Na Nguom II
Paul and Fiona have already started surveying when I finally arrive. The cave entrance is about 5 meters wide and 3 meters high and leads into a roomy chamber with three ways on. We leave the smaller passages for the return and go for the one leading most obviously into the hillside. The cave is essentially dry in that there is no flowing streamway, but in places large dripwater pools have to be crossed. The first pool is quickly circumnavigated and followed by a beautifully decorated flowstone wall. A climb up on the right hand side leads to a higher level passage – the way on. This narrow passage is decorated with sharp white crystals and draughts furiously. After a flat out squeeze, the passage eventually widens to reveal a 5m long knee-deep drip pool. I am wearing my only pair of dry boots and am determined they should remain so for the rest of this trip. Fortunately, there is a slippery shelf with a few stalagmites that allows us to traverse the pool and me to keep my precious boots dry. It is obvious that people have been here before. The ledge we have just traversed looks worn and there are occasional footprints in the mud.
The cave continues nearly in a straight line north, then meanders in a north-west, north-east direction with an overall north-west trend. Much of the cave is beautifully decorated with gour pools and stal and columns. Surveying is easy, mostly walking and dodging formations, and eventually we reach what looks like a giant flowstone choke. We squeeze through a small passage at the right hand edge of the flowstone, but this only connects back into the passage. Itmay be possible to aid-climb the smooth stone to get over the top. An alternative way on is a steep-sided 3m deep muddy rift that goes off into the distance on the right hand wall. We have no climbing gear and therefore return to a fork in the passage further back. After a short distance, the roof of this passage lowers down to a flat out crawl. I think I can see a solid mud flat with a black space behind, but for some reason Fiona and Paul do not seem too keen to explore this lead. Feeling heroic for once, I slide under the roof onto the mud floor, feet first. I am nearly through when my feet mysteriously lose their grip and, amidst a lot of guffawing from Paul and Fiona, I slide feet first to land on my bottom in an ankle deep crystal-clear pool. So much for my dry boots.
On the way back I am in a slight huff. Nonetheless, we remember to check the two remaining ways on in the entrance chamber. They become tight soon, but continue in the direction of the way out.