Diaries of a Gypsy – The Glowing Cave

Nikhil Kashyap By Nikhil Kashyap, 13th Aug 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Oceania>New Zealand>Auckland & Around

This is an experience I had in a jewel of a destination, tucked away deep in the forests of New Zealand

The joys of travel

Do not fret over a life without accomplishment; do not regret a life lacking wealth, but certainly rue a lifetime where the horizon stretches to only a piece of sky. The world is a book with many chapters, why would you satiate yourself with just one? Few joys compare to the fulfillment of travel, and the beauty of exploration. In this I confess myself fortunate, to have at such a young age witnessed the grandeur of creation. Today I’d like to revisit an island which lies at the end of the world itself.

New Zealand - An Intro

Based on its location and shape, one could aptly refer to New Zealand as the penis of the world! Much like a typical penis, New Zealand is a proud creature, boastful of all of its glories! It is nothing short of a mosaic; a rich tapestry of undulating wonders. Among these wonders, the first are the Waitomo Caves. This is the point where a blogger typically launches into the etymology of the term. I shall refrain from such frivolousness as my goal is to share an experience, not deliver a history lesson.

Acoustic Wonders

Waitomo is nothing short of a labyrinth with a network of crisscrossing structures; however one in particular draws visitors for an enchanting experience. The first 10 minutes of the guided tour yield nothing special; just another regular cavern with stalactite and stalagmite resembling the teeth of a dinosaur ready to clamp down on you! Just as you may begin to loose interest the cave descends into a spectacularly wide area with an 18 meter high ceiling. At this point your tour guide suddenly invites a member of the group to deliver an impromptu acapella! He warns that if the group does not comply, he will himself take the stage. A woman nervously volunteers for the dreaded task of singing to strangers she met not half an hour back! She begins to sing and much to her own surprise she actually sounds good; the walls of the cave seem to auto-tune her voice to an extent that it seems the walls themselves are singing! After the rendition finishes to rapturous applause, the woman has a smug look on her face; one which seems to suggest she thinks she deserves a Grammy! The tour guide startles her out of her reverie by informing the group that the natural acoustic conditions of the chamber is considered to be one of the best in the world. Many classical singers have delivered performances to select audiences in the very same chamber; the purity of sound is said to be unmatched.

Horcrux Cave!

The pinnacle of the Waitomo experience is yet to come. When you reach the deepest darkest corner of the cave, the floor drops away sharply to reveal a vast expanse of silently flowing black water. Yet as you peer into the distance, you see that the silent surface of water is punctuated by fleeting spots that flicker on and off. As you begin to ponder that maybe this is the very cave that Dumbledore and Harry visit to find a Horcrux, your tour guide summons a boat. ‘Wait for me Albus’ you cry out before stepping into the boat that will surely lead you to a cursed locket containing a fragment of the soul of He Who Must Not Be Named! Just as you expect the undead to rise from the surface, your tour guide directs your attention to the ceiling and you are instantly transported from one fantasy to another.

The Night Sky

Luminous glory; the ceiling which seems so close yet an eternity away, is dotted with little pulsating lights. The feeling is quite surreal; surreal, because the sight is as familiar as the night sky yet infinitely different. Imagine lying on your back taking in the spectacle that is a clear night sky. The sheer distance between you and the celestial bodies you gaze upon is apparent to you because of the light around you and the relative perspective that yields. The absence of light in Waitomo makes this notion of distance much more difficult to guage. It is an odd feeling to be staring straight at something, yet unable to place its exact location and size; a perfect demonstration of the science of the human eye. What we see around us and perceive to be ‘real’ is actually just a comprehendable filtered model that the brain constructs. But I digress; the science of the human brain is far beyond my own and certainly not relevant to Waitomo! The glow of the caves is caused by a remarkable creature called the glowworm. A glowworm uses its glow to attract food; insects fly towards the light and get stuck in sticky threads that the glowworm hangs down to catch food. It is slightly disconcerting that this illusion of the night sky is actually the ass of a tiny maggot like creature! Yet when you think about it, it becomes more wondrous and less disconcerting than you would expect.

Going Deeper

Ofcourse any experience in New Zealand is incomplete without a taste of Kiwi Adventure. So prepare yourself to go deeper into the caves, face your fears and laugh in the face of danger; get ready to ‘Tube It’! Armed with only a life jacket and a rubber tube you make your way into the caves; only to be greeted by icy cold water and pitch darkness. Everyone parks themselves comfortably on their tubes and you set sail through narrow cavernous corridors. Once again you pass through a corridor with a ceiling full of glowworms. The experience is different from the previous one, in the sense that it is much more organic. The corridor you are passing through is very narrow, so you can actually smell the cavern walls around you; added to this, you are actually floating on your back as you make your way through. The silence, the stillness and the moving night sky combine to create yet another memorable experience. But hang on, where’s the adventure in all of this, you might ask?

Kiwi Adventure

When you exit the glowing corridor you are once again plunged into darkness. There is just enough light for you to decipher that the ground in front of you drops away entirely leaving an abyss of sorts. Here your guide makes a chillingly bizarre request; he asks you take a leap of faith into the abyss itself! The group chuckles nervously, surely he can’t be serious. To the collective horror of the group he assures everyone that this is the only way forward. As the first person in the line I become the sacrificial volunteer! Ever so politely the guide asks me to fall backwards into the darkness using the tube to break the fall. You see, we humans are accustomed to engaging in acts where we perceive a sense of control, imagined or otherwise. Falling backwards into black empty space inside a cave does not qualify as one of these! When the fateful moment arrives, and as I begin to lean backwards, I become fully aware of the point of no return. When a body is inclined there is a specific point where the center of gravity shifts outside the surface area of the base of the body causing it to fall; or in my case the point of no return! As I cross this point and actually begin to fall, fear gives way to pure exhilaration. The drop is actually a mere eight feet, but it’s enough to leave your adrenalin pumping. After I was finished my spectacular fall, many people opted to use the hidden staircase which I was conveniently never informed about! In retrospect however I’m certainly glad that I wasn’t aware of its presence.

Leap Of Faith

For the life of me, I can not understand a mindset which exhibits an unwillingness to travel. No matter who you are, no matter what you do travelling is the best possible way to experience anything beyond your own boxed life. Whether your cup of tea is to climb a mountain, jump of a plane, visit a museum, appreciate history, and all of the many other wonderful opportunities that travelling provides; just do it, there will always be circumstances dictating otherwise. In many ways this is symbolic of the essence of adventure itself. To be adventurous is to venture out into the unknown and let go of that suffocating sense of control; it is a release from predictability itself. So the next time an opportune moment strolls by, leap into that abyss; take that leap of faith :)

Check out my other pages!

Like what you just read? Show me some more love and check out my other pages! :
Gaming - Mass Moral Crisis - A look back over one of the greatest games of all time
Science and Religion - Wolf In Sheep's Clothing - A discussion on how religion impacts morality


Acoustic, Adventure, Caves, Glowworm, Harry Potter, Kiwi, New Zealand, Travel, Waitomo

Meet the author

author avatar Nikhil Kashyap
If I had to describe myself in three words or phrases, they would be : Explorer, Art and Science Lover, Cynic. That should also give you a good idea about the kind of stuff I'll write about!

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author avatar Ptrikha
20th Aug 2014 (#)

Great Travel Adventure!

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