I open the blinds and squint through the window of our Globetrotter. Half asleep I say: “Caves!” Logan is confused: “What?” So I repeat it: “We gotta go to the caves today, it’s raining!” “Ah!” he replies and turns around for another 5 seconds. Then he jumps up and says: “Ok let’s get going then.”
We make our way to the “Grotti di Frasassi”, Europe’s biggest cave system. I have to admit; I found out about the cave by accident when reading the Lonely Planet guidebook. On the way, we stop at Tolentino to buy a few groceries and to find a shop with TIM sim cards. In a town where hardly anyone speaks English, it is quite a challenge to find the store. Even Google is of no help. Eventually I get a street name off a lady in a 3-Store, another telephone provider. Surprisingly we find the TIM store quickly, just that the service inside the store is anything else but quick. We wait around for what seems like over an hour and finally get served. Yippie, 20Euros and 250MB per week included for free. That’s pretty good and will save a lot of international roaming fees.
It is a rather long drive to Genga because of the mountainous terrain and we got lost quite a few times. The main issue being, that the caves are not in Genga, as Google suggests. No, they are actually 15min out of town. No drama then.
We park the Globetrotter in a large outdoor car park with only a few cars in it. We are very much out of season, being here in April, which also has the disadvantage of only Italian tours being offered until June.
A bus takes us and about 15 other people to the cave entrance. I see a sign of a photo camera in a red circle, with a line through it. It dawns on me that there may also be no video cameras allowed but I’m still hoping they are only referring to flash cameras. While the woman, guiding us into the cave, runs through her spiel (in Italian!), we get the camera out and try to secretly film the cave. At some point she stops and talks into our direction. Oops! I’ve got no idea what she’s saying but I think she doesn’t want us to film. Soon after we get past a coin-operated photo machine. Great. So why don’t they just sell photo and film licenses then? And who “possesses” this cave anyway that they can forbid taking footage home with you? It almost makes me angry and I keep filming secretly from time to time. Most of the visitors do and we smile at each other with understanding. The caves were discovered 1971 and have been used to conduct experiments in chronobiology. I don’t particularly like to be guided around a place that is so fascinating, especially when not even understanding what is being said. I would rather like to take my own time and to get lost in this different world. I keep discovering holes and smaller caves in the walls high above us and below us and when there is a moment of silence, you can hear the stalactites dripping onto the stalagmites. A tour in English would have probably helped make it more interesting.
Halfway through the cave, Logan turns around at me and says: “I just talked to someone from Currumbin Waters!” I can hardly express what a co-incidence and surprise this is. How unlikely would you meet someone from the other side of the world, in a cave in Italy, way out of season? We haven’t seen any tourists so far and the first ones we run into, are almost our neighbours. Hi Nick and girlfriend (so sorry I forgot your name!). If you read this, say hello and we can catch up for coffee when we’re back. But we’ll surely run into each other sooner or later anyway.