January 12 -- Waitomo Adventure

written by bryan on January 18th, 2009 @ 12:57 AM

Bryan from Turangi

After scrounging breakfast at Bruce’s place in New Plymouth, we drove out to Waitomo to visit the glowworm caves.

We had signed up for “full adventure” tour of the glowworm caves. The tour started with a 35 m rappel down into the cave, and then a zip line to get even further in. The rappel was fun, but I was a little bit too scared to fully appreciate it. On the other hand, the zip line, which was done in the dark with the glowworms shining above, was fully appreciated!

After collecting everybody we each grabbed a tire tube and jumped into the river landing on the tube from an 8 foot height (into a shallowish pool!). We paddled upstream for a while, and then collected together into a chain to float downstream with our lights off and enjoy the glowworms.

Our guide explained what glowworms are. They’re actually maggots which add an enzyme to their excrement to make their rear end glow. This glowing attracts insects, which then fly into sticky strands that hang down from the glow worm. After feeding on enough insects, the worm spins a cocoon and turns into a fly. The fly lives just long enough to mate and lay eggs, starting the cycle all over again.

After giving up our tire tubes, we started walking and swimming down stream. This was actually quite difficult – the surface was quite uneven and hidden under the black water. You were expected to fall a few times.

We then got to jump off a small waterfall. This was fairly cool except for the water up the nose, but even better was climbing back up through the waterfall.

By this time most of our group was shivering pretty good. We had wetsuits, but we were 65 metres below ground in very cold water. Bethany and I were thinking “finally an adventure in New Zealand where we aren’t overheating!”

To work our way back above ground we followed a small tributary back. This passageway was much smaller, it was rare that we got to stand up straight. Making the ceiling even lower was the glowworms – you didn’t want to brush against the sticky glowworm traps!

There were a couple of sections that required a good bit of climbing. The guides were there telling us to put your left foot here, your right hand here, and so on. But sometimes you couldn’t hear them over the roar of the waterfall you were climbing through, so you just clambered over.

Our last scramble brought us to a small entrance where we found out that the weather had changed drastically in the 3+ hours we were underground – it was now raining. This was pretty warm rain though, so we stripped off our wetsuits as we walked back to the shuttle.

I ended up the day with a sunburn on my shoulders: pretty strange for a day spent entirely in the car and in caves underground. But I spent a few minutes fitting my wetsuit and walking back to the shuttle. It doesn’t take long in this sun.

Tonight we are in Turangi.

Tomorrow: the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

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