May 30, 2014

Last day in Costa Rica and I wanted to make it a goo day so Andres and his girlfriend decided to meet us in the north and go back to the north karst region to explore a cave above cueva venado to observe some side passages and research a possible connection from this cave into cueva venado. If this cave connects to venado, that would add a lot of distance to the cave and make it the longest cave in Costa Rica. 

Entrance to Cueva Menonitas Costa Rica
We meet up at a private landowners property that had a beautiful overlook of the valley and the Volcano in the distance.  When I first pulled up onto the terrain it did not appear to be a Karst region but the grasslands and depressions in the ground revealed a different impression when we were able to get down into them which was surprising to me. We Gathered our items and I realized that I didn't have my knee pads!!...So I made some knee pads out of sandals and tied them around my legs for protection.  They worked pretty well actually, I might be on to something with that.  The entrance to the cave was a small hole that dropped down into a stoop, hands and knees, with sections of walking passage.  It was more like canyon passage with some slot canyon sections to meander around.  
Typical Passage in Cueva Menonitas with polished Lava rocks on the floor Costa Rica
Once we were moving inside the cave we past a nursery of bats with their children on the walls so we took good care to avoid knocking them off the walls.  The cave was pretty much a stream passage canyon similar to a lot of Indiana Caves I have been in but the walls were fascinating once we got down to the strata level. From a distance it was a hardened clay mud material with lava rocks on the floor but when you look close at the walls they were packed with shells!
mud/clay compacted with shells from a recent era Cueva Menonitas Costa Rica
What I find even more fascinating about this is that the walls were not exactly limestone but compacted clay and mud with layers and layers of shells embedded.  I usually see fossils embedded in limestone but in this case it was embedded into the mud clay composition.
Gypsum Flakes Cueva Menonitas Coata Rica
We continue down the passage and find gypsum flakes growing at a specific horizontal level which might indicate different occurrence that have happened previously in this cave.  It all appears that this cave might be fairly new as the Costa rician and Panamanian terrain is the newest land topography to lift out of the ocean 10-15 million years ago. 

Sea Shell embedded in Cueva Menonitas Costa Rica
We continue down the passage and the ceiling starts to rise and the walls start to separate more as we pass a fault line and joints in the cave passage itself.  Some of these sea shells even have the pink glossy pearly coating inside of them still! 
Biggest crab I have ever seen in a cave! Cueva Menonitas Costa Rica
The small pools of water and waterfalls start to materialize and there was a pretty sizable crab hanging out in the water.  This thing was pretty freaking big!! it could have been an appetizer and I am surprised that these crabs live so deep inside the cave with the size they accumulate.

Gypsum Crystals in Cueva Menonitas Costa Rica
We eventually get to a section where the passage narrows to a crawl where the possible connection to Venado might exist.  Everyone else takes a break while I purse this connection crawls on hands and knees with my flip flop tied on..the water level rose a bit and I found myself crawling in stones and water.  Thankfully this cave was 75-80 degrees inside with the water temp around the same.  Man it was hot and Humid inside this cave.
Flaking Gypsum in Cueva Menonitas Costa Rica
I continue to a point where I decided to turn around due to the time and lack of proper knee pads to crawl through these stones. I could hear more water pouring over in the distance so I know this connection will keep going but the mystery continues if these two caves connect.  we back track and go up a side passage with some interesting Gypsum crystals flaking out and over the walls of the passage. We start to make our exit stopping at different sections to take samples and study the caves diversity.

Brown Bat protecting its baby in Cueva Menonitas Costa Rica
After about 4 hours being inside the cave we exit with the sun still banging down on the jungle below and as I was walking up the hill to get to the grassland, a tiny red frog was hopping is pretty difficult and rare to see this endangered species of frog and this was the best shot I got of it.  I believe that if other animals swallow this frog, the predator freezes and dies within a minute and the frog can just hop out of the predators mouth.  Now that's Poisonous!!
Endangered Poisonous Frog hopping around the entrance of Cueva Menonitas Costa Rica
We get back to the car and I can see Arnael Volcano in the distance as we end our Costa Rica experience!
Walking out of Cueva Menonitas over looking the the view of Arneal Volcano Costa Rica

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