James Perry, James Wilson, Matti Mitropoulos, Ellie Pizey, Leo Antwis, Chris Hayes, Luke Matthew, Astrid Rao, Laura Temple, Kevin Sohn, Isabelle Atkinson, Davin Sheikholeslami, Ching Bon Tang, Sean Lim, Ryan Park, Haram Saouri, Quinxuan Li, Salwa Ahmad, Yue Wu
Never in my life have I embarked on a weekend trip, so this was a series of firsts for me, but boy was I ecstatic. I must've blabbered to everyone in my social circle for days on end, and by that point, they were likely rolling their eyes every time I opened my mouth! Soon Friday came and so did 6pm and so we set off for a rather long and bumpy ride. There were moments when I was questioning the years of driving experience our driver had but it soon came to my realisation that the root cause may have been the vehicle we were in and not the driver. Atleast that's what I led myself to believe. When we finally arrived, my goodness the night sky was like a cosmic fireworks display! Despite my love for the city's hustle and bustle, there's something captivating about a pitch-black sky adorned with stars, accompanied only by the whispers of wind and rustling leaves. While some of us were lost in the starry spectacle, capturing photos like paparazzi on a red carpet, others were unloading the minibus. I was so entranced by the night sky that I missed the committee's call to claim a bed upstairs… Result? Instead of having my own solo bed, I found myself in an unexpected twin bed setup with none other than Luke Matthew
Now, you'd think that after a 5-hour, spine-jolting journey, a good night's sleep would be a universal prescription for the next day's physical demands. But oh no! While some were outside stargazing with the help of the night sky app (Jupiter was very hard not to miss) the inside of the cottage was bustling with laughter. Our flexibility was put to the test. Whilst some, Chris, Laura, Sean, Perry, Astrid and Luke were making it seem like a piece of cake the rest of us could barely go down so low before realising the limitations of our body (though I later learned that technique trumps all after some practice at home). Time flew by, and suddenly it was 2:30 pm - time to hit the hay for a big day ahead. After getting in bed it soon became apparent that I would not be sleeping this weekend. A 5hr long melody of snoring left, right and centre. I thought my brother snored loud but boy was I up for a surprise. Anyway... it's safe to say I will not be forgetting my ear buds next time!
Due to serendipitous circumstances it was easy for me to come on this trip so I rocked up to stores at 16:30 to pack last kit last minute, unfortunately only getting the last dregs of the knee pad box. Leo had previously announced he would be enforcing a no-faff policy, and though I had little hope it would succeed I did my best to accommodate it: I fetched the bus in good time, and we loaded up the roof rack as swiftly as possible. Unfortunately the ratchet straps were the ultimate culprit – I didn’t realise I was the only one on the bus who had much experience with it, so spent a lot of time eating a baguette when I should have been helping.
After the shop I requested to keep driving to make the most of the rare opportunity, and had fun on the roundabouts that took us off the motorway into the Welsh countryside. Overall though I think my driving was fairly acceptable, if you ignore the stalling. Once at the hut the bus was swiftly unloaded and we gathered in the living room to allow the ‘put your legs on the table’ game to make a return. I was shocked – exactly one year ago this had been completely impossible for me, but this time I managed it on the first attempt. Maybe since then my centre of gravity had shifted to become closer to the ideal, i.e. Leo’s. A new variation of the game was created in the aftermath – put your torso on the table, where you start with your legs on the table edge with your torso on the floor, and have to lift your whole body onto the table by arching your back and doing a sit up from -90 degrees. This was notably more challenging but still managed by a few. The cardboard box game followed, which I wasn’t too happy about, but a couple people managed get to floor level + 3 Daren drum lid heights, which was mighty impressive.
Aggy: James Wilson, Astrid Rao, Kevin Sohn, Ching Bon Tang, Salwa Ahmad, James Perry, Laura Temple, Sean Lim, Quinxuan Li, Yue Wu, Matti Mitropoulos, Chris Hayes, Isabelle Atkinson, Haram Saouri
8am came and it was time for breakkie. It was bloody delicious! And the mushrooms were cooked to perfection!!!!!! Whoever made them knows damn well how to cook. Now, time to get dressed! In the midst of everyone suiting up, it was like a game of Tetris trying to squeeze into my gear. Nearly everything I brought didn't end up fitting! How in the world did I, a usual XS/S, end up in an XL onesie? ... it will forever be beyond my understanding but I guess I learnt my lesson! Now I had chosen to do the wet route alongside Baun (:I) ... and well boy was I up for a wild ride. We set off and the size of the tiny entrance looked like a joke...I was convinced I would get stuck just like when Sirius reversed Peter Pedigrew from a rat back into a human in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. But there was no way I was letting my fear of tight spaces get the best of me now! But man, my mind was a whirlwind of questions... should I have invested in travel insurance? Life insurance? What if I am too fat and get stuck somewhere (I'm 5 foot 1 and weigh around 52 kg!) what if a massive rock falls on top of me, what if I fall from a tall height. Very soon, I understood why they called it the wet route and I discovered I felt safest and most comfortable trailing behind Kevin Sohn. I figured if Kevin, with his stature, could get through tiny spots then it’d be a breeze for me! We pressed on and on and on! My mind couldn't help but wish for someone to invent wellington boots with soles made from the same materials as the Hoka shoes! Next thing you know it was 4pm.... I had fallen on my butt so hard from around 1.5m, gave up on the gloves and caved barehanded, strutted in thigh high cold water, crawling in the smallest of tunnels with water at the level of my manubriosternal joint. Hypothermia, hypovolaemic shock, blunt trauma was running through my head. But, after some research and a trusty look at my leaders' experience levels, I decided I was in good hands. After all, according to this website, James has tackled 128 caves and comes from a family of cavers. Who could be more qualified, right?
I started to enjoy the cave and before you know it we arrived at the final destination before turning back. And oh boy was the journey back probably the hardest physical thing I have ever done. I was physically drained, with freezing water sloshing around in my boots, making each step a Herculean task. Hypothermia was doing a little tap dance on my doorstep, and I was running on fumes (aka a couple of chocolate bars). Lifting my own legs was like trying to bench press a mountain, but I'll say this: without Kevin, I'm not sure I'd have made it out of that cave with my questionable stamina. I'll be forever indebted to him, even if I don't say it aloud. It's safe to say, anytime I venture into a cave in the future, I'll be sure to nudge my way into whatever group Kevin's leading! And for someone fiercely independent and who's always stood on my own two feet, that's the highest praise you can get!
We came out at 7.35pm after a full 8-hour caving extravaganza (from 11:35 PM to 7:35 AM). I was knackered... but I have never been so happy to see the night sky and the wind blowing on me. As we trudged back, thoughts of a warm shower and slipping into my PJs danced in my head. Food was at the very bottom of my priority. After a total of 40 min attempting to get the wet clothes off me, it was time for food! Boiled rice and paneer curry! There was much of an array of flavours from the rice. We had the epic showdown of burnt, crusty rice at the bottom, a sticky, wet mess in the middle, and a few brave individual grains chilling at the top. But all in all a lovely meal!
Next up: games! Out of all the social events I've attended, caving socials takes the lead. The games are absolutely lit, and it's not all about knocking back drinks. It's inclusive, pressure-free, and just a bunch of grown people acting like kids and having a blast. As a non-drinking muslim, feeling included and having a blast can be a big ask from many society socials, but I can wholeheartedly say caving knows damn well how to do it! And I applaud them for that.
Whilst everyone was having a blast I knew I was going to be sore tomorrow, given what I'd just put it through. So, off to bed I went! If I could manage a solid three hours of sleep before the symphony of snoring began, I'd consider that a victory. Oh, how naive I was. 3 AM came around, and I hadn't even caught five minutes of shut-eye! And well the rest is history. I woke up to find I was not even on my own bed and someone else’s face 15cm away from mine! Quite the sight to behold, especially on a Sunday morning!
Late the night before Kevin and I had agreed to wake up at 8:00 to cook breakfast together, so when I went into the kitchen and started cooking without him I got steadily more annoyed. Laura came in sometime later and began helping out, so when Kevin sidled in half an hour later I began chastising him for leaving me hanging, only for him to say, ‘wtf dude, its half seven’. Turns out my watch was still an hour ahead, which Laura found hilarious. At least that meant breakfast was ready astonishingly early, and we had haggled out groups swiftly. I was to make my way through Aggy’s halls in the direction of Turkey Streamway as I had requested, until suitably knackered with Chris, Isabelle and Haram. I had technically been inside Aggy before, but barely remember any of it at all, so for all intents and purposes it was a new experience for me.
We were the first group to set off, walking the scenic walk round the side of the cliff in the glorious sunshine, climbing through the oven door at a comfortable 11:00. Chris offered to take the challenge of navigation, so I was chilling at the back, barely taking any note of decisions he was making. Navigating the boulder choke with only one minor mistake, we were in Baron’s chamber in no time, had a bit of break where Haram commented on the driver’s interesting driving, whoever that might be, and moved on following the stream. Occasionally taking the advice of Perry’s spectral voice in our heads we made our way through the meandering rifts of the Main Stream Passage. Side note: I feel like the names of passages in OFD are much more helpful than Aggy – having Main Stream Passage and Main Streamway right next to each other but leading to very different places is confusing at best; the fact that Turkey Junction is a good hour’s caving from Turkey Chamber for a slow group also adds confusion. Anyway, somewhere just before north-west junction we started considering turning back, and eventually made the call.
A little way back we took a break next to some emergency cooking equipment, when the other Turkey Junction group approached us from ahead. We ate some of James’ sausages, took a nicely lit photo, and parted ways. During the second longer break where the Main Streamway met the Main Stream Passage (ugh), the Music Room group came up from behind us. Perry took the piss out of Laura’s navigation, and we super-grouped to exit. Laura and I ended up near the back, so mostly just chatted shit and didn’t really help out the freshers. As punishment Perry ditched us at a junction near the entrance, so we were sitting there for a minute or so until an Aberystwyth group came from behind us and told us the way. Leaving all together, we exited into the lazy afternoon sun. It was only like 17:00; craziness.
Leo and Luke took control of the cooking once we were back and settled at the hut; Leo expertly crafting the flavour and colour of the curry, while Luke burnt the rice so badly onto the bottom of the pot that Laura later seriously suggested throwing the pan away cos it was unrescuable. As soon as the second Turkey Junction group were back at the hut though we were all ready to eat.
Games began with classic pot and sling, where I partnered with Davin to vine his tree. We did pretty well, until for one of the rounds the jump from the previous was too large, and all the fresher-experienced pairs (including us) were eliminated. I asked Perry if he would join me in showing off, so we demonstrated the sitting technique to secure the win against Laura and Ellie. Then Chris started getting a bit ahead of himself with the Shed Shandies and started breaking chairs by squeezing through various sections of them. Ultimately none of the chairs were very squeezable. We had a brief attempt at some chair traversing, though this caused me some serious neck pain when I supported my entire body weight on a very thin beam of wood - I think that put most of the freshers off. No matter, Chris had come up with his next idea for a game: a variation on aerial sock wrestling. We didn’t have harnesses, and it transpired that the next best way to hang on a rope is to dangle upside down by your ankles. Therefore, ‘Bat-Hang Buff Battle’ was invented, where two people hang by the ankles with buffs around their necks, and the first person to remove the other’s buff wins. This did require you to have enough arm and core strength to pull yourself up the rope from the upside down position which not everyone had, so some minor rescue action had to occur with people supporting from below.
That seemed to knacker most freshers so by the early hours of the morning it was almost just committee and old lags left. Leo, Luke and I were sharing a cigar outside when Chris opened the window above our heads, leaned very far out, puffed the cigar twice, and retreated again. Astrid slithered up the bench we were on and climbed in too, shutting the window behind her. Then it was truly time for bed.
Aggy - Music Chamber: Ellie Pizey, Leo Antwis, Luke Matthew, Astrid Rao, Davin Sheikholeslami, Ryan Park, James Wilson, Chris Hayes, Kevin Sohn, Ching Bon Tang, Salwa Ahmad
Ogof Eggs: Kevin Sohn, Ching Bon Tang
I was astounded that my body didn't feel sore the next morning! A buddy and I decided to go for a stroll on empty stomachs while others slept in. By the time we came back everyone was awake in their pj's eating breakfast. A lovely sight to behold. Why did I feel strangely very very comfortable around them? It had brought together people from all across the UK and age with a common love or interest in caving.
Today I had the option to choose between the music chamber or the other one... I went with music chamber! I must admit when Kevin told me we were going to be in the same group again I was relieved, happy, excited and felt safe! We set off and this trek was just too easy. It was a walk in the park compared to yesterdays but still all the more fun and thrilling! We reached the music chamber and it followed with a plethora of selection of cheese to eat, lighters, bubbles and a wooden spoon. Don't ask me why because I don't know myself. As time passed it was already time to head back. Soon we were packing, loading back on the minibus and making our way back to London
Eggy: James Perry, Matti Mitropoulos, Laura Temple, Isabelle Atkinson, Haram Saouri, Quinxuan Li, Yue Wu, Kevin Sohn, Ching Bon Tang
This time I woke up at the actual 8:00, started preparing the porridge but didn’t actually cook it. Before cooking it I spent a good amount of time enjoying the sunrise with Perry on the bench outside. Chris brought my attention to Alcol del Aceto (or something like that) which he had thought was cheap alcohol but turned out to be really shit vinegar. He told me to take a shot, which I decided to drink straight from the bottle and massively miscalculated. A few full gulps of straight acid made me feel seriously ill during breakfast, and solidified my non-caving mood. Perry ‘convinced’ Laura to lead the Eggy group while he and I stayed by the entrance in case of emergency, which I was fine with.
We all walked together along the path, and split at the Eggy entrance, where of course Perry started talking to a random group of people cautiously peering into the entrance chamber. In typical Perry fashion he offered to lead them on a short through trip from one Eggy entrance to another. What was funny was that before we arrived they had been too scared to go in, but as soon as we showed up – two random guys in their eyes – and spoke confidently enough about caving, they were more than happy to run right in, as long as we were close behind. The man and his kid were up ahead, thrilled to an almost comical extent by such a tiny through trip. His friend and wife were a little further behind, treading quite cautiously and asking nervously how frequently caves collapse. About 5 minutes in darkness and lots of photos later we were back out and they thanked us profusely before continuing their walk. I reckon that counts for the website.
The next hour or so I spent catching up with Perry, watching him roll one cigarette after the other. Sean walked up at some point, so I gave him my light and he walked in to find the others, emerging some 20 minutes later with Isabelle and Yue. They walked back to the hut, and a short while later Laura, Haram and Li emerged too. Cleaning ensued at the hut, as well as much eating of random food.
I enjoyed the drive back, even if I was a little more on edge, having had very little sleep the last 3 nights and so was making more mistakes than the way there. Kevin kept chastising me for jolting the bus by changing into the wrong gear. ‘Just keep the clutch DOWN!’ etc. Right after the hut we met a family standing next to their seemingly broken car; I slowed to a halt, asked if they were ok, to which they answered that they indeed were very ok, then stalled dramatically right in front of them. Oh well, much singing occurred on the journey due to Kevin’s excellent tune choice. I did have to mow down a few people exiting the Albert Hall in order to make Bella Ciao, but no matter.
That was probably the best weekend trip I have been to! I made so many new friends outside of my course and learnt quite a few things about myself. It was a rollercoaster of fun, discovery, and nature galore! Every soul had their own touch of peculiarity, and the atmosphere was buzzing with positivity and friendliness.This is probably the only society that doesn't just talk the talk of inclusivity, but struts the inclusive walk! No barriers, no judgments—a breath of fresh air compared to some other societies I've dabbled in. So, if you're all about hanging with the wild, non-judgy bunch and getting your dose of nature, darkness, and adventure, this is your society.
"The vibrations are... quite intense"
"Nipple deep my ass, dude"