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2006-Easter-Paturau-Pee Cave

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This article was first published in SumpThink in October 2006

Discovery of Pee Cave – Paturau

Barry Cullen

Seeing Moira’s note in the July Tomo Times pricked my conscience into writing up the discovery and exploration Pee Cave.

The tale thus far goes like this…

It all started on the Sunday of Easter of 2005 when I was going for a paddle up to the lake following a period of heavy rain. This meant that the drain was over flowing into the surrounding paddocks so I could cheat a corner and paddle directly across the paddock. Feeling the urge for a pee, as you do, I had but little distance to paddle to ankle deep water but this left me just a little exposed, like in the middle of the paddock. So, being the shy nervous kind, I wandered to a somewhat more discreet location a few meters away. Deed done, I though a bit of a look around was in order and, low and behold, a cave entrance with even a few old fossil stalactites still in attendance. Well that was hard - not. A quick peak indicated a small active stream in not spectacularly big passage but certainly worth another look. No torch and paddling gear only meant I had to defer exploration to the following day.

Monday morning and I still had to paddle to the cave but wore my cave helmet and managed an easy 250 meters and stopped at a bit of a rock fall. Conscious that I didn’t have all the time in the world, as we still had a 5 hour drive to catch the ferry back to Wellington that evening, I called exploration at an end until the following Easter.

Friday, Easter 2006, saw Jen, Trouty, Cathye H, Derek and I paddling back up the river this time decked to the nines in our caving gear. Must have looked quite a sight I don’t think. Back to the rock fall and all was as I remembered it and with the rock fall quickly passed we soon emerged into a large chamber “Bishops hat chamber” because the roof shape tapers in on a number of facets much like a bishop’s hat.

The euphoria of this large scale find was quickly eliminated by the lack of an obvious way on, the only hope being a narrow slot on the chambers left flank.

This being my first significant discovery a narrow slot wasn’t going to stop me but a few corners later the water disappearing into an impossibly narrow hole certainly would. But hang on a minute, what if I climb up here and then step over there and bingo back into the stream way. At this point I retreated back to the waiting team explained that it was still going but not exactly what you would call crusiey. Silly sods elected to follow anyway; such is the disease, ‘exploration fever’. However, I think after my “climb up here” some were being to wonder if that was such a good move. Still, all reassembled above the climb, we moved off following the stream and, as suddenly as it has shut down, it opened again into bloody great passage. I’m a liking this here Pee Cave of mine.

A nice ledge beside the stream was just the excuse for a bite to eat before moving off again. Upper levels and rocks dislodged onto Trouty distracted us for a bit before eventually we were forced to follow the stream yet again. But, in the way of exploration, one corner later and a 4 meter water fall ground us collectively to a halt. The fall was slightly over hung and every hold I tried broke off all too easily. My old mate Trouty gallantly, or should that be foolishly, volunteered his body as a ladder, which I climbed to shoulder height but we were both getting very wet and no hold presented itself over the lip of the fall.

Bugger, retreat was inevitable but not before I climbed up and up and up to see if I could find a way over. Only trouble was I got a bit carried away with the climbing up bit, some of which was rather exposed, and I forgot to look down. When I finally was stopped and turned around I fair crapped myself at the height I was above the stream bed. The lights of the others were tiny dots and I must have been 20 – 30 meters above them. Far too young to die I made a mental note not do a dopey thing like that again and very, very, carefully picked my way down again.

So there you have it. Probably around 500m but the survey gear never came out as we got side tracked caving some of Paturau’s other known delights. Above the water fall is open passage and who knows what. Guess Easter 2007 will determine armed with a climbing pole and ladder.

That afternoon Trouty and I explored the valley, possibly over the cave, and despite many holes none could be found to connect to Pee. One was, however, a pitch so that remains to be looked at.

Also, in 2005 I spotted another opening, a pitch, up by Tunnel Cave. In 2006 I was better equipped with rope and SRT gear so after a trip through Little Cave I rigged the pitch for a bit of a look see whilst the others visited Tunnel. The 6 meter pitch didn’t drop into caverns, measureless to man, but rather a grotty little tube that will require some digging to make for a person size hole. But; is that bigger passage I spot in the distance? Maybe it is just wishful thinking but I’m going to take another look next year just to make certain.