So, we went to visit the Cango Caves.
The last time I visited the Cango Caves, I was 15 years old – and there are two distinct memories I have of the experience:
After a long drive (and nothing to drink in the car on the way there)… I was so thirsty that I downed the first liquid I got my hands on: a can of coke! I downed it without taking a breath! And then I downed a 2nd can, straight after that. I can’t ever remember being as thirsty as I was that day.
The second memory has to do with 2 large tour groups (of too many people) ending up in a too-small cave… and not enough oxygen for everyone to breathe.
It was one of those deep caves… one where we had to either crawl or squat because the ceiling was too low to stand and through poor planning – or some kind of mix up – too many people tried to crowd into that tiny cave at once… and suddenly, there was no air!
People started gasping… desperately… and a few started to panic.
The tour guides kicked into action and were barking orders – screaming at visitors to “move back! move back!”…
The man stuck in a small corner next to me had become so agitated and panicked – that he decided then and there that he absolutely had to smoke a cigarette (!!!) But, he couldn’t get it right, of course! There wasn’t enough oxygen and his lighter refused to work! He desperately flicked and flicked… but, sorry-for-him… he couldn’t produce a flame!
I remember thinking that maybe there was air closer to the ground… and I remember trying to ‘drink’ air from the cave floor.
Anyhoo… so, 2 days ago, we were back – kids in tow!
The Cango Caves are a marvel and one of those must-see experiences… even though much of it has become a gaudy, over-priced, over-populated tourist attraction. A massive 3-storey complex has been erected at the entrance of the caves… complete with a restaurant (selling over-priced, crappy food)… a gift shop (overflowing with expensive, predictable curios)… a bar with rugby showing on the big-screen TV (and a bunch of beer-swilling enthusiasts, whooping and punching the air)… a sweet & snack shop… and walls of garish A1 posters advertising other tourist attractions in the area.
Oh – and even a fake fountain where people have tossed lots of 5c coins…
BUT… all of that aside… once you get into the caves – you can’t help but marvel at what nature has created. The caverns are enormous – the stalactites and stalagmites are breathtaking… (or, at least the ones which horrible, greedy people haven’t managed to steal!). All of the stalagmites and stalactites that have been small enough or easy-to-reach enough… have been snapped off and taken home as ‘souvenirs’ by visitors over the years.
I am revolted at how selfish people are. Something that has taken hundreds of thousands of years to form… broken off and stolen – in a few seconds – by a thoughtless, selfish @#$%!
And… while I’m on this rant… why – oh WHY – are the most beautiful sites in the world polluted with hideous graffitti? I’m not talking street-art (which I like)… I’m talking hideous graffiti! People scratching their names… or their boyfriend’s names… into said beautiful site? WTF?
It was on the giant Baobab tree… it was on the impressive mountain peak at the Swartberg pass… it was scrawled all over the natural fountains near de Rust… and, of course, we saw it scribbled on stalactites and stalagmites too! What kind of insert nasty word here scratches his name into an ancient stalagmite?
It’s like people who say: “Wow! Look at that magnificent leopard! I know what! I’ll blow it’s brains out and mount it’s head on my study wall!”
“Wow! Look at that beautiful, ancient stalactite! I know what! I’ll just break it off when the guide isn’t looking… hide it in my handbag… and display it on my mantlepiece at home to impress my friends and relatives!”
(while scuba-diving on a beautiful reef): “Wow! Look at that gorgeous coral that has taken years and years to form! It’s so delicate and beautiful! I know what! I’ll break it off in chunks… and take it home… and display it on my coffee table so everyone knows I’m cool because I once went diving in an exotic location!”
“Wow! Look at that huge, ancient Baobab tree! I know what! I’ll grab a sharp piece of rock and scratch my girlfriend’s name into the bark with my ugly handwriting!”
‘scuse the rant – but what’s with that? Are we so neanderthal that we need to “mark-our-territory” like a dog pee’ing on a car tyre? Sometimes… I really – I dunno – worry about humanity. People, I think, are intrinsically selfish. And I worry how the planet will ever survive us…
We exhibit such an embarrassing lack of respect towards the earth… towards nature (as a whole). It’s all about US… what can WE get out of this planet? What can we TAKE? What can we OWN? What can we CLAIM?
We are so full of self-importance – we really are.
I don’t understand why folk can’t just embrace the experience… drink in the beauty… take some photos… and move on (and respectfully leave everything in one piece for future visitors – and generations – to enjoy!).
Anyway. Rant over.
Here are some pretty photos of the Cango Caves to end this post on a happy note:
And finally… on another happy note, I am greatly relieved to know that the Cango Caves go far deeper into the earth (another 5 kilometres – the tourists are allowed access to the first kilometre and a bit). I’m relieved to know that there are huge, untouched caverns… with un-touched, un-meddled-with stalactites and stalagmites – because tourists are completely banned from the rest of the caves (for good reason!).
There’s a video that the rest of us can watch at the end of the tour if we want to see the rest of the Cango Caves. I’m a bit sad that I can’t experience the beauty of those un-touched caverns first-hand… but, simultaneously relieved that they’re protected against those who pilfer and plunder everything they possibly can lay their greedy fingers on.
Okay. Rant really is over now.