I guess quitting my job to come travelling was all about facing fears and pushing myself further.
So when Chris suggested we do the Black Abyss Tour at Waitomo Caves, I was in.
As it was Faye's second day in New Zealand, I wasn't going to let her sit back and chillax, no no no no no, I was going to chuck her down a 40m shaft and then making her be energetic for four hours in the dark. That's just the sort of friend I am.
Another early start (thankfully this time I wasn't driving) and we were off to the famous glowworm caves in Waitomo.
We were kitted up in about four or five layers (it got pretty cold down there) and then topped it off with a wetsuit, white welly-boots and a kick-ass head torch and helmet.
After the obligatory stupid pose, we drove out to the cave entrance and had a little practice at abseiling.
Our guides were Dom and "Bin" (it's how you say Ben in a Kiwi accent) and they taught us all the basics. In fact I'll say now, they were awesome the whole day.
After a little practice go on the fake abseil set, we had to do the real thing. ARGH!
The 35m drop (it seemed longer) was in the shape of an hour-glass. So basically it was really wide at the top and then you kind of had to shuffle and jiggle around a bit in the middle before entering another wide area where you'd drop down to the bottom.
Thankfully the pull of the weight of the rope means at the top it is really hard to maneuver. I was grateful because I had images of shooting down it and splatting at the bottom.
The abseil was really enjoyable once you got into it, but that first thing of leaning back into nothing was scary as hell. Everything in your body is telling you NOT to step over the edge into the black abyss (I guess that was why the named the tour so).
After abseiling down the shaft and getting over the first fear (heights) we were off into the darkness scrambling over wet rocks and into the cave.
The next thing was the zipwire, which was SO MUCH FUN! Having done the one in Waiheke I knew I'd love this one too. Even though it was in the dark and had NO IDEA how fast you were going it was pretty awesome.
When we'd all got to the bottom, we lay flat on our backs on the rock and turned out our lights. And there they were.....thousands and thousands and thousands of glowworms. The cave is famous for them, and we even did the boat tour to see them again afterwards, but being in the complete pitch black with the white/blue twinkling all around us was amazing. I remember lying next to Faye holding her hand and thinking this was one of those moments I'll never forget.
We couldn't take pictures (and we weren't allowed cameras in the boat tour either), but like most things on this trip, the best pictures are stored in my memory, not my memory card.
After a hot chocolate and a biscuit, we were off again, this time jumping off a rock edge into water. I went first as it was pretty high and I'm not a heights person and OH....MY......GOD. It was like jumping into a bath of ice. It was so cold it actually took my breath away for a few seconds. And because I jumped down on a big rubber tyre, the water rushed up my back, all around inside my helmet and down my face. Literally nothing was dry, nor would be again for the next three hours.
After jumping down we had a long trek through the cave through varying heights of water. At some parts we floated on our backs and Faye and I drifted down the river holding hands (aaawwww!). At other times it was too shallow so we had to sort of half swim half scramble along.
There was a part during our water adventures where we went head first down a waterfall on a slide. That was so funny and the picture we got of me is hilarious.....why do I have a weird light/Viking horn?
We then paused for more hot chocolate and chocolate (nom nom nom) and sat on a rock to get our energy levels back. While we sat there, we did this cool things where the camera is on a delayed shuttered speed, so you can write things with your head torch. In these pictures I'm in the middle, Faye is fourth and Chris is far right.....
It was then time for more climbing, this time wiggling our way upwards pressing against either side of the cave and basically shifting our weight up. This for me was the single scariest thing, basically because I felt like I was going to slip down and just be stuck wedged in the rock forever. Tourists would come feed me in exchange for pictures.
Thankfully that didn't happen and we were soon out of that and back in the water (erm.....yeaaaah, NOT).
During this time we saw a whale bone and an eel. Amazing what you can find metres and metres below the surface.
Then it was onto the part of the adventure which I'm pretty sure burnt the most calories. Climbing up a series of waterfalls. And I mean REALLY fast flowing waterfalls.
I'm no salmon, so it was f**king hard.
Also - the cave had been shut a few days before because the water was too rough. So basically we had it the strongest it could possible be without drowning.
It was a good job we knew our tour guides well by then, as I basically got shoved up by my bottom. He didn't use his hands either - it was via helmet. Yep, he had his head in my arse. Classy!
And then I saw daylight. I was excited and disappointed at the same time. Excited that we'd managed to do it all and achieved so much, disappointed that it meant our journey was over.
Faye and I both said afterwards what an amazing achievement it was. And she dubbed it the best thing she did in New Zealand (I'm such a good tour guide! haha). We were really proud of ourselves and loved every second of it. Yes there were incredibly scary moments, but it was totally worth it.
Waitomo Caves ROCKED! (Get it? Rocked? Caves? Never mind).
After climbing them, we had hot soup and showers before getting a little boat around them. This was pretty cool too, but I'm so glad we got to the Black Abyss Tour first.
I made Faye chuckle when our tour guide said we had to be very quiet and not take photographs as the glowworms don't like noise or light. Erm.....hadn't we just spent four hours screaming our heads off and wearing headtorches? Oops!
An amazing day, although exhausting, and one I'd strongly recommend. Even if you only came to Auckland for a weekend, this would HAVE to be on your itinerary.
Click here to visit their awesome website and book your spot. DO IT NOW.