Nandan 2001 Expedition Logbook


15th May 2001: Landforms

Erin Lynch, Han Dao Shan, Rob Garrett, Olly Betts, Zhang Yuan Hai, Wen Yuan Tao, Luo Jiejie, Chen Gege

The day began with a bang, or rather several... the throbbing of my head from the excesses of the night before. We'd indulged in the hospitality of the local government, enjoying a long succession of gambei's followed by a trip to the local hotspring, and then still more beer whilst sat at an outdoor barbeque. Things were off to a good start.

I was whisked away from Rob + Olly to share a jeep with Wen Yuan Tao and the reporters. The barrage of questions was more than my incapacitated brain could take, and I resorted to the time honored tradition of cat napping on expedition, claiming "Wo hen kun".

We had a whistle-stop tour of the many cave entrances in the area -- most of them big in the way we've come to expect of Chinese caves. One of the highlights was a middle entrance to the Solution Cave river system. The landscape was dominated by an eyehole called -- you guessed it -- Moon Hill. Below it were two large entrances, and a third was just around the corner. From the road you could see over half a dozen entrances -- it looks like Nandan might be a good place to go caving after all. We did a quick tour through the fossil bits of the lowest Moon Hill entrances with Luo Jiejie and Chen (the reporters) in tow. Their huge camera lights lit the formations and huge passage walls in stark contrast to our lights which as usual, were almost completely non-functional. The cave started out with a paved footpath, and we turned round at the promising rumble of water.

16th May 2001: Surveyathon

Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett, Olly Betts, Wen Yuan Tao, Luo Jiejie, Chen Gege

It appears that we've been booked into visiting a "minority village" and can't get out of it. Coupled with the typical efficient start and Chinese road construction traffic we only have time for around 3 hours of caving, but still manage to survey a respectable amount of Solution Cave (1719 m) We're being filmed for TV all the while, and also photographed by Mr. Wen, who can be tracked by following the trail of discarded Kodak boxes.

After a quick (and fairly unpleasant) picnic lunch, we're whisked off to the ethnic village and an assortment of entertainments ranging from drums to weaving to Erin in a skirt (!) to battling tops. it ought to be noted that Erin tried to wear the local costume correctly (top with pattern behind) but was made to wear it backwards. Rob and I get off lightly, and only have to play the drums. Apparently the whole thing later appeared on TV (Mr. Liang's father saw it) but we've not seen it -- probably for the best...

17th May 2001: Local Guides can be useful

Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett, Olly Betts, Zhang Yuan Hai, Han Dao Shan, Wen Yuan Tao, Luo Jiejie, Chen Gege, Lu Jin

Our plan today is to go into Solution Cave and try to get upstream with the inner tubes. On the way through the entrance passage, my tube exploded leaving us with 2 between 3. Undaunted, we pick up yesterday's survey where we left off and carry on down to the water and start upstream. We manage to avoid the water by crossing at a narrow point and entering a s small passage off taking us into a drier oxbow. We survey upstream until it joins the main stream, and downstream until I can no longer traverse past a deep pool. We return to the junction planning to see how far downstream we can get without going into the water. We progress along the right bank, tiptoe through shallow water and into a side passage, then back to a large shelf above the river, where the right bank disappers.

So we head back to the big passage and meet Mr. Zhang with a local guide. Mr. Zhang is still waiting for Mr. Han. We tell him we can't get any further without getting wet, but according to the local, you can get all the way downstream [upstream -- Ed.] and keep your feet dry! After some discussion, Erin goes with Mr. Zhang to survey a small fossil cave while Rob and I take the local to survey downstream. We carry the tubes with us so we can explore up & downstream from where the local route crosses the river (it seems to take a high fossil passage a lot of the way). But after picking up the survey and crossing the river to climb up to a passage behind a stal boss, we decide the tubes aren't worth the hassle of carrying them. We make good progress and the local soon catches on that long legs mean a faster survey, and starts finding devious ways to get the tape round obstacles.

After a while we meet a large party coming the other way. It's the TV people, all the local big wigs (Mr. Wen, etc.) and the missing Mr. Han. Rob writes a note for Erin and gies it to them. He tells her to take a local and catch us up. After the inevitable round of being photographed, we manage to get on with the survey.

Much later the local communicates that we've reached half-way. He seems to want us to stop surveying so we do a final leg or two and are just packing up when we hear Erin calling from behind us. SHe's with the local boss (Mr. Wu) who doesn't seem to know the route well. Our guide goes back to help them, and once they catch up, Mr. Wu persuades the other local we should keep surveying. Eventually we wrap up the survey shortly after an awkward stream crossing. From here we hurry out at a blistering pace, teetering along footholds chipped in the calcite and climbing up and down slopes that would be easy but for the loose grit where someone has bashed away with a hammer.

Suddenly I notice we're walking through plants -- we've got outside into a dark moonless night without me realising. I remark I really need a beer, so by Chinese anti-logic there won't be any. But there is! We retire to the village where the local boss feed us rice and bits of ox (killed fresh this morning).

18th May 2001: Not waving, just drowning

Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett, Olly Betts, Lu Jin

Solution Cave again. We head for the Yellow Brick Road and start exploring and surveying the side passages on the left hand side going into the cave. The first (Munchkinland) heads off through a v. brief crawl at the top of a slope near the start . A small (by Chinese standards, but also by most standards) passage leads across a couple of shallow holes to a vantage point above a chamber. The easiest way down (and up) is to head right across a low traverse. A direct descent is also possible. The chamber has a couple of branches, one fairly well decorated, but we can find no way on. I notice animal claw marks on a mud bank where it appears something has tried to climb up.

A couple of leads from a junction close down, so we return to the Yellow Brick Road and try the next side passage on the left. This leads down to a deep static pool with what appear to be a pairs of bamboo oars by the shore. We decide to go and retrieve the two tyres from a short way down the streamway. The water is much higher and the tiptoe round the corner in the shallows is now a groin deep wade. Somehow I'm persuaded its best if I fetch the tubes so I teeter round on tip toe with the help of a handy piece of wood. I soon find the tyres where Mr. Wen moved them to and get them down to the water. Trying to carry both back at once seems unwise, and I don't fancy 3 more crossing, so I opt to float back. At worst, if I overshoot I just go down a short section of cascades... I pile one tyre on the other and sit on top, using the wood as an oar. At first all is well, but I need to skirt a rock and get caught in the flow. Paddling back is too slow and Erin and Rob fail to grab the wood to haul me in. I get caught astride the first rock in the cascade with both tubes still under my arse. The force of the water plus the buoyancy of the tubes renders me incapable of moving until Rob prises one of the tubes out. Amazingly I'm only wet up to my chest and haven't even got my glasses splashed, but I could so easily have lost them, and maybe risked drowning if I'd been jammed with my head underwater.

Somewhat shaken (me anyway) we return to the static pool and Erin bobs across on the two tubes strapped together. The passage continues but I'm not in the mood for more watersports so I leave it to Erin and Rob and return to the YBR to change into dry clothes, then look at leads of YBR. A climb up from the slope on the way to Munchkinland, followed by a traverse out leads to a window overlooking YBR. I concentrate on the other side and look at every lead I can see a way to get to between the side passage at the start and the large rock on the way down to the river. Few go more than 5m. The longest is up a steep slope near the start which turns into a chamber with a small hole at the back. Climbing through the hole enters a small chamber with no way on.

Erin and Rob haven't returned yet, so I fetch their bags down, then go and get a GPS fix (2D only) on the wall outside the YBR entrance -- hopefully this will be useful in working out how bad the magnetic effects on the first day's surveying were. As I'm finishing, Erin and Rob reappear. On the way out, they survey the low way back while I ferry the gear back along the bigger passage with the help of Mr. Wu on the second trip. I head back in and find Rob and Erin nearly done. I check out a side lead, which reaches a T junction. Left connection back to the low way. Straight on continues to points unknown.

[Space for Erin or Rob to describe Cholera]

19th May 2001

Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett, Olly Betts

Time to investigate Cool Wind Cave, though the prospect of bobbing doesn't appeal to me much. We also only have 2 tubes -- the other is flat -- I suspect the local kids have been playing with them. But the left bank keep us out of the water for a long way. But eventually it seems that we must cross to the right bank.