We left Taupo in fog and rain which lasted all the way to Waitomo, our major stop for the day where those who wanted to could do the Black Water Rafting activity. I was one of those that wanted to do it. I had read about it in the in-flight magazine on the way over, it was highly recommended by the Magic Bible and I had even had to teach it in one of my English classes back in China. What it involves is rafting through underground caving systems in old tyre inner tubes and as an added bonus the caves are inhabited by blue glowworms. This is also one of the few places in the world they live, making Black Water Rafting in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves a unique experience indeed.
After signing in we went down the road to change into our wet suits and stylish gum boots. My wetsuit wasn’t as snug as I would have liked for the but it soon warmed up. Then it was into the back of a van and over the hill to the entrance of the caves.
In the first cavern we came to our guides told us a bit more about the glowworms, they actually look like transparent earthworms, and then instructed us to turn off our head lamps. After our eyes had adjusted you looked up and you could see lots of little blue lights glowing in the dark, it was quite incredible. They also produce long sticky strands to catch their prey and we got to see these up close.
Next came the main cavern where again we turned off our lights and high up on the ceiling some 30 feet above us you could see all these tiny blue lights of the glowworms, that looked like stars in the night sky, while water rushed over our boots. Head lamps back on as we then continued walking in the stream that got deeper and deeper until we were waist deep and our inner tubes became useful. We sat down in our tubes and linked our feet under each others arms creating a long floating train. Once everyone was connected it was lamps off again as our guides walked us along while we got to sit back and just marvel at the glowworms above us on the caves ceiling.
Then we started to hear the unmistakable sound of water falling that could only be a waterfall getting closer and closer which was quite unnerving as our guides remained silent directing us backwards along the stream. Here we had to stand and jump backwards over the waterfall while being careful not to swallow any of the not so clear water.
With the waterfall done we split up into two groups of 4 and again just drifted along the stream with our lights off. Then we came to our next obstacle which was a long slide that you couldn’t see the end of. After posing for a photo, which was quite hard as the water pressure built behind you, at the top it was a deep breath and down you went.
After this the stream was a little shallower so we floated on our stomachs. I had fallen behind the group a little and wasn’t sure if I could turn on my head lamp or not so I just drifted along with the stream thinking I would catch up with the others eventually. The stream seemed to go on and on though and no sign of the others. Eventually Ku caught up with me and said I could turn on my light if I wanted but it was actually quite cool to just drift in the dark.
After about an hour and a half in the cave we saw light again and climbed the 105 steps out through lush forest and ferns.
Into the van and back to change rooms for a much-needed hot shower. Afterwards we got free hot chocolate which was just the ticket as we got to see the photos Rodney and Ku had taken of our adventure and which you got to see here. A truly unique experience that I won’t soon forget.
We met up with the others who hadn’t done the rafting only to find out that the bus had broken down. Two mechanics came out but couldn’t fix it but Magic had already arranged for a replacement bus to collect us which arrived 3 hours later and we were on our way again to Tongoriro National Park. The delay meant we arrived after dark but it was still raining so we didn’t miss any views and because of the inconvenience Buz very generously sorted out dinner for us all at the Schnapps bar across the road from the backpackers so the day still ended well.