It was a rainy weekend in July when eight of us study abroad students hopped in our hired cars, full of excitement for the day ahead. We were headed for the world-famous glow worm caves in Waitomo, a destination spontaneously selected the night before! The drive took a few hours so we turned up the music and admired the passing scenery; made even more beautiful by the appearance of rainbows. It was a drizzly day by the time we reached Waitomo so we wandered around the gift shop and café before heading to the headquarters of Waitomo Adventures.
We had booked to do an activity called ‘TumuTumu Toobing’ which, as the title suggests, involved exploring the caves with a rubber tube; walking, crawling and floating along the underground river. Unfortunately, or fortunately as it turned out, when we signed in at Waitomo Adventures we were informed that due to the amount of rainfall, the caves for that particular activity were flooded and thus there was to be no ‘TumuTumu Toobing’ for anyone. A few minutes of panic and disappointment ensued when we wondered if we had driven all this way for nothing. Luckily this was not the case and we discovered that the lovely people at Waitomo Adventures were upgrading us, at no extra cost, to another activity in ‘Haggas Honking Holes’. My heart sank when were told that ‘this is not a trip for the faint-hearted’, gone were my dreams of gently floating along a river under the twinkling lights of the glow worms above. Nevertheless, I put my fears aside as we filled out medical forms and waivers and headed by minibus to the cave site. There we suited up, laughing at each other’s struggle to pull on the damp wetsuits, oversized gumboots and ever-so attractive helmets. We were led to an area just above the caves where we spent around 20 minutes learning the techniques of abseiling. It was clear that even though three instructors were coming into the caves with us, we were going to have a lot of independence when it came to abseiling and climbing 80metres underground.
Finally, it was time to head into the caves which required us to first fling ourselves into a dark hole attached to a single rope, a clue of what was to come! What followed was three hours of crazy adventure. We abseiled down gushing waterfalls (an experience the team likened to being ‘flushed down the loo on a rope’), scaled ancient rock formations, crawled through tight spaces and sang silly songs to keep morale up and stop our shivering. One of the main highlights for me was seeing the glow worms, like twinkling blue stars, across the walls and ceilings of the caves. We learnt that the worms are actually maggots and that their bioluminescence or ‘glow’ is used to attract their prey. I thought that the light they created in an otherwise pitch-black environment was beautiful. By the time we crawled out of the cave we were all exhausted. The adventure had been exhilarating, terrifying and a lot of fun and I would recommend it to anyone. It was a great way to bond with people I’d only just met and we left Waitomo tired, happy and thankful for the memories we’d made that day.