Why is a sentence in Spanish written on the mud at the bottom of a long gallery of one of the most beautiful caves in the world, the Puerto Princesa Underground River, in Palawan, in the Philippines?
The doubt blocks me and I stop for a while looking at it. I take the time to breath, I need it because I’ve arrived here almost running and with two heavy backpacks on my shoulders.
Then I remember: Lucas was here a few years ago. Having seen a Southern Mexican native here might have been special. Yet this is just one of the peculiarities of La Venta. The ability to involve whom we meet on our path. To become first of all their friends.
Leo Piccini tells me that, thanks to him, they made an ascent here. With a grinning smile he tied a rope and he hit a spike on the top in the first attempt. The ascent was made before the others took the equipment out of their backpacks. He sat down there and no one had the courage to climb that rope. Missing the matches, they used small stalactites found on the ground to draw who should do it. A nice story.
Meanwhile, a new ascent can begin. And, missing Lucas, we had to do it with drills and nails. We can’t help it. Upstream a chamber that looks like a casket. Concretions of calcite and mud. Red. Then a gallery and a shaft. Finally I can explore here personally. Adrenaline start rising, as it always happens when you put your feet in an unexplored territory. And then…A footprint in the mud coming to me. “Felice, have you been here before?” “Uh, what?” “Nothing. I think we are in a place already seen”. Adrenaline drops quickly. Then, in the end ,a window that leads to a lower gallery. Immediately everything is clear. This is Lucas’ ascent.
I calm down. I slow down. It is always disappointing when this happens. But this time a little less. I think about that sentence. The love that kills never dies. And that’s exactly what has brought us here again, so many years after the first time. With old and new friends. Still here with the desire to explore, to understand, to study. The love for this cave, for this island, is too strong to die.
We will stay here until almost the end of May. This time to read all the data of the sensors left in November. To complete the biological and geological sampling. To improve the documentation of a cave that never ceases to wonder us.
Even because of its many stories.
Participants: Ada De Matteo, Alessio Romeo, Antonio De Vivo, Carla Corongiu, Chiara Paniccia, Fabio Giannuzzi, Felice La Rocca, Gaetano Boldrini, Giorgio Annichini, Giovanni Fiorini, Ilenia D’Angeli, Jo De Waele, José Calaforra, Laura Sanna, Leonardo Colavita, Leonardo Piccini, Luca Massa, Marco Camorani, Marco Vattano, Marta Ciaramella, Martino Frova, Paolo Agnelli, Stefano Vanni, Tommaso Santagata, Tullio Bernabei, Vittorio Crobu.
Research Institutes involved: University of Bologna, University of Florence, Museum of Natural History of Florence, National Institute of Nuclear Physics of Turin, University of Almeria.
Institutional sponsors: Italian Embassy in the Philippines, Philippines – Italy Debt for Development Swap Program, Puerto Princesa National Park, Tagbalay Foundation, City of Puerto Princesa.
Technical sLeica Italia, Laserscangst, Eragest by Tiziano Conte, Lifesaver, Amphibious, Ferrino, De Walt, Dolomite, Scurion, Tiberino.