Since I conquered the Black Odyssey (the newest caving adventure with the Legendary Black Water Rafting Co) back last November, and loved every moment of it, I have been dying to get back into those caves. So when asked if I wanted to go back down to Waitomo and do the Black Abyss, I didn’t hesitate for a second. I spent the two weeks leading up to it so excited, and now that it’s over, all I want to do is go back for more.
Once we arrived we were greeted by our guides, who were very friendly, professional and made the trip a breeze. We were taken down to the area where we get suited up into our wetsuits. Wetsuits are not the most flattering of outfits, but when it comes to caving, appearance becomes very unimportant once you’re in the water. I was thankful to have that wetsuit on as the water was cold!
We made the short drive to the cave entrance and walked up to where you do abseil training before going in. It’s very simple and straightforward and it’s helpful to do it so that you get an understanding of how safe you are. It was then time to go into the cave (the moment I had been waiting for). We began with a 35 metre abseil into Ruakuri cave, which was so much fun. It gets a little bit tight in one spot, which I initially closed my eyes for, but an impromptu pep talk to myself worked and I opened my eyes and was on my way. Next up was a flying fox, which our guides thought would be fun to do in the dark, so off our helmet lights went and we flew through the cave in complete darkness.
After this we had a little break before we had to jump into the stream that was below us. This was the part I was least looking forward to. I'm not a fan of jumping into cold water but I knew I had to as it was all part of the Black Abyss experience. It wasn’t actually as bad as I thought it would be, and I even enjoyed the thrill of the jump, and seeing the water rush towards me. The going underwater part was my least enjoyable moment of my day, however, but I soon got over that because I was only under for a second. Once I resurfaced, I realized I'd made it down and was about to see some amazing glow-worms.
We all made our way down the stream, at first by using a rope to guide us, and then after that we all linked up with each other and paddled our way under the glow-worms, which was an incredible experience. It really is like looking up at hundreds of stars. We then had to paddle back in the same direction we came from, and headed towards the first little waterfall to go down. There’s a slide built into the side of it which we slid down, face first, which was awesome fun. We then waded through shallow (and sometimes not so shallow) water to make our way out of the cave. On the way some of us crawled through some tight spaces for an added bit of fun. To get out of the cave you have to go down a small tributary off the main stream and since we were about 60 metres underground by this point, the only way out was by going up, and by going up I mean going up waterfalls! The first waterfall was the biggest one, and the guides helped us place our hands and feet in the right place as we climbed and pulled ourselves up into the top of the waterfall. The second one didn't involve as much climbing but again we were told where to place our feet and hands. Once up that last one we could start seeing daylight again, and we emerged from the cave back out into the open air, feeling amazing and wondering where the time went because it all happened so fast.
The whole experience is about 5 hours (that includes meeting the guides and getting ready), and a moderate level of fitness is required as it is quite challenging in parts. The Black Abyss tour is a must-do for everyone and Black Water Rafting should be added to everyone’s bucket list. It’s now been ticked off of mine and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Interview: Peter Alexander
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