experience. =)
Going up was much easier than going down - the air got cooler and easier to breathe as we went. Still we were all pretty wiped out when we reached the exit. The guide offered to take us into other tunnel networks (there are 2.5 kilometers of them!) but we passed.
The rest of the camping trip was more relaxing. We had some rain, for which we were grateful because this rainy season has been extremely dry. We cooked and ate way too much meat (the Namibian staple), went swimming, and enjoyed talking. Although I have to admit most of the time I was lost in a sea of Afrikaans. Glad I got to explore some more of the triangle though! (The triangle is the area between Tsumeb, Grootfontein, and Otavi.)