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Dec. 30 — Black Water Rafting

My black water rafting group before entering the cave

I awoke to a beautiful morning for my bus ride to Waitomo. Although Mt. Egmont was still not completely clear, the fewest clouds since arriving obstructed it, of course after I left the backcountry and could only glimpse it as the bus traveled through the city.

The Intercity bus dropped me 5K from Waitomo Caves. Again, a shuttle may have existed somewhere, but nothing I uncovered beforehand. A little over an hour of walking brought me to the thriving metropolis of Waitomo. I toured the cave museum which explained the region’s history, the formation of the caves, and their famous glow worms.

Abseiling into the cave

Abseiling into the cave

After the museum I headed to Black Water Rafting Co for their Abyss Tour. Once again I donned a wetsuit and protective gear for an exciting adventure. With appropriate clothing, a short van ride brought the guests to the cave’s entrance. An escalator had not been installed yet, and instead a thirty-five meter vertical drop provided access. RappellingAbseiling was how to enter this beast. We received instructions and practiced abseiling on a hillside outside before the big plunge. Going down the inclined hill was straightforward, but stepping off a cliff’s edge might prove different. When my number came up the outfitter rechecked my gear before I leaned over the platform’s edge and dangled above the abyss. Despite my historic dislike of cliffs, I was not apprehensive on the descent, due to a combination of the safety hardness, narrow chasm obscuring the entire drop, and darkness limiting my view. A jerky, but otherwise uneventful rappel brought me to the cave floor.

Inside the cave things only got better. The tour continued with a fast zip line through pitch black, followed by leaping with an inter tube into an underground river for a subterranean float. Besides the fun of cave bound tubing, the famous glowworms also produced an awesome display. These creatures covered the entire cave ceiling and emitted an eerie hue that illuminated the cave. The star field was truly a sight to behold.

Crawling through tight spaces underground

The tranquil underground float transitioned to more adrenaline packed fun. We scampered through passages with shallow water flowing through them, until reaching a small waterfall to jump off. The bottom was a dead end on the tour so we naturally just climbed back up the cascading water. We continued scrambling through tight spots, swimming, and scaling waterfalls. The entire time underground was awesome, and a grin never left my face.

Emerging into daylight

Emerging into daylight

The whole tour was amazing, combining these spectacular natural wonders with exciting elements to produce an adult subterranean playground. I could not think of anything comparable I have seen or done. Although I felt safe the entire time, somehow it also seemed we broke all the basic safety rules, but that somehow did not matter. Something similar could not even exist in the States with lawyers and insurance companies. But in New Zealand I had an experience I soon will not forget.

One last final waterfall ascent returned us topside and unfortunately to the tour’s end. Back at the headquarters we took nice hot showers, ate a couple hot bagels and soup, and looked at the day’s pictures. Great day indeed.