|Nathan prepares the pizza ovens|
We weaved along tracks up on the plateau getting further and further from civilization as it began to get dark. Oz and Joe followed in their van, wondering where this mad woman was leading them now.
I wasn’t in the least bit bothered as the pizza party was being held in the same vicinity as the Calaven de la Seoubio.
|Seoubio Team at dive base, Easter 2007|
On that trip, we radio-located a chamber in the area of sump 7, as we thought it was quite close to the surface. According to the radio-location, the cave was only 30m below the plateau.
|Radiolocating the Seoubio sump 7 in 2007|
The CLPA that evening began digging with their bare hands, looking down every crack in the limestone pavement to find a draught. They have subsequently embarked on several digging missions, including the ‘Aven de Verriére’ and the current project, the ‘Aven du Team’. Each surface dig has reached a depth of around 20m but has yet to yield anything promising. Jean Tarrit pointed out that the Seoubio may well be destined to belong to divers only.
|The CLPA get digging|
|The French pull tens of 'jerrycans' of spoil |
out of the dig every weekend.
|The Hortus Plateau is a barren limestone landscape, which must |
hold the key to some serious cave somewhere...
We finally wiggled our way across the plateau and met another CLPA member, having trouble finding the correct electric fence. We found it and negotiated it and drove down some pretty Berlingo-hostile track until we found the group by lots of voices in the scrub!
Oz and Joe by this point must have really thought I was totally nuts – Oz had already declared he was never going to another pizza party again! Ahhhh, but they hadn’t been to one like this before….
The CLPA had been struggling to find a productive use for the digging spoil they had been producing from the Aven du Team. Some genius thought it would be a good idea to use the limestone pieces from the dig to build pizza ovens!
We stumbled in the near darkness through the scrubby bushes and over the cracked limestone pavement which clinked as you stepped on loose slabs and walked into a clearing where the pizza ovens were roaring with flames.
It was a real shame to have to leave this great area and such great people. Next time I think we may need to take hammocks and stay the night on the moonlit plateau.
We packed up the tents with some sweaty effort the next day and had a dip in the pool before heading steadily back up the road to the UK. One final treat was in store – a restaurant which we came across purely by chance! It is called L'Ateliére du Gout and we had some of the best French food ever encountered!
The same sadly couldn’t be said of Seafrance…….but we did get a great sunset in Calais and a long, tiring drive home.
The Sorgues is in Aveyron and is a great little cave to finish the trip with.
Oz and Joe set off to the Durzon - because their instructions had the GPS co-ordinates mixed up!!!!!
The Sorgues is a beautiful river emerging from the cirque rockface and feeds the fish-farm just downstream. It used to be the case that divers were asked to hose off their drysuits before entering the water but now the fish-farm seem not to care and divers are welcome here.
We settled down to lunch by the weir and Mehdi produced some home-made Fois Gras and some fruit jelly thing which was amazing.
We were still waiting for the others to show up and without a mobile signal here, wondered just how long we should wait. Rich still needed fills from the compressor so couldn't dive with me until Oz and the compressor arrived. It was decided that I should go for a dive with Mehdi and Rich could dive with the others when (if) they showed up.
|Chris faffing in the resurgence pool before her dive|
It was great this time to know that I could just get on with it and relax.
We dived to what I consider the end of the cave. The main, spacious passage just ends and the way on is a small, narrow rift which goes up to about 3m depth from 31m and nobody has been any further. It is reported to be tight, nasty and a dead-end boulder choke - so we stay in the big stuff!
With loads of gas to spare, we turn round and I get the opportunity to waft my HID around and have a real good look at this cave. The geology is beautiful and there are ribbons of calcite protruding like a dragons back all along the edges and the floor. The water is typically clear, with a blue tinge and no decompression is required for such a short dive.
|Mehdi and Christine return from their dive|
|Chris, Elaine, Osama, Mehdi, Joe, Duncan and Rich.|
We end the day with much giggling and silliness as Joe asks Mehdi for an interview about the Esperelle. Both Joe and Mehdi are extremely professional - you get the feeling they have both done this sort of thing before....I am in the background asking Mehdi questions in French and the video looks amazing.
Then it's Rich's turn to be in front of the camera and Joe's techniques for shedding a little golden light on the subject has us in stitches.
All too soon it is time to go. Mehdi has to go and give a talk at the speleo congress and we have to shoot off as we've been invited onto the Hortus Plateau - aka middle of absolutely nowhere - by the CLPA for a pizza party!