BootsnAll Travel Network

The Lost World

When I started to research my trip to New Zealand, I managed to watch a television show on the Travel channel in the States called A Royal Tour of New Zealand. The Prime Minister Helen Clark took an American journalist around on a helicopter and they did all these cool and exciting things all over the country. There was one thing they did that I specifically remember, called The Lost World. They abseiled, or rappeled down into this canyon deep into the ground, and walked through the underground caves. I remember thinking that I wanted to do that while I was in New Zealand, and was happily surprised when my guidebook fully recommended a full day activity in the town of Waitomo called The Lost World. I assumed that was the same activity as on the show, and after calling from Auckland this past weekend, booked myself on a 7 hour tour for Tuesday, January 24th. The tour included a 100 meter abseil into a canyon and plenty of caving activities.

After leaving Auckland on Monday morning after a weekend of partying and rest at Walt’s house, I arrived in Waitomo for my Lost World tour. Since I’m fairly scared of heights, I figured that the abseil would be really hard for me, but after that I would be okay throughout the rest of the day. Imagine my surprise to find that the abseil was the least of my problems.

There was 6 people in my groups, plus two guides. One couple from England, one couple from Perth, Australia and one other single guy from my hostel, Phil, who I thought was German but turned out to be English. They drove us into the countryside, driving over the caves that we would be walking through eventually. They got us into wetsuits, helmets, headlights and what I like to now refer to as the “boots of death,” which were basically big rubber galoshes. First we had to learn how to clip on the caribeners to the ropes and safety stuff like that, then they showed us the platform we would be abseiling down from. I have to say, that freaked me out quite a bit. 100 meters doesn’t sound like a lot, especially since we don’t use the metric system in the US and I really couldn’t imagine how high that was anyway. Really, it was the fact that you are going straight down into this big canyon, which is covered with tropical plants, into a sort of abyss below. You couldn’t see the bottom of the rope when you were looking down. The worst part of this abseil was the first part. We had to sit on this metal railing basically, facing away from the canyon. We were all strapped in at this point, so my fear wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. But then our guides said, okay, take your feet off the railing and let yourself drop over. Now that freaked me out a bit, but I have to say, once I realized I was sitting on my rope safely, I wasn’t nervous anymore, and we carefully lowered ourselves down our ropes to the bottom of the canyon, which took about 20 minutes or so. Once we got down to the canyon, the guides unpacked a sandwich lunch for us, which was a really neat place to have a picnic, looking up into the sky, with this huge fern covered canyon and running stream next to you.

Following the abseil, we now had about 4 km to negotiate, over rocks, boulders, through underground streams and such. I never thought of myself as unsure on my feet, but after a few hours clambering around in big rubber clown shoes, that were usually filled with water and each weighed about 5 pounds, plus a wet suit you were dragging around a lot of extra weight. The boots made it kind of hard to get your grip on the rocks, even though they were made for that, and I seemed to be having the hardest time negotiating the rocks and climbing around in my group. I didn’t mind that I was going slower than everyone, except I felt bad that I was kind of holding people up, or at least felt that way. The worst part for me, however, was the waterfall. We had to climb up this waterfall facing outwards, climbing up the sides like a starfish. The first part was okay, but I couldn’t get a grip at the top, and didn’t feel like I had enough upper body strength to pull myself around and over this little outcrop. I did slip once, luckily our guide Gavin was there and sort of holding on to me. I wanted to just drop into the water, but he wouldn’t let me give up and helped me swing myself up and over. Physically, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and mentally, it wasn’t a walk in the park either. After all that hard work, our “reward” was to now jump off the very waterfall we just fought our way up, into a swirling pool of water below. That jump was fine, about like the first platform at Rehm pool, but you are jumping into a small pool of water, basically in the dark with just your headlamp. Kind of a little different feeling. We had about another hour to go, and I had sort of had enough at this point, luckily there wasn’t anything as hard after that. Right at the end, we all sat down on this big boulder and turned off our headlights. All around us, it was pitch black, and the cave was covered in glow worms, so it looked like the Earth might be at night, with all the lights lit up. It was really cool, and we got to lie there for a while and just look at the lights.

Following the glow worms, we exited the caves and walked back to a small farmhouse, where we were given a big dinner by our guides and a chance for some warm showers. Signing up for the Lost World, I knew it would be a hard activity for me, but I surprised myself by not really having a problem with the heights and the abseil. It bothered me more to walk around rivers and rocks in big rubber boots, not ever really being comfortable with my footing or balance. But it is activities that push you, that bring you outside your comfort zone, where you learn what you can do, what you can’t, and what you enjoy and what you don’t. I’m happy I completed the tour and did things I found hard. I would definitely do the abseil again, but can’t really say I would want to do the caving all the time.

I was planning on taking the bus to Rotorua, which is a town famous for its thermal activities, geysers and that kind of thing. But Phil was driving there the following day, so I got my money refunded from the bus company and grabbed a ride with him, which got me into Rotorua much earlier than the bus would have. I am scheduled for a Maori performance and hangi tonight, which is similar to a Hawaiian luau. I was only planning on spending one night in Rotorua, but again without a car it’s hard because you are reliant on bus schedules, so I’m spending tomorrow here as well and going to take a plunge into the mud baths and sulphur pools. The following day I’m off to Taupo to do the Tongariro Crossing, considered the best one-day walk in New Zealand, which is a 8 hour hike up and down a volcano. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that, as I’ve heard it’s actually pretty difficult. But like anything, you have to try or else you won’t know what you are capable of.

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3 responses to “The Lost World”

  1. Tim says:

    Hey EmeraldEyes,

    I happened across your blog while surfing the boards the other day. I’m getting ready to head off on my RTW in about 5 weeks and will be taking roughly the same path you are. I’ll be in NZ during March and April. After that it’s up to SE Asia, over to the Middle East, down into Africa, and eventually back up into Europe. Should be about a 8-9 month trip.

    I really enjoyed reading about your adventures in Waitomo. I can’t wait to get to NZ. I’ll be spending my first couple of weeks in Manukau doing a build with Habitat for Humanity, and our group will be going to Rotorua for a couple of days. We’re scheduled to go “blackwater rafting” which, as I understand it, is like whitewater rafting only underground in the caves. Should be interesting!

    Anyway, just wanted to say hi. I’m looking forward to reading more about your travels, it will be nice to follow someone whose just a couple of steps ahead of me. Can’t wait to hear about Tongariro Crossing, as I’m an avid hiker and that sounds very cool.


    p.s. Did you ever get your photo problems figured out? If not, I may be able to lend a hand.

  2. Kim Miller says:

    Kirsten, your blog is fascinating reading. I am so glad I’ve gotten to read it (and will continue to follow it) via Kendra and then Liz. You write so well! I particularly enjoyed your most recent entry about the cave and glow worms. I saw something on National Geographic about such an adventure. Your recounting of the experience was as riveting. I’m glad your trip is going so well. May it continue to be wonderful and new. Be safe. Kim Miller

  3. admin says:

    Kim, thanks for reading! I find it so cool that so many people are reading and keeping up with me. My parents are giving my blog address out all the time, it’s great to hear from you. Thanks for you kind words! Hope all is well in OP.

    Tim, black water rafting is supposed to be great, though I didn’t do it. I will also try to do some Habitat stuff when I get to Asia, let me know how it goes. I should be in Asia while you are there so keep in touch and we can meet up somewhere. The picture thing is really just a combination of laziness, not enough time to upload and not really understand how to make the pictures smaller to post on bootsnall. My camera takes too big of pictures so I need to make them smaller and can’t be fussed right now. if you have any suggestions I’d be happy to hear them.
    Thanks, Kirsten

  4. Tim says:


    I’ll be flying by the seat of my pants in Asia, as I know very little about the region and can’t decide where to go or what to do. If we do end up there at the same time it would be nice to have someone to meet up with, so let’s keep in touch. (I think you’ll have my email as a part of this reply. If not let me know.)

    With the pictures you have two options. Either change the settings on your camera to take smaller pictures, or use a photo editing program to resize them. However, I would advise against changing your camera settings. In the event that you ever want to print out a picture, it’s best to have the highest quality (i.e. biggest) picture possible. Which leaves us with the software option. I use Picasa from Google, it’s a great program and is free. But since you don’t have a laptop, I’m guessing you’re using internet cafes where installng photo software isn’t an option. In which case I suggest using Flickr, an online photo site. I haven’t used it, but the BootsnAll gang use it a lot. It will allow you to resize your photos, and apparently Flickr works with the BnA blogs so that once you have your photos in Flickr you can then post them directly to your blog without having to upload them again. Seems pretty cool and I’m sure I’ll give it a try once I hit the road.

    Anyway, sorry for the long-winded reply. I’m loving your blog, you’re a really good writer and I look forward to reading more. And the addendums to the packing list were great too.


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