I have gone hunting for caves all over the world, from Jamaica to Saudi Arabia, but I must admit that in Mexico La Exploración de Oquedades (the Exploration of Subterranean Holes) has its own special flavor.
We are off to find a cave.
“It’s got to be up ahead, at the base of that hill,” we decide. We walk for three kilometers, each of us carrying a heavy rope in addition to backpacks filled with rappelling and ascending gear, at least three lights, lots of batteries, water, and, of course, a sturdy helmet.
And then we come to a fence. In California, that would be the end of the excursion: “Shucks, private property! Back to the car!”
In Mexico, an alambrado de púas or barbed wire fence also poses a problem, or actually three problems: will I go through it, over it or under it?
Once we’ve passed the fence, who should we run into but the owner of the private property we’ve just invaded.
In some countries you might be greeted by the blast of a shotgun, but in nearly 40 years of ignoring fences in Mexico, the reaction of landowners to cavers or hikers on their property has inevitably been, “bienvenidos, amigos!” accompanied by a big smile and an offer to guide us right to the cave that we’re looking for.