Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Waitomo - Caving, Abseiling, Tubing and Climbing

Full disclosure: I did not take these photos. However, I did do these things.

So, maybe you know this about me or maybe not, but I am not in love with heights. I can tolerate them when need be, but I do not seek out activities that require me to step over the edge of a platform. However, my husband does and we were in this together. If he wanted to step over the edge, I had to be game to follow right after him (Within limits, of course! No skydiving for me!). Plus, he did spent the day prior sipping tea, so fair is fair.

OK. So what did we have planned?

platform with a shot of the ropes and someone abseiling down

Let me back up a wee bit. We were in Waitomo, which is known for its caving adventures. Paul and I had a really amazing caving trip in Costa Rica and since then Paul has been itching to experience more caving. Waitomo has a lot of caves and a lot of outfitters offering trips to explore them. The
package we chose included abseiling, rock climbing, caving, glowworms and blackwater rafting.

So, that is how I found myself wearing an already cold and clammy wetsuit with rubber boots, a helmet and a heavy duty harness, standing at the edge of the platform about to lower myself down nearly 90 feet into a cave.

the entrance and exit points, abseiling ropes on the left and climbing ropes on the right

The good part: The experience was awesome, totally memorable and just the right amount of challenging.

The bad part: Since this is a wet experience, we were not allowed to bring our cameras. Our guide had a camera that he was supposed to use to take our pictures. We were to be able to buy a burned copy of the images on CD after the trip. However, the camera malfunctioned and he wasn't able to take any pictures on our trip. SUPER BUMMER. They did give us some generic pictures of the cave, so at least we can show you where we went. You'll just have to take our word for it that I actually stepped over that ledge.

The caves have water flowing through them, which provide a current. After we all safely abseiled down, we took off our harnesses (phew!), picked up inner tubes and started sloshing upstream in the cold water (brrr!).
While heading through the caves, we had the chance to go through small passages. Paul did every one of them, whereas, I did every one of them except the ones that required army crawling. Paul liked the challenge of working through those tight spaces. I like breathing comfortably.

The unique thing about caves in Waitomo is the large number of glowworms. Glowworms are unique to New Zealand and Australia, so we knew this needed to be on our must-see list. A portion of our caving adventure was focused on the spectacle these glowworms make. Up close, in the light, you can see the little threads they set out to snare their prey.

In the dark, you can see the worms glow. In the complete blackness, they look like stars in the sky. At one point, we sat in a cavern with our lamps off for long enough that my mind started to lose sense of what space I was in and it started to feel like I was outside looking at the night sky. At another point, we were floating down the stream in our tubes with our lamps off. The glowworms lined the passageway, which would come in quite handy if you ever needed to find your way out without a headlamp!
There were a lot of other things to see in the cave beyond glowworms, including eels, stalactites and stalagmites, fossilized bits, eddies worn into the rocks and lots of sharp edges! One person in our group ripped open the shoulder of his wetsuit while trying to get through one of the passages.

So, after our cave explorations were over, we had to climb up and out. Honestly and surprisingly, this was my favorite part! I think going up works better for me, since I can do it successfully without looking down.
It was only when I got to the top that I turned around to look back down. Whoa! That is a long way down!
I am grateful to have experienced something so neat and that I had Paul there to push me a bit. And, Paul...he loved it so much that even after the 5 hour trip, he wasn't ready to be done!


  1. Breathtaking! And, excellent reminder to get out of the comfort zone--or you miss amazing things. (glow worms!)

  2. Those glow worms are amazing! I love nature, it's so COOL.


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