Sunday, September 20, 2015

To the Bat Cave!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the bat cave near my village (if you don't remember the story, read it here). This weekend I was able to coordinate a trip with my local guide to let me finally see it for myself.

It turns out that the hidden bat cave is located in a small cove further along the coast line from the beach in my village. Because of a sheer vertical wall, a person must wade through the surf to reach the rocky outcroppings that can be used to hike around to the cove where the bat cave is located. Or, there is another option—keep your feet and legs dry by going overland, and dropping down on the rocky outcroppings from above.

My guide prefers the latter option, so we hiked up the road, cut through a backyard, and into the forest. Soon, we were at the edge of the steep hillside leading down to the ocean. My guide took me down a route that featured plenty of natural footholds, and soon we were at sea level (see picture below). We hiked around various tidal pools and large rocks as we worked our way around the point and into the secluded cove. I wanted to explore the tidal pools for aquatic life, but felt it was more important to pay attention to my guide's feet as I attempted to follow his exact path across this bizarre landscape.

The guide is further down the hill on the left of this picture. He was stopping part-way down the hill to make sure I didn't fall and go splat on the rocks below.
Eventually, we rounded a point and the bat cave came into view at the end of this hidden cove. It has a large, roughly semi-circular entrance, approximately 25 feet in diameter (I'm not an expert at judging such measurements, but that is my best guess at this point). We stopped on the edge of the hillside, where I had a good view. Apparently there are two options for entering the cave from that point—either drop down the hillside into the surf and walk along the wet rocks (which my guide thought was too risky—he prefers a calmer sea for that method), or to crouch down low and take a narrow pathway under a slight overhang along the edge of the hillside. He decided that I should probably just watch from my safe vantage point and not take either of these two risky options. Instead, he carefully worked his way across the edge of the hillside and went into the cave alone.
The guide as he enters the mouth of the cave. Notice how the waves come right up to the entrance of the cave.
Once inside, he made a commotion that caused the bats near the entrance to wake up from their daily slumber and fly out of the cave. I was able to take a few pictures as they flew around the area just outside the entrance, waiting for him to leave so that they could go back to sleep (hanging upside down from the ceiling). It was quite a sight to see, with probably a hundred or so bats (not the entire colony, because the cave apparently goes much further inside) agitatedly fluttering around in the mid-day sun.
As Robin might say, "Holy bat swarm, Batman!"
You can see them flying against the blue sky.
Some of them flew relatively close to me and I happened to catch this one with a picture showing it in full silhouette. On the lower right side, there is one heading directly towards me.
Eventually, my guide worked his way back up to my perch. He brought with him a young dead bat he had found, in order to give me a close up view. They are fascinating creatures!
Rest in peace, my fellow mammal.
Finally, it was time for us to head back. I assumed we were going to retrace our steps and thus I would be able to check out the tidal pools in the rocks. However, my guide had a different plan. He wanted to go straight up the hill from where I had been standing. There was no path, and there was thick, bushy vegetation growing on the steep hillside. I wasn't sure how this was going to work out.

Once we started up through the vegetation, it reminded me a bit of working through a rhododendron thicket back home in West Virginia. The branches were hard to cross at first, but eventually we ended up underneath the bushes, which formed a canopy over our heads. Using the exposed roots and branches of these bushes, we were able to climb up the steep hillside. We stopped temporarily at an overlook above (and a bit to the side) of the cave's mouth.

This is the view looking down on the cove that ends at the mouth of the cave (which is below and to the left).
From the overlook, the going was a bit easier as we continued to work our way up the hillside. Eventually, we ended up on the road above the village, and walked back home. It was a grand adventure, but best of all, it leaves me with another adventure to take in the future, when I might get the opportunity to actually explore the depths of the bat cave. Just as the 1960s TV series that I loved used to conclude: “Tune in next week—same bat time, same bat channel!

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