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Caving Under Budapest

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Caving Under Budapest

I found myself trading a blog post for a caving tour that would take me into the caves and caverns that crawl under the bustling streets of Budapest. Not a bad trade, I must say, as I would not be able to afford such an activity if I did not write for it.

Guided tours are usually far too much of an expense for me to boot, and I seldom even want to go on them anyway. It takes a lot of self prodding for me to give up an open day of aimless wandering to go to something that is organized by other people and would require me to show up at a certain place at a certain time . .. .. . to have to look at a clock . . . . and put down whatever I am fumbling with to be lead around like a sheep. Tourists go on tours, they are simply stuck to them by nomenclature. I do not know what I am, but I surely do not often sacrifice a glorious day of chasing horizons to be become part of a group that is lead.
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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Philadelphia, USA- September 6, 2008
Travelogue Travel Photos
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But this caving tour that criss-crosses under the city of Budapest sounded alluring to me. I heard about these caves as soon as I rolled into the city and I wanted to go down into them. I thought of ways that I could sneak in, but soon found that there are big and bolted iron doors that seal up the entrance. I also figured that it would be a silly endeavor to attempt to go caving without gear or any idea what I am doing.

So, by complete happenstance, I met a fellow who runs the caving tours and within moments we shook hands on a deal that stated that I can scrounge around on their tour in exchange for a few words and photos on this travelogue.

I showed up at the designated location on the designated day and found a semi-circle of bright faced tourist ready to go down into the depths of Budapest. A thinly built, blond haired, young Hungarian guy spoke an overly exciting welcoming message to us and told us a little of how the tour would work. He was the guide. We then bought transport tickets and jumped onto a tram.

A Senegalese girl who was staying at the hostel where I was working took the seat next to me and we talked about Senegal. I soon realized that I knew nothing about what I was speaking of, and tried to escape our of the conversation by looking out the window. But she kept talking to me anyway. She wore big sunglasses, was well built, and dark skinned. A better acculturated man than I could say that she was very sexy. When sexy girls talk to me I usually find myself running for the nearest window to look out of.

We soon arrived at some outdoor bar that served as our orientation center and got suited up in spelunking gear. I pulled the heavy red jumpsuit up over my body as my boots got caught in the leg holes. I was being lazy and did not feel like taking off my boots. Now they were stuck in the bottom of my jumpsuit and I hopped around looking like an idiot. But soon I sat down on the ground little kid style and with great effort managed to unstick myself. Soon I was wearing the same dirty jumpsuit, helmet, and head lamp as the rest of the tour group.

One after another we followed behind the mother duck tour leader like an obdient flock of ducklings and made way for the entrance of the cave. Mother Duck unlocked the entrance and told us to help each other if we needed help. We were good ducklings and said that we would obey. We then walked into the cave.

Caves are dark, damp, and slimy. Caves are like caves. I quickly remembered my childhood claustrophobia affliction and positioned myself in the rear of the line. If I were to have a claustrophobic fit I would at least want a quick escape route that was not blocked by the bodies of a dozen closely packed tourists. But all fears abated once I descended a long ladder into the depths of the cave. For I quickly found myself in another world.

With our headlamps on full tilt the tour group were lead through the mazes of the Matyas Cave. It was far more difficult to navigate the tight turns and passages than I could previously have imagined. Such passages were given nicknames like the birth canal and the wedgie for good reason: your entire body was squished tight as you push through them. We spent almost the whole of this caving trip on hands, knees, stomach, and backs. The guide soon told us that we were 50 meters below the surface, and everything around us was otherworldly. I could understand how someone could become obsessed with caving.

As I was last in line I would wait for all of the other tourist to move through the tight sections of the cave. As I did so I would look backwards into the lonely, dark depths of the cave and bask in the feeling of being alone. I did not feel claustrophobic, rather I felt comfortably absconded. Like I use to feel as a little kid hiding underneath of my bed. The empty depths of a cave bring a feeling of comfortable nostalgia and quietude. I felt as if I was back in the womb of my mother: safe, sound, and content. I sat looking back through the dark cave with no other human in my view and I knew then what it feels like to be an earthworm.

I also know that I can not only trade Hobohideout.com pages for free accommodation but also write words on the internet in exchange for tours or probably anything else in the big bad travel industry. The travel industry is highly competitive. It costs the tour Joe’s next to nothing to have me tag along, asking my questions, taking my notes, and snapping a few photos, so they tend to jump at the small promotion that my work could bring them. This was the second time in these summertime European travels that I have traded words for services.

Just as long as I keep my script honest, I have no problem with trading blog posts for experiences that only tourist with jingly pockets can afford. I write about lots of things on this travelogue: if I do something I write about it. If I tag along on a tour, I would be sure to write about it anyway. So if some Joe invites me on the boat to write about his tour company, I will be sure to step aboard. Free is free, experiences are experiences, and words are fun to write anyway.

But, Joe, I warn thee, my script is honest.

The caving tour under Budapest was definitely worth the time and effort. I feel richer for having experienced it, as I have never been so far beneath the earth’s surface before. I now know what it is like to descend 50 meters below the earth’s surface; I now know what is down there.

To ‘find out what is there’ is perhaps the driving impetus behind traveling the world.

Caving Under Budapest Photos

Links to previous travelogue entries:

  • Living in Brooklyn
  • Chinatown Bus to Philadelphia
  • No Accommodation in Brooklyn

Caving Under Budapest
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Filed under: Eastern Europe, Europe, Hungary

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap

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