Thursday, November 20, 2008

Waitomo Caves: Rap, Raft 'n' Rock

It feels like so long ago now, but on one of the days when I was still in Rotorua, I decided to go to the Waitomo Caves. These are caves located about 1 1/2 hours from Rotorua and they are a large series of underground caves that you can do various things in. I found a company that would give me the opportunity to abseil(rappel) down into the grotto (it was about 27 meters down), then we did a series of walking through the freezing cold water, saw glowworms that only exist in New Zealand and Australia, do some inner tubing down this underground river (they call this blackwater rafting) as well as climb up and down the inner rocks and through them at times too! Lastly, we climbed back up the grotto. It was really fun and a new experience for me.

Our ill-fitting uniforms for the experience!

We were a group of six: here we're practicing the impending rappel
I opted to be the first to rappel down the grotto; it was thrilling!
I was a bit worried here, but when I sat in the harness, it felt pretty secure
Pretty cool, huh?
The mouth of the cave

It had rained really hard over the previous week and this was the first day that the cave was opened since the rains. The current was super strong so we had to gingerly navigate ourselves along the sides of the caves carrying our "rafts".
We also had to cross wires at some points because we had to get from one side of the cave to the other.

Some of the bugs and animals that can be found in the cave...
Possums were brought over from England, I think, and are considered real pests here. People can shoot them...and do...quite regularly.

Glowworms are called such because their asses literally glow. Above are what they use to catch their prey. When I saw it for the first time, I thought they looked like crystal curtains. Basically glowworms have no asshole so when they eat, they cannot get rid of the waste and it accumulates in their tails and with the mixture of elements, they end up glowing. Glowworms live in the worm stage for about 9 months. Afterwards they hatch and then become flies and live for only about 2 days, enough time for them to mate and then they die.
Looks like a starry night? Nope! These are the glowworms. We turned off our headlights and our guide fired off a type of gun and they all started to light up. How cool is that?! They light up when there is noise because they interpret it as food and they want to attract their prey by lighting up.

After the glowworms our guide instructed us to get on our inner tubes and raft down the river. The catch was, that for the first several meters (which lasted about 5 minutes or so) we had to turn off our lights and so we were traveling along a very quick river in utter darkness. We had to keep our butts high, our feet up and our elbows in, in order to avoid getting hurt if we were to hurtle straight into the rock sides. It was scary but very cool. The picture above was after we turned our lights back on. Here, I fell off my inner tube and was holding on for dear life!
Some of the natural formations in the cave...
Eels live in these caves too, though I didn't see or feel any. I don't think I would have anyway, the water was so cold that I couldn't feel a thing! Eel is a Maori favorite. I'd love to try it some day.

Here I am looking like an idiot as I let the current take me. The guide did catch me before I went past the point of no return.

We also squeezed through some holes in the rock. Sometimes it was quite a tight squeeze!
More local residents!

Finally, after about 4 hours of treking in the dark, we climbed back up the grotto and back into the real world! It was super fun. I truly recommend it.

'til next time!


Anonymous said...

Im sure that was not only extremely fun, but imagine it was quite picturesque as well.

Looks like ur havin a blast, keep it up darlin! Speak soon. xx

Ben 'The Aus Dude' - I did sign up but can't find my login details so thats what im callin myself... very lame but what am i gonna do...

Sasha said...

dude, that is soooooo cool. i can't believe you got to do all of that. feeling your way around a cave in the dark, rappelling? you have no idea how jealous i am right now, but i'm happy for you. you got a great smile on your face most pictures and you're clearly accumulating some great experiences and memories. bring me back an eel plees

L said...

Hey guys! It was loads of fun and though there were moments of fear (the possibility of the rope giving out under my weight during the rappel,getting chewed up in the dark by the sharp rock edges, being swept away by the current beyond the point of no return) that was the point! The adrenaline was pumping and after a while I was so frozen that I wasn't even cold anymore! Go figure.

I do recommend it!