Ruakuri Cave (Black Water Rafting)

WARNING - this trip was extremely dangerous. Don't try this at home.

You should NEVER enter a cave (or canyon, drain, etc.) environment if there is any possibility of a flood occurring. The consequences can EASILY be fatal. We did this trip knowingly in flood conditions in the presence of very experienced guides, who knew the cave extremely well.

Having said that, Black Water Rafting is not usually a difficult trip - and I can highly recommend it (in normal water conditions) to anyone visiting Waitomo. Follow the link to their website for more details.

Black Water Rafting... the sport of getting dressed up in thick neoprene wetsuits. Wearing funny boots. Going floating down an underground stream on these inner tubes. It's a great experience!

And yes - we felt as every bit as silly as we look.
We were extremely lucky to see the cave when it was in flood conditions. This bridge on a river nearby has a 1m high flood indicator its the side - an indicator which was now entirely underwater!!

Things were looking good for an extremely sporty trip...
And then the fun began... Going into the cave was just like a giant waterslide park, except far more dangerous.

This is in the "side stream" to the main Ruakuri Cave, which is usually only a small trickle of water that you follow to get to the main cave. Instead it was a raging torrent...

The side stream sumped fairly soon into the cave due to the high water levels, and we were not able to continue on into the cave proper. But we still got to have fun rushing down fast flowing chutes like this one on our tubes.

Unfortunately, the fog in the cave was pretty heavy, and most of the photos turned out something like this...
As we couldn't continue on through the cave, we now had to try to make our way back... the struggle back out against the force of the water was certainly much more difficult that the super-fast trip in...

Thankfully the water levels didn't rise at all while we were in the cave... otherwise we could easily have been stuck in there for a fair while longer.
While they were entertaining to ride on the way in, the inner tubes became a severe hindrance while trying to reverse the cave on the way out. They were dragged out of our hands and taken away by the current on numerous occaisons.

By this stage, several tubes had actully been popped whilst people were still riding in them...
Fighting your way upstream, up to your waist in a rushing torrent of water. There were times like this when you had to drag yourself along, just to make any progess forwards.
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