Catastrophically creepy caves

On my day off (Wednesday) we went to the Niaux caves.

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Tom and I mucking about at the cave entrance, waiting for the tour to start.

They were naturally formed caves that were lived in by cave men back 11,000 to 17,000 years ago (although they mostly didn’t live in the caves, so shouldn’t be called ‘cave men’).

So we got to the bottom of the hill and found ourselves at the bottom of a very steep and windy road. We started up and came to a car park. We thought we had better park here and walk the rest of the way. It turns out that it was actually just an additional car park and that we were actually supposed to drive the rest of the way up the hill.

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From the main road below, you can see the mouth of the cave, and the road cut into the cllff to reach it.

The next part of the road was very close to the edge and there was a huge drop down to the bottom of the cliff. There were some wooden barriers but in a case of driving off the edge I didn’t think they would be of much use. We got to the top and mucked about for awhile until the tour started.

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The architecturally designed visitor centre at the cave entrance, where the tour left from.

When it finally did start we each got a torch (which frankly didn’t actually help much, it was still almost pitch black). As we walked through the massive cave we got a running commentary from the guide.

FUN FACT: Our guide was allergic to the sunlight and had to put on this cream which made her skin look white.

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A map of the cave network, showing the site of the Salon Noir, about 900m into the cave.

We finally got to the Black Chamber where all of the paintings were. Apparently it’s called the black chamber because they only used black paint for the paintings. There were lots of paintings of bison which were kind of like their sacred animal, I think. There were also lots of paintings of mountain goats, which were the opposite because they hunted them.

In the Black Chamber we had to turn off our torches and only leave hers on because ours emitted heat and “we wouldn’t want to give the paintings a fever, would we”. (They try to keep this cave at a constant temperature).

There were also some paintings of a weasel except you had to go through some underground lakes to get to it and we didn’t have our diving gear.

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4 thoughts on “Catastrophically creepy caves

  1. Jennifer Andrewes

    These caves were just amazing. Truly remarkable to have the opportunity to see 13,000-year old drawings up close and in such detail. At least two of the more than 80 drawings present, have been carbon dated and are 1,000 years apart. Extraordinary. Their presence raises many more questions than answers, including what may be the earliest evidence of written language through primitive symbols and signs. With an hour and a half underground, and km of rough cave terrain in the dark, thank goodness Nick slept all the way in and some of the way out. I wonder if prehistoric babies ever went that far in…

    Reply

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