The science was concluded… today (Friday 27th February 2105) was about being a tourist with visits to Kartchner Caverns and Tombstone….
The Kartchner Caverns are located about 55 miles south east of Tucson, so under normal conditions an hour or so should have been sufficient. Unfortunately, we got held up in the tailback caused by what seemed like a nasty accident where a lorry had gone off the road (and caught fire?). Therefore instead of being there the requisite hour before it was a case of just-in-time delivery! At least we didn’t have to run with heavy rucsacs as all equipment, cameras, phones, bags, bottles – basically everything – was banned from the cavern. Hence no photos for this part of the blog (but see here for a few).
We were assigned to a couple of guides, one who did the explaining and the other who manned the back, switched off the lights and probably ran shotgun for more rowdy parties! The lead guide was excellent, and the back-up guy was very friendly too.
We started at the visitor centre with an explanation of how the caves were discovered in 1974, and how their existence was kept secret for many years while they were first explored and then the logisitics of opening them while preserving them were worked through.
We were told they were live limestone caves in that their formations were still developing. This is apparently rare in the US. We have however visited many such caves in the UK and on the continent. What made the Kartchner caves different to ones we had visited before wasn’t the formations (we have seen more varied formations elsewhere), but the strict environmental controls aimed at maintaining both the infrastructure of the caves and the ecology (particularly the bats). The restrictions on cameras, bags etc, a virtual airlock, spraying with water mist on entry were all significantly different to elsewhere. Also the forbidding of touching anything. Most caves we’ve been to have some restrictions, but this was complete. The guide was horrified when Mike recounted his visit to a Cavern system in Majorca where they actively encouraged you to not only touch the stalagmites but to hit them hard to get them to resonate!
It was a good tour, well paced and interesting. And the trip up and back to the Cave entrance in the little train was fun too…
We then headed a few miles down the road towards the Mexican Border to Tombstone. There was nothing educational about this visit (except perhaps a bit of history).
We first headed for lunch – and celebrated Chloe’s official ability to drink in the US (it was her 21st birthday). She ordered a cocktail and showed her identity (and later did it again just because she could!).
We then split up and wandered around Tombstone. It was almost a theme park, but with modern elements. It was a bit different though, and fun.
We passed a shooting gallery and thought we’d give it a go. Real guns but with ink pellets. Before us in the queue was a family: Mum, Dad and two very small boys (one in a pushchair and the other no older than 3). We were horrified when we found out that the parents had paid for the children to have a go. The elder boy did have one go, but the noise frightened him and he started crying, his brother joined in. At this point most parents would surely have called it a day and left to console the children, but no they then proceeded to have goes themselves. This freaked the elder boy even more and had to be reassured that he wasn’t going to have to have another go… I really struggle to understand the US attitude to guns.
We wandered along to a small but interesting museum to get a feel for the actual history of the place rather than the movie or tourist version.
And finally we had a great giggle doing shadow puppet mimicry of the shoot out at the OK Corral while waiting for everyone else to return.
They arrived sporting brilliant photos of them in period costumes. The most amazing bit was undoubtedly (Prof) Paul (Roche) dressed in a smart clothes and really looking the part – the most worrying was probably how lots of them looked comfortable carrying guns!
It was a fun visit to end to the trip.
Later that evening there was further dressing up entertainment, but perhaps it is best not to post pictures……by