Taupo & Waitomo
We woke up this morning to an absolute downpour. It had rained all night and that rain was scheduled to continue all day. It literally dampened our plans so we had to make some adjustments to our anticipated schedule.
As it would not have been enjoyable to do anything outdoors we decided to treat ourselves to a driving tour of the area. We drove south out of Rotorua, through Waiotapu, and to Orakei Korako where we took in the view of the Waikato River before continuing onto Taupo.
We did get out of our car briefly in Taupo to view Huka Falls. Huka falls drains Lake Taupo at an astronomical rate of 200,000 liters per second. The amount of water poring over the falls is just absurd. Because of the rain, we didn’t stay long and continued on with our journey.
Our next destination was the district of Waitomo, which lies on the West coast of the North Island and is world renowned for its vast number of caves, and that’s exactly why we were there.
The Waitomo caves are legendary and we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. After taking a short bus ride we arrived at the “secret location” of the cave entrance. Here we got suited up with harnesses and safety equipment. We went through a practice ropes course to get used to our equipment and then began the real adventure. After hiking a couple hundred feet through the forest we reached a ledge. At this point we all we could see was a metal platform with a large device hanging above it with 10 ropes hanging down. It wasn’t until we actually stepped onto the platform that we fully realized where we were. We were looking straight down into the cave, and this was no small drop; 100 meters of misty air separated us from the bottom of the cave and it was our job to get to the bottom. As our guide hooked us into the hanging contraption, we started leaning over the edge and letting the ropes hold our weight. At first our adrenaline was kicked into high gear but the longer we hung, the more calm we became. As soon as the 5 of us were all hanging, we began our abseil to the bottom. The views on the way down were incredible. Because of the rain, a light layer of mist filled the whole cave giving it a very eerie feel. The entire decent took roughly 15 minutes but we eventually touched down on the cave floor.
After regaining feeling in our legs, we began our trek through the cave. A small river flowed through the center of the cave so we slowly made our way upstream along the rocky banks. As we got deeper into the cave, the terrain became steeper and the visibility became lower. We switched on our headlamps, and continued climbing over, and occasionally under, the formations of the cave.
After about an hour and a half in the cave it was time to make our way back to the surface, but that’s easier said than done. Our escape route started with a 60 meter tall ladder in the dead center of the cave. And this ladder did not take us out of the cave, it simply led us up one level of the caves many chambers. Climbing the ladder was defiantly the most frightening part of the journey as it was very dark and we only had one rope that we were tethered onto. It was also very hard work as I would estimate there were probably 200 rungs, and in comparison, a normal ladder has about 10. It was slow going as we had to climb one at a time but eventually we were all up the ladder.
We then had another 20 minutes of hiking and climbing before we finally reached a small outlet of the cave which deposited up on a muddy hillside. As nice as it was to be out of the cave I would have loved to go right back in.
We took the shuttle back to the main road, had a nice dinner at a local cafe, and then drove 2 hours to our hotel in Auckland.