I grew up seeing old family’s slides (the real old-fashioned slides, those that you need a projector and the whole family and friends gathered in front of a very white wall in the living room). My dad was into photography, and, being from the former Yugoslavia, one of his collections was all about the caverns in Croatia, Bosnia or Serbia – I don’t remember. As a child, those images portrayed a magical world that was not only were very, very far away, but also inside the Earth. Magic.
Time has gone by, not in a geological way, and I moved from Brazil to the US. In Brazil, at least in Rio or in the states around Rio, there were no caverns. I need to learn more about geology to understand why. But anyway, after living in the States for some 13 years, I finally decided to see one of the many caverns around the city where I live – Austin, TX.
And I was in for a treat!
Like many attractions here in the US, the cavern I visited is a “commercial cavern”, that is, there is a whole infrastructure around the thing itself: huge parking lot, restaurants, shops, even a petting zoo, many kinds of tickets and tours (“combo”, “adventure”, “secret passages”, etc, etc, etc). I picked the most basic tour.
After waiting for almost 2 hours (I think my friend and I picked the most popular time and cavern in the area), our tour finally began.
We started to go down – and at this point I realized that I was in for the real deal. The tour guide was young and funny, and the group of 20 people in the tour was advised not to touch anything, etc (“3rd degree felony!”). Oh, we were also told that going down and up could be “strenuous”. I love this adjective. Everything in the US can be “strenuous”.
The first chamber was small and it already blew my mind away. I had no idea of the scale of the thing. No idea! We were moving fast and I had to absorb my excitement and keep moving – we were going to go 2 miles through the cavern in 75 minutes.
The further down we went, the more I wished I could spend the whole day there alone. First, the lighting was out of this world, and most importantly… I started to feel like I was getting into the belly of the beast, the insides of the Earth, its womb, intestines – but it was all very quiet. At times I felt like I was scuba diving, with all those rock formations that look like they are melting down.
The easy metaphor that came to my mind by then was that I was also diving into my own unconscious mind, with my memories that drip and shape water passages, secret chambers, darks places. The more I went down into the Earth, the more I wanted to stay there. And then every new corner showed a new view, into chambers that got larger and more detailed (reminded me also of gothic architecture), with promises of more beauty, secrets and dark places.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. And on top of it all – on the bottom of it all, I should say, there was water. The river of emotions washing away more sediments, and continuing to bring along more particles – which make the cavern alive. After all, it is a living system, still taking shape.
This kind of formation is called “Over Easy Egg” 😉