Serbia with SUSS 2016
Saturday, 2 July 2016 – Monday, 18 July 2016

Last month I joined SUSS and ASAK on a 2 week expedition in Serbia. This was an expedition that had great potential, suss had put alot of time and effort into organising things and furthermore the Serbians were great cavers with all the equipment, data and skills  to run a very successful expedition. Using Soviet maps, aerial images and previous expedition data, the Serbians had identified 184 potential cave entrance locations within 30km of the campsite.

The plan was to search for caves systematically, exploring area by area day by day. Only when one area had been fully searched would we move onto the next, which made sense as it meant we could concentrate everyone in one area and move onto the next once we were satisfied the current area had been fully explored, meaning we could avoid potentially missing anything.

This mostly meant hours and hours and hours of walking around on the surface. It wasn’t all bad though, turns out the Serbian locals are excellent hosts. Every time we passed through a farm we would be invited in and offered a selection of rakia, cheese and coffee. This happened so many times that Rostam wrote a song about it. See Rakia and Cheese*

Day by day we searched for caves in the hope of breaking into a big system, unfortunately, the caves were elusive. The area looked like the Serbian landscape was hiding some massive caves but refused entry to anything big. We were successful in finding a couple of caves, however, most were no longer than 150m deep. These were still perfect for providing bolting and expedition rigging experience for the freshers.

One cave in particular cave number 51 was very interesting, a large chamber with hole in the roof leading to the surface was teaming with cave life, on closer inspection of the cave floor the ground was moving with insects, some had adapted for life in the cave and looked quite creepy, strangely though most of the insects had disappeared when we went back a few days later.

Seeing as I was finally able to cave again the expedition seemed like an excellent opportunity to get some more shots for the SUSS naked calendar, the first shot was of Dreg and Natalie in cave 51 a pretty photograph of them standing on opposite sides of a large pillar decorated with ancient untouched white calcite. The second photograph was of Mike, this one was less pleasant ‘“ mike had decided he wanted his naked photo to be one of him surrounded by the bones of deceased animals which had fallen into the cave. Finally the last photo was of botch, we were really stretching the limits of what constituted a nice photograph at this point and the quality of this photo would be 100% determined by the model as their background would be quite boring, needless to say he did an excellent job.

The Serbian weather was quite exiting and very changeable, Rostams team had a particularly exciting episode when they became stuck in the middle of a Serbian thunderstorm. One bolt of lightning apparently hit 20m away from where they were hiding, Will was unfortunate enough to be left with the responsibility of carrying the capping rod.

As the expedition drew to a close we began to run out of caves to explore, this meant we needed to find new ways to fill the last few days of the expedition. On the final day of the expedition Natalie and Helen had begun writing the screenplay for their new caving film ‘pirates of the Karabiners’ and the filming was done in the evening, some excellent acting and hilarious battle scenes followed. After the filming we discovered that the camera we were using wasn’t taking audio, see ‘pirates of the carabiners’ coming soon to social media near you.

The final night was a fun-filled night of Rakia, nudity, music and whipped cream. ….

The next day was operation ‘get everything the fuck off the mountain before the storm roles in’, SUSS worked like a team of carrier ants to get everything to the bottom of the hill. The Serbians were kind enough to lend us their large tent to set up at the bottom of the hill, while we waited for the minibus to pick us up.

For 9 hours we waited while wind, rain and hail attempted to destroy our leaky tent, moral was reaching critically low levels the minibus finally arrived. With expert efficiency we packed our stuff in the bus and left for Belgrade. I was the last person to enter the bus and it seemed suss had forgotten about me ‘“ leaving no room for me to sit down in the minibus, this meant I could enjoy a more comfortable journey back lying in the gangway of the minibus.

A few touristy things in Belgrade and we were back on the plane to England, all in all it was an excellent expedition. Thankyou to all those who put so much effort into organising it, best package holiday I’ve ever been on 😉