January 19

With our “weekend” we decided to check out the Waipu Caves, something that we had been planning to do for weeks. They are undeveloped and I haven’t heard of any tour companies visiting them. Needless to say, they were much different than my experience in the Waitomo Caves. We arrived to find a big field with several vehicles parked. A couple were campervans and their occupants appeared to be living in the field. We weren’t deterred. We followed a family down toward the caves.

Inside, the temperature was at least ten degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than outside. It was quite dark and slippery. There was a great deal of water. Apparently you have to track the weather for the previous couple days, otherwise the caves will be flooded.

We made our way off into the darkness. My torch was less than helpful and I could barely see a thing. We walked through streams and across clay-covered rocks. It was hard to tell which direction to go. We turned out our lights and there were glowworms above us! It was awesome! We asked a couple of other people for directions and they told us that we had to wade through knee deep water to get to the main cave. Not only was the water quite high, but the ceiling was also low. We had to bend over completely and drag ourselves through the cold water. On the other side was came to a looping cave that didn’t appear to connect to anything except by way of an even deeper pool. We couldn’t see the end. We could, however, see the numerous eels in the water. We climbed around the rocks for a bit (one of them looked like a triceratops), but I finally admitted to Zhoel that I wasn’t willing to get in the eel-infested, never ending, black waters. He responded that he certainly wasn’t bothered to not go in either. So we beat a hasty retreat back through the knee deep water, in hopes that our movement would scare away any eels. (Okay, okay, we actually ran.) Zhoel told me that the eels were actually tiny compared to some that he had seen. They were at least a foot long.

We headed out of the caves and decided to the do the 4 km hike called the Waipu Caves Walk. We had expected a nice, leisurely stroll through the bush and to the other entrance to the caves. Instead we had a steep climb and there was no other entrance.

However, we did get the chance to enjoy a beautiful view of the area. At the top, we could see all the way from the East Coast to the West Coast!

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(You probably can’t tell, but both coasts are visible in this panorama!)

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