“FOLKS, off your torchlight and simply look at my light!” Hymier‘s voice didn’t exactly echo in the empty space as he pointed with his torch to a few amateurish water crevices, forming droplets of stalactite at the top and stalagmite on the ground. Meanwhile, nineteen pairs of eyes shielded under yellow helmets which were compulsory for this trek, submissively followed Hymier’s instruction as the hush continued to haunt the Dark Caves.
It was a fine Sunday morning and I decided to join more than a dozen other yoga members to explore the Dark Caves organised by NSR centre, not realising the ‘danger’ that lie ahead of us. Donned in bright orange jumpsuit, Hymier, a guide of Malaysian Natural Society, briefed us on the rules of becoming a caveman; wearing helmet all the time, carrying a torch and strictly not allowed to touch or caress the beautifully and naturally sculpted walls. Mess around with these rules will get you into trouble of either crunching a cockroach, stepping on fresh and lucid guano (courtesy droppings of the bats) or getting bitten by the cave centipede.
Upon entering the earlier part of the cave, I joined the other participants like a group of obedient students on an expedition, trained to walk in a line, occasionally looking up and down with the gaze of the torchlight sweeping the ceilings, walls and grounds of the cave. I felt like Indiana Jones all of a sudden, expecting to discover a mummy or treasure out of the gutter of the myriad of darkness, before sending myself back to reality to one of the best researched caves in Malaysia, which was first explored by Ridley in the 19th century and happens to be another ecosystem on this beautiful Earth, dressed up as the dark gallant called cave!
Everyone remembers Batu Caves’ 272 steps and the troop of primates snatching bags and throwing glance and snide (I forgot to count the ascending and descending steps, as I tried to steer far away from the primates, trying my best not to have any eye contact with them). But hardly anybody will notice Dark Caves, one of the longest caves in Peninsula Malaysia, comfortably snuggled on the left side of the steps as one climbs up quarter way to Batu Caves.
Dark Caves is also home to a wide range of fauna; fruit bats that act as pollination agents and insect bats that disguise as pest terminators. These bats produced white-turned-to-dark grey-almost-blackish guano which is surprisingly the cuisine and habitat for certain organisms such as beetles, bugs, millipedes and cockroaches. These animals are in turn fed upon by the cave crickets, centipedes, scorpions, whip scorpions and spiders. At the top of this whole food chain is the cave snake, the only snake which is adapted to spend its whole life in a cave, feeding exclusively on bats.
As we strolled cautiously into the more than 400 million years old prehistoric cave down the nicely built pathway and steps, Hymier entertained us with more knowledge of a limestone cave, introducing terms like stalactite, stalagmite, rim pool, cave curtain, conservation chamber, flow stones, cave pearls and scallops which took thousands of years to form. Mesmerised by the freshly formed miniscule and ancient gargantuan stony limestone features, I did not pay much attention to Hymier. The different layers of colours and textures on the walls, ceilings and roofs were attention seekers and as our hands were literally locked, the only sensible thing to do is to crawl the features using our eyeballs in the semi-darkness archaic cave.
At the end of the introductory trek and after a momentary meditation in total darkness and a quick break, Hymier surprised us with an announcement exclusively for Adventure Trek visitors like us. “Please keep your precious belongings in your bag. Leave your bag here (with the cobwebbed and mossy stones) and get ready to crawl and slither.”
Well, the last word was mine not his, but that was what we actually did for the next thirty minutes. I personally did more than that; helmet hurling, torchlight throwing, body sliding, commando-like crawling, abseiling, body bending and lastly keeping sanity at bay as I played with the mud like a kindergartener with the play dough. Other group members brought sweeter experiences back home with them such as overcoming claustrophobia, leaving old shoes in the mud and being grateful of coming out at the other end of the tunnel in one piece.
If there is one thing I must learn from this exploration, it’s not about the indomitable spirit or the synergy of a team, nor is it the flexibility and agility that yoga does to one’s body. I learnt the essential formula of ‘one more’ or ‘extra’; extra pair of slippers to replace the muddy-layered sneakers, extra shirt and trousers to replace the ones I had to wash up to three times by hand and extra underwear for replacing the soggy ones that was glued to my skin.
Remember to dump watches, cameras, mobile phones and all valuable things into your knapsack before embarking on the Adventure Trek. More importantly, if you choose to use the amenities at Batu Caves’ toilet (not far from Lord Muruga’s golden statue), pay RM0.20 instead of RM1.00 to get a decent shower while closing your eyes trying hard not to look into the squatting toilet bowl (toiletries courtesy of your own self).
So, if you want to put your yoga trained mind, body and soul to test, take a trip down the Dark Caves or any future outings organised by NSR centre.
Written by Enbarani Ramasamy, April 2011.
Dark Cave yoga exploration was held on the 15thApril to experience the amazing flora & fauna at Batu Caves. NSR centre regularly conducts & facilitates outdoor activities for the students and public with the objective of learning to bridge the connection between Body and Mind.
Let join Dark cave exploration with Zipline and Kayak on Chay river
– Price: 39 usd /person
– Pickup from Phong Nha center
– End tour: Phong Nha
– Local English speaking guide or supervisor
– Motorbike / car transfer upon request
– Entrance fee and permit
– Specialized equipment: plastic sandals, swimming suites, life jackets, caving helmets and lights
– Kayak on Chay river
– Zipline game
– Mineral water
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