Today our destination is Rotarua, an area famous for its geothermal activity. Halfway through the day we stopped off in a place called Waitomo which translates as Wai = water in Maori and
Tomo = caves.
Because I only had 1 week for the north island and I'd already been up to the Bay Of Islands, I only had around 5 days left and so was in a bit of a rush to do and see as much as possible in this short amount of time. Therefore although I had neither much time or money left I'd decided that it would be silly to visit the north island and do nothing at all in terms of the amazing activies available, I would in summary just be doing a bus tour around the island while everyone else was enjoying themselves actually doing things - boring! I explained the situation to Miss P and of all the activities to do in the north island she recommended the 8 hour alpine crossing at Rongariro National Park.... BUT due to time restraints and Stray winter bus timetables this wouldn't be feasable, and so number two on her list was to go caving in Waitomo, the afternoon stop before reaching the city of Rotorua. DONE.
We were given around 5 different options in terms of which caves we could visit and what exactly we could do in them. I was tempted to go for the cheapest one (which in fact most of the group went for) which was pretty much a couple of abseils and a zipline through some underground caverns - all happy and nice and fun and easy and dry. Instead, I decided to go for the most physically exerting option which is described by the caving company as 'Indiana Jones in a washing machine' ha. The only other person who chose this was Marius (nickname-Luigi) and another guy who was to meet us there and scheduled to join our bus for a couple of days. It turns out he was a farmer from Cumbria and so instantly got the obvious nickname of....farmer. So Farmer, Luigi and I got kitted up in a wetsuit, lifejacket (of sorts), helmet and wellies and were then given a brief lesson on abseiling where we just practised on a hill with a rope tied to a post. Hm. It turns out later we found out we were pretty lucky in terms of group numbers as there were only the 3 of us and 2 instructors (a Glaswegian guy and a fella from NZ) so there was no waiting around and we got to get stuck in straight away, whereas the other group had about 6 from our bus and then met another 8 people who'd prebooked themselves and so had to wait for ages to get through everybody. Unfortuantely I wasn't allowed to bring my camera in with me but the two instructors had one with them which they would shove in your face every now and again and get some unflattering shot of you struggling to climb up a rockface or squeeze through a tiny hole all the while with water gushing in your eyes. We got to view them on a massive TV screen at the end to decide whether we wanted to buy them (we didn't) which was pretty embarassing but super funny for everyone else watching. The whole caving thing went by pretty fast even though we were down there for a couple of hours. It was pretty much jampacked full of abseils (in the pitch black), crawling, swimming, ducking and walking into rocks, stalactites, stalegmites, glow worms (which they somehow captured on their magic camera) and rockclimbing - all with water constantly gushing into your face. The wellies were pointless as they were filled within 5 minutes and my hands were frozen which didn't help with anything, but all in all it was so fun and I was glad i'd done it! (And exhausted).
We found out after that part of the Lord of the Ring films were filmed here, in particular The Hobbit because of all the rolling hills (which the caves are underneath). We had a welcoming hot shower before getting changed and going back to look at our embarassing photos and then jumped aboard the Stray bus to head to our stop for the night, Rotorua.