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We arrived at the summit of the mountain with only an hour of daylight left. The climb was steep so we’d chosen to pack lightly: knife, hatchet, water, and the clothes on our backs. With a cool 5*C night ahead and no sleeping bags or tents, creating shelter was our our number one priority.
We scoped the backside of the cliff and discovered a few potential caves tucked into the mountain. In survival situations it's all about working smarter, not harder. Luckily there were no residents to compete with, just a slithering neighbour (more on that later). We came to the decision that an eastern facing cave would be best to harbour us from the westerly wind and potentially give us the morning warmth of first light. The only down side is that it was on a 30* angle–kinda felt like we were lying in some sort of lunar-bound space craft.
We scurried along the cliffside, collecting both wood and stone for our necessary fire. Rocks for safety, logs for fuel. The darkness quickly crept in and we still had yet to create our ever-so-crucial heater, lifeline, tv and stove. I think we were both perhaps a little over confident in our fire by friction abilities and if there’s one thing fire taught us, it’s that one should never underestimate its ability to humble… and Humble us it did.
By using the primitive hand drill technique, we could create coals but no flame. Our main challenge was that all the nearby materials were damp. We scrambled around the neighbouring caves collecting whatever dry casuarina needles and leaves we could find. Eventually we scrounged together enough material for a small tinder bundle, a fire prayer in every leaf. It took us the better part of two hours, until we finally blew the fifth coal into flame.
We slept on palm fronds and feasted on plants. At dawn we were greeted by a guardian Peregrin falcon and a resident carpet python trying to warm herself in the sun. It’s as if both came to bring us messages, lessons of the land. Big medicine.
I’ll never forget experiences like this that push us beyond our comfort zones. I consider mountain caves to now be quite comfortable, who knew! Going to give this particular CAVE BNB a 4/5 star review: Great facilitates, Great Hosts, Great view. The only constructive feedback I’d offer is that I’d be ok with being able to life flat, instead of dreaming that I’m sliding feet first into an oven.
Words and pictures by Jake Taylor