|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.
Some CDG friends and I pushed this cave in 2007 and passed 7 sumps (the 8th had disappeared!!) and several kilometres of muddy caving with diving kit, to drop a climb at the limit of exploration and find tens of meters of new dry cave until a final, impassable (at the time) lake was found.
It was my first taste of virgin cave and it took four days of work and an 11 hour trip plus a set-up day, to get there.
|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.
The wine was flowing, the pizza dough was being rolled, cans of allsorts of toppings were appearing and Jean was in full flow about caves which could connect with the Perdreau, other projects he had in mind for us and the other club members seemed to be queuing up to question us about the project.It was a simply fantastic evening. The laptops came out and we showed the club the footage Joe had shot in the Gourney-Rou and the Gourney-Ras. They were suitably wowed and then the pizza started circulating – delivered by the same guy who had run down the hill with my cylinders!! I’m seriously considering joining this club!! They even made Oz his very own vegetarian pizza – but not without a certain amount of p!ss taking!!
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.