Waitomo’s Subterranean World an Adventurer’s Paradise
“Time and nature have wrought havoc underneath the surface of [Waitomo] and the pretty wildflowers growing on the grassy contours disguise an elaborate system of caves,” David Whitley writes for the National.
“Getting down into them requires a 35m shimmy down a ‘tomo’, a hole in the ground that acts as a vertical gateway to the subterranean world. After negotiating the narrows, it’s a case of tumbling rapidly into the void.
“Once landed inside the cave, the adventure becomes even more peculiar, with a flight of faith on an under-ground zip line. You clasp the dangling handle, with legs raised in the air, then a push from behind sends the trusting victims off into the darkness. There are no lights, no torches and no clue so as to where the journey will end.
“The halt is abrupt, but lights suddenly flicker from behind and reveal that we’re on a ledge above the Waitomo river. It has carved its way underground over the centuries and the way out is to follow it until it breaks free of the cave system.
“Large rubber inner tubes are handed out … the water, denied access to sunlight by the cave roofs, is fiercely cold.
“But for the creatures we’ve come to see, the temperatures seem just fine. The torches are switched off, but this time the darkness is broken by thousands of tiny lights, speckled across the walls and the roof of the cave.
“The lights are alive – they’re glowworms …”
Original article by David Whitley, The National, September 30, 2014.