Caving New Caledonia

Caving on Lifou Island
ISL1112_DispatchesAmanda Jones

I’ve become a cave dweller. So far I’ve been able to resist the urge to hiss creepy Gollum quotes into the darkness, but I know I’ll give in soon. I’m bringing up the rear of a three-person spelunking group, following behind writer Amanda Jones and our local guide, Jeanne, as she leads us through the tribal cave of her ancestors on Lifou Island, New Caledonia. Three tiny conical beams of light from our headlamps are all that hold back the ancient darkness. We move slowly past stalactites and stalagmites that are 10,000 years old, their amorphous shapes playing tricks on my mind in the dim light. Some formations look like massive pipe organs in a primordial cathedral, others like wet faces yawning out of the disfigured limestone. It’s not cold like you’d expect; it’s hot, but I can see my breath. We’ve been underground for nearly two hours and ... oh, the hell with it. ‘My precioussssssss.’