Haggas’ Honking Holes is a tour company’s name for a great underground adventure trip. You start out in the town of Waitomo where you head for the company’s headquarters. After a quick test where you have to crawl thru a small tunnel to make sure you won’t get stuck underground, we all boarded a truck to head out to a local sheep farm (owned by a guy named Haggas) to find the cave entrance.
We started out at a changing room in a sheep barn where we were all issued wet suits, helmets, harnesses, and headlamps. We got a bit of instruction on rappelling safety, and then started hiking toward the cave entrance.
The cave started with a steep climb down to the first rappel, about 30 meters, the highest one in this cave. It followed a narrow waterfall, but it was not necessary to get wet, except for walking in the stream. Some sheep bones were found along the way. Sheep sometimes fall into the holes, and one guide said he once rescued one. The cave was beautifully decorated, with stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, cave coral and soda straws everywhere. The guides warned not to touch the “pretty white stuff”, the delicate formations common throughout the cave.
The second rappel was a wet one down a short but strong waterfall. Rappelling down a waterfall probably sounds like more fun than it is at the time, especially when you are directly inside the water. At the bottom, we had to find where the water was flowing, and follow it. This took me a minute. It turned out to be flowing through a low crawl-space. This passage, like some others we would come to, was so low I could not keep my face completely dry.
We slid down one waterfall, aided by a guide with a rope at the top. We got a close-up look at some glow worms. We saw soda straws a couple feet long. When we got to the deepest part of the cave, 65 meters below the surface, the stream went through a submerged passage, which the guide said could be passed by holding your breath for 30 seconds. We headed back up at that point via a different route.
We raced with our guide through one winding section, and stopped for hard toffee candy bars and lemonade. Then we came to a free climb, which was not too hard. I went first, and got the job of attaching the safety line to each person at the next big ladder, calling “up rope” to the guide at the top when they were ready to climb.
Then there was a series of tight climbs and crawls, where we followed a rope through a series of narrow passages with some steep parts. After more climbing, we emerged under the waterfall we first rappelled down. More ladders and climbs brought us to the exit, just over the hill from the entrance.
Unfortunately due to the extreme wet and rough conditions, I couldn’t bring my camera down with me, so the picture is stolen from a promotional brochure. Such is life!