Wednesday 19 Jan 2011 - Sunday 23 Jan 2011 24 °C
It's been about two weeks since I wrote, and I don't have all the pics for this last week, so I'm gonna do this entry in two parts.
Dance is great. I've been doing a lot of it. My regular day consists of taking the bus into CBD (Central Business District) around 9am, going to a course on proper research technique at the school or reading papers. Generally I hang around in CBD until dance starts on Monday or Tuesday nights. Wednesday has been my rest night, but West Coast Swing starts soon... I hope I can find a ride. :S On Thursdays, Courtney and Evan are teaching me how to play D&D. :D Yes, I know it's super geeky. I love it! I had such a great time, and the people there are so much fun. We play for about 3 hrs every Thursday now, so that evening's taken up. I'm gonna try and convince them to go to Karaoke at 9pm (after the game).... we'll see. :P Below are some random pics on my way to an awesome weekend adventure.
On Saturday Jan 22 I travelled to Waitomo Glowworm Caves and went on a 5 hour Black Water Rafting tour! OMG IT WAS AMAZING! First they got the group of us suited up and pumped for the adventure. I met this really nice man named Lars who works as a Project Manager north of Auckland. He gave me his card and told me that I could come stay with him and his wife when I venture up north. Once we got to the cave entrance, we practiced abesailing (ie. repelling) on the ground before going in. Then we abesailed down into the cave one at a time. It was so cool! You started out dangling over this hole in the ground, which you eventually had to squeeze through, and then make your way down about 30m in pitch blackness. My eyes didn't adjust right away, so even the headlamp didn't help much. You had no idea where the bottom was or anything. Once safely inside the cave the guides told us to turn our headlamps off. By the time everyone was down, our eyes had adjusted and above us we could see tiny blue-green stars: my first glimpse at glowworms!
Inside the caves we spent about three hours exploring. We had to walk along crazy crevices deep into the cave system and then take a zip line into the darkness to get down to a ledge above the water. It was so cool! The guide attached me to the zip line, told me to put your feet on specific ledges, and then let go. For about 30 seconds (which seems like forever when you're going that fast), I was sailing through the darkness, not knowing where the end of the zip line was, and all I could see around me and above were millions upon millions of glowworms. It was the most beautiful experience I've had here so far. Stunning.
Next we got a snack (they were so prepared!) and we jumped down with our tubes into the freezing cold water. It wasn't really black water rafting like I expected, but with all the other neat stuff we did, I didn't mind. It was more just floating or paddling around under the glowworm stars. We were in a cave system known as the Ruakuri cave meaning "den of dogs" because a young Maori boy discovered it when he was hunting and attacked by a pack of wild dogs that lived in the cave. The Maori tribe proceeded to kill the pack and claim the cave for themselves as a natural wonder.
The guides also told us the TRUE story of the glowworms: they're not actually worms. They're maggots. Maggots that turn into a particular type of gnat that, due to some sort of design flaw, has no way to eat. Basically the maggots live in the "glowworm" stage for 6-8 months in which they only need to eat 2-3 times. They eat by sending down long sticky fibers that catch insects. Once they turn into gnats, with no way to eat, they have only one purpose in life: sex. So they reproduce, and the female goes off to lay her eggs. She lays them in clutches of 20-30 eggs (she has about 200) because the first ones hatched will eat the others as their first meal. Mmmmm maggot omelet. The adult gnats fly around for a maximum of 2 days before they either die of starvation... or, more common, they get caught in the feeding fibers of the "glowworms" and digested by their young. Additionally, the bioluminescence of these maggots is not their bodies but rather their excrement. It serves the dual purpose of attracting prey to the fibers. Hence, the guides have lovingly nicknamed the glowworms "cannibalistic maggots with shiny shit".
We spent our time climbing through these caves, sometimes swimming, tubing, climbing through holes in the rock, finding whale bones and various other fossils that would usually be part of the ocean floor, but the caves were formed when the ocean floor was basically shoved up into New Zealand. The group was great. We even met an eel, Cecil, that is not a cave eel but for some reason likes to live in a specific sheltered pool in the cave (either that or it can't find it's way back out). At the end of the adventure we had to climb up two waterfalls. The first one was basically hanging from the ceiling and the guides told us where to put our feet so that we could climb around the wall near it, then kinda leap into the mouth of the waterfall in order to get up there. It was so much fun. The last waterfall took us out into a beautiful forest, above ground. WE DID IT! Haha. Then we went for hot soup and bagels. Sweet as, bro. :P
On Sunday January 23 it was POURING outside. I booked a surfing lesson, and when I called the guide in the morning to confirm it was still on despite the storm, he said that it was actually amazing conditions for beginners at Piha (one of the best surf beaches around Auckland). The storm and offshore winds caused the waves to be only about 2ft high instead of the regular 6ft, and the group consisted of only 5 of us girls, all around the same age. Lol, I was the worst in the group, but that's okay, I had fun. We spent 2hrs learning to surf, had lunch, then 2 more hrs before driving back to Auckland. I was exhausted! My abs were sore from the cave adventure the day before, and after surfing I didn't think my body was ever going to forgive me! Still, sooooo much fun.
Monday I finally got to start in the lab! Yes! So far it's just getting to know the equipment, but that's okay.