Hot Lake Camping Area – The Valleys
The early morning sun crept above the trees and bathed the campsite in a pink-washed glow that began to chase away the chill of the night. The only sounds were of the soft fall of water leaving the lake, and the increasing chorus of bird-song as they stirred to greet the new day.
The three inhabitants of the blue and silver tent were all still sound asleep, intermingled in a haphazard cat-dog pile of bodies, arms, ears, noses and sleeping bags. Tag was curled up as close as he could get – mashed right into Dieter’s middle – his head resting on the hunde’s gently expanding and lowering chest. Tag was the first to stir, slowly opening his eyes and then unfurling his body, disentangling himself from his cozy canine hollow. He placed his paws out in front of him and made a long satisfying stretch, head down, backside up and yawned cavernously. His stomach rumbled ominously.
Not being in charge of the food, Tag decided that it was time to rouse the attention of the one who was. He leapt lightly on top of the warm mound that didn’t have a wet snuffly nose and lolling tongue hanging out of it. Tag commenced a delicate yet determined process of rhythmic kneading with his paws, his claws out just enough to get the attention of their intended target. Every few kneads he let out a soft – mryeow.
For a couple of minutes the mound tried to ignore the intrusion, refusing to open its eyes – however ultimately, resistance was futile.
Jaak: Ugh – whaddaya want?
Tag: I’m hungry – what’s for breakfast?
Jaak: What time is it?
Tag: Breakfast time!
Dieter now becoming aware of the unfolding scene, also stirred into sleepy consciousness.
Dieter: Did someone mention bacon?
Tag: Yay! Bacon!
A short time later…
Breakfast was underway. The campfire had been coaxed back into life and the pan now held several rashers of sizzling bacon and a pot of camp tea was steaming.
Ever since their last visit to Layan, the three friends had talked endlessly about the possibility of finding the cave of cyan stones that Layan had talked about finding as a boy. They had very little to go on except that Layan had told them that he had found the entrance somewhere in the vicinity of the Hot Lake camping area.
Dieter: The problem is –
his mouth full and waving his bacon butty sandwich authoritatively in the air
– all the lava rocks around here are hot and have steaming vents. Even if we could find an opening, it would be too dangerous to try to get in.
It was true. There were a number of lava rocks close by to where they were camping, but they were all very hot – geothermically active, with boiling hot water and steam belching out of them at random intervals. It was much too risky to even climb over them.
Jaak: Well it can’t be these rocks. This area is too active.
Dieter: What about that side trail that we saw on the way up? The one I wanted to go explore, but you wouldn’t let me – something about needing to stay on the main trail and get to the campsite before dark…
Jaak: Hmm – I think that trail leads back down to the river – it could be worth taking a look down there, it’d probably be far enough from this really active thermal area, but still close enough to maybe have some caves and tunnels.
They spent the rest of the day swimming in the lake, soaking in the hot sitting pool, talking about finding a cyan stone and finding more food whenever Tag decided that it time for another snack.
The next day
After a couple of nights camping by Hot Lake the boys again rose early, grabbed a quick cold breakfast of bread, cheese and pickles, packed up the tent and then headed back down the trail to find the side trail that they had seen on the way up. After an hour or so of walking they found what they were looking for – a narrower trail almost forgotten, winding off the main one and disappearing into the trees.
They followed this new trail which steadily descended down the hill. It was partly overgrown in places but was still easy enough for them to follow. They could soon hear the distinctive sound of the Hot Creek river, and this time there was a much louder sound of rushing tumbling water. After a couple more twists of the trail, they came out onto a small clearing and there spread out below them was an impressive display of white water rapids, tumbling their way noisily through a labyrinth of rocks and boulders. What really caught their eyes however was an expansive and exposed jumble of old lava rocks – and most importantly – they were not steaming hot.
Tag: Let’s camp here!
The other two agreed and they quickly set up their camp in the small open clearing at the end of the trail. They were eager to explore the field of lava rocks and to see if there were any caves or openings. After a while of scrambling and climbing over the rock, they did find a small cave that seemed almost unremarkable – except that right at one end…
Jaak: Hey guys – come’n look at this…
Jaak flashed his torch towards the back of the cave. Right at the very end of the cave there was a bit of an outcrop shelf of rock but right between it and the side wall of the cave there was a small fissure like opening. Dieter gave the crack a tentative sniff.
Dieter: There’s air coming out of here!
Jaak: What does it smell like? Does it smell of sulphur?
Dieter: Nope. It smells fresh!
Jaak put his face close to the crack and sure enough there seemed to be a small amount of air occasionally puffing up out of it.
Jaak: I wonder if we could get in there – its a pretty small opening…
Tag pushed forward to inspect the crack.
Tag: I reckon I can! I can get in anywhere!
Before either Jaak or Dieter could stop him, Tag had wiggled himself head first into the crack and was immediately swallowed up by the surrounding rock. A little alarmed Jaak called frantically into the crack.
Jaak: Tag! Wait! Come back!
A slightly muffled echoey reply came back out of the crack.
Tag: I’m fine! There’s a tube in here – its pretty narrow but. I don’t reckon Diets will fit, but there should be enough room for you Jaak! I’m gonna go on and see where this goes!
Jaak was torn between going after Tag and leaving Dieter behind.
Dieter: You better go after him – I’m fine here, I’ll wait for you, there is no way I am going to get myself stuck in there!
With that, Jaak started to wiggle himself into the impossibly small crack. At first he thought he wasn’t going to be able to make it, but by twisting and curling his middle almost in half, he finally managed to squeeze himself in. The crack opened out into a slightly bigger but narrow lava tube fissure, but much, much smaller and tighter than the tunnel that lead up to Layan’s Tet-Net station. Turning around was impossible.
Laying flat on his stomach, Jaak flashed his torch up into the dark tunnel. Tag was no where to be seen.
Jaak: Tag! I’m through – can you hear me? I’m coming! Wait up!