Friday, Feb 12, 2016
Yesterday I was supposed to go “ caving “ but when I reached Waitomo, I was informed that all of the more extreme cave adventures had been cancelled because a sudden flood in the caves had made them unsafe.
It is a 1 hour drive from Hamilton to the Waitomo Caves, so I got up at 6:30 am to make sure that I wouldn’t miss it. I arrived shortly after 8 am and I was informed that I was the only one on the 9 am adventure because a large group had cancelled. The agent asked me if I would consider going with the 10 am group. I informed her that it didn’t matter to me, so I waited an extra hour for the adventure to begin, but, it was well worth it.
It was on the 5-hour “ Black Abyss “ tour and I had been looking forward to doing it from the moment I had signed up to do it. According to the website, the Black Abyss involves ” descending into the seemingly bottomless black depths of the glow worm studded Ruakuri Cave. This five hour expedition combines abseiling the 35 metre tomo, climbing, whizzing down a flying fox and cave tubing underneath glow worms into one unforgettable journey.”
We weren’t allowed to take our cameras along but if you want more information and pictures about this tour , you can find it at their website,
I have already forgotten some of the details but I will try to explain it as best I can.
Our group consisted of 4 men and 1 women and 2 guides. We were given wetsuits, with extra padding on the knees and elbows, helmets with headlamps and boots. We started off abseiling ( i.e. repelling ) down a 35 m (115 ft ) hole in the ground, by slowly lowering ourselves down a rope, while tied on by a harness. I volunteered to go first. When everyone reached the bottom, we walked through a few caves, ” zip lined ” down a short section of the cave and walked a little further until we got to a ledge where we each grabbed an inner tube and jumped into the flowing water which was slowly flowing about 4 feet below us. The impact of the tubes on the water made a thunderous noise as they hit the water with us in them.
We pulled ourselves upstream using ropes along the edge of the caves until we got to the point where there were thousands of glowworms. At this point, we created a line of tubes by having everyone hold on to the feet of the person behind them, turned off our lights and then we floated through the caves while viewing the glowworms on the ceiling.
When we reached our starting position for the tubing, we left the tubes there and continued on foot because the water level was low enough. We slid down a small slide and continued walking, while carefully watching our steps, until we got to some smaller caves. We climbed through some caves that were only a few feet high, some that were very muddy, some that had water flowing in them, some that were very tight cracks in the wall so that we had to push against each surface to keep from falling down into the crack and some that were so narrow that you had to literally squeeze yourself through them. One was actually called the squeeze and I am happy to say that I made it through by maneuvering my fat around each little nook and cranny, while pulling with my hands and pushing with my feet as much as I could. The wetsuits that we were wearing helped protect us from the sharp rocks and kept us warm in the 10 C water, but they also added quite a bit of extra volume when we had to make it through tight places and there were quite a few of them. Only one fellow tried it, but gave up because he felt he was to big to go through, so he went around a different route.
We also had to climb up a few small narrow waterfalls in the caves, which I found exhilarating, because you had to find a foot hold and a hand hold on each side of the waterfall as you slowly climbed up, without getting into the full path of the water because the force could easily knock you down.
The tour guides took us into some extra caves because he said that we were doing so well that we had time to do a little more.
It was a very interesting experience for me and I enjoyed it very much. The tour isn’t difficult and almost anyone can do it, but is definitely not for someone who doesn’t like to take a few risks or is claustrophobic.
Afterwards we took showers, changed and had a simple lunch of soup and bagels.
I returned to Hamilton to return the car before taking the 5:15 pm bus from Hamilton to the Auckland Airport, where I would wait for my flight to Melbourne on Saturday morning at 8:30 am.