Ochtinska Aragonitova Jaskyna
Up early to catch the bus out to Ochtinska Aragonitova Jaskyna. This was fairly easy, and the bus was at the right time. On the way we passed through the usual valleys looking up at the woodland hills, and crossing streams. Nothing out of the ordinary here. From the bus stop it is meant to be a leisurely 20 minute walk to Ochtinska Aragonitova Jaskyna. There is a cave there. We were hoping to catch the 11am tour of the cave, but getting off the bus we found out that 20 minutes at the Roznava tourist info is actually 2km uphill. There had been someone else getting off at the bus stop that had a car waiting and off they went. Leaving us to walk. The weather was a bit gloomy, with low clouds or fog. This condensated on the high leaves of the trees and then trickled down, giving the sound of rain, without getting that wet!
The walk was not too bad, but not as interesting as others we have done recently, until, that is, we came across something lying in the road. It was weird. We had never seen anything like it before. Looking at it, we thought it could have come from some tropical location, and had escaped from the zoo. It was a lizard. Not any sort of lizard, but a fat pudgy one with a small tail. Not too weird you say, not knowing it was jet black. Not just looking black, but a deep dark glistening black. With yellow spots! He was happy with us taking a few photos, then waddled off the road back to the forest. This was a good thing for him, as a few minutes later a bus load of children went past, and he could have ended up a flat black lizard with yellow spots. A bit further on we saw an hare. It watched us for a second, then loped into the forest. That was about it for wildlife today.
We made it to Ochtinska Aragonitova Jaskyna about 10 minutes late, not too worried as there is another tour at 12:30, just a bit annoyed. We were not allowed to buy our tickets yet, and had to hang around. It was raining a bit now, so we took our time reading up on European UNESCO sites, as they had a board up with them on, as well as information about the cave and surrounds. What makes this cave unique is that it is an Aragonite Crystal cave.
We were thinking that there would be all sorts of crystal formations inside, and imagining it a bit like walking into a massive geode. Turns out that Aragonite is just another name for calcium carbonate, just in a different structural form (Limestone). This forms Helectites. Yes, these are rare and different, but not, in reality, that uncommon if you look at lots of caves. Helectites have the unique ability to grow in any direction, and it is not surprising to see them going up, down, left and right from the one place. Thinner than straws and very pretty. The Wee Jasper Cave has a good example of them, as well as many other places. We had even seen them growing in the old silver mine at Kutna Hora.
Still, UNESCO has listed it for a reason.
When the time came, we were abruptly told to get our tickets. Here we were given a piece of paper with English. This told us what the tour guide would say. Sitting back down to read it, we were then yelled at to follow the woman. OK. The guy before that had spent the last hour at the ticket office had needed a lesson in working with tourism, and it seemed to run in the organisation. At the entrance we were then told we needed to pay another 10 euro for photos! Not in a nice way either. Well, they can get stuffed, we have downloaded these from the internet. FREE! Hahahahaha.
At the entrance we met another girl, and she would be our tour guide. We were lucky enough to be the only people. (With the school kids we had been passed by: They had come out of the cave before, and were now having lunch. Thanking anyone that would listen that we had not had to do the tour with them) This girl didn’t seem to speak English, but was pleasant enough. On entering the doors we were led down a carved out tunnel. This is supposed to have been from a geological survey done in 1954, but looked more like something drilled as an entrance to an underground bunker. At the base, our guide fiddled around for a bit, then an English welcome blares in our ears. This went through the same spiel as on the paper, so we asked if it was like this all the way through. It would be. So we asked to do it in the quite. No problem. I think she hated the voice as much as we did.
Entering into the cave proper, we followed a tall fisher in the rock, past a few pools of water. The humidity in here is supposed to be around 95% in the driest part, with temperatures around 7-7.5 degrees. I will only do a rough idea on what the cave is like, as there is only so much to say. The rock is full of fractures, and these are mainly what we followed. There are no normal formations in the cave itself. No flowstone, shawls, cauliflowering, stalactites or mites or even straws. The walls are just limestone, with waves of quartz through it. Wavy lines of different colours provide swirls to the rock. There is also a high iron content and some of this has turned to ochre. This gives the appearance of dirt in some places. There is lots of water, and that’s about it.
Except for the Helectites. They are everywhere. Seriously. Most caves have the formations along fractures in the rock, or where water runs or collects. Not here. The little things get everywhere, and are not so little. Some could be mistaken for plates of spaghetti, but for me, it seemed as if I was upside down and looking at the floor of a strange coral reef. There were lines of them, clusters of them, and whole gaggles of them. In other caves, we have had helectites proudly pointed out to us if there is even one. If there is a group, they are the main attraction. Here, one clump would make any serious cave guide weep. We saw more in the first meter than I have seen elsewhere in the rest of my life. And there was more. Going around, we were told to hurry up by our guide, as we were taking too long, although I think she appreciated our awe. Pointing out the standard ones.
The heart of the cave, which is an Amonite structure resembling a human heart, the Milky Way, a large fracture filled to the brim with them, and the hedgehog. Bristling with spikes. There was one section that looked to be shawls, but made of Amonite. The colour and look is subtly different from normal calcification, and when clean, the white is magnificent. However there were a lot of muddy looking ones from the iron ore.
We could have spent a lot longer down there, but were rushed out after half an hour, so the next group of school kids could go through. It was too quick for us, and a real pain that we could not take photos. (If we had, we would not have made it past the first section) Anna was not sure it was worth the effort. It had taken us half a day to get here, and we didn’t know how long it would take to get back. Along with the attitude of the staff (not including the guide, that started to thaw out as we went along, and her English is not as bad as she thinks. Give us another hour with her, and I am sure she would have been happily chatting away), just for half an hour underground? Still. If you have your own car, and are interested in this, it is worth seeing. Otherwise don’t bother.
We walked back to the bus stop. Very uninteresting, as there were no more lizards. Passed again by the second group of school kids, and waited for the bus. It was only about half an hour. Just as long as we had spent in the cave itself…
On the way back we had to do a stop at Stitnik. There is not much here, but an old church. As we had a few minutes until the next bus, we went for a look. Glad we did, as it is stunning. The outside is not so interesting, and could be anywhere, but inside? It is all wooden, and painted. It does not seem to have been renovated lately, and I dread the day that happens. Although many of the paintings are faded, they are still there. Along with a wooden balconies inside made it truly special. Words cannot do it justice, and we didn’t even have the time to take photos!
By the time we made it back to Roznava it was raining. Heavily. Picking up a few more supplies, and a meal we could make, we headed back to our accommodation. I don’t think that we have mentioned that it is an old folks home, with short to mid term accommodation. Nothing special, but a place to leave the bags and sleep.