Wednesday, April 18, 2007

CAVING THE OKUPATA DROPSHAFT





The Murrays went caving this week. The Okupata caves have been busily and quietly forming over the last 300 years courtesy of the limestone in the area and the river that runs through it. There are no stalactites or mites due to the relative infancy of the caves but it is still exciting exploring and is the home of millions of glowworms.

I first visited these caves 5 years ago when we went on a school camp. They are deep in a forest which belongs to the Dept of Conservation approx 20km from Mt Ruapehu so it is relatively unknown and unspoilt. As I’d done this trip 3 times I figured I knew enough to take the family down with me. Having convinced Mrs Claustrophobia that all would be well we set off from Taupo on a bright sunny day and covered the 75km journey in good time.

Aly had a bad start when she slipped on the rocks at the entrance and ended up plonk on her bum in the middle of the stream!! After much laughter we descended into a narrow gap where the stream gouges its way into the limestone and clambered down 40m and then headed off down the main shaft where we had to bend low in places, particularly poor Aly! After about 20 minutes we came into one of the main chambers where we switched off the torch and watched the whole ceiling transform into a universe of glowworm lights – truly spectacular. Aly put her phobia aside and joined us in being mesmerized by the whole spectacle.

Because we had to walk in the stream most of the time our feet were semi-frozen but we managed to stay down for nearly an hour and Gus was most peeved when we opted to turn round and return. There are parts where it gets really narrow and low and I knew herself would not enjoy the constriction and confinement. We had a great adventure and I’m sure we will return there again sometime.

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