Waitomo Caves, North Island

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February 26th 2014
Published: February 28th 2014
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North Island Part 2

The next morning we left Raglan to head down to the Waitomo caves. Simon, our tour leader was dressed in a tiger onesie because it was his birthday. These caves have glow worms which has made the sites famous. They look like LED lights or stars in the roof when. All other lights have been switched off. G-Adventures booked with one particular company where you can do tubing (also known as black water rafting) or abseilling down through the caves in darkness and seeing g the glow worms glow. I chose tubing, because I kind of hurt my right wrist kayaking (maybe RSI playing up or something) so decided abseilling was not for me. So we got to Waitomo caves area. Some people were dropped off as they were doing the Spellbound tour, where you walked for an hour and then took a boat for an hour, with no chances of getting wet (boring in my opinion). So the rest of us went to another company. There were only 5 of us (Gav, Tash, Dave, Lea and myself) doing the tubing which was a good number. We got into another minivan and drove about 20 minutes. Our guide gave us a little history about the place.

The caves were discovered about 1879 (the main cave is celebrating its 125th year), and there were thought to be from 200-300 caves. Only 15 are used commercially. The majority of the caves are underneath farm land so each of the companies had to negotiate with the farmers about using their caves.

Anyway, 20 minutes later we arrive at one of these farms where there are changing rooms with showers and toilets, wetsuits, wetsuit jackets, helmets and wellies. So first we change into our swimming costumes and get into the wetsuits. The first one I tried was too small, so having struggled to get it on, I went outside and asked if I could get a bigger one. Took a while to get the first one off and put the new one back on. Once that was done, we put our clothes into cubby holes which would be locked up while we were caving. Then we put on a wetsuit jacket as the actual wetsuits were sleeveless, so we needed something to keep our arms warm. Again the first one did not fit, so tried a second one. Then we put on wellies (without socks so I knew this might be a tad painful by the end of the 3 hours) and finally helmets and checked that our lights worked.

Then off we walked down to the entry point to the caves. It was down a steep ladder where we had to squeeze ourselves through a smallish hole in the rocks, so once we got through that, we were told the rest of the holes would be bigger. As we walked/clambered over and through the rocks we got a bit of a geological lesson on how the rocks formed especially the stalactites, some of which were pretty impressive. We got to feel how cold the water was from the get go as our wellies had holes in them. After about an hour, we got to where we would do the first bit of toobing. There were two different sizes of tubing rings, large and small. In order to get into the water, we were told we could do it the easy way or the more fun way. The easy way was to get to the edge of the water, stick your bum out, hold the tube, put your bum through it, lean back and your floating on the water. The more fun way was to climb about a metre above that ledge, bend your knees so you didn't hit your head, lean into the rock so you didn't fall back immediately, get the tube from the guide, put your bum through the hole and hold the tube close then fall back. The guide would then push you out so that you avoided hitting the ledge beneath you. Much more fun that way 😊 Once everyone was ready, we stuck our legs under the arms of the person in front so we were a chain, and then the guide told us to turn off our lights, lean back and look up where we saw the cave glittering with glow worms. About 10 minutes later, we stopped, got off the tubes and turned our lights back on. Then the guide (cannot for the life of me remember his name) left us with hot orange squash and chocolate bars called freddos at "the hard rock cafe", while he took back the tube rings to the beginning.

After our little break, he came back and a chocolate bar himself before we packed up and carried on. The next part we had to swim about 15-20 metres, which doesn't sound too bad, but because the water wasn't moving much it was very cold. We had to make sure we didn't kick very hard as there was a possibility that our wellies could be kicked off and then we would be kind of screwed as that particular area was deep. Once we swam that, we walked a bit, saw some more stalactites and tuned a bit more. The second time when we were tubing, we got on so that we were lying on our fronts when we were already standing in the water knee deep and once we were ready we again turned off our lights, held onto the rope that was on the other side of the cave from where we got not o the tubes and pulled ourselves along. I didn't see as many glow worms as I was concentrating more on how cold the water was, so we pulled ourselves a bit faster. We swam a little bit more, maybe 5 metres max. And then suddenly we were scrambling through some rocks and we were out in the sun again. It was about a 5 minute walk back up to the building where the changing rooms and our clothes were, and warm showers. About 10 minutes later we were back in the van going back into the town, to meet up with the rest of the group. I did get photos but haven't actually looked at them yet. We picked up those who did the Spellbound tour and we went to have lunch (can't remember where).


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