Delving into the Black Abyss: A Waitomo Caving Adventure
The water is crankin’! It rained in force all last night, making us a bit surprised when we receive a phone call saying the Black Abyss wet caving tour is still running today. We are still good to go on The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company’s most adventurous black water rafting tour, plus, the water level is at a “fun and high” level. Let’s do it!
So we have no time for this working nonsense this morning. It’s straight to the Black Water Rafting base to sign our lives away, suit up, harness up and hop in the van to the cave entrance and training area.
Squeezing into The Throat
However, this cave entrance is not like any of the other cave entrances we’ve taken into the Waitomo Caves. This is not your spiral walkway into a deep tunnel on the Ruakuri Cave tour or Black Odyssey caving and climbing tour, this is not your grand and modern Waitomo Glowworm Caves building, this is not your quick slide into a small cave like in Black Labyrinth… This is a 35m abseil down a worm hole into the darkness.
One of our guides today, Ems, is training us on the abseiling training area a safe distance away from the precarious hole in the ground. She gives us a little analogy to help us remember how to attach our abseil clips to the ropes. (All proper caving equipment terms have been removed from this article to ease readers’ understanding, as well as proper terms not actually being known). It goes somewhere along the line of putting a man in the cave and the cave collapses on him… This is not worrying at all… Nevertheless, we pick up this abseiling thing really quickly thanks to Ems teaching methods. So much so, that we challenge each other to a race. Robin wins as expected because Laura sucks at life.
Now, it’s time to delve into the Black Abyss. Who knows what we will discover today? Who can say what creeps and crawls in the underworld below? All we know is that we are delving to the very depths of these caves to find out! Dramatic bit aside, Logan, our other guide, is waiting somewhere at the bottom of the abseil (we hope because we can’t see him) and Ems is helping us strap in and lock on at the top. As per usual, Laura goes first because Robin is afraid of heights and somehow going second eases that? (It doesn’t, just so ya know).
One by one, we steadily squeeze our way down the part of the hole called “The Throat” before the cave opens up behind us. Laura stops halfway to get a good look at this awesome cave and all its formations opening up around her, while Robin gets down as quickly as possible.
Flying into darkness
We regroup at the bottom with a slight sigh of relief mixed with excitement and anticipation of what’s happening next! We walk further away from daylight and deeper into the cave until we reach the start of the flying fox (zipline). The rest of it… well, the lines go straight into the pitch black. Of course, we put all our trust into the guides of these trips, so the best method to take on these unknown obstacles is to just go for it! Ems clips our harness onto the wire above, gives us some instruction to get comfortable while dangling in mid air, and then lets us go.
We won’t give too much away here other than, “Aaarrrghhhh!” BANG!
Laura fails at Black Water Rafting #1
Logan is at the bottom of the flying fox helping us down. We are now in a section of the cave with a pile a tubes, exactly like the ones we used in the Black Labyrinth tour. Our natural walking platform abruptly ends with a drop, then a deep stream. We know what’s coming.
“Grab onto your tubes, face forward and land bum-first on your tube.” Sounds easy right? Remember how we said Laura fails at life? Well she succeeds to screw this up too. Mid-way through the air she lets go of her tube and back-flops into the water. Without a thick wetsuit, that would hurt! Everyone is in hysterics, including her, as she flails towards her ring to grab it then find her way to the nearest shallow ledge to get back in the ring properly. What a mess.
Now that everyone else has hopped into the water is a perfect and professional manner, we can float/paddle down the stream, looking at the twinkling glowworms above. We can’t get enough of these glowworms. They’re such pretty things for a maggot that lives a cannibalistic life then shags itself to death – true story. We get some really impressive glowworm displays here, especially as the cave ceiling is low enough to see them well.
Check out what’s going on in the Waitomo caves!
LAURA FAILS AT BLACK WATER RAFTING #2
We are floating up the stream quite swiftly in this high water level. We get to a section where we toss away our tubes and just use the limbs that nature gave us! We’re scrambing over fierce rapids. At some points we’re walking, at other points we are just floating on our back and going with the current. Eventually, we reach a waterfall with a built-in water slide. Fun!
“Usually, we would ask if you prefer to go legs-first or face-first. But because the water level is a bit higher today, I’ll ask you to go legs first for safety,” Logan warns.
“Laura, you go first,” Robin unsurprisingly says. However, as soon as she lets go of the rock, the current pushes her weak, feeble and downright pathetic body face-first down the slide, as she is screaming: “No, no, no, nooooo!” It’s too late, she’s gone. Logan catches her at the bottom unscathed, but all Laura can hear is the roaring waterfall and Robin’s roars of laughter from the top. Laura fails… again!
Now that the laughing has died down, let’s get back to our badass caving adventure. We are trying to cross streams with a bit of current, while Logan is blocking any nasty rocks that could impale us. There are some sections where the cave ceiling becomes so low that we have to put our heads on the side at the surface of the water to get through.
An epic waterfall climb
Time for the grand finale to the Black Abyss trip and our whole Waitomo adventure of this week, we reach the biggest challenge yet: the waterfalls. Not one, not two, but three waterfalls which we have to climb to get out of the caves! We can hear the thunder of the falls just behind the next rock. Logan stops us as says that we will not be able to hear each other but we just need to watch him for instruction.
We duck under the rock and are met by a powerful waterfall in a tiny enclosure! This, right here, is insane! Climbing the waterfall looks like an impossible task, or at least what we could see of it between the intense splashing. However, after Logan shows us where to put our hands and feet, getting up was not all that difficult! We can just enjoy the rush of this insanity.
There are two more falls to go, but the confidence gained from that first beast makes taking on these two waterfalls a piece of cake (because Logan is helping us. Otherwise we would be somewhere out to sea right now).
The final push through the rapids… Daylight is straight ahead… We made it!!
We emerge in the forest, back into the day and back into the p*ssing down rain. Amazing!
Robin’s best week in New Zealand
Back in the van, we are buzzing after that adventure. What a cool way to end such an amazing time in Waitomo! Robin even says himself that this has been his best week since being in New Zealand. (And this dude has been here for five years!)
Hot showers are welcomed, hot soup and bagels are expected, and tour photos are mandatory. We can relax back at the Black Water Rafting base at what has been a mental and busy-ass week. Can you believe we are less than 10% into New Zealand’s Biggest Gap Year?
We take advantage of the free WiFi at the Black Water Rafting base before making our way back to Juno Hall to have a last play with the baby goat, fright from the creepy kitten and general chatter with fellow backpackers.
Tomorrow, we head back to Raglan for some more caving. Whhhaatttt? Are we mental? Yes we are! See you then.
Flying into a tubing adventure!
Flying into a tubing adventure!
Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Flying into a tubing adventure! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Hells yeah! We’ll be bringing you some more articles on things to do in Waitomo, now that we kinda feel like experts. We may even be back later in the year because we are not even close to doing all that activities here, both free activities and paid ones. Before then, get planning your Waitomo trip with these articles:
- 6 Ways to Take On the Waitomo Caves
- Waitomo – Guide for backpackers
- Adrenalin Activities in New Zealand
See you tomorrow, cave cronies!