This Monday I went with a friend, Nico, to explore the caves of Bugarach. We chose the one entrance that we both knew about. A cave high up where the tree line meets the rocky face of the mountain.
The access is via a dry river bed that starts beside the road right alongside one of the public paths that is the start of the southern ascent of the mountain. Following the dry river bed one eventually comes to a steep gorge. To climb higher there are two galvanised ladders bolted into the rock face. Once above the ladders the pathway continues up – apparently right to the peak. But for us, the cave is only a dozen meters further.
As one drops into the hole there is a ladder that takes you down inside. The small mouth is filled with organic debris. Crouching low, on our knees, we continue along a short passage, gaining height, until we reach a gallery that is high enough to stand. Most of the galleries are going to be below head height so this is a luxury. Our first climb is a long rope up a small round bore hole with two stages. There were many more climbs after that, all quickly following each other. Some technically a challenge for me.
It felt like we were close to the peak, perhaps only a few meters below! Having climbed up and up, the gallery finally begins to descend. At that height the cave was very interesting. It was as if the mountain had split in two. We traversed a rift in the rock, whose jagged opening rose high above our heads and below disappeared into the darkness. To fall would be death. But one could climb down a little way with care. The rift opened up many more passages below, a labyrinth of tunnels that we did not dare to explore.
Doubling back we took another route which became so low we had to negotiate it on our bellys. The floor was sand and inside was a series of extraordinary natural formations. The cave continued much further but we were beaten back by the claustrophobia of such a tiny space.
The caves higher up had the best stalagmites and stalactites. Some sections were like a forest of dripping rocks. There were stalagmites turned red and others turned black. We also saw a bug that had fossilized, stalagmites growing out of its back.
There were bats throughout the cave. In a deep Sleep. Unperturbed by our presence.
A beautiful cave that we hardly brushed the surface of. There is so much more to see!