Friday, April 5, 2013

Black Water Rafting

We drove over to the Waitomo Caves on Sunday to explore the phenomenom that is blackwater rafting. It’s quite a drive from Taupo, so we set out with plenty of time to spare. We stopped off in a small place called Benneydale, which has the dubious distinction of having an English name in the heart of the King Country, where the place names are almost uniformly Maori. There is a reason for this, naturally, and it’s all explained here. We had coffee in an establishment run by a Frenchman of Senegalese extraction, and his Dutch wife. It was odd.

We arrived with plenty of time to spare so, having booked in and signed the statutory waiver that anything that happened to us would be our own stupid fault for indulging in such dangerous pastimes, we were at a bit of a loose end. The girl at the counter suggested we take a walk around the Ruakuri scenic reserve, which is an area of limestone caves and is in fact what sits above the cave that we would be exploring later. Along the way we found a difficult-to-photograph fantail:

After our walk we returned to the blackwater rafting site, where we were fitted out with wetsuits and white gumboots, and then driven to our jumping-off point. We grabbed an inner tube appropriate to our height and girth, and were then drilled in the correct way to enter the water: backwards and arse first, whilst holding one’s flotation device firmly over said arse. Any other method was likely to result in the loss of the inner tube, and as it’s pitch black in the cave, it may be swept away downstream not to be seen again until you reach the end.


Faceful of water

We then entered the cave. First up we posed for photos with the cave wetas, and then began our journey through the cave system. Some of this was on foot, and some of it in our tubes, having launched ourselves over a waterfall. At one point we needed to form a train by putting our feet up on the ring in front, and being gripped under the armpits, whilst gripping the feet of the person behind us in similar fashion. We switched our head lights off to fully appreciate the glow of the glow worms, and our guides gave us the usual spiel about their life cycle. For the final part of the tour we were told to keep our lights off and find our way out to the daylight by ourselves…something we all managed without too much difficulty. The water level in the cave was quite low, due to the drought which has affected the country over the last month or so – our guide pointed out the level at which the water normally flows.

After climbing out we took the short trip back to the centre for a shower and a warming cup of soup, before heading back to Taupo for dinner at The Brantry. That pretty well ended our Taupo adventure – the next day we drove back to Wellington and what appears to be officially the End Of Summer.

No comments:

Post a Comment