It’s been a week of wetsuits.
If you’ve never worn a full body wet suit before, picture this: You first struggle with a rubbery material to get the suit the right way out. Next, your feet squeeze through the tiny foot openings and you use all of your upper body strength to fanangle the thing up your thighs. You somehow manage to get it over the hump of your rump and then comes the arms… You squat down and with a little jump, you hoof the arm and shoulder section into the air and with a speedy ninja move you shove your arms into the tight sleeves. Sucking in all of your air you make your stomach as small as possible as you zip you the final portion of the wetsuit. Now you are ready to raft.
We decided to try some of the many New Zealand adventure sports, starting with white water rafting. We chose the Tongariro river, which has 60 rapids to go through on a 13 km stretch. The Grade 3 rapids of this river are fairly tame. A grade one is like a little stream, and grade six is the highest, meaning essentially death because no one has ever managed to navigate it. With a few drops, collisions, and soakers in the 10 degree water, it was enough excitement to give us a bit of a thrill. When not going over the rapids it was very nice to float down the crystal clear waters, seeing trout swimming below us. The volcanic cliffs towered on each side of water, covered in beautiful, lush vegetation. We even saw the rare and endangered Whio, which are called Blue Ducks, and two ducklings!
Now many people have heard of white water rafting, but we also did black water rafting. With this you strap a light onto your helmet and climb deep within an underground cave. The underground spring creates a rushing river that you climb and wave yourself through to sit serenely in an inner tube in complete darkness in freezing cold water. Yes, that sounds terrible, but it’s actually magical. Why? Because the roof of this underground cave system is covered in glow worms. In complete darkness, they look like stars in the night sky, though much, much closer.
Glow worms are little larvae that use bio luminescence to attract their prey. As they produce waste, it reacts with oxygen to produce a glow. This attracts their prey (small insects) to fly towards them. The insects then get caught in a spiderweb like net that the larvae has produced. So if you can put it out of your mind that you are trapped in a very cold, underground cave with thousands (if not millions) of carnivorous, web making, maggots, then it’s quite enjoyable! It’s actually much easier to do then you would imagine. You can’t really see the webs, or the insects, all that is there is the calm, blue, glow of sparkling stars. It’s completely quiet, with only the sound of flowing water to your ears. It’s a very surreal experience as you float there, you have to remember where you are and why your butt is a foot deep in freezing water. Surprisingly, the only fear filled part of it was having to jump off a waterfall backward into the dark pool with our inner tube.
*caveat: some of these photos were not taken by us and are used as promo photos for the tours that we did. We’re too cheap to pay for photos.