The name Waitomo, which come from wai (water) and tomo (hole or shaft) is appropriate: dotted throught the countryside are numerous shafts dropping abruptly into underground cave systems and streams. There are more than 300 mapped caves in the area and these limestome caves and accompanying limestone formations make up one of the premier attractions of the north island.
We had booked a tour and turned up at the hostel where it began. After checking into our room and grabbing a bite to eat we were off in a jeep to the start of our cave. We were taken to get fitted up with wetsuits, helmets and lights and then given a quick abseiling lesson. We were then taken to the top of the cave and each of us abseiled down 30m into the cave. It was great fun, the worst part being the stepping off at the top into nothingness !
We then did some caving and wandered through streams and across rocks into the depths of the cave. These caves are best known for their glow-worms and when we turned our lights out there was an amazing sight of all the glow-worms on the ceiling. If loud noises were made, the amount of glow-worms increased. It was like looking up into a clear night sky with thousands of tiny little lights. They glow to attract insects to them which then get caught in sticky web like strands which the glow-worms make.
We also floated back down the river on a rubber ring in the blackness which was an incredible feeling. The water was cold but the wet suits helped alot. After another walk through the cave we did a rock climb up a 30m wall to the surface. After a hot shower and a change of clothing we were back at the hostel.
We made our own dinner and watched a bit of tv in the evening.
Unfortunately Nick had had a cold and the water rafting must have brought on a chest infection. After not being able to sleep (or hardly breath) the whole night we decided we needed to take a trip to a medical centre. The nearest one was in Hamilton some 45 mins away so we set off early with Monica driving and went into an emergency ward. After some steroids and an oxygen mask Nick felt a bit better. The doctor confirmed he had a chest infection and prescribed some antibiotics and some more steroids. We left the medical centre an hour later, very tired but at least Nick could breath again !
Rap, Raft n Rock - Great way to see the caves ($99 pp) and they have their own hostel which is very convenient ($50 for private room).