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Monday 16 Nov 2009
Waitomo, New Zealand

The Black Abyss

Today started with a wakeup call @ 6:15am and a 2nd alarm with SciFi sounds from my iPhone.  We hit the snooze a few times and jumped into our bathing suits and headed out to score a muffin and juice before our 7:45am check-in for our Black Abyss Adventure.

Little did we know the village of Waitomo doesn't begin to function until about 10am so muffins were completely out of the question.  We sat in the car and fumed for about 20 minutes until the Blackwater Rafting Company opened and we grabbed a heat/serve breakfast sandwich and wolfed it down.

There were only 6 in our tour group so we almost had 1-on-1 attention from our 2 guides, Tom & Stu (which was needed more than once along our 5 hour trek in the caves).  They suited us up in wetsuits, booties & jackets (I looked like a black sausage !) and helmets with lights, and climbing harnesses.  We had a few lessons & practice sessions on abseiling (rappelling in the US) - how to properly set our ropes, how to stop, how to go down a hill.  Tony used to do rock climbing in Colorado Springs years back so this was all old hat to him and there were 2 gentlemen from Austria that also had prior experience but this was all new to me and the two women from Singapore.  Once we passed our practice sessions, we were off on our cave adventure.

I don't know how I got in front of the line but I was the 1st to leap off a platform into the Black Abyss (literally... no lights....) and abseil/rappel down 37 meters (approx 110 ft) into the Glowworm Caves.  It did take a bit of coaxing to get that 2nd foot off the platform but once free...  Boy oh Boy !......

Once all others made their way down they then had us hook onto a zip line (1 at a time) and again jumped off a ledge and sailed through pitch black space even further into the caves (another rush of adrenaline !).  At this point they had us all with our legs hanging over a cliff and served hot cocoa.  We could hear rushing water but couldn't really tell how far below us it was.  The cocoa warmed us and set us up for the next adventure of our tour.

We were each given an inner-tube and instructed to hold onto it tight so it hugged our butts and leap of the ledge , again 1 at a time, into the water about 15ft below ! (talk about leap of faith).....  We all made quite a splash !  We then paddled (with our arms) up stream on our backs for about 15 minutes which was quite a workout.  Along the way we saw patches of the fascinating Glowworms... By this time we'd been underground for about 2.5 hrs and hadn't seen any light except for the occasional flash of light from the headlamp of one of the guides.

Once we were as far up stream as we could go they had us get out of our inner-tubes and rest and they served orange juice and chocolate.  We were all pretty cold from being in the water so the nourishment helped our bodies gain energy.

We then headed back down stream and got a much better look at the glowworms.  Slowly drifting (in-between paddling with our arms), we were able to get a very close look at this beautiful site (even if we were looking at bioluminescent maggot poop! - Yes, that is what these glowworms actually are... maggots...and a chemical they produce combined with their waste creates the glow...)

At the end of  the stream were the water falls.  We then proceeded to climb the waterfalls like Salmon swimming up stream !  We had to brace ourselves between rocks and work our way through narrow crevices back up to the top where we started.  A 20 minute hike back to the van rounded out our 5 hour adventure.

Once back at base camp we shed our wetsuits, took hot showers and they served us steaming tomato soup and toasted bagels.  Someone took my [Ellie] black zip off pants so I was ‘bottomless' (thank goodness for  towels) but we are hoping they will turn up before we leave town tomorrow.

View pictures by sorting Waitomo

2 Comments for this Travel blog entry

P Says:

17 November 2009

I commented on a few photos from this leg of ur a nut shell, Ellie, U ROCK AND THE GYM WORKOUTS PAID OFF! WOW!
oh, good job Tony!

lola Says:

18 November 2009

glow worms and maggot poop! I can't stand it any more - I am on a plane, on my way - see you in a couple of days!

Tony and Ellie's Adventure

Travel blog by tonyandellie

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  • We Survived...


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    We Survived the Black Abyss
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    Tony ascending the waterfall
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    Ellie ascending the waterfall
  • Our Group


    New Zealand

    Our Group