Waitomo & Taupo, 1st - 2nd August 2010
Giant rabbits, Black water rafting, Glow worms & Mount Doom.
Giant white super fluffy rabbits
We were up nice and early to make the journey from Rotorua to Taupo and boarded the coach completely oblivious to what lay ahead. We made a quick stop off at a White German Angora Rabbit Shearing shed (try saying that quickly 10 times in a row). Soooooooo cute - birthday present alert people! hehehe. Apparently they have to sheer them otherwise they overheat and die. They have really tiny hearts which can't keep them cool enough, and since humans started shaving them they have lost the ability to shed their fur. Another species we've completely f***ed then, poor things.
We took some pics and saw them getting sheered. They tie them up in a contraption I'd expect to see in a saw movie and the woman was trying to convince everyone a bit too much that they liked it.I don't think so somehow.
Black water rafting - "If you need a blanket for your Kidneys, you know it's going to be cold."
When you're on the coach they pass round a list of activities you can do throughout the day and one of them was black water rafting with glow worms. It's called black water because it's in a cave about 30 meters underground, but I'm not sure why it's called rafting as you do it in giant rubber ring.
Now don't ask me why we thought this would be a good idea - in summertime maybe, but mid winter? Maybe we were thinking the Glow Worms would keep us warm or something.
There were 8 of us from the Magic coach doing the tour and we all set off to the base camp. The guides started explaining all of the kit including belts we had to wear inside our double layer wet suits to keep our Kidney's warm, yep, it was going to be that cold! There were 2 guys and 6 girls and we all headed off to the changing rooms. There were only 4 showers so the 6 of us girlies were all huddled together trying to soak the wetsuits and ourselves to get them on quicker as even in the changing room was freezing. We certainly got very familiar with each other in a very short space of time and were all trying to shake each other into each other's wet suits, trying to pull up parts of the legs and arms on everyone and helping each other get kitted up. We were all cracking up when we left the changing room and went out to meet the 2 guides and the 2 lads who unsurprisingly were already there and waiting.
We were dropped at the edge of a forest, all picked our rubber rings and headed off to the entrance of the cave. So surreal - we were walking through what we all felt was Devon, in wet suits, wellies & hard hats, carrying rubber rings and in the pouring rain. We then got to the entrance of the cave and started negotiating our way through the tunnels and small streams for about 20 minutes before we got to the start of the river. It was pretty hairy in parts and I remember thinking if anyone slipped and really hurt themselves it would be a nightmare trying to get them out, but thankfully everyone was fine.
Once we had got over the awkward parts of the cave, the water was now knee high and we had to turn off our headlights in order to see the Glow Worms. And being 30 meters underground in a cave obviously made everything completely pitch black. We had to put our rings over our heads and then drop them on the water, so to start with they were at our knees and they gradually came up the further into the cave we got. It also made everyone walk really slowly which was very good as it was pitch black and we had to walk along in the water holding on to the person in front with our left hands and feeling our way along the wall with our right hands. The freezing water was slowly creeping up with each step and none of us could see where we were going. But the Glow Worms were stunning and were lighting the ceiling of the passage we way we were stumbling and splashing our way through.
The streams joined and flowed into a larger river over a waterfall. To get into the deeper water as quickly as possible we all jumped backwards off of the waterfall rather than easing ourselves in gently down the stairs.Fecking hell that water was cold - it actually took my breath away! Arrrgghhh the thought of it running down the back of my wet suit is sending shivers down my spine.
We all got into our rings and started paddling, however the water was so cold it felt like you were rubbing your arms against ice and was so painful we all started pushing ourselves along the river by kicking off of the wall.
So we're all lying there in the pitch black and in the coldest water I've ever experienced (and I've been on some pretty cold dives), lying in our rings, connected in a line with our feet under the arms of the person in front and we're all floating through the caves looking at the Glow Worms. Antoni the little performer that he is starts singing and it wasn't long before we all joined in.We sang; we are sailing, my heart will go on, bridge over troubled water, let it be, old man river and with a little help from my friends. An absolutely unforgettable experience. :)
When we got to the end of the river we had to climb out and then zoom down a really steep slide into another pool of water. I was so cold by this point I could barely feel my arms, so it all rushing down my back again no longer bothered me. We all started climbing out of the caves and making our way back up to the rest of civilisation and we were all doing yoga poses with our legs up in the air trying to get the water out our boots so it didn't feel like we had weights strapped to our legs. The girls again all dived back into the showers, but this time we were all pulling each other's clothes off. Seriously, the situations we manage to get ourselves into! So after a mug of warm soup we headed back up to the coach with a load of tales to tell. It took a few more hours to get to Taupo and as we were in a really remote part of the country there was no radio coverage so we all volunteered Antoni to sing to us. The whole bus was firing requests at him and he sang for a solid 2 hours, everything from Elvis to Kings of Leon to Whitney Houston. He even sang the whole 8 minute original version of American Pie. Seriously, he needs to go on X Factor or something.
On the way to Wellington we drove through part of the Tongariro National Park which is a World Heritage site. They have a 20k Alpine Trek which looks stunning, but unfortunately it was shut whilst we were there due to the weather conditions.
However, the weather lifted a bit for us to see some of the parks very dramatic scenery whilst driving to Wellington. The driver pulled over so we could get out and take pics of some of the snow capped mountain ranges, including Mt Nhauruhoe aka Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings.
We are now all on the coach to New Zealand's capital Wellington and have come to realisation that we all really need to wash our clothes. There are about 20 of us that have been travelling together since Rotorua and as it was raining this morning and we all got damp, the coach now has a distinctive eggy smell to it - the smell of Rotorua. Soooo disgusting! I can't believe we'll be half way down the country and the smell of that town is still haunting us.
We've also just caused absolute havoc on the coach as we were chatting to Rungy (the driver) yesterday about being gutted we couldn't go see the All Blacks play on Saturday as we couldn't get to Christchurch in time. He came up with a plan for us how we could do it and said he'd confirm today. He called us down to the front of the coach on the tannoy system and we all got chatting about it. We made such a noise calling airlines, ferry companies, the Magic Office and hostels in Christchurch, that not only are we going but so are 5 other people on the coach. :) We've managed to get a wicked deal which includes the ferry to the south island, Coastal train to Christchurch, our accommodation in Christchurch and a rugby package with a couple of drinks, transfers, the tickets and face painting. :) Think we might need some Haka lessons beforehand.
Anyway there's now 7 of us doing it, a couple more looking into it, and we're all staying in the same hostel so it will be wicked being able to go in a big group.
As a quick news flash I'd also like to point out that our driver has successfully managed to get himself pulled over by the Police not once, but twice today. Only got one speeding ticket though, so not bad odds!Mind you at this rate he'll be out of a job by Christmas.
We've just arrived in Wellington as I'm finishing writing this blog. It's so nice to actually be up-to-date with all of this. :)