Thursday, March 4, 2010

Waitomo Caves

Tuesday March 2, 2010

Today I took a 2 hour shuttle ride from Taupo out to a small village called Waitomo. Not much goin on in the actual downtown area, but about 10 kms out was a nature lovers paradise, and for me a tourists paradise. Waitomo is known for its surrounding caves that were discovered by the Maoris several hundred years ago. Waitomo is known to have around 300 mapped cave systems. For me, I spent the day braving it through one of those 300 caves, the Ruakuri Cave.

I did a tour with the Black Water Rafting company, called the Black Labyrinth tour, a 3 hour tour through the limestone cave suited up in wetsuits and gliding through the cave in an inner tube. As you can imagine it was a blast.

I would have liked a bit more of adrenaline rush out of the tour but it was still a great tour, part of the time adventurous, part of the time sedate and a bit eerie exploring the caves with no lights and looking up at the thousands of glow worms.

We did have lights on our helmets but never used them too much.  I'm grateful that I don't have a fear of claustrophobia because 3 hours in a narrow, dark, limestone rock filled cave probably would not have worked out.

We all got suited up in our wetsuits, helmets and killer white boots. I was lovin my outfit.  Had a pretty good group, a bit older of a crowd but met some good people from England and South Africa.

Before we got into the actual cave tour we practiced our waterfall jumps in a nearby stream. I was feeling pretty comfortable with my new inner tube friend and was ready to be cruisin on it the rest of the day.

We then entered the caves, which seriously just seemed to be in the middle of the forest, pretty sweet. After we took time getting situated to the light adjustment, it was time to start our journey. I braved it goin first in the entire group.  Im never one to be in the middle of a group, I will either be first our last.  First you are a leader and you get too experience it first, and last because you have no one behind you, you can take your time and have the longest to capture the moment. You know what they say, if your not first, your last!

The beginning was a bit sketchy as there was an eel in the water. My first thought was what the hell is an eel doing in a cave. Since I was the first one in, the eel came right up next to me, they said it was harmless but nonetheless I found the whole situation a bit strange being in an unknown cave, no light, and a damn eel next to me. It got the trip started thats for sure.

Next up was our first waterfall, if you could even call it that.  It was only a few meters high and we all had to assume our positions for the jump. Facing backwards, butt and tube out and a big leap outwards down into the water. Without the wetsuits Im pretty sure hypothermia would have set in within 5 minutes, that water was chilly.

We then were introduced to the glow worm section of the cave as we switched off our headlamps. What a cool site, looking up and just seeing thousands of mini green fluorescent lights.  It definitely made the trip.

As you can imagine, being in a cave and it being dark there was not much diversity in the trip. We slowly floated along inside the cave with glow worms above. I only was out of my tube once since it was too large to sit through a section of the cave. Other than a few more waterfall jumps that was the trip but definitely a great one, will always remember it.

When they brought us back to camp they gave us free bagels and soup. The soup was tomato soup and it may have been the best tomato soup I've ever had. Of course I spiced it up with heaps of pepper but it tasted phenomenal..Maybe because I was in a cold dark cave for three hours, but then again...maybe not.

Waitomo was only a day trip, solely for the caves and I caught a 330 shuttle into the town of Rotorua.

Great trip, Sweet As

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