Cape Town - Inching our way through the low wet crawl into the sandstone passageway we soon found ourselves circling back and crossing our tracks – we were indeed inside Labyrinth Cave with no intention of getting lost. Exploring the underground system of passages with a lively 10-year-old leading kept us on our knees. A headlamp and knee protection are key to negotiating the sandy, cool underground tunnels which extend over 200m.
The beams from our headlamps dispelled the darkness. We soon forgot about the enclosing atmosphere by turning our attention on to the cave walls clad in shimmering white lichen. Attention to detail in the cave’s interior helps keep claustrophobia at bay. Drops of water on the pixelated/mottled walls and ceiling shone like LED lights, sparkling with an otherworldly luminosity.
At one point we were flat on our stomachs on the sand ferreting about. We found ourselves edging through a maze of tight openings which led to even tighter gaps. It is possible to avoid close facial encounters with the cave’s floor by turning left/west shortly after you have entered the main alley. Stoop-walk through the narrow passageway following the underground stream to a small pool. A little further on the corridor becomes a cul-de-sac and a possible lead, a cat-hole narrows down and becomes non-negotiable.
Labyrinth Cave is a 15-minute walk beyond Muizenberg Cave. Head towards the eastern edge of St James Peak, 420m above Muizenberg.
The cave is nestled below the trig beacon in a rocky outcrop. Some of the rock faces are suitable for boulder climbing – the art of climbing without using rope as a backup, instead using a crashpad or bouldering mat to break falls.
For the less adventurous there is a breathtaking view from the cave that speaks of this amazing blue planet. Large inland tracts of water such as Zeekoe and Zand Vlei sparkle magnificently below. The impressive Atlantic Ocean rolls up on to the ever curving white sandy beach strip demarcating False Bay.
The sloping boulder-strewn entrance into Muizenberg Cave is 10 minutes away from Labyrinth Cave. Strong shafts of light cut into the gaping opening of the cave. The sizeable chamber is 6m wide, equally high and reaches back into St James Peak some 12m or so.
A few tunnels and slots lead off the chamber. The first passageway on the right beckons and offers some adventure. It is about 40m long and is best explored with a headlamp. The often wet floor of this tunnel calls for diligent footwork in order to stay upright. Be on high alert for a sudden drop in the floor – a vertical pitch into a dark pit.
Traverse around this on the left side and change down into 4x4 mode: crawling.
Feeling the wind blow on your cheeks signals the southern exit – and it’s not the obvious dassie hole that is on your right that you need to take. If darkness and the quest for more exploration beckons, duck into a small chamber on the left. Take a seat, create a mental space that is, relatively speaking, unmappable, by extinguishing all light sources.
To get to the cave from Silvermine Gate 2 takes about 50 minutes.
The next caving outing is on February 3.
l Call the Cape Peninsula Spelaeological Society at 073 232 3446, or see www.cpss.caving.org.za - Cape Times