Friday, February 21, 2014

The Non Spelunker's Guide to Caving

Photo courtesy Creative Commons.
Most caves keep a constant median temperature. That in large part is why humans have use them as shelter since the beginning of time. They don’t get too cold; they don’t get too warm. Not so with Crystal Caves in Nancia, Mexico.

Discovered in 2000 by miners working for the Industrias Peñoles, this cave sits above a magma pool. The stable 122 degree Fahrenheit make it inaccessible to visitors not donning refrigerated suits and cold breathing systems.

Doesn’t matter much since the giant shards of perfectly-faceted selenite crystalline beams jutting out from both the floor and ceiling may soon be gone. The once submerged cavern is now pumped to prevent potential flooding to other mined caverns, and to allow scientific investigation. But,  the crystals have the unfortunate inclination to deteriorate when exposed to air.

Lest you be concerned of the loss of one of the world’s rare natural beauties, be assured that the company is documenting the cave and its 500,000 year old gypsum crystal pylons through photographs. It does intend to eventually reseal, meaning reflood, the chamber. So all will be well in the end. Maybe. 

More accessible to modern day jetsetters is the Alux Caverna Restaurant Lounge located in southeast Mexico on the Yucatán Peninsula. Purported to house mischievous Mayan elves, the cave also shelters springs that are said to be sacred. Besides dinning among thousands of year old stalagmites, visitors may select to participate in a shaman led Mayan Ceremony.

On Jamaica’s West End, there’s another cave restaurant.  Only this one is perched on seaside cliffs.  Although the twelve guest cottages of Negril’s The Caves Hotel and Spa are above ground, the Blackwell Rum Bar is well below. Private candle lit dining is offered in the one of the Bar’s two subterranean grottoes opened to the Gulf of Mexico.

All around the world caves are still sheltering ambling bipeds. Many, though not all, are located around larger cave systems.  Turkey with 40,000 caves hidden with the karstified Taurus Mountains, for instance, has a bunch of cave hotels to choose from.

Set within UNESCO World Heritage Site are Cappadocia’s  Hezen Cave Hotel with its white tufa (volcanic rock) walls and the 35 cave rooms at Gamirasu Hotel once housed Byzantine monks. The Gamirasu includes a rare 12th century cave chapel with intact frescoes. Each cave room at the hilltop ELKEP Evi Cave Hotel , self described as the “cozy cave inn” , has a private terrace with stupendous valley views as well as a Turkish bath.

France, known for its hundreds of caves with Paleolithic paintings, has its share. The 12 cave rooms at Les Hautes Roches once hid monks from persecution, and later, were used to grow mushrooms and store wine. Beneath ruins of a Roman fortress in a medieval village carved out of rock is the three-room B&B, Le Prince Noir. The dark prince for which the inn is named refers to none other than the biblical traveling astrologer and gift giving king, Balthazar, who supposedly founded the place way back when.

Set in anther UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 18 vaulted cave rooms at southern Italy’s  Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita are actually part of a large scale community redevelopment cultural preservation project, and well worthy of mention.

On the Greek island of Santorini, built in the traditional Cyclades island style of architecture, is the exquisite Alexander.  The cave rooms at this boutique inn have panoramic Mediterranean views and are fitted with white washed walls and antiques.

Even in the U.S., there are caves serving road worn travelers. The Beckham Creek Cave Lodge not far from Arkansas’s Mystic Cavern and Crystal Dome caves provides unique accommodations in the heart of the Ozarks. Also in Arkansas is the Eureka Springs Hobbit Caves which has six underground stonewalled suites to choose from.

The southwestern Kokopelli Cave in Arizona is equipped with a rooftop terrace set high above the sandstone mesa from which the lodge has been excavated affording dynamic sunset viewing at the end of a long day exploring nearby historic Native American cliff dwellings.

No comments:

Post a Comment