Hey! US three got our bus in the morning from Rotorua and went slightly out of town to where the Agrodome is- lot of countryside activities going on here, we watched a show with different breeds of sheep in NZ, and watched a guy sheer one (he was a bit of a comedian this guy, made it pretty entertaining). They lined up 30 or so sheep on the stage at different levels, and then he got his sheepdogs (hunterway breed, very cool barking dog for herding big numbers of sheep in the hilly NZ countryside), and he got them to run and jump over all the sheep, which werent bothered and some fell asleep lol. He also showed us his other breed of working dog- its the NZ version of a border collie- its a border collie crossed with whippet and pointer, for increased speed, finer build, and shorter coat. Very cool dog.
We then watched some people from our group go zorbing, we were planning on doing it but it was a bit expensive and it lasted like 10 seconds. Also when we watched it didnt look like much of a thrill, I thought they had 3 people bouncing about and whacking into each other inside the plastic ball as it went down the hill- but these ones had one person in each one, sometimes strapped in.
We wandered off across to an area being used for horse shows, and today was the National Appaloosa show! So I wandered into the showground (sarah and claire didnt want to, worried they werent allowed). I chattered to two women who had brought their horses and talked about generally keeping a horse in NZ. I was glad to see most people here seem pretty savvy with horses- natural horsemanship all round, natural halters, also saw one women handling a foal at liberty in a field, then she haltered in, took it up to some new things, took it back to its mum and let it off after a nice session. Everyone at the show was relaxed and friendly (not like a show in the UK- people stressing out and losing it with their horses generally, natural horsemanship is catching on but slowly).
We then went on to Waitomo, the place of the caves!! p.s. on the way we watched The Whale rider, classic NZ film. Anyway, place of the caves- we had a choice on the bus whether you wanted to do 3 hours of black water rafting or 5 hrs of abseiling, zip lining, climbing up waterfalls, black water rafting and squeezes. Me and claire chose the latter and sarah did the hour one. Both good but I wanted to do caving, never done it before. When we got to Waitomo the town was tiny- about 5 buildings, and the scenery is beautiful, typical of NZ really.
Sarah got dropped off for her rafting literally as soon as we checked in, so me and claire had some time to kill before we found out what it had been like. Our driver took our group to do a 40min scenic rainforest and cave walk, which was brilliant. There were boarded platforms that went into the caverns, and some tunnels too. Me and claire did get separated from the group as we made some detours, but we found them again. After the walk everyone got bk on the bus to go bk to the hostel, but me and claire wanted to do more walking, so our driver told us about a one hour and 20 min walk bk to the hostel, via some cliffs, then following the river for a while into countryside and then through some fields with cows and stuff (bless her she warned us about cows!? We were like, weve lived on farms we wont be sad and panic or anything!). The walk was so so nice, I love the countryside here- there are green, hilly areas with the odd massive rocks protruding, beautiful rivers and streams, and some pine forests, then some jungle areas. Bit of everything really. We went through a place that could have been hobbiton, but prettier lol. Saw some cool birds, went right to the top of one hill where we could see the whole town and valleys, and we spotted a castle like building on the top of one hill- it was a hotel and restaurant.
Later, when we got bk and sarah was back (she had an amazing time but warned us that it was freezing cold in the water in the caves!), we all walked to the top of the hill with the hotel, and had dinner there. It was very posh, not too expensive either (dinner for a tenner again, I had red snapper fish, very very nice. Im never going to want to eat cod again). We stayed there for a while, also had a little exploring walk, just to the loos, but we had to go down a corridor and the lights were off lol. It was very spooky cus it turns out the reception and restaurant area are modern and posh, while the rest of the hotel is like walking back into the 1950's, everything was flowery and old! We walked bk from the hotel in the dark down some random road, only 2mins but still thought it was freaky, and went to bed at like half 9 lol, knackered and me and claire had to get up early for our 5 hours of caving adventure! Sarah got a lie in (til half 8, that is a brill lie in for us). So jealous.
Me and claire got picked up and taken to get our equipment (had extra thermal layers unlike sarahs group which helped, didnt get too cold). We started off practicing abseling once, and then straight onto the 35m straight down abseil into the cave! You had to abseil through some narrow bits of rock, twisting and scrunching up while remembering how not to break your thumbs as you let the rope through. It was very cool when you abseiled into the open bit of the cave and then down in the open to the bottom, in the dark pretty much. Got the bottom, attached our lines from our harness's onto a line in the wall and went along, with head torches off, across a narrow bit of rock over a cavern...and then zip lined, one by one, in the dark, over a waterfall and onto a cliff where we had a quick break. I loved it, though at one point, cus the lights were off and there was some downwards steps in the path, I had my leg in the air looking for the next step, only to turn my torch on and find that I was lowering myseld into the cavern. lol. Hence attaching yourself to a line is a good idea. I yanked myself bk up!
Next we jumped off a pretty high cliff bit into the water in a big open part of the cave, with a rubber ring to land sitting in, hopefully lol. We all did fine and the rings made a really cool sound as they hit the water, mega loud (the guide made that noise to freak us out as did the zip line in the dark- and you could see the glow worms! Theyre eveywhere in these caves, awesome).
We then did black water rafting, in our tubes, for an hour. We kept walking, then jumping in the tubes and going along. We made a line, all 12 of us, with each person holding someone elses feet under their arms, and using your arms to paddle as you sat in your rubber ring. With head torches off, we paddled in the dark, glow worms in their hundreds above you head and rock walls on either side, for ages. The guides made funny noises, mostly we hummed this tune- 'in the jungle, the might jungle, the lion sleeps tonight...ah whimbaway Awhimbaway...etc'. It was so cool cus it echoed off the walls and made it seem creepy and beautiful at the same time!
We kept going, me and claire with one guy and girl in the front ahead of us, and then suddenly the guy thudded his head, and we had a traffic jam lol, put our torches on found that we'd hit a dead end! The other groups dont go this far, its the start of the cave. We all stayed here for a bit as the guide came and talked about glow worms, then we paddles back, in the dark again, separately this time (kept bumping into protruding rocks or suddenly finding a wall lol). It took a while but we got back to where we'd starting the rafting and then walked and swam through other parts of the caves system.
This bit of the trip was amazing- we saw an eel, swam in the dark, did a squeeze on your belly through some rock, and then went down a squeeze in the rock for a while. We got to parts that you had toc rawl under or go on your belly, and we climbed up two narrow waterfalls, steep and really really good fun! I was the only person who didnt get help on the first one- apparently the guide gave people a push up the bum! I wouldve been so pissed if he'd helped me like that lol, I had the strength to pull myself up though. It actually reminded me of how much I love climbing, I ever get to do it at home.
We went down a passage way one by one after the waterfall, each of us finding the light and then emerging out the caves. I was sad to leave, I'd loved it! Three hours didnt seem like long enough, time flies underground!
We got our hot showers, soup or whatever, and got on the bus with sarah and our group to head for Taupo! Watched 'The worlds fastest indian' on the way on the coach, another classic NZ film. Got to Taupo at about 3pm, went to Huki falls which was cool, the water is a bright, light blue colour which was different. The lake Taupo is the biggest in NZ- you could fit singapore init! We got bk on the bus, checked into base in town, went shopping for warm clothes (I got a fleece but have no coat yet). We got some energy food too- all cus were planning to make the most of our day at Taupo tomorrow- were doing the Tangaririo Crossing!!
This is an immense, 8 hour walk to the mountains over looking Taupo (one of them is Mt.Doom- Lord of the rings!). And the weather can really shift up there. We get picked up at 6.20am tomorrow! Sarah and claire are in bed, Im doing my blog (hard work I tell you!!), we walked round the lake earlier after shopping, claire and sarah went to pizza hut but I wasnt hungry enough to eat out and ate at the hostel. Will write bk tomorrow to let you know how it goes!!