They gave us the keys to the airplane
Friday 29 February 2008 - Friday 29 February 2008 24 °C
We're guessing that you're wondering how these titles relate to the Tongariro Crossing, right? See, we didn't actually do what we'd planned yesterday. The weather forecast was for rain, poor visibility and gale force winds developing at the higher elevations - read: in the volcanoes we were gonna traverse. So, we moved to plan 'B'. This was to pack up and move north to Waitomo Caves, since the surface weather would have no impact on us underground touring the caves. So we made the plans last evening before bed and woke up this morning to brilliant sunshine - too late to catch the last shuttle to the track starting point.
We were halfway to Waitomo when we stopped at an iSite (a tourist information office). This is where we booked our Black Water Caving Adventure and our accommodation for tonight. More on that in a bit. What happened next when I went to pay for our bookings was a bit upsetting. No credit card! Thinking back, the last place I'd used it was at this restaurant in the village we were staying last night. The lady behind the counter offered to call and sure enough, the restaurant had it. Whew... and my bad. So, it was time to turn our fuel sipping buggy around and head the 50 km back. Good scenery though.
We should have mentioned this place we had dinner at in yesterday's entry. The place is called the 'Station' and at one time was a railway station that has now been converted into a fine eating establishment. The food was the best that we've enjoyed from any restaurant that we've visited in ZLand. There was one unique aspect... as the 9:07 rolled through (it doesn't stop there anymore - remember the restaurant is a converted rail station) the whole building shook and we hastened to hang onto our plates and wine glasses before they left the table for the floor. Anyway, I got my card back.
The lady at the information centre had asked whether we'd be interested in something a bit different for our accommodation this evening. Being the adventurers that we are, we had said sure. So we ended up booking the cockpit area of a Bristol..... a Vietnam era military freighter plane. This one's been all fitted out with two bedrooms, washroom and living space including a kitchenette. The main area is in the belly cargo area, but the second bedroom is up on the flight deck. The cockpit is still mostly there and I couldn't resist crawling into the left seat which would have been the captain's chair. Lonely Planet listed this place in the top 10 in the world for most unique accommodations. Pretty cool.
We had booked ourselves onto a black water adventure through the caves that this region is known for. These differ from white water as there are no rapids, only water that the sun does not shine on. We got kitted with wet suits, rubber boots and helmets with lights so we could see the rocks that we were gonna hit with our heads. So they take us to this place and I look around and there ain’t no cave. Our guide then points to a hole in the ground, straps a harness onto us and says, ‘go for it’. It was about of 100’ down into the inky blackness, which was good ’cause it probably would have scared the crap out of me. The next thing was them giving us inner tubes and for us to jump off this ledge into water that is supposed to be somewhere below but ya can’t see it. You just know that it’s gonna be cold too. Put the tube around your butt and jump out we’re told. Yup, I was right… it was a ways down and the water was damn cold. The good thing is I didn’t flip upside down since the impact wedged my butt through the middle jamming me good and tight. It took a couple of good thrashings about to free myself. Don’t know if I coulda held my breath long enough if backside up! Anyway, floating along, the glow worms which ZLand is famous for showed up everywhere. Impressive! We also got to see eels, spiders the size of a ’60s Buick and eventually, the light of day again. But… we had to climb up a waterfall to get there. And it seemed we had to climb the same height that we repelled at the start. This was not the simple natural rock steps which always are on the tourist trips. No… we had to wriggle up a small opening wedging ourselves on opposite sides of the opening working our way upward. Kinda spider walk style. What a blast! The whole adventure lasted five hours.
To finish the day, we took a late night hike to find more glow worms. They blended in with the multitude of stars that were out on this clear, cloudless and moonless night. Surreal!
BTW: the sleep in the plane was the best sleep that either one of us ever had on an airplane.