The
Bristol
Exploration Club, The Belfry,

Wells
Road
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

1990 – 1991 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Stuart McManus
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Nigel Taylor
Membership Sec.     John Watson
                               Ian
Caldwell 

Editorial

Please can I have more articles or anything to go in the
BB.  I have nothing in reserve as usual!

Nothing sensational seems to have happened since Christmas,
though lots of caving has been done.  I
tell a lie!  There was one rescue in
Eastwater.  A girl hurt her back in
Dolphin Pot but was extricated successfully by the MRO.  The biggest casualty being Tony Boycott who
crashed his car while on his way to attend the rescue and, I believe,
damaged/broke some ribs.  I don’t seem to
be very good at gathering the latest Mendip news so I’ve asked Jake if he’ll
write a synopsis for each BB – he’s agreed! The first should appear in the next issue.

I have three letters in front of me from members whose
addresses were incorrect (the corrected ones are on page 2).  The letters weren’t specifically for
publication in the BB but I’m sure they won’t mind if I include some extracts
from them here.

The first is from Clare Coase whose BB’s have been sent to
one of her neighbours for a long time and they’re getting fed-up with running a
delivery service – sorry Clare.  She
would also like to say a big thank you to, and I quote “The Club members who
were so super to us all, especially to those intrepid leaders of that caving
trip with Damien and
Nan“.

The second is from Steve Milner, who says a largish article
is almost ready for the BB and that he would give it to Tony & Trebor when
they visited Oz after Christmas.  Where
is it Steve?  Also how about an article
from J’Rat or Trebor about their exploits?

The third is from Harry Stanbury and I shall quote the P.S.
to the letter. “My wife does a very reasonable B & B for any BEC’ites
who should happen to stray this far!!”. That sounds like an offer too good to be missed if anyone gets to Bude!

Disco, Saturday 2nd March

This is the Battle of Britain, World War Two, Fancy Dress
Disco at Priddy Village Hall.  Food and
Bar provided.

Tickets are £3.00, available from Blitz, at the Belfry or at
the door.

Belfry Working Day. Saturday. 16th March

A lot of jobs need doing, all volunteers welcome.  In the evening, a Barrel, a Belfry Binder and
a show of ‘Old’ slides will be provided for the workers!

A list of the jobs to be done should soon be on display at
the Belfry.

Matienzo Permits

Tony and Roz Williams have a contact is

Spain
, so if anyone needs a caving
permit for Matienzo they will find it best to do it through them.  Their address is Leigh-on Mendip,

BATH

Membership List Amendments

211L     Clare Coase,
Berkley Vale,
New South Wales,

Australia

1132     Robert Bruce Crowe,

Townsville,
Queensland,
Australia

1143     Jane L. Evans,
Cork,  Eire
1142     Angela Garwood, Roath,

Cardiff

1098     Brian Gilbert, Chingford,

London

316L     Kangy King, Pucklechurch,

Bristol

1116     Stuart Lain, Wells,

Somerset

1053     Steve Milner,

Australia

1046     Dave Shand, Thornhill,

Cardiff

1L         Harry Stanbury, Bude, Cornwall

Excerpts from a

Portuguese
Show
Cave

Pamphlet

contributed by J’Rat

“The discovery of the Caves of Antonio was made by
chance on June 2nd 1955, by two men. While looking for a bird they penetrated a large crack in the rock
through which it sought refuse.”

“The Caves of Alvados were discovered in 1964.  They prepared a descent into the caves with
the aid of rapes and lanterns.  The caves consist in a succession with stalagmits and stalactites, all connected.”


 


Jane,
Spain
, Plane

Kangy, Jan ’91

Got invited to stay with Jane Clarke in

Spain
which included an
irresistible offer of the use of her mountain bike.  As this turned out to be in a National Park
thing where she lives when not teaching the locals how to talk inglish like
what we do, it gradually dawned that this was PAY DIRT.  GOLD HAD BEEN STRUCK!

I still had to get there and half down the M4 to Heathrow in
mid-November I couldn’t find my passport. Frantic work at the post office got me a temporary one on my Visa
card.  (Visa card?)  The adrenalin was still flowing when I came
across Martin Grass who was in the departure lounge for a flight to

Paris
and I enjoyed
really boring him with repetitions of my horrendous tale.  He was really cool about his beautiful
friend.  Tell Zot.

A jumping. gesticulating Jane met me at

Barthelona
Airport
.  I felt really glad I hadn’t totally blown it
by not turning up.

Oh. Happy Holidays, celebratory drinks, long chatty drive
back to St. Llorenf Saval in her excellent 2CV, bed far too late.

But next morning! Views everywhere.  Beautiful
traditional Catalan house properly constructed of woodworm and instinct.  Super weather, frosty and sunny.  Hills just outside of front door.  Ten minute stroll uphill got us to even more
views with a well sculpted skyline full of deep canyons and steep rock
walls.  We walked through woods and Jane
oriented and informed me about the area. On the way back I became enamoured of a striking little mountain which
the map called Castel del Pera and we worked out how I could climb it by bike.  Herself went off to work.  (How was it in the office today dear?) and I
set out to tame my first mountain bike. Sore bum.

Cracked it next day. Saddle at right height, not too ambitious about riding up the really
steep bits and YAHOO down.

Castel del Pera was elusive and hidden behind paths closed
by barriers and big PRIVATE notices which I found intimidating.  I discussed the matter with a friendly
shepherd.  We pointed to the map and he
indicated that the route indeed went past the GO AWAY sign.  He also gave me an idea for an encore if I
managed to climb the peak.  Less than
confidently I cycled off.  Dirt road,
overgrown track, single path through scrub, contouring up until the cap like
summit was immediately above.  The
silence was disturbed by distant shouting, the banging of a gun and the baying
of dogs.  I found three distinctive trees
which served as a landmark to leave the bike against and looked at the next
problem in detail.  The summit was a
couple of hundred feet above but immediately inaccessible because it was
protected by a long contouring steep band of rock rounded and bulging with few
gullies to exploit.  I scrambled to a
corner where the cliff was more broken and found a way up.  This led as I’d hoped to a ridge which
finished at the final rocks of the summit cap. I reckoned that a frontal assault would be the sporting finish but
guessed that a way lay around the back. And it did, satisfyingly onto a small plateau with the remains of past
fortification.  A real castle.  Good views all round, spectacular cloud and
light effects and a glimpse of the way on. I suddenly realised that it was four o’clock and it would be dark at
five thirty and decided to risk the route I didn’t know about back to St.
Llorenf Saval.  I climbed back down.  The Mad Hunter came into view shouting and
bawling his head off.  The dogs howled,
his gun bang, bang, banged.  Mendip was
never like this.  Nervously beating off
an inquiring hound and rushing for the bike I took off before having to
exchange pleasantries with the awful senor.

The path from the col was indistinct but at least I had seen
how the land lay and could follow that. A jeep track soon appeared and I trialed to the road to run down into
St. Llorenf Saval arriving home a half an hour after
leaving the summit.  Amazing.  I want a mountain bike of my own!  Want one.

I swanned about until Jane came home after a hard days night
and we decided to go off early in the morning to visit the mystic
Montserrat.  I’d
seen the photographs in somebody’s book of bumper fun for rock climbers and
never forgotten them.  Astonishing –
you’ll have to see for yourself.

There was the embarrassing catastrophe of the denting of
Jane’s 2CV but she still talked to me and we drove to the
Pyrenees
at the weekend to climb Pic Carl it.  The
journey took much longer than we thought. Probably because we didn’t have much sense of urgency and ooed and aahed
at superb mountain views enhanced by early snow.

Reality began on the hairpin bends which wound up to the Lac
des Bouillouses where there are refuges which are not open in November.  But we intended to camp.  2CVs run out of puff if not nurtured.  It took several exciting charges at the steep
icy road before we were prepared to admit that it would really be much more fun
to backpack our gear instead of driving. The gallant 2CV was parked in a getaway mode and we continued the remaining
kilometres up a snow packed road to the edge of the lake.  At least what we actually did as the wind was
getting up was to pitch the tent in a hollow sheltered by trees.  Grub cooked and eaten, into pits just as it
got too dark to see at 6 o’clock.

Increasingly long pauses in the conversation led to
snooze.  Let’s face it, camping is about
endurance and after 9 hours in the sack (or 3 o’clock in the morning) thoughts
turned to bladders and the realisation that the tent was being buried in powder
snow.  A happy compromise allowed the
snow to stay outside.  At first light,
Jane emerged from her multilayered survival technology, shuddered at the
ice-caked interior walls and amazingly cheerfully, cooked breakfast.  We packed up, beat the snow from the door and
unzipped it to see the worst.

Beautiful, but useless. A thick snow covering made an igloo of the tent and hid the broken
ground making walking difficult.  We were
concerned about the possibility that the 2CV was buried but while behind us
storm clouds threatened, the view in front was spectacular.  We dumped the rucsacs and sorted a route
amongst fairy trees encrusted with Christmas snow sparkling in strong
sunlight.  Climbing out onto a plateau
which was sprinkled with little lakes the Carl it stood clearly before us.  Waiting for us.  It was only an illusion because we knew that
the snow lay powdery on warm ground which is unhelpful.  And behind us leaden skies threatened further
falls.  It was simply a beautiful
spectacle and knowing this made it easier to turn our backs and think about
rescuing the 2CV.

We made a warm meal in a mountain shelter.  Jane made a note of the Refuge custodian’s
address for future reference and we trudged off downhill.  A friendly Frenchman gave us a lift, we
cleared the snow from the marvellous machine and he kindly hung around until
Jane eventually fired up the mighty motor. More excitement as we attacked the slopes, vigorously rubbing the
windscreen free from ice and shouting “go for it” until we could
relax in a cafe with inordinately expensive coffee and cognacs.

Once again we ate well back at the village restaurant.

Jane was due to work next day so we sorted out an
interesting climb during the mornings walk and full of enthusiasm I did it in
good time in the afternoon, hot and sweaty but thoroughly enjoying the route
finding through the forest, the climb up to the col, the stimulation of being
defeated by an imposing rock tower and the added bonus of just enough time to
get to the top before it was time to flee before nightfall.

When Jane got home from work bottle of fizz was ready and we
got before I was roused at the crack of train to take me to the Airport and
late that evening, the ever so slightly smashed dawn to be driven to the home.

Thanks Jane. Great!

 

Meets List 1991

Jeff Price

Please get in touch with Jeff or the leader as soon as
possible if you want to go to these caves numbers are limited in some of them
and the date of the ‘Craig-a-Ffynnon’ trip may be incorrect.

9th March.             DYO,
South Wales.  Belfry or DYO car park 9.30 for 10 (limited
numbers)
                            Leader: Time
Large

23rd March.           Rock & Fountain,
South Wales
                            Leader: Martin
Grass

30th March.           Bleadon Cavern. Belfry at 2.00 pm.     

18th May.              Wookey Hole evening trip. Upper series etc .. Dry gear.
                            Leader: Martin
Grass

15th June.             Penyghent Pot,
Yorkshire.
    

17th August.         
Birks
Fell
Cave,
Yorkshire. – Booked  

24th August.          Otter Hole,
South Wales.      

21st September.    Lost John’s,
Yorkshire.
– Booked        

16th November.     
Juniper
Gulf,
Yorkshire.  – Booked      

8th December.       Peak Cavern, Derbyshire.

 

Atlas Aven

By Andy Sparrow

Most club members will be familiar with Thrupe Lane Swallet
and in particular the head of Atlas Pot. Here the youthful and meandering Marble streamway cascades down into the
spray filled gloom of the huge shaft.  The
eye is drawn first to the gulf below and then into the greater blackness above;
the magnificent, towering, Atlas Aven. Seventeen years have elapsed since the first cavers lights shone up,
searching vainly for a roof.  It remains
unclimbed.

The Marble streamway is only one (and the lowest) of three
windows into Atlas Shaft.  By turning
left at the start of the streamway a high rift (Bypass Aven) is entered
followed by a boulder ruckle beyond which is the roomy Bypass Passage.  Bypass Passage emerges into Atlas about 30
feet above the stream inlet.  Easily
missed is a hole in the roof leading up into Vengeance Passage and another,
higher window into the shaft.  I first
looked out from here on a trip last spring and noted a solid rock wall (ideal
for bolting) bordering the left hand wall of the aven.

It was some months later that a friend, Steve Ellis, bought
a cordless Bosch drill.  There are
precious few unclimbed avens under Mendip to use such a tool; it had to be the
big one – Atlas.  Before lugging the
heavy drill and its waterproof carrying case down the cave we went to have a
closer look at the view out from Vengeance Passage.  Two anchors were installed manually allowing
me to tie on and lean out into the shaft and assess the potential.  Some 40 – 50 feet below the stream spewed
noisily and endlessly into the void. Above, the Aven continued its unrelenting climb into darkness.  A detail 30 feet higher on the opposite wall
caught my eye – the start of a tube? There was only one way to find out.

We took the drill down next time assisted by Steve’s friend
Pete and the process of bolting began. The route was dictated by the soundness of the rock and initially we
worked horizontally along the wall to a small stance.  This was a perfect take-off for a descent of
the huge shaft below and could not be resisted. On our next trip we placed two Petzl long life anchors for the big
pitch, rigged the rope, and down I went. After a few feet the walls cut away leaving the rope in a huge
void.  About 60 feet down a big ledge was
reached below which the pitch became very wet; the end of the rope was clearly
hanging some way off the floor.  Before
prussiking back up I noticed a couple of 8mm anchors in the opposite wall that
would provide a rebelay point, or perhaps with some care, a deviation.  The full length of the pitch is about 120
feet, making it the longest free hanging pitch on Mendip.  We called it ‘The Space Walk’.

The next session on the 17th January coincided with the
start of the Gulf War and inspired an appropriate name for the traverse out
across the shaft – ‘The Gulf Crisis’.  We
began bolting upwards towards the tube. The drill made this a rapid and easy process and I was soon carefully
free climbing the last few feet to our objective.  It was a goer.  Two anchors were placed in the roof of the
tube and Steve joined me in ‘The Vultures Nest’ (situated 60 feet above a side
passage called the Eagles Nest).

The muddy tube sloped down into an aven chamber with a floor
of jammed boulders.  Between these rocks
were ominous black holes which were soon confirmed to connect back to
Atlas.  The Aven was climbed, past a mud
choked tube, to where a small passage led off. Another way on from the chamber
ascended a steep muddy slope into a distinctly phreatic area which looped back
towards Atlas and entered a high narrow cross rift.  Time was short as our support team, Pete and
Dave, were wet and cold (water levels in the cave were high and we all had a
soaking; first at Cowsh Crawl and then under a torrential shower in Bypass
Aven).  A couple of small leads were left
for next time and we left the cave well pleased with about 60 feet/20 metres of
new passage.

A week later we were back again.  The passage above the aven chamber was pushed
for 15 feet before choking close to Atlas. The cross rift revealed a small, but perfectly formed, tube heading back
towards Vengeance Passage.  This was too
tight after 15 feet.  Our best find of
the day was entered after a short dig from the chamber following the down dip
continuation of the original tube.  Steve
forced a tight section and followed an attractive ‘Gothic’ section tube steeply
down for about 40 feet.  Hopes were high
for a few minutes as the passage seemed to be leading us out of the known
system into something older, but sadly the final choke was really final . We
left the cave satisfied that reasonable conclusions had been reached with the
remaining leads.  The Vultures Nest was
finished with 100 feet + (30 metres +) of worthwhile passage.

But the project has hardly begun.  The finds so far are very encouraging; they
represent old phreatic development predating Atlas and bisected by it.  The original Thrupe diggers speculated that
an ancient route to Saint Andrew’s Well could be found from the higher levels
of Atlas; I hope by further work to prove them right.  Already we can see two more openings off the
shaft that will be easily reached in the next month or so.

NOTE: For some months to come the traverse out across the
shaft, the ‘Gulf Crisis’ will be permanently rigged.  This makes a descent of ‘The Space Walk’ very
easy to rig; simply a case of clipping a rope into the two longlife
hangers.  Be prepared to deviate or rebelay
at the big ledge, halfway down.  Go for
it – you will be impressed!


 

Some Climbing Snippets

John Watson

The B.E.C. conjures up many images; – crawling around in
dark dank holes, never ending sessions at the Hunters Lodge, digging for that
elusive 50′ of a cave passage that will win the digging Barrel and many more.

The club’s name however suggests, unlike most other caving
clubs, a tradition in other fields of exploration, lost to all but a few older
members.  Whilst looking through an old
B.B. about the original exploration of Manor Farm.  I was surprised to see on the list of
committee posts the words ‘Climbing Sec’. This inspired me to write this article and perhaps rekindle an old
tradition.

This year more than most, climbing has become a frequent
topic of conversation in the Hunters – even the likes of Martin Grass has
expressed an interest, a number of offers have been forthcoming, one from an
ex-member related to the “Mallard” family but I fear for some
ulterior motive.

Early this year (1990 – Ed.) at an all too infrequent barrel
at the

Wessex
,
silly games were the order of the night. Now as anyone who has been to the

Wessex
will know, they have some
very fine climbing frames – roof supports in the main room.

A voice from the crowd suggests a race from one end of the
beam to the other, a ‘stranger’ suddenly appears at one end and quickly
demonstrates his prowess by falling off and upsetting my missus by landing in
her knitting.  ‘Who is this bloke’?!  No challenger forthcoming I volunteer,
‘Climber versus caver’ suggests a voice. I lost but he cheated – well that’s my excuse.  Who is that bloke? “Oh that’s Dick
Broomhead”, J’Rat says.

A few weeks later Dick suggests that Derek Targett myself go
climbing in Cheddar Gorge one evening as Dick cleared some new lines above the
reservoir area, just before you get to Pig’s Hole.

The evening was fine, the climbs were fine, one Hard Very
Severe 5a, the other Very Severe 5a, both about 70′ high, well protected and
excellent routes.  Another climb just to
the right, an H.V.S., was climbed a week later by Dick and myself.  Snablet and I repeated the first climb
several months later and judging by the other routes in this area is well worth
a star.

Climbing these new routes reminded me of the potential of a
small quarry behind the

village of
West Horrington
.

Apart from the quarry there is a very fine lime kiln and
number of interesting old mine workings, all explored.  I think, by B.E.C. members In the past.  The area is well worth a visit.

Back to the quarry, the main face is 45-50′ high and 30′
wide, vertical and featureless apart from a small overhang at 20′.  There are a number of other bays and
interesting crack lines.  I remember
looking at the main face thinking it would go at E5, too hard for me!

Two years later I found myself living in
West
Horrington
and spent many hours bouldering in the quarry, but I
was not alone.  One weekend I arrived at
the quarry and was surprised to see Brian Prewer dangling on a piece of rope,
practicing S.R.T. for the Berger.  He had
placed a bolt at about 15′ for a change-over manoeuvre; this was to come in
useful a few years later.

The drawback of living on Mendip at the time was that nobody
went climbing, apart from our feathered friend, a very elusive Duck when it
came to arranging climbing, so I enlisted the help of Lavinia to top rope me up
a number of lines.  Later Steve Milner,
Snablet and a couple of local lads were to become climbing partners, it was
time to divulge crag X, i.e. Horrington Quarry. So, one Saturday morning, Steve Milner, Snablet, Mike Macdonald and
myself spent a couple of hours top roping up and down on the end of a rope,
Snablet managing to invert himself at one point in the way only Snablet could
do.

In all, three climbs have been led and one soloed.

The first a flared corner crack, 40′ high, grade 5a with
very sparse protection.  At the moment
the crack is a bit dirty but cleaned out it would be an excellent route, if
somewhat serious.

Later on in the year, Dick and I managed two new lines.

I led the main wall at the third attempt, 50′ high, grade
E2/3, 5c/6a, protection being a peg at 25′ and Brian’s bolt at 15’ which is the
crux, the climbing is very fingery and sustained and probably at the higher
grade.  Dick led the overhanging crack
line in the next bay, after extensive gardening, the first 20′ is very
sustained at 5b, H.V.S./E1

Both climbs are short but very good.  There are at least 6 other routes to be done
if anyone is interested but all of them will be extremes.

Next spring, I hope we can have a club climbing/caving
meet.  If anyone is interested see either
Dick or myself.  Hopefully 1991 will see
even more members climbing above ground as well as below and perhaps even a
climbing sec. post on the committee!  Any
offers?


Fantasy
Island – The Dream Isle Called

Sri Lanka

Nigel Taylor

The night ended – as abruptly as it had begun – less than
eight hours earlier somewhere over the
Middle East.  At 37,000 feet or rather, “7 miles
up”, and now nearly 6,000 miles from LONDON GATWICK the sun, like an angry
orange popped into view from behind the curvature of the earth, its rays
burnishing the wings of AIR LANKA’S TRI-STAR flight inbound to KATUNAYAKA
INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, COLOMBO, SRI LANKA.

As the last few minutes of FLIGHT UL 516 fled away, the
aircraft slipped neatly over the
Indian Ocean,
and crossed the coastline some nine miles from touchdown.

As the aircraft made its usual radar-identification turns
prior to lining up on the COLOMBO I.L.S., our eyes saw their first and fleeting
glimpses of steaming tropical vegetation, here and there the occasional
clearing, in which stood tall and sinewy coconut palms adjacent to small
clusters of local housing.  Peasant
country folk could be seen attending to their daily rituals, of leading oxen to
the paddy fields, and children on their way to a 7.0 am school start!

Away to the East, the magnificent sight of

SRI LANKA
‘S famous 7,360 ft.
mountain – “SRI PADRE” loomed out of the horizon.  Shaped like a pyramid, this mountain is also
known as ”

ADAMS
PEAK
“.  It is a

HOLY
MOUNTAIN
,
revered by most SRI LANKAN’S as either the place where the LORD BUDDHA first
set foot on earth, or where ADAM set forth into the GARDEN OF EDEN.

Whichever notion you choose to accept, one point is
indisputable, that SRI LANKA, or CEYLON as the British used to call it, is
undeniably one of the most beautiful and fascinating places on this earth.  A veritable Garden of Eden.  It has been said by others more notable than
I, that INDIA was the CROWN of the BRITISH EMPIRE, and SRI LANKA the JEWEL in
that CROWN.

This magnificent pear or tear-drop shaped land is barely 220
miles in length from North to South and 115 miles East to West at its widest
point.  It has a total area of some
25,000 square miles, which is roughly the size of

IRELAND
, and has a population of
approximately 14,000,000 people.

The SRI LANKAN nation is composed of approximately 70%
SINHALESE people originally from

INDIA
and 15% to 20% TAMIL, the
remainder being either descendants of the Dutch and Portuguese traders and
settlers these are called BURGHERS, and lastly a MUSLIM mixture of CEYLON
MOORS, INDIAN MOORS and MALAYS.  More
than three quarters of the country’s population live and work in the rural
areas of the land.

The sights that were to befall Viv and me over the next
weeks were so incredible that I find great difficulty in expressing the
enthralling nature of this ‘Paradise Isle’. The SRI LANKAN people, like their country, are a beautiful smiling
people.  Full of warmth, and gentility
and when you have dealings with any of them you may sense an almost child-like
innocence in them, that has long since disappeared in other areas of this
planet.

The women are nothing short of beautiful, bronzed skin,
brown eyed and slender with a serene air of grace about them, often this is
enhanced by their saris of vivid and spellbinding colours.  It is a country where “National
Dress”, is in fact, just what is worn. My wife also notes that the men also have a certain “captivating
charm”!!

We had visited
SRI LANKA
the previous year but alas only briefly, as a stopover point on a trip through
South East Asia to
THAILAND,
HONG KONG and

MACAO
.  Our first impressions at that time had been
very favourable, and we were both determined that we would visit

SRI LANKA
again
as soon as we could.

Thus it was that we arrived again in

SRI LANKA
and with two battered
PENTAX M SUPERS and an assortment of thirty-nine reels of KODACOLOUR GOLD and
KODACHROME 64.  And here is another
regret – no black and white film!  This
country lends itself well to this medium.

We had left the

U.K.
at 13.00 hrs. on the 17th
September, and via Amsterdam and Dubai finally landed some 13 hours later at
SRI LANKA’s only International Airport, by G.M.T. it was only 2 a.m. and it was
only the fact that this country is 5 hours ahead of G.M.T. that explained why a
crowd of several hundred SRI LANKAN’s were clustered around the wire airport
fences outside the arrivals hall at two in the morning in brilliant sunlight!

A large migrant population are employed in the middle
eastern oil fields and most incoming European flights transit via
ABU DHABI,
DUBAI,
BAHRAIN,
KUWAIT
and

MUSCAT

(Prior to the Kuwait crisis of 1990).  In
consequence it is often the case that whole families of forty or fifty persons
will come to say farewell or to greet one returning “Ex-Pat”.

After a brief stopover – in “NEGOMBO” a nearby
beach resort, where the hotels are situated right on the foreshore, with large
“open-to-the-sea” dining rooms and silver sandy beaches – we headed
inland to the North East, through vast coconut plantations, spice farms and
rice fields, great forests of teak and rubber trees.  All the time through lush green tropical
vegetation, it is hard to convey the actual warm, lush smell of the greenery.  After several hours drive, our guide
explained to us that we would shortly enter the “DRY ZONE” an arid
but beautiful part of the country, where the scenery resembles a stage set for
“OUT OF AFRICA” or “ZULU DAWN”.  Within a few miles, the vista had changed
completely; dense Brush and Jungle now lay just off the highway.  Deadly snakes like KING COBRAS and others
abound in this area and the traveller when “taken-short” has to keep
their eyes “well-peeled”!!

The wildlife also changes with the location, elephants and
leopards can be found with no difficulty. But as for water? – The region had no precipitation for over six months,
the ground was like concrete.

It was in this region that we stopped for the evening in the
luxurious “SIGIRIYA VILLARIN HOTEL”, a. short distance from the
ancient ROCK FORTRESS of SIGIRIYA built in approximately 473 AD.

Imagine an enormous sheer-sided rock some 200 metres high
rising out of a nearly flat jungle, and being about 4 acres in size.  Located in a natural gallery half way up this
MONOLITH are the famous FRESCOES of the SIGIRIYA DAMSELS dating from the 5th
century, these are nearly as beautiful as the SRI LANKAN women themselves.

The main idea of this holiday was to obtain a general
insight into the delights this superb country has to offer the traveller,
however I had a nagging thought in the recesses of my skull that the B.B.
Editor would eventually call upon me to make some paltry contribution to the
Belfry Bulletin, and therefore I had to keep a wary eye for any sight of caves
or items of speleological nature!  So for
“viewers at home only” I now will bore the pants off you in order to
encourage at least one more B.E.C. member to head off to the Far East in search
of a SRI LANKAN Cavern Measureless to Man!

The greater part of

SRI LANKA
consists of a solid mass
of ancient crystalline rocks, known in Sinhalese as “KALUGAL”.  A underlay of GNEISS is covered in the
central and North-Eastern areas by thick metamorphosed sediments consisting of
quartzite, crystalline limestone, granulite etc.  Most of these rocks are banded or have
horizontal joint planes. often with many vertical cracks in each bed.

The crystalline limestone appears clearly in three regions
of the country: –

1)       The
most extensive lies to the east of PUTTALAM and goes towards KEGALLA, skirting
the HILL COUNTRY, passing in front of
ADAM’S PEAK
to BALANGODA, WELLANAYA, and through the valleys of BADULLA OVA and MAHAWELI
GANGA to TRINCOMALEE.

2)       MIHINTALE
due south along the MATALE valley to WATTEGAMA and  HANGURANKETA, also with an area extending to

KANDY
and PERADENIYA.

3)       Between
RATNAPURA curving toward HAMBANTOTA behind the RAKWANA HILL COUNTRY.

Limestone is quarried in all of these areas but the most
numerous quarries are near to

KANDY
.
MATALE and BADULLA, and evidence of KARST landforms with caverns is plentiful
in these areas.

Anyone interested in a walking holiday would be well catered
for in the area known as the “HILL COUNTRY”.  There are over 150 mountains between 3.000
and 7.000 feet, together with twelve peaks ranging between 7,000 and 8,200
feet.  The highest mountain IS PIDURUTALAGALA
at 8,292 feet, though since this is perched upon a 6,000 foot plateau it is
“small-beer” when compared to the majestic ADAM’S PEAK (7,360 feet) .

If you plan to visit this area, ensure you trek across to
“WORLDS END” on the HORTON PLAINS. The plateau is located south of NUWARA ELIYA and west of HAPUTALE.  It is a lofty plain set at around 7,000 feet
with excellent walking.  The plains come
to a dramatic end at WORLDS END dropping vertically 1,000 feet.

Such a name is a suitable end point for this narrative, yet
I leave you with one thought quoting Fred Davis “caves be where you find
them”.  I should just add “and
where in

SRI LANKA

you find the limestone too!!”  Above
or below ground,

SRI LANKA

is a magnificent country.

References and Suggested

Reading
:-



Sri Lanka
” – A Travel Survival Kit
Tony Wheeler.  Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 0908086 628



Sri Lanka
” – Berlitz Travel
Guide.  Lib of Congress Catalog Number
81-67094



Ceylon
– Its Geography. Its
Resources and its people”   by Elsie
K. Cook FRGS – Published by McMillan. Lon. 1951



Ceylon
” – Nagels Encyclopaedia
Guide – 1980 ISBN 2-8263-07047



Sri Lanka
” – Land. People and
Economy – by B.L.C. Johnson and M.Le. Scrivenor – Heinmann. Lon. 1981 ISBN
0435-35489 2

 

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