Black water rafting in Waitomo
Trip Start Mar 12, 2007
81Trip End Sep 12, 2007
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We booked on a morning tour and a shuttle bus drove us out of town to a privately owned sheep farm which was used for the film location. The tour guides weren't as good as the ones in Wellington but it was great to see the film set. You can see right away why Peter Jackson chose to film here - the rolling hills, very green and very secluded. Many of the hobbit holes have been left although they are plain on the outside and have nothing inside (the inside shots were filmed in the studios), We went into Bag End though - it was surreal. We saw the party field and the party tree and they talked us through how some of the scenes were filmed, including the fireworks bit
In the afternoon we drove to Waitomo Caves Village which is very similar to the National Park Village. It's built because people visit there but no-one seems to live there. There is also no real infrastructure. There's one shop, lots of accommodation and about 3 places to eat. It's quite nice though after being in a big town for a few days.
We booked to do blackwater rafting in one of the caves with Rap, Raft and Rock the following day. It was brilliant - great fun. It started with a 27m abseil down in to the cave, and then we waded upstream to see the gloworm cave which was amazing. We turned our headlamps off for a while and it was incredible how much you could see after a while. Our guide Paul scared us by making a really loud noise and it was strange that this improved our vision even more as our pupils dilated when we got scared. We then tried the blackwater rafting. It's basically getting on a rubber ring and floating downstream which was great fun (a bit like a natural waterpalace for those who remember it!). There were some slow bits and we started to do faster and faster spurts downstream until in the end Paul had to catch us after a particularly scary bit down some rocks (see Bill's photo!). Then we had to wade back upstream, sometimes in water up to our necks. It was fun but quite challenging against the current (I fell a few times and had to be caught by the scruff of my neck before I floated away!). We then had to climb back up out of the cave (those of you who went to Guides with me will know I'm terrified of climbing after I got stuck between two rocks that time!). We both managed it fine though and were very pleased with ourselves. We're glad we went for the active option rather than just doing a boat tour through the caves.
The Kiwipaka hostel in Waitomo was nice and quiet - there didn't seem to be many other guests about. It also had it's own restaurant. It was a nice place to stay.