When a disgruntled teenager headed into his back garden six years ago with a pickaxe to let off steam by attacking the garden after a family quarrel, he never imagined he would end up with his own underground man cave.
Andres Canto is now 20 years old, but thanks to his 14-year-old self’s fit of pique, his underground retreat in La Romana, a town of less than 2,400 in Alicante, south-eastern Spain, now incorporates a sitting room and a bedroom.
Nowadays Andres is an actor and he does not really understand what was going through his mind in 2015 when he first headed in to the garden with his grandfather’s pickaxe, but he is quite appreciative now of the result.
He described to Real Press in an exclusive interview how the subterranean project kicked off, saying: “My parents wanted me to change clothes to go to the village, but I wanted to wear the tracksuit that I liked to wear at home so I could mess around in the village.
“They told me I could not go out dressed like this and I said: ‘No worries, I can entertain myself,’ and I went to the back of the property and started to dig a hole.”
The digging continued, and Andres found he liked to wind down in the evenings after school several days per week by working on his excavation by hand.
The pace of construction changed a bit later when his friend Andreu brought round a pneumatic drill for him to use. Now between the two of them the project became a three-metre-deep (9.8 foot) cave, occupying them for up to 14 hours each week.
Andres has plans to expand upon his cave which already features a bedroom, sitting room, and modern facilities such as a heating system, Wi-Fi courtesy of his mobile phone transmitting from the cave entrance, and a music system. The temperature, he said, is a constant 20 or 21 degrees Celsius between May and September.
He added: “It’s great, I have everything I need. It can be tiring to work here as it is wet and there is not much air going around, but I have found my own motivation to keep on digging every day.”
He admitted that visits from insects, spiders and snails can be rather regular, but he does not mind too much: “I do not have problems with them, if I have destroyed their house, I let them build it in a new place in the wall. It’s no problem.”
He said his love of building started early: “I have always liked to build little huts. I live in the countryside and often when I found abandoned wood there, I would build a nice house.”
Andres then moved on to building tree houses: “I did not want to be on the ground anymore, but in the air,” he said. “The last evolution was the underground hut.”
“I was a kid with a lot of imagination,” he added wryly.
The excavation wasn’t without problems: “Sometimes I came across a big stone and it could be frustrating after hours of digging that I had done almost nothing.” The layout of his man cave was often determined by stones that appeared in his way during the project.
Digging was mainly done by hand with buckets to carry the soil from the hole. Eventually, Andres decided to study other excavation techniques to help him, and he came up with the idea of using a pulley system.
He reinforced his cave roof using arched entrances and vaulted ceilings reinforced with columns, as well as concrete walls to prevent collapses.
He estimates that the project has cost him no more than 50 EUR (43 GBP), admitting most of the construction materials he used were cheaper than he expected.
After he posted a video on social media that went viral, Andres found he had come to the attention of local authorities, with the Civil Guard and its environmental protection department paying him visits to ensure the cave was legal.
He said: “As I am the first person in Spain doing something like this, when the Civil Guard arrived there was not a specific report for that, it was not a basement, neither was it a storehouse, it was only a well-built underground hut.”
And although Andres may have to deal with an occasional flood when it rains, he is thankful that it helps keep the surrounding earth stronger as the risk of small collapses is greater when it dries out.
Meanwhile, his parents are fine with their son’s underground retreat. After seeing his videos, his mum paid a visit to see for herself: “She came down and told me that it was smaller than it seemed in videos.”