Sunday, April 5, 2009

Black Water Rafting - Waitomo, New Zealand

13th Feb

It took me just over 2 hours to get to Waitomo from Turangi so I had over an hour to kill before my 'Black Water rafting began'. I took a quick trip to the main visitor centre of the town and ambled round their exhibtion. Interesting enough but a bit too based towards the geological side of things (I suppose it had to be - its caves after all!)

At 1pm I met up with my fellow cohorts and we started getting into our gear which consisted of the obiligatory wetsuit, helmet with headtorch, boots and, rather surprisingly shorts which you put on over the wetsuit - apparently to protect your bum.

Me in my S&M gear - now where would an S&M person stick their mouse i wonder?

After a couple of photos off we went in the bus to the actual caves. First we had to get our inner tube ring which we would be using:

Everybodies bum looks big in an inner tube!

Then we had to all practise one of the things we would be doing in the caves which consisted off a sort of sit-down conga chain:

The reason shall become apparent later on.

Finally but by no means least we had to practise our waterfall jumps. It was at this point I started to realise that this was not going to be your normal 'cave tubing' where you just gently float down a river through a cave. No, in this one you had to jump off, backwards, holding your tube off a couple of small waterfalls and to make sure we knew what to do we had to do a practise jump of a small platform they had erected.

Practise dive - not me as I was wearing a blue helmet

Not me either - I wasn't wearing blue boots!

Naturally I made a pigs ear of it by jumping out too far. Then when I surfaced from my drowning I started floating past the get out point and had to frantically grab for somebodys hand to be pulled back.

Finally it was on to the cave system. We had to climb down steep rocks to get into the caves and then clamber over more rocks in the caves before we got to our first rafting section. As I said this was no ordinary cave tubing which actually made it a lot better. Our first raft was in quite shallow water and only lasted for a bout 20 metres. Then we had to get back to our feet (not an easy thing to do from sitting in a inner tube) and continue on through more rocks.

The gang in the caves

Time for our first waterfall jump which I managed to do slightly better than my first attempt. After that we did some more rafting through water with very little headroom to the top of the cave.

Then we came to a section of cave where there appeared to be tiny LED lights above our heads. Our guides told everybody to turn our headtorches off. Up above us shone the glowworms. It was magical to see - although in this section there wasn't that many off them but we were quite close to them. One of our guides gave a talk about the worms (they are infact insect larva) before getting everyone to turn their torches back on. We were able to make out the long dangly silk threads that the worms hang below themselves in order to catch their prey.

Further on the cave system started to open out in to large caverns with glowworms twinkling at the top. It was an incredible sight. We did our second waterfall jump which was slightly more dangerous than the first one as you had to keep to one side of the cave before jumping. If you didn't you fell down a big hole in the water. You also had to make sure you didn't bang your head while doing the jump.

Finally it was time for our caperpiller conga line. We all had to line up behind one another with our legs under the arms of the person infront off us. There was a rope at the side of the cave which made getting it all organised a lot easier. Once this was done we started floating down the caves and then our guide told everybody to turn their headtorches off again.

It was then I realised what the conga was for. Our guide could drag all of us through a section of cave in the dark while we could stare up at the glowworms above us. This cave section had much more glowworms in it and they were far above us. It was like looking at a starlit night - a really unforgettable experience.

After some more rafting down sections were I was never able to steer myself properly and even ended up backwards in some places we ended our trip. We went back to the centre for showers and some soup. I bought the photo CD as it didn't cost too much - unlike some of the trips I had been on in the South Island.

The blackwater rafter was a really wonderful experience to do and was nothing like what I expected. A slight disclaimer on the sequence of the events which I might have gotten slightly the wrong way around because its so long ago now scince I did it.

No such worries with my next experience where just consisted off two things - up then down - VERY FAST. On to Taupo for the skydive!

Some more images from the CD (not taken on our trip I hasten to add)

Featured animal: New Zealand Glowworm

Firstly IT IS AN ANIMAL. If there's one thing that annoys me its people who think that the animal kingdom stops at beasts with 4 legs or a backbone.

As was said the glowworms are not really glowworms at all but larva of the fungus gnat which set up shop in not just caves but in hollow trees and alongside riverbanks. I think glowworm is a slightly nicer term than fungus gnat! They spin sticky silk threads which they hang down below them in order to trap flying insects which are attracted to their glow. Interestingly the glow is produced by waste products which is another nice way of saying that their shit glows (something I'm pretty sure I have been able to do after a night of drinking Newcastle brown ale and an indian curry).

After they pupate they turn into the adult flying form which can no longer eat and whose sole purpose is to mate, lay eggs and die - must be some shag!

Anyway heres the wikipedia crap (pardon the pun) on them. New Zealand Glowworms

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