A Major Throwback, Day 6 Pt. I: Waitomo Caves, New Zealand (Black Labyrinth — Black Water Rafting!)

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10.02.2015: Waitomo, New Zealand

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost,
to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” 

― Eleanor Roosevelt

Waitomo was 1 hour 45 minutes away from Rotorua by bus, which, to me, was the perfect amount of time to calm and brace myself for the day’s activities, which were by far not for the faint-hearted. Waitomo has a large network of caves, all of which house thousands of tiny glow worms living on their ceiling. There are two ways to see these little creatures: either by various different walks or black water rafting. We chose the latter! *Gasp*, haha I know. (I’ll explain what black water rafting is further below.)

The day was frightening, thrilling, freezing and spectacular all at once. A rollercoaster ride of emotions for sure. I’ve suffered from claustrophobia for as long as I can remember, but am at the same time such a hardcore neophiliac that I can’t stand the idea of rejecting an opportunity to experience novelty. The thought of small, dark spaces instills such intense anxiety in me, but I knew that it was all just in my mind. I told myself that I could do it, so I did… complete with the few tears I had shed when my willpower cracked and almost caused me to pull out. Thank You for helping me through it, Niki.

Immediately after arriving at The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co., we were suited up in really really tight wetsuits, boots and a helmet — they told us that the suit had to be tight to ensure that we’re kept warm, that none of the freezing enter the suit. We introduced ourselves (we had such a joyful team with us!), took some cheeky shots in an outdoor ‘photo booth’ and boarded a tiny van that brought us nearer to the famous caves in Waitomo. What ensued was a short hike to where some tubes were already neatly arranged for us to take our pick — we had to be sized up for them according to the sizes of our bums! To test that we had the right size, we had to jump backward off of a wooden ledge into a stream, bum and rubber ring first. Brrrrr it was freezing!

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Before I continue, this is what black water rafting is all about: The best way to describe it would be exploring caves, but Your mode of transport would be a tube and Your wading arms instead of Your two feet. The ‘black’ comes from the fact that it is dark in the caves.

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We then got into a single file and headed into the caves ready for it all to begin. It started off slow, with just stepping over uneven rocks in shin-deep water, but things grew adventurous when we reached the first waterfall. We had to put our practice jump into action! I closed my eyes, held my breath, 1… 2… 3, a loud splash, a rush of water and emotions, and it was over. “Let’s do it again!” I actually enjoyed it!

The time in the caves consisted of tubing down the stream, climbing over rocks, jumping down waterfalls (oh yeah!), relaxing on your tube looking at the glow worms and crawling through the ‘laundry shoot’. For the most part, the water is knee deep and there was no skill or agility needed. One thing that I realised was that even though we entered the caves freezing, we soon forgot about it because there really was so much more around us to occupy our thoughts and sensations with — for one, the gorgeous glowing glowworms.

The glowworms — they sure were my favourite part of the entire adventure. Imagine this: Lying down on Your tube and linked together in a long line with everyone else, all torches are switched off and You look up to the most beautiful universe You’ve ever seen. Complete silence except for the trickling of water and quiet breathing… Complete darkness except for the millions of bright, teal blue, twinkling glowworms above You. They were like stars, only more mesmerising and breath-taking. Magical. I definitely could see why people from all over the world head all the way to Waitomo to get a look at these amazing little creatures.

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Near the end of our little caving adventure, Niki and I befriended the Dad of an Australian family and we began talking about education systems and funny Australian slang. He was such a joker and I can still recall how our laughter echoed through the cave. Niki and I hung on to his tube as he paddled on, not knowing that the rest had unlinked themselves and were now supposed to paddle on our own to the exit! “No worries,” he told us before the three of us dissolved into another round of chuckles.

After a short van ride back to the centre, we were treated with warm showers and a generous serving of tomato soup and bagel. 🙂 I’m so glad we did this, I’m so glad I did it with a friend I treasure so much.

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View the following videos in HD!

Here’s a promotional video from the company we went with…

And another amazing video which not only shows what Niki and I did that day, but also what a beautiful masterpiece our planet is… You’ve got to see this.

More photos on Flickr!

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