1. Go Below
BaseCamp Adventure 1: Go Below
We stood in the depths of the Welsh Slate mines with seven others and our two guides staring at the chink of light above us – the exit back on to the Welsh mountainside where we had started our caving adventure a few hours earlier – disappointed at the thought of having to return after an exhilarating underground adventure.
Caving is something we have tried only once before as a family – a short taste in the Peak District about 5 years ago. This time we ventured into northern Wales and experienced a wonderful blend of history and adventure with Go Below. This really was an ed-venture – a mixture of education and adventure – and a chance to create exciting memories together as a family in the outdoors.
We love doing adventures as a family, getting outside, exploring and pushing our comfort zones – it is very rewarding. It is a healthy past time and brings you closer together as a family.
The last head torch, belonging to our instructor, flickered off, plunging us into darkness. I heard gasps and uneasy laughs around me as we looked around, trying to see the cave wall, or even the person next to us.
“Wave your hand in front of your face,” our instructor said, and I did so. “Can you see it?”
A chorus of ‘no’s. I could imagine him grinning.
“Then we’re in pitch black. People talk about it being pitch black at night, but you often have the stars, the moon, a kind of light source enabling you to see something. But it’s only when it’s this dark – so dark that you can’t even see you hand in front of your face – that it’s pitch black. There’s no light managing to get this far under the ground.”
He turned his torch back on, dazzling me. “Come on, let’s go.”
That’s what I loved about Go Below – the blend of adventure and history. I’m pretty mad about both of these things, so I loved the zip wire over the lagoon, the traverse and abseil into a cavern and the raft across water 60ft deep, but I also enjoyed just as much the history side of the adventure. Passing rotting mine carts, being shown crumbling shoes left in the mines for good luck and never collected, the demonstration of how dark it would have been without the lights we rely so much on. That made it just as good an experience, for me, as the adventure.
My favourite part of our Go Below adventure was when we turned a corner and through the darkness saw a beautiful underground lake. A dinghy was sat waiting and, after putting on life jackets on, we boarded the boat and were handed an oar. As we paddled the short journey across the lake, our guide told us how the water below us was 60 feet deep. Lumps of jagged slate were sticking out from the ceiling. The water, when illuminated by our head torches, was a lovely aqua marine; it was beautiful!
Near the end of the trip we climbed a waterfall – this was a wet climb and I’m glad we were wearing waterproof trousers. Some poor people in our group weren’t so they got wet!
The last part of the trip involved walking up an incredible underground river before climbing a ladder and emerging out of a trapdoor at ground level again. There was much more to this jam-packed caving trip, but these were just my favourite bits.
Trip organised by AXA Insurance as part of their Live Boldly campaign. http://www.axa.co.uk/insurance/personal/liveboldly/