The Causeways Expo

A month or so after my first expedition down Adelaide's storm drains, I attended my second Cave Clan expo. It had been raining on and off during the previous few days, and was still looking rather damp, so I wasn't sure if it was going to be going ahead. But since the plan was to have a look at the amount of water in the drains we were planning to visit and decide on the basis of that whether to go ahead or not, I showed up at the appointed meetup point near the bottom of the freeway. Five other folk showed up - Elfen, Durgin, PizzyQ, Reidy & Hicksybabe. Not a bad turnout for a potential washout. We had a look at the exit to one of the drains we were planning on doing, and to everyone's great amazement there was practically no water in it! So it was decided that the expo was definitely going ahead.

The drains du jour were called WhoTheFuckIsOsmond (WTFIO for short) and St Paul's Retreat. Have I mentioned about drain names? Well, one of the Clan traditions is that the discoverer of a drain gets to name it. Sometimes they are named after some aspect of their layout, location or construction (such as Adelaide Darkie or St Peters Twins); other times they are named after some occurence during their exploration, or just according to the whimsy of the discoverer. Drain names vary from the mundane (Pym St) to the evocative (Burger Nightmare, Zorga's Tomb, Transgrinder) and some just plain cryptic (Osmond's Pet Fish).

The first drain for this expo (WTFIO) was also the longer of the two. The entrance was located quite some way up the freeway. It's a steep climb, and took us a good 40 minutes or so to get there; by the time we got there, a couple of us were making wisecracks about being too worn out to do the drain! ReidyOrHicksybabe (I know they're not really interchangeable; I just have difficulty remembering which one is which) found an old tennis racquet near the drain entrance and took it with him into the drain. I wondered if he was planning a bit of Subterranean Tennis, but sadly this did not occur.

The entrance to WTFIO, just off the edge of the freeway. This was fairly narrow, a bend-over-double job, and it went for a little way before opening up into a smallish junction room.

As ReidyOrHicksybabe emerges into the first junction room, Elfen regards the graffiti on the wall with dire mistrust. I can't say I blame her. It said: lots of small tunnels. Freud sez 'are you game?'

This image is a lot clearer in the original photo than in this rather sad little scan. What you are seeing is the reflection of a far-away torch on the water running along the bottom of the drain. It was gorgeous to see, and I'm really going to have to try to duplicate that effect and record it with my good camera gear sometime.

The rest of the pipe in this drain was about this high - four and a half feet, maybe? Possibly five? Certainly no higher, since I couldn't walk upright in it and I'm five foot two. The water entering the drain from side-pipes was a bit unnerving at times - it was rarely more than a trickle at any point, but showers had been forecast during the afternoon, and the main pipe had a high-water mark close to the top so it was clear that at least occasionally the pipe gets full of water. There were a couple of junction rooms where we entered through "waterfalls", or higher-level pipes delivering water onto our heads from above, but even these were just trickles (if cold ones). Still, we made a point of keeping moving just in case the rain picked up (it didn't). And it was nicely reassuring to see exits to daylight along the way from time to time - well, it reassured me, at any rate!

Most of WTFIO consisted of relatively featureless reinforced concrete pipe (RCP) punctuated with occasional small junction rooms, and shafts leading up to pizza-plate access covers on the surface (presumably opening up in the middle of the freeway - not a desirable exit, methinks!). Some of 'em had ladders like this leading up into the darkness.

Those junction rooms get pretty crowded when half a dozen intrepid drainers try to cram into them at the same time! Here's PizzyQ fiddling with his nifty digicam while Elfen looks on and ReidyOrHicksybabe blinks into my camera flash. I didn't get around to getting a pic of the "Snake!" graffiti in the next stretch of pipe. It seemed to be a source of some amusement to Durgin and Elfen, and so I asked what it meant. Apparently the last time they'd been in WTFIO, they'd found a brown snake curled up and quiescent on the floor of the drain. They tiptoed past it successfully without disturbing it, but decided to commemorate the snake by marking the spot they'd encountered it.

I've not seen a lot of wildlife in the two drains I've been in thus far. Mostly it's consisted of cockroaches. Apparently in a drain elsewhere in Adelaide, there's a particular spot populated by a community of albino cockroaches. It seems that on one expo some folk decided to decorate some of them with different colours of paint. (I guess you had to be there.)

The part of WTFIO that made all the creeping about bent over wothwhile was this junction room. We entered into it and straightened up, and saw that not only was it bigger than the others in terms of floorspace, but it extended upwards quite a bit further than the others had as well. There was a ladder going up a vertical shaft to the surface above the pipe we'd just come in through, and high up on the left hand wall there was another similarly sized pipe heading off horizontally into the dark. And running between the two was a stretch of steel pipe. Had it been left there by the drain builders? Had it somehow gotten there in a flood? Had someone put it there deliberately? Who knows? But it was rather convenient, since it allowed access to the high pipe for those gymnastic enough to attempt it.

Here we have Durgin hanging from the steel pipe, about to swing his legs up into the side tunnel.

This pic shows the eventual resting-place of ReidyOrHicksybabe's tennis racquet. It was decided that it should be mounted on the wall as a trophy somehow, and after some poking around trying to figure out how this marvel should be accomplished, he discovered a hole in the ceiling sufficient to jam a tennis racquet handle into. And there it remains, ready to be discovered by another drainer, or possibly washed away the next time the drain floods. I'm not sure where the high pipe went - several folks explored some way up it, and returned a bit later heralded by considerable ruckus. They claimed that they had just demonstrated truly hardcore draining, since they'd rolled back down the pipe (!). Gotta love enthusiasm.

After all the excitement with the high pipe, we continued on our way. Here's some more thrilling RCP, again of a nicely backbreaking diameter and distance. I found that I was *really* appreciating the junction rooms when we encountered them, since they gave me a chance to stand up straight and unkink all my muscles for a bit.

Here's another interesting junction room. This time we did take the "high road" - up a ladder and into one of the higher-level pipes.

A bit more RCP, and then we were out into sunlight again! The "cave clan" graffiti was there when we got there. I dunno who put it there, since generally the Clan frowns on leaving graffiti anywhere except inside the pipes where only other explorers are likely to see it. But in this case, it kinda suited the pic.

This exit of WTFIO was near the bottom of the freeway, and so it was only a short distance to the entrance of the second drain we were intending to do that day, St Paul's Retreat. A couple of folk bailed at this point since they had other things to do, and that left four of us to do this drain.

This photo is a little deceptive, since I don't recall the entrance to St Paul's Retreat being quite as small as it appears here. In fact, it was wide enough to walk bent over in - maybe four, four and a half feet across? It was a bit cramped, but since it was a fairly short drain that was okay.

Mostly the drain was just more RCP, but there was one interesting feature near the end - a waterfall. This pic was taken looking over the edge of the waterfall, and I got my bum quite wet as I sat on the edge with my legs hanging prior to jumping down into the junction room.

This shot looks back along the pipe to the waterfall junction room. It's actually not far from the end of the drain - sunlight is quite visible from here, looking the other way down the drain.

And here is where St Paul's Retreat emerges, in a valley at the bottom of a park near where we started.

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