For our second day in NZ we were off to Waitomo to see their world famous glow-worms. Even with turn-by-turn directions by Google we managed to get a bit off course. Luckily we had given ourselves plenty of extra time, and decided to stop in a small town for coffee. Stepping out of the car we were immediately greeted by the smell of roasting coffee. The smell led us to the Otorohanga Railway Station. Well, it used to be a railway station...now its home the Origin Coffee Company. We drank some very good coffee while the sounds and smells of coffee roasting filled the room.
There are several guide services in the Waitomo area; we chose The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company. Our guides, "Monkey" and Brydie, equipped us with thick wetsuits and helmets, and gave us a quick lesson on how to our use our gear to descend into the caves.
We Rappelled ("abseiled" over here) 35 meters into a small dark hole, our headlamps trying to illuminate as our eyes adjusted to the abyss. We explored an amazing new world, saw incredible limestone formations, stalactites and stalagmites, took a "Flying Fox" (zip-line) ride in the dark, met "Cecil" a fresh water eel who lives in one of the many water holes and has become quite accustomed to the many tours that wade through his little home.
We climbed up tubes in the rocks with water rushing down, squeezed through tight passageways and jumped, up to 15 ft in one case, into pools of dark, cold water. And sometimes we just floated on our backs, in silence, with helmet-lights off looking up at the roof of the cave watching what look like green stars in the night sky.
When the adventure was over we took a different route back to Rotorua. It was longer, but easier to navigate. and made for a very scenic drive back. And no big surprise, we saw LOTS of sheep.
A quick stop in town for some take-away Thai and we were back at our hosts home. We wrapped up the evening by sharing stories about our caving adventure, and the mountain bike ride they had just returned from.