The sights and sounds in New Zealand have exceeded my expectations. However, there is so much more to see than beautiful snow-capped mountains, volcanoes, and geysers; there is a magnificent world below the surface which is simply unimaginable.
During this part of our journey, in New Zealand, I expected adventure. I knew my limits would be pushed as I considered sky diving, sea kayaking, and other extreme activities. After all, that's kind of what this place is know for in addition to its beauty. Once I did a little research before arriving I also knew that one of my priorities was the glow worm caves. From the few adverts I had seen it looked like my nerdly dream come true to explore some bio-luminescent caves! So I wasn't surprised that when we signed up for this activity that some adventure would be included.
The Adventure: Abseiling, zip lines, and climbing waterfalls
So if you are going to see the sights in New Zealand it isn't enough to just stroll through some museum-like exhibition. I mean, that is an option but why choose that if you are willing and able to work a little for the sights?! So, as we came closer to our decision we went all out. We chose the black water rafting, abseiling, zip-lining, climbing waterfalls challenge to see the caves. It was a 5-hour adventure that could have lasted days and I think I would have loved every minute of it. Many in our 8-person crew were nervous as we began practicing abseiling (aka repelling) into a deep dark cavern where you have to wiggle through the "neck" of the cave before emerging into a large dark cavern. I watched as Brent happily roped in and lead our crew in the descent as the rest of us nervously watched on. At this point I was actually only semi-nervous as we had been rock climbing before so felt prepared in how to manipulate the ropes... but that "neck" looked pretty tight and I'm not too keen on small spaces.
After dropping in we continued the adrenaline by zip lining in complete darkness and jumping into a dark stream in the middle of the cave. These last two pieces got my heart pumping! After that we worked hard, hard, hard, to paddle upstream to the end of the cavern.
The emotion: Unexpected and overwhelming beauty
I'm sad to say that there are no photos or videos of this portion of the trip but it's all the more reason I urge you to make it to Waitomo if you are ever in New Zealand.
We were instructed to link up and turn off our lights. Shawn, our adventure guide, carried us through the darkness and down the long stream while we laid back and looked at the cave ceiling. It looked like a brilliant night sky. It looked like an eternal galaxy. It looked and felt like I was floating in heaven. Our rowdy whooping and hollering crew turned completely silent and there were only the sounds of the water was we floated down the dark, cool tunnel. It seemed like it lasted forever. I thought of my Mimi (who has recently passed) and I talked to her. "Mimi, can you see this? This is so amazing and beautiful and I hope you are with me right now to see this. I love you... I miss you so much." I prayed for my loved ones each individually, friends and family, and hoped that they could find the peace I had at that moment somewhere in their lives. I asked for health and happiness for everyone I know. I prayed that I would not forget the earthly silence and loud thoughts that streamed through my mind at that moment. I prayed that this peace, that I had right now, I would experience when it is my time to say goodbye to this world.
It was simply in-explainable really. I felt peace and hope and closeness to everyone I loved.
I know everyone in the group did not have that experience, but everyone did find it amazing. Everyone thought it was special. Maybe it is best I have no recording of any of this... I know that it would be able to capture that moment for me. I was thankful for the darkness in the cave so I didn't have to explain my tears. I needed a few more moments in those feelings without talking.
Eventually the tunnel float came to and end. In some ways I was relieved as it was like an intense therapy session. I'm still working through the loss of this great woman in my life and this voice-less therapy session was unexpected and caught me totally by surprise.
Back to Adrenaline
We were eased back to heart-racing stunts as we crawled, slid, swam, and climbed our way through the long long cave. My thoughts had to quickly come back to the task at hand.... moving forward out of the cave.
A highlight of our 9 month journey to date
Brent and I totally agree, for different reasons, that this was an absolute highlight of our trip. We've been so many places, had crazy adventures, and seen so many beautiful things but this was definitely something super special. Unforgettable.
Thanks to The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co for making this possible and for helping me add this great experience to my resume of life.