Last weekend, three friends and I braved the NZ streets and rented a car!!! When I told my homestay’s response was, “Roadie, Ay?” hahah Yes it was a road trip and a fabulous one at that! I started the trip by ferrying into Auckland. Then I had a flashy Corolla from the 90’s waiting for me. Hello door to door service?! I was privileged to sit shot gun next to Emily, our driver ;) We drove 3 hours to Waitomo and were immediately blown away by the stars. Waitomo is very rural so the night sky was super bright and beautiful!
In the morning, we woke up early for our 9AM 5 hour “Black Abyss” Black Water Rafting adventure. I had no idea what I was in for… The trip began with wet-suit fitting and then training on how to abseil. Both consisted of 2 guides being like, this looks like it fits you… looks like you got it. LETS GO!
The trip began with each of the 8 people “abseiling” down into the cave. There was one guide at the top and one guide at the bottom, and we had to lower ourselves into the cave through a very rocky, tiny hole in the ground. I had a white knuckle death grip on the rope as I slowly lowered myself, which resulted in rope burn of course! Believe me, my helmet and my entire body were bumping into the rocks! For a sec, I thought I wouldn’t fit, but I did, and I landed on a narrow metal walkway over a huge opening in the cave. The walls of the cave were a gorgeous camel brown with long stripes through the rock. They looked so clean?! Almost like the eels and glow worms had been working hard to show off their crib! Next, we found a little hedgehog that had fallen through the hole. Sadly, he didn’t survive the fall, so we named him Mr. Prickles and threw him in the cave river. RIP Mr. Prickles!
Next, we saw the incredibly beautiful stalactites. The limestones rock chemically reacts with oxygen to drip tiny droplets of calcium that solidify and harden over hundreds of years! They looked like opaque icycles! How beautiful?! Next was a zipline where we all were instructed to turn our headlamps off and jump into the darkness! I zipped down deeper into the cave and the whole area was ILLUMINATED by glow-worms! It looked like another starry night even though it was 10AM! To get down from the zipline I had to do a pull-up so that the guide could un-do that clips to get me down… I will repeat that… Jessica Scripa did a pull-up, held it, and then dropped to the ground! Yes— I think I underestimate my strength because I did it! haha
After this, we stopped for a quick snack of hot coco and little NZ classic biscuit cookie things. Then, we went into the water! Each of us had our own black tubes, and we had to paddle ourselves down the cave with our arms. FEEL THE BURN. I was paddling myself for an hour and there was no current. haha Less rafting.. more wading through the eel infested water! It was incredible though because the cave formed a small isle where the river ran and above it, was a long path of glowworms. We eventually, turned our lights off and as our eyes adjusted to the pitch blackness, we paddled ourselves under the bright path of the glowworms. It was actually phenomenal.
After this, we walked through a series of different ways through the cave and ended up near the area where we had to climb vertically out of the cave through a waterfall. YES you read correctly. I rock climbed out of a cave with no harness or ropes VERTICALLY with rushing water coming out of the tiny hole and dumping onto me… twice. The guides were there to tap our left or right leg and guide where we should climb since the rocks that form the walls of the hole are not sturdy and sometimes fall out while climbing. This task took so much mental and physical strength! Both times I legitimately thought I was going to fall and die. I’m not being dramatic! This trip would never happen in the USA without extensive insurance or rope/pulley system.
I overcame my fear and used every bit of strength and stamina to rock climb vertically through two underground waterfalls! It was incredible to see the ray of light coming from outside and feel so accomplished! Wow! It truly was an experience of a lifetime, and after this, I have no excuses to wimp out on any risky activity because I did it! :)
Sidenote, here is what my dad told me when I told him about the trip, ”Please don’t do any more life-threatening things. I know we taught you to try new things but maybe a little less adventure would be good.”
Also, I learned that glow worms are little cannibal maggots whose poop glows! They eat each other because there is no other food in the caves, and they eventually grow into flies. And their poopy is bio-luminescent.. which is just awesome and so surprising!