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April 11, 2008

Harwood's Hole

In search of something new and interesting, we, the staff from NZKS headed north to Takaka Hill in search of a very big hole.


To make sure we were all on the same page we headed to Motueka and the Whenua Iti abseil tower for a little practice with all the caving gear. After several laps up, down and around the tower we drove to the car park atop Takaka Hill. Early-ish the next morning we rose and with bacon filled bellies walked the 40mins to the awesome location that is the day-light drop shaft.

Mick Hopkinson and Ben Jackson descend into Harwood's Hole
image: Zak Shaw

With ropes rigged, we descended in pairs the 180m to the bottom of the drop shaft. A truly magical place I cannot begin to describe. Mick and I stopped part way down to take it all in. He took the opportunity to fill me in on some of the terrifying events that have taken place since its first descent in the 60's.

Mick about to descend to 180m to the bottom of Harwood's


With all the team on the ground and ready to go we made our way down the scree slope into the enveloping darkness. A few teething issues with the carbide lights meant a slow start, but very quickly we feel into the rhythm of moving through the cave system.


Kayakers explore the possibility of kayaking underground... possibly

Around every corner we were greeted with new and surreal sights and formations. On its continuous quest downwards, the water that flowed through the cave had carved out and deposited amazing platforms, stalactites and stalagmites. These amazing natural sculptures and formation were all to foreign to me having spent so much time the water above ground.

Anna Matson does her best to stay high and dry. This wasn't acheived


Most of our travel through the cave was straight forward. Occasionally we used fixed ropes to rappel down the stepper steps. As we traveled deeper into the Starlight cave system things started to scale down slightly. The large open caverns gave way to smaller rooms and passage ways with small squeezes linking them together. Gone was the grace that we had been moving with. Creativity took over as we crawled and contorted ourselves and our gear to conform with the caves requests. On more than one occasion I was reduced to tears watching the torsos and legs of my fellow caver's disappear into the darkness.

Zak and Shannon prepare to re-enter the world as you know it. Starlight Cave

Too soon for my liking we emerged at the caves outlet after two stunning hours underground. A trip not to be missed. Now it was back to the top the de-rig the rope system and head back to the truck for a cold beer... well almost. Carpark to carpark took about 8 and a half hours.

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