In the pitch black of night four excited figures made their way along the bank of a dry riverbed into the wilderness, taking care not to stumble on the stony ground. Armed with a couple of torches and a speaker full of music to drown out the eerie quiet, we were ready for an adventure. Across the riverbed, we knew, lay a sheltered cave we had seen every morning but had failed to explore until now, and it seemed like the perfect time to check it out. It looked like someone’s secret lair, with bits of old furniture scattered around the place, barely visible behind the shrubbery.
There’s nothing like a nighttime walk to a remote cave somewhere in the hills of Sparta to make you feel like a kid again, on an exploratory mission into the unknown, and that’s just what I needed on my 30th birthday to dispel all my concerns about growing up and having to be an adult.
The four of us spent the early hours of the morning exploring this newfound playground, and what we discovered did not disappoint. The floor of the cave was meticulously laid out in smooth flat stones, as if someone had put a great deal of effort into making this place feel like home.
The centerpiece of the dwelling was a small bench with a traffic cone placed on top of it like a shrine to some unknown God.
On the lower level we found a large table, stacked full of plastic chairs, enough to comfortably seat a large party. Higher up, towards the back of the cave, stood an rickety old bedframe, while the most unexpected item was to be found on the far left-hand edge – a fridge, with a powerline running to it, but open and empty except for an old tin of coffee and a half-empty jar of some sort of white goo.
The perimeter of cave was surrounded with recently planted saplings, placed there as if to protect the dwelling from prying eyes. From the top, older trees were sagging down, threatening to fall and crush everything beneath them at any second, with one already lying on the ground, uprooted from its spot.
Even in plain daylight, it would have been a bizarre sight, but in the middle of the night it conjured weird and wonderful imaginings. We fancied ourselves the leaders of a secret clan living in the wilderness, gathered at a council meeting to solve pressing day-to-day issues. I spent the night playing pretend and well and truly forgetting what age I was meant to be turning!
So here’s to remaining young at heart, no matter how old we become, and to always being ready to seize the opportunity to have an adventure.
All photos in this post courtesy of @andrewpawlby