First Caving Trip – from a Fresher's perspective
Co. Fermanagh, 19–21 October 2012

Author: Daniel McKay (Edited By Baz)

Present: Conor "Barney" McAdams, Conor "Nuts" O'Neill, Sean "Major" Barker, Sean Miner, Barry Montague, Al, Steve "Muh" (apparently the sound a cow makes, who knew!), Emma-Louise Rea, Mark Ormerod, Michael Kelly, Tonje Børseth Barca and a few guest appearances.

Well I'll begin where it all started; the student union of QUB at 6pm on Friday. You would guess seeing as this was the first caving trip I (and most likely the other freshers) was nervous about what caving was REALLY like, but I can assure you that when the whole gang got together all sense of nervous anticipation was lost and replaced with the thought of "this will be interesting" and if I had known what was in store for me... well let's just say it was better than just 'interesting'!

So basically, once everyone had gathered together we went off on our merry way to Fermanagh to begin as was stated "a well behaved weekend", not my choice of words but it left me in eager anticipation of future trips as it didn't seem all that calm to me! Well anyway, as we were driving down we stopped off at Tesco's to obtain much needed supplies and even saw a drive-thru off-license (I know strange right?!). Eventually, we found the area, but had no idea where the key for the scout hut was! Oops! Fortunately that problem was solved quickly though so nothing to worry about.

After settling into the scout hut, we decided to have a few drinks and get to know each other better and play a few games for a bit of craic before deciding to "take a walk", but Barry had his own ideas on this... he decided climbing trees, lying down in the ice cold water and eating pieces of the forest was a better idea! Safe to say we were all having a good time and the actual caving had yet to begin! On returning to the hut, we finished the night off by telling stories before going to bed in the early hours of the morning.

Well on Saturday morning we all had a huge fry, compliments of chef Sean Major, and looking back my mouth still waters at the thought of it! After we had each ate our fill, we went off to the caves and this is where things got really interesting. We arrived at Poll Thanarees and I can remember looking down this tiny hole thinking "how did someone ever manage to find that?" and "hope I get in OK". I, and everyone else, managed to do it no bother though so we had nothing to fear and I'll tell you now, the things you see down them caves are amazing! So basically Tonje, Emma-Louise, Al and myself went off on our merry way to discover the caves and see what they were like; looking back, you have no real concept of time down there, we could've been down there for minutes or hours! Whatever the measure of time was, I enjoyed the experience thoroughly though. After we eventually climbed out of this cave, we went off to take a look at two more caves firstly we made our way through Cats Hole and after meeting up with the rest of the cavers we made our way to Upper cradle which had a nice stream way waiting inside to help srub some of the muck off! Alas, they were not as difficult as the first but amazing none-the-less.

That night after returning from the caves, we had our showers followed by dinner (delicious!), during which news of the arrival of a certain Sean Miner came to our ears so not long afterwards, we walked over and spent a while sitting around a glorious camp-fire eating marshmallows and drinking some whiskey. Yet again, Barry was the centre of all shenanigans by cutting up a cake with an axe! On a side note, the cake was very tasty and even though I'm usually a very picky eater and can't stand jam, caving quickly drove that out of me! Finally, we finished off the night by heading over to a local pub and enjoying a bit of friendly banter over a few drinks.

Sunday morning (this day was without a doubt my favourite day), after eating breakfast, two plans had formed for the day. A few cavers, friendly to the QUB senior cavers, had joined the party and they were planning to head off to a more challenging cave, (Poll Na Raftra, I was very excited about this and all plans to go with my fellow freshers to the wet caves went out the window). As such, half our group went one way and half went the other with plans to meet up in witherspoon's that night for a bite to eat. From what I heard, the wet caves had been a lot of fun but I have to say I wouldn't have traded my experience for anything.

So as it was; Barney, Steve, four guest cavers and myself went off to Poll Na Raftra (from what I remember, it is said that it would take two whole days to get from the entrance to the exit!) and climbed in via a bit of a tight squeeze to this marvellous cave and began our journey using Steve's knowledge of the cave system to guide us. Unfortunately, we reached the mud wall a bit too quickly and since we didn't continue (someday I'll see what's beyond that wall), we had to turn back and exit via the way we came in. I really could not stress enough how much I had enjoyed that particular cave system, it was genuinely the perfect cave system for my particular tastes with quite a few challenging obstacles (you could say it was an educational playground! Not to mention seeing the huge stalactites and stalagmites). It was definitely a pity I couldn't have stayed longer with all the craic I was having! But witherspoon's and our dinners were calling, we're only human after all!

So now I've reached the conclusion of our epic adventure (everybody say aww), we had already packed our things before heading to the cave, so we just went straight to witherspoon's and met up with the other half of our group. There myself and the other fresher's told each other about what we had done and told a few stories about it while, the senior's talked among each other. It was a nice way to end one hectic weekend and I can safely say... bring on the next round of caving shenanigans!