Depth through thought

OUCC News 11th January 1995

Volume 5, Number 1

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The only news I can think of is that the WSG have kindly let us "keep" a key to their hut, so spontaneous arrangements will be easier from now on. Many thanks to them for understanding the essentially anarchic nature of OUCC caving.

Cavers of the Surreal: part 2

Last depth (DTT5.1) saw the happy Oxford cavers visiting their last cave in the Northern Also Hegy region of Hungary. Ah that remained for them to do was to take over the village bar to see in the New Year. Ah, a fine night, a distillation of the highest spirits...

The Hungarians had arranged a fine spread of nosh to soak up some of the booze as it poured in. At around 15p for half a litre of ale, now was the time to try to recoup as much as that airfare as possible. After celebrating a total of three New Years (one Ukrainian, one Hungarian and one British), most of us had grasped the basic principles of kissing Hungarian style. In return, we introduced the concepts of squeeze games, body and table traversing. A spontaneous amphitheatre developed to witness the rivalry between nations. Collateral damage was extensive - one bench, one table, 20 ashtrays and 40 glasses later, even the perpetually puzzled barman seemed to be enjoying things. Then Tim, hoisted to the roof, started to dismantle a Christmas decoration, and things started to turn nasty...

After a New Year's Day of recovery, we were driven back towards Budapest by Tames and Oskar. Halfway there, the cars left the main road, and stopped at a field in darkness. We were ushered out, and ordered to strip. One more sublime experience - skinny dipping in a tank of hot spring water in the middle of nowhere, beneath the stars. The Tallisker warmed up well, and floating around from body to body it soon had the usual effect on the cavers' judgement. It was time to play underwater squeezing through the steps into the tank! No-one drowned, but the scars looked pretty impressive the next day. We were well accommodated in Pivo's, Moha's and Silvi's places once back in Budapest. The day started at some time before the first sparrows' fart for me, Pivo and his Dad. We had to go and find my moneybelt which I had carelessly deposited at a random location on the side of the 40km of motorway on the way back from the hot tub.

The caves of Budapest are on the Western (Buda) bank of the Danube, in the posh area inhabited by film stars and rich people. So cavers really fit in. All the caves are locked, so once more we are indebted to Moha for sorting all the access and leaders for us during a working week in Hungary. There were no Clusterfucks. No, the term is 'Also Hegy', approximately pronounced ARSOLE HEDGE. The first cave we tried was Matyas Hegy. None of the three keys fitted the lock, so we went to the Turkish Bath instead. This was easily as exhausting as a cave trip, so was not a wasted day. Next day we tried Matyas Hegy again. A two hour long 'Also Hegy' was resolved after significant use of the fine Budapest public transport system by Tim and me, after it emerged we were waiting in a different meeting place to everyone else. This time the key fitted, and Kutya and Nora led us on a fine romp around this complex Mendip style cave - loads of inter-connecting boulder choked chambers. It was one big adventure playground, and Kutya threw all the challenges at us that he could think of.

Next trip was to Pal-volgy, just over the road from Matyas and located conveniently next to the cavers pub. Beers before and after! The cave was fun and pretty, with strange raft formations built up from thermal waters. Tim took some pictures. Our final trip was to Jozsef-hegy Crystal Cave, probably the most beautiful cave that any of us will ever see. Since the leaders had been expecting us for the trip 4 days before, we were very lucky to get a second chance. 'Alsohegy' squared. The approach was nothing special for Hungary -catch a bus to the posh end of town, walk into someone's nice warm house with pictures on the wall, get changed, follow the pavement leading round the back of the house for approx. 10m, and enter a large manhole cover. The cave is actually quite normal for a bit - proper crawling and stuff. Then it starts to get a bit silly. Gypsum flowers, white popcorn, Christmas trees, and lots more. Absolutely stunning - see Tim's pictures for farther information. Alas, this was our last day in Hungary. We had time to enjoy a 'goulash party' at Silvi's before it was time to go home.

Many thanks to Pivo, Judit, Moha, Andi, Kutya and all the other Hungarians we met there, particularly Yorki for his transportation way beyond the call of duty. The Hungarian enthusiasm and entertaining company gave all of us many memorable times both below and above ground. We must prepare something special for them when they come to Britain at Easter..
Chris Densham

A taste (!) of Hungary: The Party

Walking into the bar on New Year's Eve, 8 o'clock or thereabouts, before the party had really got going, and even then there was a definite feeling of impending drunkenness and merriment in the air. This was going to be a really good party. It had all the crucial ingredients that combine to produce a recipe for a success: lots and lots of pink-cheeked cavers glowing after spending the day underground; beers, wines and spirits at 20p a go from a bar that, so long as people are there to buy the drinks, never closes; a rickety, unstable, wooden table piled high with food (greasy meat balls, bread and savoury pastries): poor quality music scratching its way out of a sound system; and barely a free inch of floor space in which to stand, never mind bench space on which to sit.

The party started off quite innocently, with most people huddled round in the safety of their own groups (OUCC people with OUCC people, Hungarians with Hungarians, and one Ukrainian with the other Ukrainian), except for Chris V and Stephi who were practically inseparable the entire trip. Things livened up dramatically once the alcohol worked its way into the system and Paul Mann started entertaining us: I can't remember exactly what he was doing (too drunk already), but I seem to recall he did something. Then Tim started squeezing through the slats under one of the benches, and Paul followed more slowly with his outrageous tummy, and I decided it was time a woman joined in, and got down on the floor, followed hot-on-the-heels by Kutya (so it appeared my scheming had worked after all), followed by Katinka, who was wonderfully game for anything (even Chris D). And we were away. Next came a spate of body traverses. The Hungarians looked on in mild astonishment, but soon proved that they could do it just as well as us lot, so we had to issue another challenge. The table! (Remember from above that it was rickety and unstable and wooden.)

Never before has the art of table traversing been so exquisitely expressed. First just one OUCC person nimbly climbs round the breadth of the table, then some more OUCC people do it, then some Hungarians try and succeed (without much difficulty, considering they're new to the game). Next, Tim goes round the length of the table and everyone else follows suit. Next, it's two people together going round the breadth in opposite directions while the table shudders and groans and the crowds of observers banked up round the tiny room scream and shout drunken encouragement. Then Yorki (we're talking a big man here) tries and everyone chants "Yorki, Yorki, Yorki, etc.", but despite this he crashes to the floor, nearly kicking someone in the face as he goes. In this way, the table traversing escalates competitively until it reaches a climax with Tim, Paul, Chris D and me all climbing round it simultaneously and successfully completing the ultimate table challenge.

Three times during the acrobatics everyone stopped to celebrate various New Years (11, 12 and 1 o'clock). Ukrainian New Year was marked by lots of shouting in Russian and knocking back quantities of home-produced vodka. New Year at real Hungarian time was an orgy of spraying champagne, kissing anybody and everybody in a darkened room (light bulbs smashed long ago) and drinking champagne. The kissing was pretty random, although I did make sure I got a couple of good goes with Kutya, and somehow I ended up with my tongue down Paul's throat (not too far down) and decided I must have been drunk. By the time it was British New Year everyone seemed a bit fed up of gratuitous kissing, and the OUCC contingent stood round trying to remember how to sing Ald Lang Syne and not succeeding terribly well, so everyone gave up and just danced the night away: sweaty bopping on the floor, stomping on tables, swinging off ceiling beams, more amorous kissing and hugging, more drinking and generally larking about 'til 6 am, but I was snug in my pit in the gym by 3.30, so cannot comment on exactly what happened after then. For me, 1994-95 New Year was definitely the best in living memory; even out-doing the Polish extravagances of a few years back, and I would like to thank everyone who was there that night in that little bar in Bodvaszilas. Let's get together and do it again sometime!
Jenny Vernon

Ogof Draenen

James, Will and I spent 21 hours underground last weekend, and the rest of it huddled against the storm in the back of my little van in a car park somewhere in Wales. Raven food, Polish Vodka, and mud: one of my most pleasurable birthday meals ever.

On Saturday a party of seven of us carried six tackle bags full of drilling gear and Nig Rogers' sandwiches to the end of Upstream Megadrive, where he, Will, Martin L. and Moha dropped a pitch. Will did some heroic pushing down a tight wet streamway, while James, Mark Withers and I surveyed a section of cave Nig had found on a previous trip - only to find it had already been surveyed the week before. But it was fun, we taped passages full of Gypsum formations, climbed a couple of new avens, pushed several tight cornered rifts, and generally learnt our way around Draenen's South Eastern end.

Sunday saw a trip to Aber for breakfast, then a full hour spent working out the intricacies of cordillete to reach the start of Strawberry Way. As usual in our unprofessional way we had planned to do too much, but nonetheless managed a lot. James and Will successfully pushed (and surveyed) a tight 25 metre roof passage to its connection with the main rift, we photographed and taped off some wonderful formations, then James and I broke through two further constrictions at the extreme end of Quality Street. In the pub afterwards we learnt that Draenen in now the 5th longest cave in Britain, with passage exceeding 20.7km.
Tim Guilford