Sunday, September 20, 2009

Waitomo and Black Water Rafting

Two days ago (Saturday) we went black water rafting, which was everything I hoped it would be and MORE! We decided to do the 5 hour Black Abyss tour rather than the 3 hour version, and it was absolutely worth the extra money.

They gave us super attractive wetsuits, jackets, boots, and helmets:

We absailed 37 meters into the cave and it was SO COOL!!!! They used a crazy climbing device and I felt totally safe, and it was amazing seeing all the layers of the cave as we repelled down. Here’s a photo of us practicing!

Then we went on a flying fox (zip-lining) in total blackness, so we were surrounded by glow worms as we whizzed through the cave. Terrifying, especially since I went first, but totally exhilarating. I really want to go zip lining in Australia!

Next we got inner tubes and jumped about 10 feet down into the freezing cold lake. The water is around 11* C, which is REALLY brisk, and we tubed up and down the river to see more cave formations. We had our headlamps on as we went up the river, and then floated back down with our lights off so we could see the glow worms. It was gorgeous – there were tens of thousands of glow worms and it looked like a greenish version of the Milky Way. Absolutely indescribable and incredible. The photo I post doesn’t do it justice at all, but gives you an idea – make sure you enlarge it!:

Then we alternately walked, stumbled, and swam through the river to see more worms and cave formations. We also army crawled through some small spaces and it felt SO HARDCORE. Except they gave us SNACKS!!! Haha we weren’t expecting it, but they gave us hot chocolate and a snack bar after the zip lining, and a hot orange-y drink and a slab of chocolate after we crawled around in the water for awhile.

At one point, we had to slide our on bellies to get over a rock formation:

We stopped to take a legit group photo:

And then proceeded to climb up two waterfalls. I’ve included a sample photo they gave us, since they couldn’t take photos of us actually doing it, but it was super awesome! And here’s one of me crawling through the caves:

And finally conquering the waterfalls:

We finally emerged into the open about 4 hours after we first entered the cave. I can’t believe we were in there for that long – and it wasn’t over yet!! We got back to the base and had a hot shower, then they gave us as much tomato soup and as many toasted, buttery bagels as we wanted. It was delicious and super relaxing. What a wonderful experience =)

We then hung out at Curly’s bar for a couple hours until our bus came. We had eaten there the previous night and watched a rugby game. It’s a really nice, chill bar, and basically the only option for food in Waitomo. Here’s a photo of the entire village – about 3 shops, with no grocery store/ATM/etc…, just a couple hostels and a place to book cave tours/black water rafting. It was interesting to stay for one night, but one night was definitely enough.

We took a bus to Hamilton, where we checked into our hostel and then had our last dinner/night in New Zealand! We went to the nearest bar to get dinner and watch the All Blacks vs. Wallabies rugby match (New Zealand vs. Australia – kind of a big deal) and the All Blacks won!! The food was excellent and there were tons of enthusiastic rugby fans of all ages, so it was a great place to spend our last night in NZ, especially since we watched the NZ team win and have some incredible plays. Rugby is way more hardcore than football, and after actually watching a couple rugby matches, I have even more respect for how tough those guys are. Daaaaang. I knew the girls were tough because I watched a Stanford rugby game, but the professionals take it to a whole different level.


P.S. Now we’re in Australia! A really nice Brisbane local, Geoff (spelled the right way), picked us up at the airport in Brisbane and took us to the motel we’ll be staying at for the net week of orientation. We were one of the last groups to arrive, so lots of people were already sleeping even though it was only about 8 PM. Lisa was already there so we had a great catch-up talk and hung out with the group of people still awake until about 10. Then it was time to crash! Today is the first day of orientation, so I’ll update more about that as the day unfolds.

P.P.S. We get a morning and afternoon tea break during orientation. I already LOVE this country and program!

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