DAY 9 - A traveling day. We woke up at 5:30am Jan 25 to go to Waitamo. It was about a 2 hour drive from Auckland. Once we got to base camp we all met Doug (our expedition guide), got suited up to go caving and repelling (abseiling). We had to dress in long polypro (warm clothing - pants and long sleeves) and hike 45 minutes UP with wetsuits, harnesses, and helmets to a 350 ft abseil, which was so much fun coming down! It was super high up and I think I found out I am a little afraid of heights - but I have since conquered that.
Once we got down the abseil, we hiked another 15 minutes through "Indiana Jones" like forests, where we had to climb over hanging trees, abseil again, and make sure we didn't fall off a cliff...that was a tiny bit scary. After the abseil we made it to the cave! I was so excited until I saw the first SQUEEZE we had to go through. It was TINY and we all barely got through, but we all did after some fancy manouvering. Once we got into some bigger caverns and saw the cool formations it was clear that my hands were going to be raw coming out because some of the rocks were super sharp to hold onto. What was scary about this part was that we had to go into freezing cold water that made it almost hard to breath, esp when we have to completely submerge ourseleves. I was not happy about that, but looking back, it was pretty awesome. We saw glow worms too, and made it through after an hour and half under the ground. I was exhausted after that because it was mentally trying, BUT the day was far from being over. We got out of the cave around 3:30pm (maybe) and hiked back to base camp. We then re-packed our backpacks with all the essentials (clothing, food, some snacks, etc), and then started our tramping (backpacking) journey at 5:20pm. With 20 extra pounds on your pack and going up and down hills...is NOT easy.
After tramping through lots and lots of suple jack (a horrible thick vine that tangles you into everything around you) we found our first campsite near a stream (it was a random clearing we found) around 7pm. We had to cook dinner and set up our tents quickly (tents being a tarp). The water is clean to drink so we didnt have to worry about that. End of day 9.