This article was first published in SumpThink in August 2005
Michael has a birthday
by Michael Wood
My birthday is at the end of July, and I like to take the week off work to celebrate. This year was no exception, and the plan was to meet Bob and Pru at Mahoenui for a week of cave photography. I had a days work in Palmerston North on the Friday before, and so had a good head start. Bob and Pru were heading north for a months holiday in Northland, and so this would get them on their way. And finally, we had offered to take the NZSS collection of maps to Waitono to save the cost of snding them via courier.
With Bob's roof boot on the top of my car, seven large parcels of maps in the back, and my own gear filling every other available space, it was a well laden RAV that I took north. After two nights at Palmerston North, I got an early start on Saturday. I took my time, but still managed to get to Marokopa with time to spare. At least I was able to get my tent up while it was still daylight.
On Sunday I was away before anyone was about, and had a god trip through to Waitomo. There I got my day's exercise carrying the maps into the museum. Hopefully they are now all unpacked as I want a copy of the Bohemia map for this coming New Year.
It was then through to Te Kuiti for food and refeshments, and on to the Rauroa farm shearers quarters. These have been set up as a homestay, and make a very pleasant place to stop. There are no mice in the matresses or possums fighting in the walls, unlike other accomodation in the area.
To fill in a bit of time I decided to try taking some photos in 'This Cave', a cave we were told about by Andrea on our previous stay. I have also bought myself two fire fly flash slave units, and this would be my first chance to use them undergound. So off I went, and it wasn't until I was in the cave that I realised that I had no spare light with me - even though I had seveal back at the quarters. I didn't think that this was a good idea, so stayed close to the entrance while I took photos.
I got back and waited tor Bob and Pru to arrive. When they arrived and shut down Dyna, we could hear a hissing noise. Bob had holes in the two rear right wheels - not a good start. So, of course they had to come off so that they could be repaired.
Monday morning (almost afternoon really) saw Bob dropping Pru and I off at Blacks. He had an appointment at the PioPio high school to start arrnging next year's NZSS AGM. But I still managed to find the entrance, and Pru and I spent several hours taking pictures in the entrance chamber, the names on the formation, the penis farm, and the straws down the bottom. We were about to start our way out when Bob arrived to accompany us out.
Tuesday was another wet day, and Pru and I decided that we needed to go shopping in Te Kuiti. So off we went, leaving Bob to split his rims and repair punctures. We thought we wouldn't go caving that day, but Pru and I were talking to a local in Piopio who mentioned a cave he knew of close by. He couldn't leave work then, but we arranged to meet Roger that night, and he would show us the entrance and exit.
It turns out that this cave is just a couple of minutes walk from the road at each end. Roger came with us part way in before turning back as he had shearing gear to deliver. When we got out the far end an hour and a hlf later, Roger was waiting for us, and gave us a ride back to our vehicle, saving a considrable walk.
The cave is called 'Battleys Cave' and is about a kilometer of mostly easy walking stream passage. Despite all the rain the stream wasn't very deep, and I kept my gumboots dry until near the end. There are all sorts of upper levels that we didn't look at, so we will definitely be going back.
Wednesday was a return trip to Blacks. While Pru and I photographed, Bob excavated the Not Blacks connection so that I could get through. It was very pleasant to be able to exit via Not Blacks, and find out that we were already a third of the way up the hill fromm the Blacks entrance.
Thursday was my birthday, and started off with a breakfast of bacon and eggs on English muffins. We had planned on going to Matawhero Cavern and do the 100 foot abseil in and then walk out. However, when my RAV started to slide off the side of the road, we decided to put on the chains, and discretely back out and head home. This gave Pru time to cook a dinner of roast port, kumara and potatoes, with cabbge and carrots, followed by rhubarb cake. With bubbly, red wine, and port it was a very pleasant evening.
Friday was pack up, clean up, and head home for me, and head north for Bob and Pru, and home for me.