I left the hotel in Xin Long at 7:00 am with Mike,a driver and tourist manager to
try and find my rucksack, camera, sandals and various other bits of other people's gear
which disappeared the day before from the entrance of the cave that Chris and I had
found last year. Gavin had been filming inside at the time with Steve, Mike and I.
There are several problems on my mind. All of the roads to the cave are being
remade. It is impossible to go the same way Chris and I went and we have to go a long
round about route to get back to the area of the cave. There are no Chinese with us who
know the way and it is very easy to miss a turning. I manage to miss a turn of course,
so we waste valuable time bumping back along the way we came on an extremely bad road.
Mike can be a little undiplomatic. The day before he said the Chinese reporters
were imbeciles to Mr Han and was threatening to inflict violence on whoever had taken
the bags. So far he's calmer than I am. Last night Andy suggested to the team that 4
would leave today for Tianxing as there isn't enough to do in Xin Long with the Great
Crack in flood. Erin and I had talked of this option earlier in the trip but thought it
had been ruled out. (One of the team had been fairly blunt in what he thought of us) I
haven't packed yet for the bus and in addition in the rush I can't find my wallet which
is either in a safe place or in the top of the lost rucksack. I'm hoping 800 RMB and 100
dollars isn't too much temptation to a poor farmer. I can't even find my SRT kit which I
left in the tackle store. I'm hoping somebody has moved it and knows where it is.
The Chinese think (and I hope) that the bags haven't been stolen but moved by
someone to keep them safe. The question is who has got them? There's quite a few
farmhouses scattered about and it's not easy to drive to them. The first few houses we
try know nothing and have seen nothing but one of the farmers comes in our jeep to show
us other houses. It's raining quite heavily. We drive up another track to another set of
houses and still no-one knows anything about the bags. I wonder if my house insurance is
all risks and will cover the loss. I doubt it. My travel insurance only covers medical
Finally we go to a solitary house and there inside are our bags and a smiling
farmer who has kept them safe. I'm asked to check the bags and everything is there
except the wallet. So I worry about that all the way back to Xin Long as the time creeps on
to our proposed leaving. Mike stops the jeep to take a GPS reading of a cave entrance and goes
off to have a look at it while I fret.
Back in Xin Long Steve, Martin and Erin have packed our group caving gear so that's a
relief. I learn that Tom and Andy Lewington have been chosen to come with Erin and I.
This isn't the ideal team because Andy hadn't expressed much enthusiasm to go and Tom
had changed his mind. Both didn't say so at the time. Steve and Martin were more keen
but they're deemed more important for the film and the available PVC suits only fit Tom
and Andy. We promptly call our team the Unphotogenic Cast Offs. At least my SRT kit has
turned up but where is the wallet? I go through every item of my gear in it's three bags several
times. Finally to my great relief I find the wallet in my zip up trousers. At
2:00pm we climb into a crowded public bus with a mountain of equipment while Gavin films us. I
wonder what the story line will be? Rats leaving the sinking ship just before some vast cave is
found in Xin Long? It is the start of our adventure back to Tianxing and Qi Keng Dong.