Trip Start Oct 23, 2006
93Trip End May 08, 2007
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Actually, we went because the term 'Blackwater Rafting' seems uniquely intriguing. The glow worms were an added benefit that reminded Jon of his love of David Attenborough. We found a hostel right across the street from the Blackwater Rafting office. Our first night we were exceptionally hungry but hurting in the financial department, so we headed to the supermarket. We wandered there for about 20 minutes with no real goal in mind. All of us were tired of rice or pasta paired with meat and veggies. Suddenly it dawned on us to make burritos. That's college training in action. I swear we took almost an hour finding an gathering all the ingredients before we realized there was a Mexican food section. D'oh.
Back in the hostel kitchen, we made ourselves two large burritos each. They hit the spot pretty well. But the real treat was what Jon and I bought for after the meal. We found a 1.5 liter plastic bottle of Mountain Thunder brand mulled wine. Buddy has been going to all sorts of wineries and enjoying expensive, delicious wines throughout his trip. Jon and I decided to give him a taste of the spectrum's other side. Following the directions on the bottle, we microwaved three mugs worth. None of us had ever had anything quite like it, and I've had mulled wine before. I guess I'm including this as a warning to you readers. If you happen to see a plastic, Mountain Thunder bottle (it has neon lightning bolts on the label) at your local grocery store, you might want to pass.
The next morning we went Blackwater Rafting. There was a little problem with payment. For some reason, they wouldn't take my Mastercard debit card, so I had to use my Visa credit card. Then Buddy had the same problem with his Mastercard debit, but they also wouldn't take his American Express. So I put his on my Visa too. Visa, it's everywhere you want to be.
Now, by the term alone (and the jazzy-looking brochure) I expected that our time would be spent rafting in a cave watching glow worms. It turned out that most of the day would be crawling around in the cave with a tiny bit of rafting towards the end. It turned out to be an amazing time. We all donned wetsuits and gumboots. They also supplied thermal layers and helmets with lights. The one thing they didn't allow was cameras, so I don't have any pictures, sorry.
We descended from the entrance and let our eyes adjust. The gumboots gave amazing grip on the wet sandstone. We made our way deeper and deeper, at times crawling through tiny passages barely wider than my shoulders, and a couple that were narrower. Then we came to a large 'room' where I spotted my first grouping of glow worms. They give off a brilliant blue light and look like stars shining down from an underground sky. We made our way through the room to a small waterfall. We took turns sliding down it into the deep recess it has carved underneath. It was fun, but very cold, so our guide brought our a thermos of Milo hot chocolate. Once warmed up and energized, our group headed deeper into the cave where they had inner tubes waiting. We all floated downstream with our lights off. We navigated purely by the glow worm 'stars' above us. When we reached the end of the rafting (or tubing) in a large-ish pool, our guide spent a while explaining about the glow worms. This is when I learned about glow worms glowing instead of pooping. He then continued about the rest of the cave ecosystem:
Guide: The glow worms only have one predator in these caves. It's a spider...
Mike's Internal Monologue: God I hate spiders
...which gets as large as a dinner plate.
That's messed up
Now how these spiders eat the glow worms, is they work in teams.
Great, they're organized
The female climbs up on the rocks and starts picking the glow worms out of the roof or wall.
Good thing I'm down here and floating in the water
Meanwhile, because these spiders can swim...
... the male will collect what the female throws down and bring them to the side where they'll then eat them together.
The rest of my time in the cave wasn't quite as carefree as the way down, but I still loved it. And best of all, I never saw a single spider. Go ahead, call me a wuss while you're seated comfortably at your computer. Then go hundreds of meters down into a cold, dark, wet cave that has spiders bigger than your face and you are in a passageway where you can't put your arms in front of you to save your life and you're sliding on your stomach and..... yeah. Do that. Do that and then call me a wuss. (Actually, you probably could do all that and still call me names. Buddy and Jon sure did).
We returned to the Blackwater office and lounged in a hot tub with complimentary beers. After a shower and fresh clothes, we decided to go on the Monteiths Brewery Tour. Not only was Monteiths already my favorite New Zealand beer, and not only did the tour include free tastings; it ended with all-you-can-eat BBQ. Poor Monteiths didn't know what they were in for in offering me all-you-can-eat. Eduardo was armed and ready. (For those of you not in the know, Eduardo is the name of my fictitious tapeworm whom we refer to in an effort to explain my gluttonous eating ability).
The tour was pretty standard to begin with. We saw large tanks, hoppers, pipes, and vats. We saw machines, bottles, and boxes. Our guide was a very sweet woman who's part of the company's small core of permanent workers. She normally works in the bottling and boxing area. We finished the tour in the tasting room. Each person was given a small glass (a little less than half a pint) and we tasted 7 or 8 different beers. The number I remember more specifically is 25. After our free tastes, our tour guide (whom I refer to as God Almighty) told us we had free reign over the taps for a while. That while turned out to be 25 minutes. Then we caught the shuttle to the BBQ where each of us was greeted with a Monteiths Megapint. I used the contents of that oversized glass to help wash down 8 sausages, potato salad, pasta, and some unidentifiable but good mush. Then we bought beer at the grocery store. When those 40 bottles had been polished off, we went out to the bars. ( I should mention that there were more than the 3 of us at that point). What a crazy night.....