Fear factor one

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I thought sand boarding was scary, then we decided to go black water rafting. I didn’t know much about it apart from it would be in caves. Being wet, cold and dark for 5 hours? I really must stop following Andi.

Many years ago Andi and I had been white water rafting in Turkey and it was the best thing ever. The hot weather probably had something to do with it. Waitamo caves was heralded as a great day activity and I think everyone on the bus signed up to experience them. We opted for the more in depth trip which included abseiling, zip lining and climbing water falls, no actual rafting though. Being in the group for the last slot of the day we saw a few of the other groups returning with just the look of exhaustion on their faces. At least it would guarantee a good nights sleep.

We were told when you approach the small gap go feet first.

Our gear included a helmet, a three piece wet suit and welly ankle boots. A short mini bus ride and we were taken to the cave entrance which was a 50 foot hole in the ground. We practiced some abseiling outside on a training hill and then one by one lowered ourselves in to the hole. We were told when you approach the small gap go feet first. Trying not to look down I bounced down the cave getting closer to the voices below. Then came the first of the complete darkness which brought glow worms ooh.

Next up came the zip wire, after a narrow walk along what felt like a plank of wood, we were attached to the wire and then told to turn our head lights off. Weeeeee in to the darkness. We then had to sit on the edge of a rock with our feet dangling over a cave river, we were handed hot chocolate and a brownie. We knew then we’d be going in to the water. Andi went first and was handed a rubber ring. He jumped in to the water with the ring behind him and fully submerged then popped up floating on his ring down the river. My turn. The guide said this part was optional but I admitted if I didn’t follow Andi he wouldn’t let me forget it. So jump I did and then the cold water hit me causing me to panic, I couldn’t breathe or see, damn contact lenses. There was a guide in the water who pulled me to one side and stood me up, with my lungs the right way I could breathe again, a few blinks and I could see. I saw everyone else merrily jumping and floating along the river. Laugh it off and carry on, that’s my motto. So away we floated grabbing a rope to pull us along, down a tunnel in to a darker cave. Another lights out moment when we came to the end of the rope and we were told about the life of a glow worm, creepy crawly stuff behind that innocent looking light on the ceiling.

chocolate meant a scary challenge

Next challenge, still floating in the rubber rings, line up with your feet on the shoulders of the person in front and grab the person behinds feet. Then we were pulled like a train back down the cave river to where we jumped in. Releasing ourselves of the rings we were to walk through the water from then on. It was very unsteady footing with shallow and deep parts unseen in the darkness of the water, hence the name black water. Some parts we went up to our neck, we tried to use the walls but the rocks were very slippy, we just had to keep an eye on the person in front and try to avoid the deep parts. We went through a few tunnels, narrowly avoiding some strong currents and having to swim at parts. We climbed on a ledge and then had another hot chocolate break, chocolate meant a scary challenge and what lay ahead of us were waterfalls. The only way out being up.

Our guides set off before us and reiterated they would be shouting instructions at us for climbing with lots of pointing at rocks for placing hands and feet. The water came down thick and fast and it was really noisy, we made our way up three waterfalls and with some parts in between being completely on your own in a tunnel whilst you tried to catch up with the rest of the group. When we reached the top it took me a while to realise that we were actually outside as the sun had gone down, but slowly I managed to see trees. Ground level at last. What an experience. All that was left was to pull off our wet suits and warm up with showers and hot soup. Then we saw photos of our afternoon the guides had taken along the way. The rest of the evening was spent in the local pub catching up with the rest of the kiwi ex group who had been on different excursions throughout the day. New friends were made and a lot of drinking games were played. The next day we headed to Rotorua for the Maori village experience.

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