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Day 7- Waitomo Caves

Black Water Rafting = Best day of the tour so far!


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We left Michaella’s nice and early for our shortish drive to the caves. There was nothing particularly spectacular above the drive other than it was my (Andy) turn to take the wheel.... eeek! With Izzy as my first passenger since my test examiner a mere 20 days prior I set off down the road. I have to say that all went much better than I feared. As Izzy previously highlighted the van did not really feel much bigger than the car I learnt in and driving an automatic was a dream! Also I had a fairly easy run; once out of Hamilton it was pretty much all state highway until our destination. We arrived in good time to eat breakfast, check out the gift shop (and buy our second Christmas decoration of the trip... this doesn’t bode well for our luggage allowance), and update the blog.

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When ready we were handed some nice soggy wetsuits and boots to put on... lovely! Once we had squeezed ourselves into our damp costumes that we would be spending the next 5 hours it was time to catch the shuttle to the start point. After a quick tutorial and practice; abseiling was first up! Izzy hadn’t read the description properly and thought we were just zip lining into the cave! Oh no we would be rappelling ourselves down a 100m hole which in parts was barely wider than the width of your shoulders... who said this was a good idea! Iz, although terrified, wanted to get her experience over and done with as soon as possible so opted to go 2nd after one bold guy from Manchester! Although once hanging over the edge staring back at everyone else she seemed to be regretting her choice. But as always, being the brave bear she is, she completed it with ease! I have abseiled previously and always enjoyed the experience so I wasn’t as nervous, however it is quite something to be dangled over a hole you cannot see the bottom of trusting only a rope and two guys you’ve never met! While the experience was excellent we were both pleased to have our feet on the cave floor!

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Little did we know at this point the thrills were only just beginning! Having only just recovered from our trip in, while watching the rest come down, it was straight onto a zip line deeper into the cave in the pitch black. Whizzing through the air not knowing what was ahead or when you would stop was slightly scary yet liberating! Harnesses off, we felt sure now it was just a little relaxing ride through the cave in a dingy. The hot chocolate and “cave cookies” helped lull you into this false sense of security. We were indeed given our rubber rings, yet the only feasible way to get into the water appeared to be to jump off the 12ft ledge we were standing on. Sure enough this was the next test! This was the one that Iz struggled with the most, it can’t help being the size of the Hobbit! Although she had a few doubts, egged on by the instructors and me, she did it and hit the water sat in her ring! Woo hoo!

For the next 2 hours we experienced a mixture of gentle floating, drunken like stumbling over hidden rocks, bumping into randomers and squeezing through some extremely tight holes (in freezing waters); basically like an average Friday night out in London! Then we reached the furthest point of the cave and the biggest selling point of this adventure.... the glow worms! After a brief, albeit a little disgusting, overview of a glow worm lifecycle we settled back into our rings, grabbed the legs of the person behind and floated through the cave like a human train: gazing at the ceiling covered in natural fairy lights (the glow worms). It was everything we hoped it would be. So peaceful and magical and well worth the effort to get there! I’d never seen anything quite like it before and it was great to share it with the one I love!

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You would think this would be the end of the tour, again you would be wrong; you really should know better than to make assumptions by now! The most exhilarating part was still to come! The instructors asked if we were up for climbing up a waterfall freehand, without any harness or safety equipment! This was not a section that was even mentioned and came completely unexpected. After a resounding yes from the group, came the reality disclaimer of “if you let go you will fall and you may injure yourself or die”... ermmm yeah sure let’s go! It certainly was challenging! This was no climbing wall! Rocks crumbled under foot if not solid enough, water was gushing at you and you had to stretch to reach decent hand holds. But we got should a phenomenal buzz after we completed both of the climbs!

This trip was honestly one of the best things we have done and is exactly the sort of activity we imagined doing on this trip! It really did test our abilities and our nerves, yet neither let us down! It certainly had been a day of many challenges! As we had booked a traditional Maori meal tomorrow we headed for our selected camping spot just outside Rotorua, a mere 2 hour drive away. Here there was the constant smell of lingering eggy farts... and for once I didn’t get the blame due to the sulphur leaking out the ground!

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Posted by Bears on Tour 23:30 Archived in New Zealand Tagged travel cave waitomo black_water_rafting rock_climbing glow_worms abseil Comments (2)

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