Waitomo, New Zealand

To say I was nervous about Waitomo would be an understatement. I knew it involved cold water, glow worms and jumping off a waterfall backwards and that was enough to keep the experience whirling through my mind for the months leading up to the trip. Waitomo is a tiny tiny little place but the tourists flood in to see one of the biggest glow worm locations in the world and the other natural wonders in the area.


We arrived at the Glow Worm Motel (which is a funny little place) just before dusk. It’s essentially some little units behind a guy called Chris’s house. It feels weird knock his door and stand in his porch whilst discussing the locality, but his hugely welcoming and lovely nature makes up for it. Chris is such a friendly guy and really wants his guests to enjoy the best of the area. The unit was simple and a little tired and maybe a little mouldy in places, but it was completely fine for a stop over if a bit cold in the evening. Chris made up for the accomodation’s short comings- he’s a really top bloke. He gave us a whole list of places to go to the next day and all of them were really cool, so we were really grateful for his help.


So the morning came (after being tweeted by the one and only Davina McCall the night before) and I nervously tight plaited my hair ready for the adventure. We arrived well before our trip which gave me time to get a coffee and warm my bones before impending doom. I was given all the gear- a thick, wet, cold wetsuit, some funky boots and a minion-style helmet. After peeling the cold suit on over my goose pimples I was ready as I would ever be.


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We jumped on a bus down to the cave and had a trial run in the river. I had to stick my bum in an inflatable hula hoop, and jump backwards into a fast flowing river, avoid losing my contact lenses and some how land in the inflatable and not on my face. Simple, right? After dithering for. A few seconds I let the guy trip me up back wards and plummeted into the water. I held that hula hoop for dear life, blinked slowly and success was mine- contact lenses in place and bum in hoop. I had passed the test.


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We climbed down into a little cave opening and started wading through the water. My little cankle wasn’t too fond of the rocks but I put up a good fight. It was fun, and I was VERY glad of the helmet. I’m only five feet tall and I managed to bounce my brains from wall to wall- all in the spirit of adventure I suppose. It wasn’t long into the trip when the first waterfall appeared. It was quite a small one but seriously, jumping backwards into the darkness is the most unnatural sensation. It was fun though and by this time I was totally used to the cold.


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We bobbed around in the water, sometimes needing a hand from a guide so we didn’t get carried off into the darkness beyond. In some places the ceiling was super low so you had to basically lie flat on your back over the hoop, and tip your head back so you didn’t grate your face. I was glad this bit didn’t last long. We soon approach the ‘human blender’ and the six foot water fall- the one I’d been most dreading! The human blender is thus named for reasons I did not want to know, all I knew was that I must not fall into a certain pool of water. Obviously this made me all of a jitter and my feet were all over the place as I approached the six foot drop off. I reversed carefully, edging closer and closer to the end of the rock. I kept being told to take more steps but my body really wouldn’t move. I ended up edging about a millimetre per step. I only hesitated for about ten seconds of ‘I really can’t do this before I switched gear in my brain and told the guide that I was going right now. Counted to three and off I popped, gripping the hula hoop and closing my eyes. It felt like I was falling forever and the feel of the icy water on my bum was a significant relief. I had done it! After all that worry it was actually really fun and a big achievement for someone as scared of heights as I am.


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We floated further and further into the cave, eventually switching off our head torches and looking up at thousands of glowing worms (maggots in fact). It was all very Hogwarts. The darkness was penetrating, and the gentle echo of the droplets of water haunting. It was a very epic and memorable few minutes. Our world is so amazing.


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Once we had got out of the cave network we had to peel off our clothing and have a very hot shower followed by hot soup and bagels to ward off the cold. We laughed and laughed at our ridiculous photos and thawed out before hitting the road.


As I said, Chris had given us a bunch of places to stop off. We took the longer route as it was recommended and it certainly paid off. The landscape was absolutely stunning. At times the road is so high the birds are soaring parallel to the car. Loads of this area was used in the Lord of The Rings films and I could totally see why- we hardly saw a car for miles and I just felt like another world. We stopped at a few cool places to photograph including the hanging bridge, a gorgeous walk and waterfall all of which really sealed a great day of adventuring.

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