Saturday morning at 6AM, several students found ourselves gathered in the cold, waiting for a bus to take us almost three hours away to Taza and the nearby Friouato Caves to explore.

The end of the prior week had found me mostly in bed, feverish and a tad delirious, so come Friday evening I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to Saturday alive. However, when it took only five minutes for my head to sufficiently stop hurting in order for me to get out of bed, I decided I was going. I probably shouldn’t have. But I’m stubborn and I refuse to let something as lame as being sick stop me from going cool places (like Iran!) and though the entire experience ended up being pretty miserable, I’m glad I did.

I’d never been caving before, but I’d read plenty of Enid Blyton books where I’d learned the difference between stalactites (that stick to the top of cave roofs) and stalagmites (that lag on the bottom.) When we arrived, our guides provided us with “caving suits” that were basically old auto-mechanic suits and “caving helmets” that were old construction worker’s hard helmets with lamps literally taped onto them. We ended up looking like a set of miners.

From the time we went in to the time we went out, the trip took about four hours; however, I think it definitely could have been done in two as we had to account for different speeds and people wanting to video every step for snapchat (another exhibit in the Ema learns patience series). I had to keep getting translations from other students for the guide, but I learned that while the caves had initially been discovered by the French, supposedly the 500 or so concrete steps that descended through the initial cave had been installed by the Germans during World War II. Why? I didn’t get a clear answer. Each of the many stalactites and stalagmites take over one hundred years to grow one centimeter though, which seemed to be a solid fact.

I found the caves to be absolutely captivating even though my grumpy head was pounding and my legs felt like jelly most of the way. I’d love to be dropped down there with a compass and a better light for a day to just get lost and explore. As we turned around because the next section had required ropes, there’s obviously much more to see.

Unfortunately, my trusty five-year-old windows phone was definitely not made for taking photos in the dark, but I tried nonetheless!

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Our last glimpses of the light from above before descending into the darkness.

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This is actually a map of Asia and northern Australasia, according to me.
Overlooking the small town of Taza.