While crawling through a very small space in a dark underground tunnel may be anxiety inducing for some, once you are inside a cave looking up at a cathedral-like room in what feels like the very womb of the Earth, you find there’s a sense of serenity and beauty amongst the mud filled landscape.
Presented with the opportunity to experience caving, I definitely had reservations about my own abilities and whether I would get wedged between a literal rock and a hard place.
Cave guide and owner of local adventure tourism business Raglan Rock, Gareth Jones explains he will be taking us through what is called ‘The Rattlesnake,’ – the most advanced caving route he offers at the Te Pahu location.
Fortunately for the rookie caver, Gareth is like Raglan’s own Bear Grylls and will make you feel at ease and even provides a pop-culture influenced narrative of your journey making it seem like a treasure hunt, a la The Goonies or Indiana Jones.
Entering the cave via a hole in a grassy field surrounded by sheep, helmets and headlights on, wearing multiple layers of thermals and a boiler suit, we descended into the darkness.
Gareth explains that – in a nutshell – these caves are formed by water trickling down through the rocks to carve out holes and passageways after tectonic activity has pushed sedimentary rock (usually limestone) up from beneath the Earth.
These are called ‘solution caves’ and many of these caves feature streams and lakes and unusual mineral formations within, including stalactites, stalagmites, columns, curtains, and flowstones.
We were treated to some amazing looking formations inside, including rooms with the ceiling covered in stalactites, a formation that looked like a brain and some yummy looking chocolate, caramel and vanilla coloured walls.
About an hour or so into the trip, I started to think that surely we were nearing the end of our expedition at which point Gareth stopped by a small crack in a rock and said, “now, we begin.”
‘The Rattlesnake’ is one of Gareth’s’ advanced caving routes and there were definitely a few challenging obstacles to overcome including crawling on your back with limited airspace, swimming underwater and also a bit of underground rock climbing chucked in the mix.
At the end of the trip I felt both exhilarated and exhausted from experiencing this underground universe. I think Kiwi caver Chris Whitehouse summed it up best when he says that caving is an adventure:
“To go places no one has ever been before, and to stare down these almost bottomless holes and staring into the darkness and not knowing what’s there. Could it be a connection or a pile of rocks? Or could it be something beautiful or something horrible? Is it going to be the best place you’ve ever been or the worst place you’ve ever been? – it’s just the whole unknown.”
Currently rated the number one thing to do in Raglan on Trip Advisor, contact Raglan Rock to book your own underground wonderland adventure. Gareth is also taking bookings for his Easter school holiday programme so get in touch to book your kids into an adventure filled break learning new skills like rock climbing, abseiling, archery, caving, orienteering, bouldering and caving.
Raglan Rock: 0800 724 7625 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org web: www.raglanrock.com