The Sudwala Caves

As some of the oldest caverns known to man, the Sudwala Caves in Mpumalanga, South Africa are a magnificent display of natural beauty.

Come along as we explore these riveting corridors of ancient masterpieces, and we’ll discover together what makes these caves such a popular attraction!

History of the Sudwalas

Because of the great antiquity of the Sudwala Caves, we only have a small glimpse of what has taken place there; we can guess that it has sheltered many people over the millennia, as primitive artifacts and tools have been found deep in the cavern’s recesses.

In the 1800s, they were a hideout for Prince Somquba as he tried to gain the throne from his brother and royal heir Mswati. The caves supplied fresh water, and provided plenty of room for men, animals, weapons, and other supplies. Somquba named them in honor of Sudwala, one of his officials.

The Sudwalas were later used by the Boer army for storing supplies during the South African War.

In 1965, a man named Philippus Rudolf Owen purchased the caves and opened them up to the public. An enormous chamber near the mouth of the caverns has been named the PR Owen Hall in his honor; this amphitheater-like room reaches 121 feet to the top of its dome, and has a diameter of 230 feet!

Modern Tours

The Sudwala Caves are open year-round, and the basic entrance fee is around $7.00. They also offer guided tours that can take you over a mile into the caves. This lengthy (4-hour) trek, called the Crystal Tour, costs around $32.00, and will lead you along the ultimate cave exploration experience, including getting a little wet and dirty!

While the terrain of the tour is easy enough for most people, it is not an advised endeavor for individuals with back or knee problems; nor is it a choice activity for anyone who experiences claustrophobia easily, as some of the passageways are a bit tight.

The highlight of the tour is a chamber full of glistening aragonite crystals that dazzle the eyes with their beauty. You may see a few of the many horseshoe bats that reside in the caves as you walk along the tour; you’re also likely to see some strange naturally-occurring mineral formations along the way with names like the Rocket and the Screaming Monster. 

Let’s Go!

So, are you ready to go exploring? Tie on your hiking boots and get ready to experience one of the most intriguing caves in the world!

The Nickajack Cave

What once was a massive cave system full of corridors, spectacular mineral formations, and historical artifacts has now been reduced to a small fraction of its accessible area;

but what was stolen from Nickajack Cave through the rising waters of the Nickajack Dam has been preserved through legends and stories of its fascinating past.

Get ready for an intense evening of fluttering bat wings and tales of near-death SCUBA experiences!

The Times They Are A-Changin

For hundreds of years, Nickajack Cave has played a part in human history; American Indians, settlers, the confederate army, and countless adventurers have taken advantage of the shelter and mineral resources of the cave. What was considered to be the world’s largest stalagmite stood majestically in the deep recesses of Nickajack, and for a time, the cave was publicized as a tourist attraction.

It is claimed that, during a low point in his life, Johnny Cash wandered into the cave in the 1960s with the intent to get lost and die; but in the process, he experienced a spiritual awakening and found God. This moment changed the course of his life, and as he felt a divine guidance leading him back to the mouth of the cave, he emerged a new man.

In 1967, everything changed, and Nickajack Cave would never be the same.

Rising Water

The Tennessee River (on which Nickajack Cave is located) was so difficult to navigate by boat that it was decided a dam needed to be built to regulate the water flow. The Hales Bar Dam was the first attempt, completed in 1913. It was located further up the river where the cave was not affected by its reservoir. The Hales Bar had some faults however, and continual leaks prompted the construction of a new dam.

The Nickajack Dam was constructed 6.4 miles downstream from the Hales Bar Dam, and it was completed by the end of 1967. As the water gates were officially shut, the new dam’s reservoir began to fill, and the Nickajack Cave flooded almost completely, burying everything (except a few hundred feet at the entrance) in water.

The Nickajack Today

Today if you visit Nickajack Cave, you will find the entrance rising out of the water only by about 15 feet, and blocked by fencing. But you can still take a thrilling boat ride to the entrance’s cove and see thousands of bats emerge from the cave on warm summer evenings; it is quite the experience to sit in the middle of the shadowy flutters as the bats search for insects near the surface of the water (Don’t worry, they don’t fly into you). Just be sure to take plenty of lights; it will be dark as you head back to the boat launch.

Entrance into the cave is strictly prohibited, and violation can cause serious risk, as was found out by David Gant in 1992. No doubt, you will hear all about the foolhardy SCUBA diver and his friend as you interact with the locals, as well as how the entire Nickajack Reservoir had to be lowered in order to save his life!

No visit to Marion County, Tennessee is complete without a trip to Nickajack Cave. 

Are you ready?

The Mysterious Parallel Forest

Does your idea of fun include a close encounter of the paranormal kind?

That’s exactly the type of experience many who’ve visited the Parallel Forest in the Wichita Mountains say you’ll find under the canopy of the symmetrically lined red cedars.

Where Is the Parallel Forest?

A five-minute drive south of Meers, OK, on State Route 115 will bring you to the general location of the Parallel Forest. There are no signs indicating you’ve reached your destination, you simply have to look for a cement pad and a stand of cedar trees tucked into the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

The fact that you must rely on your map skills and powers of observation to uncover such a hidden treasure adds to the site’s urban-legend mythology.

What Is the History of the Parallel Forest?

The Parallel Forest’s physical history is completely manmade. That is to say that in 1912, the U.S. Forestry Service requisitioned 16 acres for the planting of cedar trees, which when mature, were to be harvested and used for such practical purposes as fence posts and railings.

The trees were planted in a strictly symmetrical pattern – each tree in every direction was placed exactly six feet apart to keep it from spreading too far out as it grew. Through the years, the trees were saved from the ax because they were eventually included within the boundaries of a reorganized public use area, known as the current wildlife refuge. They’ve maintained their parallel appearance, this grove of 20,000 trees.

What Is the Parallel Forest Legend?

The cedars’ branches, captivated by the wind, creak and sway in quiet unison. Shadowy light forms dimly-recognized shapes that create the backdrop for the imagination to flourish. Growls and moans, cries and howls, disembodied voices and headless visitors are just a few of the experiences visitors have reported over the years.

Do You Dare Visit the Parallel Forest?

There are those who’ve experienced nothing short of the exquisite beauty of nature while venturing into the Parallel Forest. Where do you stand when asked to brush up against the supernatural? Is it an adventure you would dare to encounter?

Start Hiking Today

Talk about fresh air and great scenery while getting some exercise.

Whether you are looking to clear your head, reduce stress, lose weight, or just have some fun, hiking, trekking or bushwalking may be the sport for you.

Hiking is a recreational activity that is great for your general well-being. It is economical and convenient since it doesn’t require any special equipment.  There are no rules, and as long as you are healthy and can walk, you can hike.

There is no age limit when it comes to hiking. This is an activity that can be enjoyed by toddlers and the elderly. You can hike almost anywhere provided; it’s not a prohibited area.

Brief Hiking Stats

Hiking is probably the oldest outdoor activity, it started about half a million years ago during the Stone Age when man learned how to stand upright and walk. Back then, people hiked out of necessity to hunt and gather food. The oldest hiking milestone was in 1874 when Gardiner, Grove, Knubel, Sottajev, and Walker conquered the summit of Elbrus the highest mountain in Europe. One of the most recent was when Karel Sabbe smashed the Appalachian Trail record by four days. Some of the finest hiking trails in the world include;

·      Appalachian Trail in the United States

·      Pennine Way in the United Kingdom

·      Balkans, Montenegro and Albania

·      Tahoe Rim trail in the United States

·      Camino de Santiago trail in Spain

Hiking as a Social Activity

Though some people prefer to hike by themselves, hiking can be more fun in a group. This can be your family, friends, workmates, or even a hike with your partner for some special bonding. This is a recreational activity that can improve your social skills and bonds as well as help you make new friends.

Hiking for Health

Hiking is an excellent sport for people who want to exercise and can’t afford gym membership. It is also great for those who are living a sedentary lifestyle, and want to begin working out.  The elderly can also hike comfortably, especially if they can’t engage in vigorous exercise. Hiking not only gives you a good workout, but also allows you to interact with nature, therefore, refreshing your body, mind, and soul.

Hiking Events

If you wish to hike competitively, you can enroll for the Hiking World Championships. You can also join an organization that encourages hiking for a cause. For instance, The Wilderness Society that routes for the preservation of rights of way in parkland, foot, and bridle paths. It also protects recognized natural spaces from encroachment.

To start hiking, you only need the best hiking shoes. All you need is to invest some time.

The Mysterious Ball’s Pyramid

Ball’s Pyramid is one of the most interesting rock formations in the world.

It is a remnant of the lost continent of Zealandia and home to an almost extinct species of insect. 

The Mysteries of Ball’s Pyramid

According to Atlas Obscura, Ball’s Pyramid is one of the few remaining land formations above sea-level left on the micro-continent of Zealandia. Danny Collins with The Sun explains that Zealandia has all of the major characteristics of a continent, it’s just mostly underwater. Nevertheless, Ball’s Pyramid is actually the world’s tallest volcanic stack on the planet.

It was discovered by Lieutenant Henry Ball of the Royal Navy in 1788. For more than two centuries, it was believed to have no life. Atlas Obscura wrote that in 2001, scientists studying this huge volcanic spire discovered a colony of the Lord Howe Island stick insect that was long thought to have been extinct. Since this time, expeditions have gone back to the island to attempt to repopulate the species in captivity as discussed in this YouTube video on the Australian Museum channel. 

The Massive Peak of Ball’s Pyramid

Coming out of the Pacific Ocean seemingly out of nowhere, Ball’s Pyramid sticks up over 1,800 feet in the air. It is located 23 kilometers from Lord Howe Island. Climbing this volcanic remnant is no easy task. A rock-climbing club from Sydney, Australia was the first to climb Ball’s Pyramid in 1965 according to this YouTube video. Getting to the top is no easy task, making the expeditions to save the Lord Howe Island stick insect all the more difficult. 

The Eighth Continent

According to National Geographic, Zealandia broke away from Australia about 80 million years ago. Today, only seven percent of Zealandia is above sea level. In this seven percent are a number of islands and landmasses much like Ball’s Pyramid. You might recognize the name of Zealandia’s largest landmass, New Zealand. Indeed, the country of New Zealand is the largest area of this micro-continent that is above sea level. Part of what makes Zealandia so interesting is the unique peaks, like Ball’s Pyramid, that poke out of seemingly nowhere. They are, in actuality, part of a much more intriguing continental mass that many people don’t even know exists.