Monday, April 28, 2008


Our jeep rattles through the dilapidated centre of a struggling town, and on into similarly struggling suburbia. Our driver stops outside what seems to be a small cafe: outside, old men of un-defined function - not patrons, but not apparently employees either - are talking in the shade. A guide takes us down a leafy path, and into the dark mouth of a large cavern.

The rock around us is weirdly ice-like: I see dozens of formations that look exactly like "beards" of icicles. Here and there, great pillars have come to stand from floor to ceiling. The stone looks motionless - but ever so slowly, millenia on patient millenia, it is reclaiming the void.

At the bottom of the chamber we see the agent of change: a pool running the full width of the chamber. The water is a magical blue, and so clear that the twenty or so feet of its depth does nothing to obscure the bottom. I'm so entranced by the water that I barely spare a glance for the beauty around me before donning mask, snorkel, fins, and giant-striding into the depths.

The pool is lovely, dark and deep

The water is immensely refreshing without being cold, and perfectly still. Below the surface, the sculpture garden continues, and with my torch I begin to probe ledges and hollows around the edge of the pool. Those magically clear depths, however, are what really hold my interest, and soon I swim to the centre of the pool, turn head-down and fin slowly into the depths.

When I feel the time has come to return to the air, I stop my finning, and angle my body towards the silvery sheet high above me, and wait for physics to take over. To my immense surprise, nothing happens - by now, the buoyancy of the air in my lungs should be rushing me to the surface. I understand immediately what is happening: I have swum so deep that the press of the water above me has compressed my chest, and with it my lung volume, until the density of my body matches perfectly with that of the water surrounding it. Now, my body at rest neither floats nor sinks. For long seconds, I hang motionless in that deep and wonderful place, suspended without weight, without effort, in the quiet blue coolness. It is an inexpressibly beautiful moment.

I fin slowly back to the surface, and soon we are back in the sun, rattling onwards; but I think a little piece of that cave came with me.

No comments: