Sunday, April 11, 2010

Waitomo Caves- Lost World Epic

While on our recent New Zealand holiday Jason, Blossom and I did the Waitomo Adventure Company's Lost World Epic (7 hour trip). This trip is Waitomo's Ultimate Adventure. It starts with a 100m abseil into the surreal Lost World.

The descent takes about 30 minutes. We then had lunch down below before taking the wet way out! Heading upstream, walking, swimming and climbing through cathedral-size vaults.

We emerged several hours later and enjoyed a hot shower & well-earned dinner BBQ meal near the cave before heading back to Waitomo.

In more detail... our morning started pretty early as we were driving from Taupo to Te Kuiti, we needed to be at the Adventure company about 10am. Both Blossom and I were a little scared as heights and abseiling are things that scare us. Jason on the other hand was really looking forward to it all.

The first thing we did was fill out the pre-screening questionnaires. Jason struggled a bit with this- answering no to the "can you speak and understand english" question. However, this was not as bad as the man from Lichtenstein who answered yes to the "are you pregnant" question. This got us all off to a good start, providing a good ice breaker.

After about 20 minutes we were packed into a van and we were off... it was about a 15 minute drive to the start of the trip. Once we got there we had to get into our outfits... dungaree style wetsuit, with a wetsuit jacket over the top, white gumboots, caving helmets and the all important harnesses. We looked somewhat reminiscent of the Village People!!!

The first 20 minutes or so were all about familiarisation with the rope techniques for when we were in the cave and getting used to the height for the abseil.

Here we are on the rope line above the cave.
Here we are on our way down to the viewing platform. Check out how tentative I am compared to Jason... he's just walking down the stairs normally!Here was our first glimpse down into the living window and where we were going to be abseiling down into. However, this was only about 60m high, we were going to be abseiling 100m!!!!!
So after the familiarisation it was off to the real deal. It was about here that I started on the "I'm not sure I want to do this anymore" business!!! Unfortunately it was a little too late to be making that decision.
The first thing that we had to do was to step out, swing round and sit on a beam (which is suspended 100m above where we had to drop to). This was SOOOOOO scary for me to do, and once I was sitting there my leg just would not stop shaking!!!! The vibrations were massive. I am pleased to see that Blossom looked somewhat apprehensive as well. As we were sitting there Jason tried to comfort me and I said to him (imagine a slightly manic tone) "don't touch me"!!! I was just worried about moving really!
The great thing was, what we had already done was pretty much the hardest that we really needed to do and to abseil off, all we needed to do was just step off the ramp and we were off.

Yay!!! I did it!!! and no tears at all (I was fighting them off at times though). The good thing is once we were off it was pretty easy. My weight was enough to just lower myself down nice and easy. Jason had to work a little more on his control

Here we are just hanging around! A rather unique signature shot for us!
And here's Blossom!
Once we started the 30 minute descent you get a chance to look around and it is totally stunning! Our day was a little overcast so we had some beautiful ethereal mist around us!
Check me out now, abseiling like a pro! No worries at all now.
We had 6 customers on the course with 2 instructors. Each group of 4 descends at the same pace. We were a little slower than the other group. Here you can see them below us.
This next shot would have been great, but Blossom and Jason both look a little spazzy in it hehehe.
Wow, looking around was truly amazing and this trip was starting to rank right up there in the awesome things that I have done in my life! There is still a wickedly long way to go :-)
Check out the water down there...right in the middle of the photo, that's where we were headed!!!
I have included a couple of the promo shots for you. It really is hard to describe how awesome it was down there.

After 30 minutes we got to take a seat and enjoy lunch. Sandwiches, chocolate biscuits, shrewsbury's and hot drinks! Wow, this trip was wicked so far. I could probably have gone home then and been satisfied. However we still had 5 more hours to go and a number of times that I had to challenge myself (more so than the abseiling challenge that I had already achieved)...

While we were eating our lunch we were visited by a big fat eel that the guides seem to feed every time they come down here. As we were eating lunch another group abseiled down... here they come.
After lunch it was time to have a little play round downstream. We had to drop down a little tunnel first of all. I did warn the guide never to take a photo of a girl from this angle, but it turned out ok.Here's Jason.
This is the waterfall that we go to play in and around for a bit.
Me, Jason and Blossom under the waterfall. The water was VERY strong. We were not too cold in our wetsuit come village people outfits!
After a little play around we started to head upstream. We had 2km to traverse... this took the better part of 4 hours! Looking back to the entry we got some great silhouette shots. Here I am trying to do the running man...Jason is below doing Karate Kid.
This is looking back at the entrance, the last natural light we would see for a while.
Here's the first of many squeezes through some tight spots.

A little way into the trip we climbed up over a big rock... and then we had to jump down about 8m into the unknown. Everyone turned their lights off and we had to trust ourselves and just do it. I really struggled with the jump and needed about 15 different countdowns to actually do it. Everyone else did it first go. Oh well... every group needs a scaredy cat right?

After the jump into the abyss there was some climbing involved. This was optional and I didn't do it as I was pretty tired from running 59.8km 2 days before. I was losing my leg strength so I just had a little break while the others challenged themselves.
Jason in the water leading up to his climb.
Jason negotiating the climb.
And here I am taking the easy way out and climbing up the ladder haha.
After this section of the cave we had to do another jump into the darkness. It as way easier this time. We also had a little break, we sat down with a chocolate fish and some hot orange juice. These snacks were pure heaven after the hard work of rock hopping, bouldering, swimming, climbing, water running, and squeezing through gaps.

It wasn't long and then we were off again, to the smallest of gaps for the whole trip.
Seriously, we can't make it through there can we??
Well I can, I was pleased to see how easily I managed to slither through the gap.
Jason was a little more restricted. But still smiling and still convinced that he would make it through the gap.
And here's Jason feeling a little concerned at trying to get through the gap.... but he made it in the end. It just involved wiggling a little at a time. It probably didn't help that Blossom was on the other side putting stones in Jason's gumboots as he was trying to wiggle through.
Yay, we're finally out of that skinny hole, back into the water.The next part of the trip played with all our senses. We were in totally black cave, with no glow worms whatsoever. We had to make our way just by touching the wall on our right hand side. It was so hard to do and I got disoriented within minutes. All I wanted to do was put my headlamp on but I persisted. Luckily I was behind Jason so I held onto him for a bit. It felt like we went hundreds of metres in the dark, but in reality, we probably only traveled 20 - 50m.

We then arrived in a massive cathedral like cave with literally thousands of glow worms. In order to survive, glow worms build traps of vertical hanging silk thread studded with sticky droplets to catch insects that are attracted by the worm's glow. It was surreal just lying there on the rocks with the glow worms lighting the cave up for us.

From the stunning light show we had a bouldering challenge (a style of rock climbing without a rope not very high off the ground- or water in our case). We were not allowed to touch the water... the bouldering was hard for me as by this stage I was pretty tired, but I got through it.

And finally after 4 hours of caving, here was the light at the end of the tunnel.
Wow, we made it! Wicked.

We celebrated the trip with a wicked water fight!

After the water fight we climbed up the side of the river, then it was just a short 20 minute trek back across farmland back to the start of the trip.

During this time we could reflect on what we had just experienced, and I tell you what, I was exhausted but totally stoked with what we had done. I was so pleased to have made the effort.

After our hot showers (heaven- but marred slightly by our lack of towels) we had a gourmet BBQ cooked by the guides. What a wicked day trip and totally worth the money that we spent on it. I would recommend this trip to everyone!


The Maloney Family said...

Wow. This looked like such an amazing day. A great advertisement for something for us to do in the future. Great that you felt the fear and did it anyway. Have just started reading your blogs and am really enjoying them :-)

Jason and Jacinda Papps said...

Hey there, it was a fantastic day and I really think that it is well worth it. I lived up that way most of my life and had never been there so I am stoked that we did it! I read your blog and Sarah Lee's blog every week as well, both wicked blogs! Glad you enjoy reading ours!