Waitomo

Waitomo is a tiny village in the west whose principal attraction is black water rafting, and it’s a good one. Before we were hurled down into the dark abyss, however, we were treated to the spectacle of rabbit shearing. The rabbits were presumably bred to obtain high quality fibres. Unfortunately for them, their fur traps so much heat that without shearing they would die. So, every three months or so (when they resemble a large, quivering pompom) they are literally tied down, stretched out on something that resembles a torture device, and shorn.

Black water rafting, meanwhile, has nothing whatsoever to do with rabbits. For the uninitiated, it involves rafting through caves on an underground river. It’s not an adrenaline rush in the manner of white water rafting, but it is a great experience. You get a wetsuit, a helmet with a torch and a rubber tube on which to float, and some basic initiation. Two guides lead you through a cave system, sometimes on foot and sometimes floating on your tube. The main aesthetic attraction are the glow worms, which show up in places as bluish, starlike pin-pricks of light against the cave ceiling. We weren’t confronted with any of the larger cave inhabitants (which apparently include spiders, wetas and eels), with the exception of one dead eel.

The guides take plenty of photos while underground, and also beforehand while you make ridiculous poses in your wet suits and rubber tubes. They show these to you afterwards on a large TV and offer to sell them to you on a CD. I thought I could cheat the system by taking my own photos of the TV screen, but was quickly rebuffed. The photos I do have are predominantly of the previous day, when we were taken on a walk around the forest above the cave system.

Once our caving adventures had finished, my replacement sunglasses from Rotorua promptly fell apart.

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