Have you ever explored an elephant’s arsehole? The latest in my Bristol adventure series.
“That one’s the elephant’s arsehole,” exclaims our friendly guide.
I shine my headtorch in the right direction. I see a hole about 1.5m high, just about big enough for me to fit through. Water is gushing out full pelt.
It certainly doesn’t take a genius to see where the name comes from.
I’m somewhere in the depths of Swildon’s Hole, an extensive cave network in Priddy, Somerset, about 18 miles from Bristol.
At over 9km in length, it is the longest cave network in the Mendip Hills. I’m wearing a rather fetching bright red, blue and yellow padded onesie, wellies, gloves, helmet and a constant look of slight panic.
I’m wet through, having climbed down waterfalls and squeezed through tunnels half a foot high in freezing water.
I’ve also been closer to strangers’ backsides than I ever thought necessary, as we each wait patiently for each other to calm our breath and slip, slide and scramble our way through the tiny caverns which open up into huge, stunning stalactite and stalagmite-filled caves.
It’s my first time caving and it’s equal parts amazing and terrifying.
I’m not claustrophobic as such, but I’ve never been overly comfortable in confined spaces. I naively thought that this ‘beginners trip’ wouldn’t be that full on.
I should have known better! I booked with Explorers Connect, a fantastic organisation that aims to help people experience adventure. One thing is for sure – whether it’s caving in the Mendips or trekking the North Pole – they will always push your limits.
Anyhow, back to the elephant’s asshole.
I valiantly offer to go first, hoping people will think that it’s because I’m brave (and not because they’ve worked out my tactic of going first every time so I don’t get stuck behind anyone).
I clamber up and squeeze through, with a lot of effort and zero grace. This is one of the trickier parts of the excursion, but with each one I am getting braver and my smile is getting bigger as I realise that not only am I capable but that I’m loving every second.
We’re underground for over three hours in total, before we re-emerge and attempt to dry off, get changed without flashing the locals (I failed) and retire to the local pub for a well deserved cold cider and Sunday roast.
Do it! This is fear in a good way. It’s fear in an adrenaline-pumping, can-we-do-it-again-now kind of way.
And, luckily for me (and you!) we can do it again. Explorers Connect is running a dry caving version in May and after that, we’re tackling ‘Sump 1’. Imagine wet caving, but with an abseil down a 7m waterfall and a dive through a 1m long fully-emerged tunnel thrown in for good measure.
You’ll be given a kit list, which includes a change of clothes as you will get wet. Very wet.
But, remember to take clean underwear and a towel. I can’t even count the number of people that forgot to pack spare pants and had to sit through the obligatory post-excursion Sunday Roast with wet pants!
WHAT TO BRING/WEAR:
- Trousers, base layer and fleece to wear under your caving suit – be aware they may get muddy and will get wet
- Spare clothes to change into afterwards (and pants, obviously!)
THE VITAL STATISTICS:
- Location: Swildon’s Hole
- Company: Aardvark adventures via Explorers Connect
- Price: £29.50 (bargain!!!)
- Book it: Book direct with Aardvark Adventures or better still sign up to become a member of Explorers Connect and take part in activities like this with a whole new bunch of adventurous people.
ABOUT THIS POST:
All photos courtesy of Belinda Kirk at Explorers Connect (hope you don’t mind me stealing them!!).
This post is part of my mini-adventure series in and around Bristol. Find out more about it here.