As the car wound its way towards Waitomo, the New Zealand sun shone through the mist waking the sheep, cows and ostriches from their afternoon nap in the fields. As the limestone blocks began rising out of the paddocks, I wondered what subterranean wonders lay in wait for two Canadians to discover and enjoy. I knew the basics that in this area the limestone/karst formations have over millennia underground passages and, chambers were linked together creating many cave systems and there were over 300 independent discovered systems in the Waitiomo area. After some spacey day dreaming, luckily I wasn’t driving the car rolled into the HTG Huts parking lot. We unloaded the packs, brewed up a French press of coffee and began shuffling through the maps drawer with Stan, the enthused and uber helpful hut warden. An hour later we decided to sit out on the sun deck and enjoy the spectacular views of the sun setting over the countryside.
The next morning we decided to begin our week in Waitomo by investigating the easily accessible Shangri-La. The hike to the downstream entrance was stunning making its way through a farmers paddock and only a thirty minute drive from the hut. I had heard stories of the Maori water spirit, Taumanui and decided it would be a good idea for the team (Carole, Anneli, Flynn and I) to ask for its blessing before entering the stream. Once we had asked the water spirit to protect and help us on our quest to find the Mud cave, waterfalls and the exit we entered the awespicous cave. Tramping through the stream and investigating side passages along the way we loved the large spacious chambers and the luminescent glow worms that lived there. As we continued tramping deeper into the earth we spied a four inch fresh water crayfish with peaceful red eyes, a few mighty mites, cool stalactites, and diamondesque ceilings with shiny straws. After two hours of enthused energized caving we reached Twin waterfalls and decided to head back to the downstream entrance while trying to find a few of the side passages we had missed previously. An hour later of cavetastical exploration and two nifty neon glow worm shows we walked out of the downstream entrance into a warm humid light filled afternoon.
Upon returning to the HTGT hut we had hot showers in clean spacious stalls and then whipped up a tortellini and fresh veggie salad in the well equipped kitchen.We toasted to the underground gods and this was followed by a great night’s sleep in a comfortable bunk filled with soda straws and stalagmite filled dreams.
The first day’s trip into Waitomos subterranean wonderland was adrenalin filled fuelled start to our week of caving. The stunning lights given off by the glow worms provided a delightful visual intoxication and the thought of a spiritual being protecting us in the underground stream added sense mysticism. The facilities provided by the Hamilton Tomo Group were first rate which added a comforting reassurance to the end of each days sport filled spelunking adventures.