This article was first published in SumpThink in October 2005
3 to 4 September 2005
Waitomo, new caves, good weather, familiar faces, what more could you ask for for an escape from Wellington, so Friday 2nd September found Angela and Simon, meeting at Kim's place in Johnsonville, having taken the afternoon off, loading the van with helmets, Saturday night's dinner, and gear, and heading north about 3pm.
Getting away before traffic meant we made good time, and apart from a driver change at Bulls we didn't stop until fish-and-chips at Waiouru and another driver change. A scoop of chips at Waiouru feeds four! We cruised the dark roads to the west of the mountain, and got into ASG hut at the agreeable hour of 10pm, already occupied by a number of ASGs. It was great to get an opportunity to meet some of the ASG cavers. Soon John Robson and Nicki arrived from the big smoke, and Mike Coburn and Doug. After an epic drive Judith, Mark, Tanya, and Marcel arrived in the early hours of the morning!.
Attach:Photos.2005-09-03-Waitomo-ASG/2005-09-04-GardenersStals-sml.jpeg Δ|Stals in Gardeners
Saturday dawned one out of the box, Ruapehu visible to the south, and all the way up the Waikato to the north. John and Nicki, Mark, Judith et al, headed for Waipuna with some ASGs. The rest of us headed to Virginia where Kim and Ange had their first SRT. Doug went down first, and Mike last. Attach:Photos.2005-09-03-Waitomo-ASG/2005-09-03-VirginiaEggs-sml.jpeg Δ|Virginia Eggs
Virginia is a streamway, with nice formation, the "Sputniktite" (although we think it should be a "mite", with a climb up to look at some pretties - "eggs" in a pool in the "Hall of the Gods", and another climb over to the streamway to do the furthest reaches of the stream. We enjoyed the top half of the cave, to the end, water levels were low, in fact it was quite dry at Waitomo. Simon did the swim (to cool off) and the mud grovel to get out of the pool, on the way back and had a brief look downstream where the route was not obvious. We dried out in the sun before heading back to relax before tea.
Tea was a classic, and a credit to our illustrious leader. After persuading some to peel fresh (yes fresh) apples we were treated to spag bol followed by apple crumble and dollops of icecream. The obligatory port made a small appearance. Barry and Gavin came up from HTG where they had been on a ropes course till 7pm!
Attach:Photos.2005-09-03-Waitomo-ASG/2005-09-04-GardenersGutPassage-sml.jpeg Δ|Gardeners Gut Passageway
Sunday was out of the same box, and we all got together, barring Nicki and Mark who rested up, for Helms Deep. No one the night before had been able to say they knew where the entrance was, but Doug got us to the carpark, and we walked down a steep bulldozer track to some paddocks. From the low point it wasn't long till Mark and Doug found the entrance and we were all inside.
Well everyone seemed to think it was a long walk, so off we set. The travel was enjoyable with more formation than we expected and a lot of variety in the passage. It was hard to identify some of the side passages, although the waterfalls couldn't be missed. We have several stops including lunch. Tanya and Marcel made great time, even when the water was (adult) waist deep.
So it was surprising when we popped out into daylight after being underground perhaps 4.5 hours. We stripped off in the sun, and Mark was only a cell phone call away to take the drivers back to their vehicles. We all got back, cleaned up, and were away at a civilised 4pm. It was a pleasant drive home and surprisingly we were in Wellington at 10pm, unloading the gear, and being thankful for such a great escape.
- Simon & Kim.
- Angela, Mike Coburn, Doug Flux, John Robson, Nicki, Mark P, Judith, Tanya & Marcel.