October 17

We woke up early and went for another coffee in Taupo before we hit the road. We had the opportunity to try four different cafes during our time there. We decided we are going to start ordering something different every time we get coffee in an attempt to broaden our horizons.

We made our way toward Waitomo for our caving expedition in the glow worm caves. The drive took a couple of hours, but when we arrived we were early enough to get lunch in Waitomo, one of our worst meals yet (and that’s saying something after the Whanganui roast dinner fiasco). Flavorless pizza and salad, a disappointment. However, we did have the chance to begin our most recent challenge, the Whittaker’s challenge. We want to try every single flavor of Whittaker’s chocolate that is available. Today we branched out to try white chocolate with raspberry. It was a pleasant surprise, given that I am not a white chocolate fan.

We headed to the Kiwi Cave Rafting company after lunch. Our group was only five people, including ourselves. There was a couple from Holland, a German man and then us. Our guide was a Kiwi named Rachel. We signed away our lives and were packed into a van. Rachel drove us down a gravel backroad to two shipping containers and a dilapidated building with six showers and toilets. She handed us wet suits, wet socks, a jacket, strange pants that we wore over our wetsuits, helmets, boots and harnesses. We put the outfits over our bathing suits and socks. There was a lot of giggling and teasing about the look and the unfortunate smell of the wetsuits.

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However, it was a great icebreaker with our fellow adventurers and we really hit it off with Ben and Martin, the couple from Holland. After we were all dressed we were packed back into the van and driven to the entrance of the cave. By this time we ere a bit nervous, especially when Rachel demonstrated abseiling, which is rappelling straight down into a chasm. The drop was 27 meters. She clipped us to the safety line and had us sit down into space. It was terrifying. We then controlled our descent speed using one hand. It was one of the most fun things that I had never done. I lost any fear as soon as I began to descend. Everyone said they wish that it had lasted longer or that we could do it again. Once we were all down, we rafted down through the dark caves on inner tubes. Looking up at the ceiling, we could see hundreds of points of light. It looked like the night sky and stars. It was completely surreal. We floated in the dark, but I never once felt nervous. It was amazing. We sat down on a rocky bank in the middle of a dark 400 square meter cavern and Rachel gave us background about the life of glow worms. They are actually the baby maggots of gnats that only live for three days once they reach adulthood because they do not have mouths or working stomachs. They only mate for 48 hours, reproduce and then die. The baby maggots produce the light and sticky fibers that trap flies attracted to the light for them to eat. They have three meals during their entire time as glow worms, then they build chrysalises and grow to adulthood. Next we formed a chain on our inner tubes and rode the opposite direction down some minor rapids. It was fun! We threw our tubes on a bank and went caving. This is where you climb around the caves and through tiny passages. I had fully expected to feel panicked, but instead I just enjoyed the experience. It was challenging in some parts to find the right footholds. One passage in particular is called the Superman because you have to put your arms through first just so you will fit. It was a blast. At one part we stopped for a snack and we saw an actual weta! It was smaller than the pictures, but I was so excited to see my first one! Then we waded back through the water with our inner tubes. Some parts were slippery and precarious. When we got back we had to climb a nearly vertical rock wall to get back out again. I volunteered to go first. The wall was 20 meters high and finding places to grab on was difficult. However, I fully feel like I found my spider monkey zen and made it up quickly. It was a wonderful feeling to complete the adventure. Lindsay also had a great time. She had been worried about the heights and the small spaces in the caves, but she completely loved it!

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Tonight, we are staying in a National Park on the way to Rotorua. We have a huge list of activities that we want to do there, so we will likely have to stay for a couple days!

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