Directions to Maewo's Batcave:
First, find Barry. This is easiest done by finding Dyson, an eight or nine year old who hangs out at the waterfall, a day in advance and having him relay your plans to Barry. Meet at the waterfall at 7:30 am. Scramble up the rocks to the left of the waterfall. Pass through Barry’s village and one of Vanuatu’s largest pig pens on your right. Continue up the ridge, enjoying views of the bay as you go. Trek vertically as Barry occasionally chats on his cellphone and hacks through the jungle with his machete for the next two hours. Swing from vines, drink coconuts, and learn to crack long grasses against tree stumps to yield a satisfying whipping sound that terrifies the dog that has joined you on your quest.
Arrive at the cave. Pass through stalactites while trying not to slip and join the collection of human bones at the floor of the cave. Enter the main cavern; notice that the ground turns into soft guano, bats stream out of tight clusters, 20 or 30 at a time, and egg-filled swallows nests line the walls. Continue progressing until you reach the second cavern. Enjoy the skylight, imagining the waterfall created in the rain, stare into the black abyss of the shaft that extends downward towards the earth’s center. Toss a stone, counting the five, ten seconds until it hits bottom. Listen to the bats whirring beyond eyesight as drops of condensation drip on your shoulders.
Hang out for an hour, feel awed at the mysteries that exist beneath your feet, and reverse course. Enjoy the ease of a quick 45 minute descent with the walking stick Barry cuts for you. Swim in the waterfall where you began. Eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the shade. Return to boat. Nap.
Photo: Barry and I hanging out in the cave below the skylight, looking into the abyss.