Quietly Sh*tting Myself – Aurora Caves (Part Two)

“On a Mish” #316 Quietly Sh*tting myself – Part Two. Aurora Caves. Murchison Mountains. Fiordland National Park. 4.1.2022. It is odd how some people find something terrifying, while others enjoy the same experience. It really shows how individual humans are when it comes to risk. I have no problem with being high on an exposed ridge with massive drops either side, but confined spaces have always freaked me out. I love the open air available while on the mountain tops. On this mish there was no open air and we were going inside a mountain, not to the top of it. Of all those present, I was the most scared, but I wasn’t going to tell anyone of my fear…

After arriving at the cave entrance we readied ourselves for underground travel. Helmets on heads and torches tested before saying goodbye to the world above ground. The first part of the cave is huge and an easy angled slope leads down to where the real caving begins. Our first stop was in the bunkroom, a place the surveyors had slept while exploring the cave for the first time. Next we followed the sound of thundering water to the Twin Falls. These two large waterfalls power their way out of a wall of the cave and come crashing down into the Tunnel Burn below. So far I felt pretty good, but it was the next encounter that would send me into the realms of pure fear. To proceed past a point just beyond the falls we had to negotiate a ten meter section where a massive boulder had been wedged into the roof of the cave. Pulling on this may result in the huge piece breaking off and squashing whoever happens to be under it. It was from here that I began my battle with fear. From large rooms to tight squeezes, we had many different passages to follow before arriving at the Big Room. At one point on the journey we had a small section where we had to crawl due to how tight the cave became. Not my cup of tea, and at one point my mind shut my body down. It is a rather scary feeling when you can’t move due to fear. Knowing I had people behind me somehow snapped me back into life and I finished the squeeze and got to a more manageable part of the cave.

Twin Falls

We had a snack at the big room before (reluctantly) repeating the journey in reverse back to the Aurora Entrance. My hips was very sore and I wasn’t exactly loving the location I had got myself into. Oh well, I got myself here so I am going to have to get myself out! Some deep breaths had to be taken while squeezing myself through the tight sections and I was stoked when I started to hear the deep rumble of Twin Falls again. As soon as I spotted the entrance I was on a mish to get out. The others spent some time taking photos and hanging out near the entrance, but I just kept going until I was out of the cave and there was sky above me. Now that it was over I was incredibly happy that I put my fear aside and stepped up to the challenge of the Aurora Cave Network. The whole experience showed me how fear is just a challenge that can be overcome with a little bit of stubbornness and determination. It also taught me that sometimes it is best to just suck it up, and if anyone asks you are “OK”. No need to tell anybody that you are quietly shitting yourself!!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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