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Sheer magic: an awesome journey from the centre of the earth 

The unique experience offered by the Cave of the Wind.

IT was in every way a defining, heart-thumping moment on our journey from the centre of the earth.

The two amiable  guides brought us to a gentle but purposeful halt in the labyrinth of underground passageways  that make up the enthralling  Cave of the Wind.

We grouped in a ragged semi circle, burrowed somewhere beneath the rugged foothills  of Mount Teide, the lamps on our safety helmets glowing like shaky fireflies.

Then, we were  given a simple  order: “Turn off your lamps…”

What? Did they really mean me? Surely not. Me, and the 15 others, including my redoubtable wife, Linda, crouching  under millions of tons of timeless rocks?

But  we all meekly obeyed.

The  shock was palpable: an almost solid,  unrelenting blackness dropped like a curtain. For  60 silent seconds we remained  in total (yes, absolute) darkness absorbing  the true meaning  of life underground.

The blackness seemed endless and timeless.  Ironically,  I spent my time trying to actually see:  but I didn’t know if I was looking up, down or sideways and I’d lost all sense of direction in this fascinating, meandering,  underground wilderness.

But was it frightening? No, not one bit. Exhilarating and joyfully uplifting, yes.  Particularly when lights were turned back on and we shared the  joy of gazing at  each other’s elated, smiling faces.

And I am  here to tell you this extraordinary understated attraction (no, that’s not the  correct word) tableau of history, is a veritable must-visit for anyone  who wants to get to grips with the  deeper understanding  of volcanoes and their awesome place in the history of our planet.

First, some facts: The Cueva del Viento-Sobrado under-ground complex is the largest lava tube in the European Union.

It was created by lava flows from Pico Viejo, next to Mount  Teide, and is a ten minute ride from the centre  of Icod de los Vinos bearing the same name.

The tube was  formed  27,000 years ago when  basaltic lavas belched and roared their way out of the earth at temperatures topping 1,200 degrees centigrade during the volcano’s  first eruptive phase.

The  lava flowed down the volcano  towards the sea, forming  a crust on the  surface. Meantime, underneath, hot lava continued its journey creating empty tubes which have now become an explorer’s delight.

It now gives visitors  an exclusive and  unparalleled insight  into the role of lava flows, offering  us mere mortals  the chance to see first hand whimsical forms sculpted by the lava in the bowels of the earth.

And don’t for one minute believe our journey was lit like the pictures shown here.

Or there were any naff tourist tourist signs pointing; “This way to the caves” or glitzy gift shop  packed with souvenirs  (they only really stretch to a fridge magnet and some packets of Gofio, a toasted local cereal).

And, even more reassuring, is the fact that you are forbidden  to touch anything that would disturb the fragile ecosystem in  the caves itself.

This folks, is  simply a true life adventure.

We operated totally on our helmet head  lights and the expert guidance of  Dragon and Monica, who became my two newest, best underground pals ever.

Their knowledge was encyclopaedic  and  unfolded in fascinating  detail as they shepherded us  though  this underground  kingdom filling out minds and eyes with awe, mystery and imagination.

We learned  there were three different passage levels in more than 17 kilometres of tubes, together with beautiful geo-morphological phenomenon like chasms, terraces and other lava formations.

This tube is the fourth longest in the world with many unexplored ramifications, which tantalisingly  will permit future expansion of its length as exploration continues.

And Cueva del Viento’s unique geomorphology and network  of galleries on three superimposed levels, offers a phenomenon not been noted anywhere else in the world.

Its name is taken from  the significant flows of cooling air that swirl in its interior.

At times, the tube roof soared above us, revealing tiny lava stalactites stippled  to the arched ceiling and  lava cascades, side terraces and lava lakes : pure magic every step of  the way.

However, biologically, the tubes  greatest relevance lies in its subterranean fauna —  a constant source of new findings.

The cave has a total of 190 known species. But spookily,  forty-eight are troglobites, animals doomed to live in the dark.

There’s an  eyeless cock-roach and  ground beetles and  carabids  … Could  they be  coming to get me?

No, said our guides. They  creatures only have  one interest:  eating each other.

There are fossils of extinct animals like the giant rat and  giant lizard, and, in  hushed tones, we heard  part of the complex was a burial ground for the  Guanches,  the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands.

Remarkably, the tube itself was only discovered 100 years ago  after  an elderly walker survived a fifty foot fall when the  ground literally opened up before her.

But best foot forward, it  gave us an  irresistible opportunity to grasp a trip of a lifetime.

 

FACT BOX

Visits to the cave have  to be prebooked,  with guided routes limited to 16 per party, and start with a two language video presentation.

It is advisable to reserve your at least one day before your visit by Internet  to : info@cuevadelviento.net

Don’t be late – you’ll use your chance to participate.

To contact the  Cueva del Viento Visitor Centre, for information, call: +34 922 81 53 39.

Prices per person: 16 euros for nonresidents; 10 euros for residents and 5 euros for children, five to 14 years old.

HELPFUL TIPS

Advice

@ Wear suitable clothing (long pants) and footwear.

@  Always obey instructions given by the guides. Do not take any unmarked path oleave the group.

@  If you feel tired, tell the guide immediately.

@ Do not leave any waste behind or damage the cave; remember that is a very valuable protected ecosystem.

@ Animals are not allowed.

@ Do not take any material from the surroundings. Do not touch anything.

The tour is described as ‘medium difficult’ and children must be at least five years old.

Visitors  with  claustrophobia and those  problems in knees and ankles should speak to the visitors’ centre before booking.