The thing I learnt fairly quickly travelling was how fast time goes. It seems wild, looking back, to realise that caving was on our second day out of Auckland. We’d already done so much! More driving across stunning countryside – apparently this was the mostly flat part of the North Island – to get to a very small town called Waitomo.
Waitomo is literally some rafting companies, a holiday park, a pub, and a few other buildings. But we were there for the caving experience. Going deep underground into some caves, jumping off some waterfalls, sitting in a rubber dingy to lie back and look at some glowworms!
Now, I’m going to admit some things – I am terrified of small spaces, and I hate not knowing where I am or where I am going. I also dislike being cold, but who does? Caving would be putting me right out of my comfort zone. Like, here is my comfort zone O
and this is where I am caving –>
So I went caving – they gave us wetsuits thicker than any I’ve ever tried on before, gave us a saftey briefing and told us to jump backwards off a jetty into a stream. It was freezing. Little did I know how much colder I was going to get! I honestly don’t think I have ever been so cold. Later that evening I took a very hot shower, then another, and I was still shivering the next morning I was that cold. By the by.
I really wanted to see the glowworms though, so I spent a few hours very sternly telling myself that the guides knew what they were doing and that there was plenty of space. Every time I started panicking I would look up to the ceiling of the cave and find all the little tiny specs of greenish light that were the glowworms – frequent enough but not quite the grand cavern I had come to see.
There was only one thing I refused to do. Part of the Black Water Rafting Co’s Black Labryinth experience involved jumping backwards off a 5ft or so waterfall – I probably could have done it … but there was an absolute mess of churning right to the side and I found myself freezing. Instead I slid down, lost and then reclaimed my dingy and from that point on had at least one instructor checking up on me every five seconds. It was useful as I was terrible at the paddling thing. To fit my boobs my wetsuit was a bit too big on the arms and my arms weren’t doing arm things very efficently.
But the glowworms! By God The Glowworms! They were totally worth every careful breath and hands being scraped against walls. It was like a crowded night sky across the roof of the cave, and it was truly wonderful to just lay my head back and say you did it! Look at those lights! so Bea scores 1, anxiety scores… lets give it a half.
I was honestly incredibly relieved to see the end of the tunnel – it had been such a fantastic and worthwhile experience but it was cold! Also, I’m super clumsy without icy water, numb hands, unstable rocks and currents. I fell over a lot.
Then it was trying to peel off wetsuits, hot showers, hot soup and bagels and back to the hostel!
If you’re ever in New Zealand North Island, I do recommend this trip! Personally, I’m not going to do it again, even though I know what’s coming this time as it was about $270 dollars plus pictures (we bought the whole reel as a group and just took our own – if you’re in a group I recommend this as a way to save money!) and I do wish they’d given us more photographs of the glowworms (as cameras aren’t allowed for obvious reasons).
But yes, worth it, so damn worth it. Something to tick off the bucket list alright!
That evening, the New Zealand All Blacks were playing South Africa in the cup and we tootled off to the (single) bar. I stayed long enough to watch the Haka and determine that I hadn’t the faintest idea what they were doing on that pitch before snuggling under my blankets and calling home. It was such a good day, even if I could feel the cold right through my bones.