Blackwater Rafting in Waitomo, New Zealand (December 19-20, 2011)

Monday, December 19, 2011
What a wet morning. Kris and I woke up at 6am to the sound drizzling rain and morning bird calls. Baby ducks waddled behind their mother just next to our camper van scouring for breakfast, and we wasted little time packing up the car and readying ourselves for the day. Our longest drive is today with an estimated 6.5 hour drive. Tomorrow is Blackwater Rafting!

After checking in to our Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park, we were advised by the lady who checked us in to go on a few short walks. 4km down the road was a really nice bush walk considered one of the nicest short walks in New Zealand. It was about a 30 minute walk to see caves and an active stream. It was quite lovely.

Her next recommendation was an hour drive to see a natural bridge and waterfall. We overshot the drive and ended up at a black sand beach. Looking at the sand, you would think it to be hot and rough, but it was cool and super soft. We were happy for the detour.

We backtracked to go to Marokopa Falls. Man was this waterfall impressive!

A quick hop in the car and we were off to see Natural Bridge. Formed by limestone, this bridge used to be part of a cave. Kris had fun jumping on the swing bridge along the way.

Naturally, Skitler came too.

We made record time setting up the Spaceship today. Dinner was italian food at a local pizzeria. I'm feeling rather accomplished.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The Waitomo Top 10 was our busiest so far. The small kitchen area was packed for breakfast. We spoke to fellow Spaceship owners from the UK about the Spaceship. They wanted advice on their campervan since they'd only gotten it the day before. The only advice I could give was not to waste their time putting up the side awning. It is the only disappointing part of the Spaceship...other than the very flat pillows. We also advised them to keep their fridge on a low level, as it will freeze their liquids. (Hooray for having a fridge that keeps things cool!)

We didn't waste time this morning getting ready, as we were off to The Legendary BlackWater Rafting Company for our Black Abyss blackwater rafting tour. Step one was getting everyone into wetsuits.

The wetsuits they provide have elbow, knee, and butt padding. They also have ninja masks for ladies (for our hair), helmets, and booties. I have never been in a wetsuit. It was really difficult to maneuver into, and it was even more challenging to walk around in the wetsuit.

After everyone was dressed, we got a few photos and then we were off to practice abseiling.

They taught us how to load our racks and had us do several test runs learning both speed control (left hand) and our brake (right hand). It is amazing how much control you actually get over the abseil, and the practice course was exactly what we needed to feel comfortable with plunge.

Kris and I were the last to descend into the cave.

When abseiling into the cave, Neil rigged up our racks. He checks your safety equipment, then has you do a full sit in your harness while you have your brake on. You then force yourself to take your feet off of the platform to hang over a hole while he takes your photo...then away you go.

Abseiling was amazing! I did more than half of my abseiling in the complete dark, as my light wasn't turned on. I think it was rather fun in the dark though. Once I got to the larger opening at the bottom, Reno yelled up at me to turn on my light. Then I completed the rest of my descent quickly....or I thought so until Kris came down the hole all Mission Impossible style kicking his legs off of the wall. The lady sitting next to me (Hailey) called him James Bond. Reno asked him if he'd abseiled before once he got to the bottom.

After we were all down, it was time to complete a flying fox in the dark. They rig you up and you zipline through the cave in the dark. Awesome! I did a woo hoo. Mrs. Tahiti (French lady on our trip from Tahiti) actually screamed. I am not certain if she knew enough English to really understand what was about to happen to her.

When you got to the bottom, you had to do a pull-up to release the rigging, you got out of your harness, then found a rock to lay on and look at glowworms while the others zip lined. After everyone was done, we moved to the edge of the cliff in the cave and were given a cookie to eat and hot chocolate to drink while we gazed at the glowworms. Spectacular!

Next up? We were given our inner tubes and had to jump off of a platform landing with our rear ends in the tube. Quite the adrenaline rush, and it wasn't that easy. One of our trip companions didn't quite make it. Oh yeah...the water was bloody cold!

While freezing, we now had to pull ourselves in the tubes upstream with ropes. When the rope rigging ended, we had to get out of the tubes to walk, run, and swim to a section filled with glowworms. We wriggled, maneuvered or jumped back into out tubes, and Reno told us all about the glowworms.

His awesome summary, "glowworms are carnivorous cannibalistic maggots with shiny poop that fish for 9 weeks, sleep for 2, then shag themselves to death". Regardless, they are super cool to see glowing or hanging with lights.

For a more impressive view of the cave and glowworms, Reno had us make ourselves into an eel (hug feet of person behind you) so he could pull us through the cave with our lights off. It was so peaceful and pretty.

We eeled for a while before we were to get out of our tubes and toss them to Neil. Kris had the only successful throw. Reno had to throw them up. While everyone else was tossing tubes, Kris grabbed me and started to -get this- slow dance!?! And, if that wasn't strange/funny enough, Mr. Tahiti played the imaginary violin for us.

I am not sure if it was coincidental, but Reno had us all start doing dance moves to warm up at that point. We were doing the lawnmower, disco, Kris chose the Twist, but I threw everything off when I said hand jive.

On foot through the water we trekked until we got to a slide. We all slid and then it was time for an adventure pee with Mrs. Tahiti and Hailey (UK). I apparently have a shy bladder though, so I couldn't cooperate.

The heavy rains of late made for perfect current conditions in the cave that we could back-float through a lot of it.

Because floating makes you cold, it was time for a sit and some hot orange beverage and a chocolate bar. Reno mixed some of the hot orange with river water to make a warm concoction that he pored down the wetsuits of all the ladies. It felt really nice!

We continued hiking through the water and climbing waterfalls until we reached an optional massive climb. I opted to go out the easy way...I was the only wuss.

After a short drive back to the facilities, we were able to take off the wetsuits, have a warm shower, and they provided us with toasted bagels and tomato soup.

After leaving Waitomo, we headed to Rotorua to stay at the Waiteti Trout Stream Holiday Park. Truth be told, I don't think I can say enough nice things about this place. The owners checked us in, and they were so very friendly and helpful. After giving us a lowdown of the free amenities (like kayaks free for guest use), a ton of coupons, and a print-out with many free attractions and directions, she walked us to our spot right on the river. They don't have an additional charge here for powered vs. non-powered sites, and the entire place has a very family friendly feel. The Trout Man is on property if you want to learn to fly fish, and there were picnic tables provided. We had the best spot right on the river, and there were swans and ducks. There was even a family of ducks - momma duck with her babies.

Not only do they have a spotlessly clean kitchen area, they provide you with pots, pans, silverware, cups, plates, and etc. They just ask you to wash whatever you use. They provided a toaster, toaster oven, hot water kettle, several ovens/stoves, and fridges. They also provided sponges, soap, and dishtowels. Next door was an entertainment area with couches, tv, brochures, pool table, ping pong table, and piano. The bathroom was free with full length mirror, proper hairdryer (that didn't require holding a button to keep it running), free hot water solar showers, and several stalls. Highly recommend for a relaxing, secluded, safe, friendly place to stay.

After running into town to buy postcards and a pillow at a local mall, we spent time in the amenities area photo editing and writing out postcards. If you got one, consider yourself lucky. They are expensive!

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