Another trip down Shangri La – can’t remember if we blogged the last one! One of the students from Hillcrest mailed me a few weeks ago to see if I would like to go along on the caving trip she was organising as part of her Advanced PE course. Nigel was due to be in Oz so I had to take the boys along but since they had already done the trip in December that wasn’t a problem. We were supposed to go in a minibus but plans changed at the last minute and it was decided that we would go in two cars – mine and Hans’. Arrived at Hillcrest High to find all the students there, but Uivel had done one of his usual vanishing acts, so we decided we had time for a quick dash to the big red warehouse for wellies. Once underway it was an uneventful journey – van full of unnaturally quiet testosterone – six teenage boys (and Aonghas) all wired for sound and typically uncommunicative. We stopped in Waitomo for coffee and to pick up helmets and lights and then along the road to Shangri La. Hans pulled in at a gateway and went to open it – I wasn’t convinced but he was sure that it was the right spot. I had remembered a gateway to a short, steep rubble track which led to two gates at the top, one to the right which opened out into a field with a view down to the entrance doline. We walked through the gate for a better look and walked up the hill. It wasn’t what I remembered but he was adamant saying “I’ll drive down the road to have a look but I think you’ll find that I am right”. As we came back down the hill a Ute pulled up – it was the landowner to say that we were in the wrong spot and that it was further down the hill! No comment! At the top of the right track there was really only one space for a vehicle without blocking the gateways and since Hans was in front he signalled for me to drive through the right hand gate to park in the field. I was reluctant as the entrance looked very boggy. “You’ll be fine,” he said,” just keep hard right and you’re on solid ground!” As the van slewed round and took its own path through the gateway I felt a small knot of anxiety form in my breast!!! Not much I could do now – might as well go caving and cross that bog when we came to it! As we were getting changed Aonghas let out a scream and doubled up in quite some distress, it took a while before he could speak as he was sobbing so much but we finally worked out that he had put his hand onto the fence to balance and received a hefty jolt of electricity! Bless him, he soon recovered, but I guess he will think twice before touching a fence again!
It was a good trip – a little more water than last time which made the lower streamway quite sporting (for beginners). We had a little fossick around the side passages and the little ones enjoyed the mud slides. Oh yes, forgot to mention that Hans had brought Briana his 8 yr old daughter along – good company for Aonghas once they both got over their shyness! I missed the left hand branch because I had remembered it as a right hand branch (probably because we missed it last time and came back up the passage and found it on the right!) negotiated the climb down and then spent a little time checking for the way on. Memory certainly plays tricks on you and the increase in water flow made me question whether we had been in the stream passage last time! But we had and we soon found the way out to daylight and a mudslide to exit the cave! The resurgence stream was flowing well unlike last December which meant we could wash most of the mud off our gear before walking back to the cars.
And now to that bridge to cross! It took a while; a bit of manoeuvring, brute force and some old fencing but we managed to extricate the van almost intact. (we now have a nice dent in the back where someone pushed the soft part of the tailgate!) Chips in Otorohanga and then home for a nice bath to ease those old and aching muscles! Bring on the next caving trip! Must mail Lucy for copies of the photos.