Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Walk through Cave Stream

Have you ever waded through a stream in the depths of a cave, climbed up a waterfall or stared at the vaulted roofs of rocky caverns? There’s a spot in the Southern Alps where Kevin and I have done this several times. Cave Stream Scenic Reserve sits in the Castle Hill basin approximately 100 kilometres from Christchurch. To reach the cave, you follow a path down the mountainside to the Broken River - and then around a bend to the cave mouth. The walk takes you upriver though the cave – and although it is only 600 metres long, it takes about 45 minutes to complete.

When planning our last visit in January 2011, we decided to mention it in church and invited everyone to join us. We were amazed when a crowd of about 60 gathered on the morning.

The entrance to the cave is the most challenging part for some people. As you wade into the stream, light fades and water levels rise until they are almost up to your chest. Even in midsummer, the water is ice cold and a great shock until your body acclimatises to it.

On this warm January day, we posed for a group photo inside the cave and then set off on our adventure. I was somewhere in the middle of the pack and was amazed at how barriers fell away in the rushing water. People were laughing and interacting, pulling each other up waterfalls, and splashing in pools. The floor of the cave alternates between large rounded rocks and smooth patches of rock and children were lifted over difficult stretches and older folk checked on.

What a wonderful picture of the church, I thought. We’re like a family working together, looking out for each other and helping each other through rough patches. Our headlamps gave a funnel of light but although we couldn’t see too far ahead, we all made it to the end. The last part of the cave involves climbing up a rock face with the aid of metal rungs set into the rock. This is followed by crawling through a narrow space to reach daylight and fresh air. Some struggled with the climb but with encouragement, they made it up the ladder and through the crawl space.

Exhilarated and tired, the whole group then headed to Castle Rock where we had a picnic lunch and explored the unusual rock formations. Altogether it was a fantastic day – but for me it was more than just a walk through a cave. It was a lesson in life.

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