Then we hit the river, which we had to cross! Knee deep and about 15ft wide with freezing water! The trail from here on in, as described in the guide was very gnarly, lots of tree roots, narrow, greasy and at some points the stream flowed along it. So we sloshed our way upwards as the path climbed through beautiful woodland.
After a couple of kms (less than the signs indicated) we arrived at Maitai Cave.
I ventured in to explore while Jo and Paula waited outside for me. I could hear the stream from above and it sounded like there was quite a lot of water. Difficult to see initially how far down the climb was to get to it and how much of the passage it filled. I clambered down greasy, muddy boulders making tentative use of the rope that was belayed around the rock that wedged across the entrance.
Landing in the ankle-deep stream at the bottom I could see that it emerged from a small opening directly ahead of me. I looked to my right first to see what was there but after a few steps saw that there was no way on. I ducked down and could see that it was possible to get into where the stream was emerging. I crawled into a short passage that only went a few metres. the water seemed to be coming from under the rock wall.
On coming back out, I followed the stream (all of 2 – 3 metres!) to where it disappeared underground – a couple of tree trunks were wedged in the stream.
Turning around to my right, I looked up and saw that there were more boulders with a piece of tat hanging down. Above them was an aven. I climbed up, inspecting the rope carefully as I may well need it to get down again. The floor was strewn with large boulders, mostly covered in greasy mud and knowing that Jo and Paula were waiting outside I decided not to go any further. It didn’t look like there was a way on.
Shining my light upwards I could see that the aven was about 30 ft high but difficult to see if there were any stals. Apparently Maitai Cave is the home to a very rare snail but I couldn’t see any pools that it could have been in – all water I saw in the cave was flowing quite fast!
I was quite cold by the time I clambered out, very muddy and wet! We made our way back down through the forest. It really is a beautiful trail. The river flowed on our left and we soon came to a point where the path met the river and by then I was warm enough to give myself a bit of a wash and get rid of the bulk of the mud!
It took us about 2 and a half hours in total to do the 11kms and 20 minutes or so of cave exploration. The sign at the start says it is 13km and will take 5 hours. However, we did run all the runnable parts (approx 6km).