October 1992; Heathrow, and waiting to start our travels south. First stop
We stayed for a fortnight in the
The next day we were to walk to the Mintano hut, a steady 14.5K though several avalanche tracks, not your nice snow avalanches but rock and mud. The track passed an area of petrified forest, a small lake and the results of past avalanches. Shortly after this we were encouraged on our way by a descending rock, it missed us just! We arrived at the hut just after midday and were soon introduced to a local pest, the sand fly, they like biting you! Between fighting off the flies we watched river avalanches running down the upper levels of the surrounding mountains.
On our way
again the next morning we temporarily left the rain forest that we
had been traversing and headed up towards the unstable snows of the
Mackinon pass. Some of our party were discomforted by some small snow slides and I think we were all happy to reach the summit of the pass. We carried on towards the Dumpling hut but we made a detour to see the Sutherland Falls, the highest in
Early next day we got our call courtesy of the Kia. Promptly at 6am. these birds set up a racket to awaken the dead. A engaging bird the Kia, an ostentatious comedian, acrobat and car wrecker. (They are well known insurance risks ripping off windscreen wipers and removing rubber seating and even door handles!) Having ensured that all were awake, at six thirty they desisted. So taking advantage of the situation we made an early start, setting off for Sand fly point, continuing through the rain forest, this area being like a horror film setting with all the trees being festooned with moss. Sand fly Point lived up to its name but luckily there was a hut where we could escape from them as we waited for the ferry that would transfer us to Milford Sound, reportedly the wettest place on the globe.
I had booked a trip on a sailing schooner thing, an overnight trip out of
Milford Sound and into the
Two days of traveling took us to our next outing, the Franz-Josef glacier. We spent a day on this, quite an experience. A wooded mountainous area, a valley and incongruously a wall of ice. Looking at it from its foot you would think that you would be able to reach its upper level in a few hours. We were told that it would take a couple of days to reach its summit and after seeing where we got in half a day I can well believe it! The glacier surprised me. We were climbing up and down 20-30 foot ridges, the crevasses did not appear to be very deep though, just deep enough to ensure that you did not fall down them.
three day journey by bus and ferry to
We decided on a trip run by an outfit called Mud and Mountain. In the morning we were ferried around in a four wheel drive vehicle to the tourist thermal mud and
Next we were taken for a swim in a stream or rather at the junction of two streams, one hot, one cold. After this the day really improved, we set off for the summit of
and headed into the bush for a picnic lunch. This was followed by a bush walk along the river, a river that gradually disappeared down abandoned volcanic blow holes. Some time later the river reappeared roaring out of a cliff fifty feet up! And so back to Rotarua where we invited our guide for a drink: one drink led to another and by midnight we were back at the thermal spring skinny dipping. Eventually it was back to bed after an enjoyable and interesting day.
you believe some caving. We moved to Waitomo. Here be
caves. Before we left
The next morning we found ourselves heading for the top of the shaft. Who wanted to go first? I wasn’t quite quick enough but I volunteered Chris and myself for the second descent. (there was two ropes rigged so you had company) Chris got on her rope first and then I found myself hanging free a few feet above her and three hundred feet above the cave floor. The racks only had fixed bars, to get moving was like lifting the Queen Elizabeth’s hawser, still we began to move, we stopped a couple of times to take photos (not a success) then gradually the weight of the rope began to decrease and we were on our way, exhilarating!
Once everyone had descended we departed from normal caving practice and enjoyed another picnic. On with the trip up over fallen boulders then down to a healthy stream. It was about half a mile to the resurgence, on the way Chris took the opportunity of a thirty foot jump into the stream, perhaps she thought she was a bird. The last few hundred feet of the cave contained the glow-worms, the roof thickly festooned with there luminous threads. Although this was a tourist trip it must be the nearest the public get to a caving trip.
Next day Chris would give me no rest, she fancied a white water rafting trip, it was grade 4. I was rather reluctant but we finished without parting company from the raft. In the afternoon we were back to the caves, this time a black water rafting trip. This consisted of floating through another cave stream passage sat in or hugging a car inner tube and again admiring glow-worms.
day in Waitomo and New Zealand, I was determined to
Chris for the white water rafting, so we went horse riding. Another interesting
experience, up hill and down dale (more like bloody precipices) still, we managed to stay on the horses. In the afternoon we walked, the surface limestone is thinly layered in plate stack like formations. Most of the Waitomo caves appear to be stream passage with little horizontal development.
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