The Black Abyss

Waitomo Travel Blog

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Today I did one of the coolest things I've done in New Zealand.  I know I say that about almost everything I see and do here but it's because they are all so good.  I went to Waitomo to go black water rafting.  I had heard from other people on my travels it was well worth the money and a really good time so I thought I'd sign up.  I really didn't know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised.

It was about a 2 hour bus ride to Waitomo from Rotorua.  There was a group of 9 of us and 2 guides going on the adventure.  We first had to get dressed in wetsuit booties, wetsuit overalls, a sweater, wetsuit jacket, white gumboots, a belaclava and a helmet with a light on the head.  Most of the gear was already wet which wasn't too fun to get into.  We then drove a short distance and had a brief lesson about abseiling - ie how to connect the ropes and hold our hands and such.  Some of it was scary as the guides were saying "pay attention, this is your life we're talking about here".  So the first part of the journey was a 30m abseil down into the cave.  It was an hourglass shape so first you were just going vertically down and then through a narrow bit and then vertically down again against the slimey cave.  We had to control our speed and stuff with the "rack"" and our ropes.  It wasn't too bad - kind of scary that you couldn't see the bottom as it was pitch black all around except for the small bit illuminated by your headlight.  Next we climbed through small crevasses and saw the litho somethings (apparently really old).  Next was a zip line right into the dark.  Also very freaky but fun!  We were all screaming.  We stopped for a brief coffee and snack on the ledge of the cave and then took the big jump in our inner tubes into the water below.  The freezing water below!  As soon as the water got into the neck and arms of the wetsuit it was damn cold.  Then came the black water rafting part of the journey.  It's not like white water rafting as there wasn't much of a current or any rapids to carry you along for the most part.  We used our arms and rope to guide ourselves along.  Once we got a fair distance we all linked legs and floated along with our lights off to see the glow worms.  Did you know they are actually maggots and it's just the enzymes in their poo that makes them glow in the dark???  I learned something today!  Anyways there were literally thousands of them on the walls and roof of the cave and they looked like glowing stars above.  Awesome!  There was more going through really confined spaces on our back and stomach and such (definitely not an activity for clausterphobics).  There was some "hiking" along the tunnels of the caves, the footing was quite changing and you'd go from just having your feet in the water to down to the shoulders.  Keep in mind it was pitch black this whole time.  We stopped for another warm drink and chocolate, by this time everyone's lips were blue and extremities numb (I guess that's what you get caving in the winter!)  The last part was climbing up 3 waterfalls.  I'm not talking little waterfalls either.  It was like rockclimbing with massive amounts of water rushing down.  We then emerged from the cave and walked back to the bus completely knackered.  It was about 5 hours in total and really challenging but amazing!  With all these adrenaline activities I've been partaking in the last month (bungy, skydive, abseiling, caving, mountaineering), I'm not sure what I'm going to do for a rush in the future.  A nice hot shower, soup and a bagel were waiting for us at the end.  We got some really great photos so I'll post a few soon.  The group was really fun and I became an honourary member of "team danger".  We will all be traveling to Auckland together tomorrow.

Now I'm back in Rotorua about to go to the Polynesian Spa (a soak in the hot pools is exactly what you need to warm up as I'm still quite chilled).  I am going with Louise, a girl I met in my hostel.  She's a drama teacher from Glasgow and is also going to live in Melbourne soon so it will be cool to have another friend in my new home.

The Maori night concert/dinner last night was fabulous!

Anyways gotta run, a hot pool is awaiting!!

Hannah (the caver - haha)

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photo by: MadeleineGL