Cueva Zumbo! Puerto Rico 2014

January 23, 2014

Cueva Zumbo Sculpted rock passage mid level!
It was about 530 am when we arrived at the airport in Chicago to catch a direct flight to San Juan Puerto Rico for what turned out to be one of the most intense adventures of my life!  I was thinking about how amazing this trip was going to be as we are going to go to some world class caves, an Island off of Puerto Rico, a cloud forest in the el yunque, and an attempt to summit some amazing waterfall river canyon systems deep in the south district of the El Yunque. What a way to kick off this 10 day than to start with one of the best caves I have ever heard about on the very next day, Cueva Zumbo!
Canyon Passage Queva Zumbo
We get to San Juan, get the rental car, head to the grocery store to get supplies, and make our way over to pipos house in Florida Puerto Rico. We came to a closed road continuing down into the jungle surrounded by mogote mountains and thick vegetation, so I got out of my car and I heard Pipo calling my name in the backround. Carlos contacted him before I showed up and After talking with pipo an Carlos over the phone, I was surprised to hear that he is willing to allow us to stay in his backyard instead of us having to drive into the jungle on the broken up mossy road at night. Pipo and his family offered us drinks and full immersion into puerto rician culture which included my half ass Spanish speaking ability, a biased Spanish translation book, and hand signs. We got lost in translations a few times like subtitles in a late night bravo movie special, but we were able to understand each other about 80-85 percent of the time which worked out fine  given some people that speak perfect English, I understand a lot less.  Pipo has inspired me to learn Spanish that much more, so now when I come back next year I can make sure we can have a conversation and I should know Spanish if I am going to be coming to any destination south of the United States. 
Adam & Pipo Florida Puerto Rico
We set up the tent and got to bed around 9 pm which was like 7pm Chicago central time.  Starting at midnight and at a rate of one outburst every hour, the family rooster has to make his presence known and wake me up.  I almost forgot about the chickens and roosters in Puerto Rico, they are everywhere!  Little bastard! The sun comes up and we wake up in between a horse and a rooster hen, figures!  We get ready for a long day into the jungle. Pipos family continues with this unexpected amazing hospitality which included breakfast sandwiches and juice. After breakfast I saw that dam rooster standing proud and tall next to my tent, he turned in my direction and for a second I thought there was going to be a cock fight. I am on his territory and he kept me up all night, son of a bitch!!

dam rooster!
I got over it and spared the it from becoming a chicken dinner as Carlos shows up to greet us and get ready for Zumbo.  It has been a year since I saw Carlos so it was good to see him and finally catch up on projects he is working on along with some amazing things he has been doing to help Puerto Rico.  Jeff, Julie, and Flora showed up shortly after so we jumped into Bro's car (Carlos) and headed for the trailhead to Zumbo.  We passed a few caves along with way to Zumbo but after about a mile on this road we parked our cars and headed out for an hour hike through the jungle to the 80ft drop into Zumbo.  We made it to the entrance drop and it looked more like a climb down with difficultly but we had the gear and it was a pit so we set up a rope to rap down. We all make it down and we could hear the water roaring through the passage below us.  "We are finally here"!!

Its been a long time in the making to get to Zumbo but here we are.  We proceed to drop down the breakdown pile avoiding the expedition rope as it had core shots and appeared to suffer from a lot of abuse. As we entered the cave passage, Immediately we noticed the terrain, Jeff's wife Katrina likes to describe it as Dr. Susse land and I have to agree with her.  The rock in this cave is sculpted and scalloped in a way I have never ever seen anywhere on this planet.  Not even in pictures.

Water cut rock Cueva Zumbo
The water has carved a passage that left talons of perfectly sculpted rock to climb over and swim around.  The water dug semi circular contours deep within the rock have created a geological mix between Arizona's antelope slot canyon and a water park equipped with warm conditions and waterfalls encapsulated in a decorated water cave full of active flowstone and formations. The passages had more dynamic and definition than any passage I have ever been through in Utah's slot canyons or in any cave system.   
 The water itself has about 10 ft of viz and a blue tint to it, the temp of the water is around 72-75 degrees, the air is around 75 and humid, it was a cavers delight!!
Cave passage coming into canyon passage in Cueva Zumbo
After about 5 minutes being in the passage we pop out into a canyon passage!! open air canyon that closes back up into the cave system about 100 ft down a passage.  Not all caves are underground after all!! Ha...This system gets more impressive with each step I am freaking taking! unbelievable!!!

Laura in the canyon passage Queva Zumbo
As we make our way down the passage we find our selves floating with our packs in deep water, climbing over steroid induced fluted rock carvings,and surrounded by waterfalls, active flowstones, and shear enthusiasm.
Julie Swimming through Cueva Zumbo
 I was lagging behind so I could attempt to get some pictures of this place which proved to be a challenge for me based on the lights I had, the footing the tripod had and just how close the passage walls were to each other.
Water passage Cueva Zumbo
Continuing down the canyon walls became more dynamic where we had to climb up multiple levels to be able to continue into the cave.
Julie in the mid level Section of Queva Zumbo
So now we are in the middle and on top of these massive fluted stone structures with raging water below us cutting circular vortexes in the rock creating more of this structure. 
Looking under my feet in Cueva Zumbo

Looking below me in Cueva Zumbo
Its difficult to explain how this cave looks so I hope these pictures can grasp just a little but of what this place really looks like.
Looking above me in Cueva Zumbo
After crossing some shady ropes and exposed climbs, we made it to the sump section where its more of a long duck under than a sump.
Expedition traverse line in Cueva Zumbo

 I peeked my head through the sump and the cave continues on to Cueva Esclara I know where I am going next year!!

Julie coming from the sump duck under with a rope connecting to esclara in Cueva Zumbo
On our way out I attempt to get some more pictures and video of this amazing place while making our way back to the entrance. 
Laura climbing down into the water in queva Zumbo
we continue on to the upper level of Zumbo that connects to Cueva YuYu. We were out of the water passage but at times we could hear it below us. The passage reminded me more of Indiana now except it was in the 70s inside this cave instead of 54 degrees.
Upper Passage Queva Zumbo

 We climbed over some exposure and got into some walking passage that took us to a breakdown room full of bats. Jeff pointed out where the connection to Yuyu was so next time I come back, I want to See if we can make a crossover trip with Yuyu and Zumbo. We turned around and headed out of the cave through the pit.
Pit Entrance to Queva Zumbo
Sun was setting and the jungle started a symphony of various insects, Coqui's, and other unusual sounds. Finally we make it back to the car after crossing paths with some of the biggest frogs I have ever seen hopping around. We get back to Pipos house to chill out and get ready for day two, Cueva Convento and Cueva Balcones. 
Carlos, jeff, Flora, Laura, and Adam about to enter the 80ft. pit entrance of Cueva Zumbo

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