Early moring, waking at 4:30AM but not leaving till 6:30AM. The anticipation of the day is not letting me sleep any longer.
I will be taking a tour to the Waitomo Caves about 2 hours southwest of Auckland. This is a specific tour that many TV and movies highlight. Recently the Amazing Race of various countries have had this as part of their shows. Even Tom Cruise did the Lost World tour while filming the Samurai a few years back. Dean our guide said that he did it 3 times in a row.
The repelling and caving is about 2 hours. We get on our gear on and walk to the opening in the ground that is 100 meters above the cave floor and the fast moving river below. The river is very high because it has been raining a lot for the past weeks. Even the fields are flooded. I worry about flash flooding while in the caves and am quickly reassured that we will be OK. ( not stated with authority?!)
Myself, the guide an Austrailan couple and a young Japanese student are all hooked to our Abseiling (rappel) lines and given a 5 minute instruction,
then asked to take our feet off the platform. Gingerly, my feet are removed and I am hanging 100 meters above the roaring river below. Can't describe my feelings other than OMG! Slowly at first I begin to pull my rope up and I begin to decend each time the cable and pipe supporting us bounces. My heart is jumping around along with my stomach!! But soon settled into this desent, you begin to look around and yes even to the bottom and the amazing stupidity of it all hits you. What a person like me will do to see nature at it's best.
It seems like it takes forever to get down and my arms are tired from the constant pull of the rope and I am thankful that I am spared a dunk in the river although only by a foot or so. A fall in this river means certain drowning.
Now the cave exploration begins. We have this high rubber boots and they are good with traction on the wet rocks but there are times that I do slide and we are mostly secured by the safetly lines in the most dangerous parts of the
journey. So we climb, jump, crawl our way through the caves knowing that a fall will be caught by the safety lines but not before you do serious damage to your body. I tread carefully!!
At one point deep into the cave where only our headlamps illuminate our path we set to rest and Dean our guide asks for the headlamps to be turned off. Above us in the cave are the glow worms that make this area famous. It looks like tiny little LED lights hundreds of them. Beautiful! But the story behind them is rather ordinary. They happen to be flies in the maggot stage. They light up to attracct food and when they hatch they are blind and only have a 3 day life span. So all they do is eat and reproduce. Up to five hundred eggs. The caves are very delicate to temperature and air flow for these to flies to live.
We are given a small chocolate bar and a drink of juice. To build our strength to climb out of here. The first step is to climb a 30 meter steel ladder one by one. This was the worst part of
the whole trip. Do you realize how high that is with all the heavy equipment attached. The rails are wet and slippery, I wrap my arms around the outside of the ladder to give a better hold and take one step at a time, SLOWWWWWWWWWLY.
The rest of the steps are at an angle and not as difficult. I see daylight and out of the cave we come. A short walk on the muddy hilly fields take us back to the van and back to the beginning.
I have a couple of hours until the return trip to Auckland, it's raining now as it has been all day on and off. I find a restaurant and have dinner and read my book.
I sleep all the way back to Auckland. My body is sore as I try to get out of the van. A warm shower, some Aleve and off to bed.
AN ABSOLUTE FANTASTIC DAY!
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