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Vanesa/ Nicole’s Travel Diary

Monday, 01 Feb 2010

Location: North Island, New Zealand

MapAfter a scenic train and ferry ride we arrived back in the windy Capital City of Wellington. Our itinerary included staying in Wellington one evening; however, our alarm clock had a different idea of how the day should go.

“Nicole, wake-up! It is 8:22 and we just missed our bus.”

Nicole was in charge of getting us up in the morning, but her being the heavy sleeper that she is, she slept through not just one, but two alarms that morning. So it is safe to say that we did not make it to our bus on time. Missing the bus that morning seemed like the worst thing in the world. Who knew that staying in Wellington a couple more hours meant we got to see Prince William? Apparently, he was in town for the opening of some parliament building.

So after being stuck in Wellington for another 12 hours, we finally boarded the bus at 7:50 pm for a 9 hour bus ride to Hamilton.

It is now 5 am and we have just got off the bus in Hamilton. What do we do now? After walking around for an hour trying to find something, anything that was opened. We found a little cafe and stopped for breakfast. Seeing how we were supposed to be on a bus to Waitomo and not Hamilton we did not want to inconvenience Julie and Mike so we decided to look for a hostel. Some idea that was, after walking around for another 2 hours in search of a place to sleep we discovered that Hamilton only has one hostel on the completely other side of town. Julie and Mike came to the rescue yet again!

The next day we caught the bus early morning to go to Waitomo. The anticipation on the bus was unbearable as we were getting ourselves prepared for caving and black water rafting. 1:30 pm came around, all our paper work is filled out and we are on our way. We met our tour guide Allen, who is from Glasgow, Scotland and still has a thick accent. After a long twisty turny 15 minute car ride we finally get to an outdoor facility.

After putting on our wetsuits and a skin tight jacket, we got to pick out our gum boots (rubber boots) and helmet and were on our way. As we are not use to walking in wetsuits, they felt very heavy and awkward. We imagine it felt like what an astronaut feels like walking on the moon. During the walk to the cave entrance we discovered that Nicole should not be allowed to lead the way, as she would have taken us the wrong direction several times.

We finally make it to the entrance of the cave and our tour guide went down the ladder first. Nicole was the first victim to enter the cave, conquering her fear of the dark. Looking down into the cave was intimidating as it was very dark and you could not see the bottom. All we had to do was follow Allen’s voice. Nicole took a deep breath and began her decent down the ladder. It was a tight squeeze and she was in. Next was Vanesa’s turn. Being the first two into the cave gave us the opportunity to explore a little as we waited for the others. The cave was magnificently made up from water decay. We waited at a yellow marker for the rest of the group, which turned out later is the measuring stick that they use to determine whether or not the caves are safe for individuals to enter.

Finally, the rest of the group catches up to us and we begin our 4 hour adventure deep into the cave. This was an experience like no other. We had to crawl through tiny crevices, and swim through alley ways to get to the location of the glow worms. Prior to getting to the glow worms we had to stop for a minute to discuss Maori beliefs and traditions. They believed that there is a Maori protector of the caves that roams around. These caves are very sacred natural areas. You do not want to be seen in these caves by the protector, so in order to make yourself blend in we had to camouflage ourselves. This involved covering ourselves in mud to look like the cave walls.

Alright, guys as we venture further into the caves there are going to be moments in time where we are going to have to swim. Everyone huddle in a circle. In order to get your body temperature uses to the water on the count of three we are all going to go under for 10 seconds. Now that our wetsuits were full of water our bodies can regulate to the coolness and the wetsuits serve as a protective barrier to make us feel warmer. The water slowly got deeper and we entered the cavern where the majority of glow worms were located. Everyone shut off their head lights and we got the opportunity to enjoy the wonder and beauty that is the glow worms. From below the glow worms looked like twinkling stars in the pitch black night sky. After further discussion it turns out that glow worms are not really worms at all. They are in fact the feces of maggots. Gross!

Further into the cave we got to go black water rafting. In order to enter to water at this portion we had to jump off of a two meter high rock cliff with our tubes. They have names for some of the rocks to avoid on the way down. We had to make sure to not hit our heads on “concussion rock”, or hit our rear ends on “ass breaker rock.” So as you can tell it was a little tricky jumping into the water, so with the assistance of Allen we all made it into the stream safe and sound. We stood on the side of the cliff with our butts facing the water, Allen held the tube out and on the count of 3 we had to jump backwards as far as we could without standing up straight. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, yup that’s everyone. We then float down the river as a group with interconnecting legs and arms admiring the scenery.

When we reached the end of the stream we had to return the tubes to the starting, at which point Allen decided it would be a good idea to hitch a ride by holding on to Vanesa’s feet and making her do all the work. When finally made it back to the end of the stream we were required to complete the Bermuda Triangle. This consisted of lying flat on our backs and floating under some rocks, and squeezing through a thin crack in the rocks which was very tricky to maneuver yourself. At this point Allen felt like we deserved a break, so we stopped at the “Hardrock Cafe” for some lemon tea and a chocolate fish. After having to sit through the torture of having the group tell lame jokes, we continued our journey.

Our next destination involves going low and watching out for sharp pointy rocks. Allen thinking it was rather amusing let the group explore a little to find the right direction. Daphne a lady from the Netherlands took the wrong direction and ended up maneuvering herself through a tiny opening, only to find out that it was a dead end. Nicole finally found the only direction that went down and found the right way. As this direction had no water in it, it allowed us to explore the caves. Allen made sure to warn the group that this leg of the cave has previously been known as “Ankle Breaker Alley” so to be careful. Vanesa, getting a little too excited ended up way ahead of the rest of the group causing Allen to have to run after her.

Next tunnel we had to accomplish was “the birth canal.” This is a very long tunnel that we had to feel and crawl our way through in the dark. It was Vanesa’s turn to lead the way. As we made our way through the tunnel it slowly got smaller and smaller making it more difficult to maneuver ourselves through the space. Eventually we made it to the other end only to find Allen standing there laughing, he took the easy route.

The next portion of the cave actually involved swimming as we were unable to touch the ground. “Watch out for the eels” Allen shouts after everyone is already in the water. Swimming was super hard as we could not kick for fear that our gum boots would come off, so we had to only use our hands. To make it even worse, our wetsuits had floatation devices in the bum, causing our rear ends to be floating to the surface, pushing our heads under the water. This part of the cave was done rather quickly due to Allen’s comment about there being eels in the water.

Our final task before leaving the cave was to see if we were brave enough to squeeze through the tiniest hole of them all. Us being Canadians of course were brave enough to accept the challenge and passed with flying colours, and we have a picture to prove it.
We can’t even explain what it was like to experience these caves. It is one of the most thrilling and exciting things we have ever done. We highly recommend it to anyone who is going to New Zealand.

The rest of our time in New Zealand was spent hanging out with Julie and Mike (our adopted parents) before we made the 3 hour trek to Australia.

Good-bye New Zealand, Hello Australia!