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Waitomo
February 19, 2014
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Waitomo

A few days ago we passed through the tiny town of Waitomo. I say that it’s tiny because it has a population of 46 people! You may wonder why a tour would pass through such a small town but this city has one of the biggest tourist attractions in all of New Zealand which is “caving” and people by the busloads visit here each day. I had to check what this all was about and I did not regret it.

There was a group of 6 of us and were all given wet suits, rainboots or “wellies” as they say in New Zealand and helmets with lights on top. My guide was an American and it was a breath of fresh air to be around one of my own after being gone for the past month and a half. We walked for 15 minutes through a field which is kind of hard to do in a rigid wetsuit and rain boots.

Then we came to a deep hole with a ladder leading underground. It looked scary, was really narrow and we couldn’t see the bottom when we peered over the edge. We were instructed to turn on our head lights and then down we went. It was extremely dark down there and our little lights only allowed us to see a few feet in front of us. After our eyes adjusted we saw some amazing rock formations, stalagmites and stalactites which we were told, took hundreds and thousands of years to form. We started climbing over rocks and then all of the sudden I was in a puddle up to my ankles, “wow, thank god I had my rainboots on”, I thought to myself. Our guide told us to continue on and soon after I was in water up to my chest!! Holy crap I didn’t realize we would be getting this down and dirty, I guess this is why we needed wetsuits, I had never put two and two together. The 4-hour tour continued and it was way more active than I thought. We climbed over rocks and squeezed our ways through dark tunnels and passage ways that would make anyone feel claustrophobic. At times I thought I wasn’t going to be able to fit but after twisting and turning in odd positions I was able to make it through. Then at one point he instructed us to turn off our lights and we crawled through a tunnel on our hands and knees in pitch blackness!! It was the blackest of black, as if you were closing your eyes as tight as you could, but mine were wide open! The only thing I had for reference was the sound of the person’s breathe in front of me. It’s very weird to crawl in a cave through a tight tunnel in the pitch blackness, you feel like the walls are closing in on you and you have no choice but to keep moving through. What a sensation! What makes this whole “caving” experience so famous in Waitomo is that many areas of the caves are lit up with hundreds and hundreds of glow worms. They look like little stars hanging in the sky but they are glow worms just clinging to the ceiling of the cave. I had a glow worm toy that I played with in the 1980s that used to light up and never really realized what it was until now!

At certain points of our trek through the cave, the water was too deep so there were inter-tubes that we would hop on to transport ourselves through the light rapids. At times we had to mount the tubes from a rock and had to jump backwards into the water and land in our tubes. We floated in these tubes in the pitch black and just stared above us at all the beautiful glow worms. It was so peaceful, who would’ve thought that could happen in a deep, dark cave below the ground.

yes my face is covered with mud in this one!

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