Black water rafting with glow worms
27.03.2013 20 °C
Today was our trip to see the glowworms in Waitomo Caves. Instead of walking or taking a boat in the caves, we decided to tube it instead. This is basically a rubber ring you sit in as you navigate the caves, which is called black water rafting. I have been a bit nervous about this for the last two days, just because the woman at the isite said there are eels and spiders down there!
At the Black Water Rafting Company office, we were taken to get our gear for the trip. Wet suits, socks, booties and helmet...I wished there was gloves too so my hands didn't have to touch anything down there! Our group had a mixture of ages, from teens to 50+, and from places like Seattle and Malaysia, as well as quite a few of us from England and Scotland and was led by two women guides who were young, enthusiastic and funny. It took us a while to get suited and booted, then we hopped in a van to take us to the caves.
We got to a parkland area and picked up our tubes, making sure it fit us.
Then we walked to the river and one of the guides said "Right, in the caves there are a couple of waterfalls that we need to get down. The safest way to do this is to jump away from the waterfall, facing backwards with your bum in the tube, ready to land in the water". I thought she was joking, but clearly she wasn't when she made me take the first practice jump in the river! I did it and apart from a face full of water as I landed, it was fine and quite fun! I was unsure how easy it would be the save, given it was dark and has a low head height...not something I usually worry about.
Everyone had a go - apart from one girl who refused and subsequently had to climb down the waterfalls inside the caves - and then we were off to the caves!
The hole to get in was tiny but I managed just fine, Andrew had to watch his head constantly...something he is always worrying about (particularly because he is quite clumsy!). Inside we turned on our head lights and sat for a while to get used to the dark.
The women told us lots of information about the cave as we made our way through, walking, wading through water and tubing. It was so much fun jumping backwards into water in the dark!
We stopped to sit in one of the tunnels in the cave, ate a chocolate and marshmallow fish they gave us (which made the next bit slightly better) and turned our head lights off. My least favourite part, as I wouldn't be able to see spiders trying to attack me! But we looked up and saw the luminous green, glowing worms on the ceiling! They looked beautiful and strange, like a sky of green stars. But they're not pretty at all. One of the guides told us that they're not worms, they're actually Arachnids with no legs that cling on to the ceiling and dangle their web to catch insects to eat. They live for quite a long time then wrap themselves in their web to eventually hatch into a blind moth without a mouth. Realising they're not going to live very long without a mouth, they forget their hungry and just mate for two days before it dies. I think the female glow worm has the children and then gets eaten by them?! (I could have made that last bit up!)
We made an 'eel', by sitting in the tube while the person in front holds your legs and you hold theirs, and travelled through the cave looking up at the thousands of glow worms, which were somehow nonetheless beautiful because of the gross story we just heard. And then finally we spilt and tubed ourselves to the end of the cave, in the dark, using our arms to move through the water, which was really tiring!
We got out of the cave and had a group victory shot! I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and would definitely like to try other rafting now.
Out of our stinky wet suits, we had a hot shower and ate tomato soup and a bagel, before setting off on a long journey to the Northland area of New Zealand. There were no other DOC campsites on the way and we didn't want to pay for a holiday park yet, as we would need to stay at a few in the bay of islands and later in the trip on the South Island. This meant us driving through Auckland at sunset and the view from the bridge was lovely.
Arriving in the dark at Uretititi Beach Camp, we couldn't really tell what it was like, but the sky was so clear that the stars and moon were beautiful and bright.