This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper in July 1998
18 Go Caving At Puketoi
19-10 May 1998
An unexpected burst of enthusiasm on the two club nights prior meant, astonishingly, that the trip was over subscribed. And that was after allowing for those who were just coming for the Saturday. After the usual trials and tribulations of trip organisation; getting permission, advice, gear and transport together, the Saturday of the trip dawned fine, cool and clear.
We met at the first cafe on the left in Pahiatua at 9.30am. After enjoying our hark back to the 60s in dining and decor we shared out helmets and lights on the footpath. A few people rushed off to purchase batteries, overalls and gloves. We moved in convoy to Makuri and thence to our shearers quarters accommodation. After changing into caving gear (generally overalls over polyprops, gumboots and heavy rubber gloves) we found our way in the cars via Coonoor to the purpose of our trip, Indecision Cave (PT17).
The entrance to the cave is its trickiest bit, and rope was rigged to assist with access. All 18 of us then clambered down into the darkness, arriving at a stream fed by a waterfall. Lunch was a movable (or forgotten)feast. As a group we wandered down the stream passage to the sump, inspecting side passages on the way. Then groups of people explored the upper, generally drier, reaches of the cave. The cave was large enough for the entire group to spread out and explore. People were able to stretch and challenge themselves as far as they wished. We spent from 3 to 4 hours in the cave. On the way back to our lodgings, permission and the location of a cave for the morrow was sought. Those staying the night managed to fit into the hut, although both the table and floor were used for sleeping.
After some left for other engagements in the morning, there were 11 people found walking across green pasture in damp overalls, under overcast skies, wearing hard hats. Crawling under a bank they entered Famous Five, a "sporting cave" with more formation and climbing than found the day before. Passing two animals better not described, the sound of water could be heard. Following a 2 metre descent a waterfall filled the passage. The noise was strong and staying dry was not an option. The two with wet suits were very happy with their covering. The walls were fluted and the stream formed and ran along the bottom of the cave. A second waterfall followed, but in scurrying under it a member of the party fell and cut their knee just under their knee cap. This was very painful, and immobilised them. Those ahead were recalled; we had only done about one third of the cave. Fortunately after a time the leg was able to be gingerly used, and we were able to exit the cave, and return to base. A small cave upstream was investigated on the way back to the car by some members of the group.
At the time of writing the knee has been stitched and is healing well, but remains stiff and sore. The party washed up, cleaned up, and departed, a few taking the opportunity to visit the Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre on the way home.
Those caving were: Adrienne Vermeulen, Paul Barns, Sandra Barns, Paul Johns, Nigel Heeney, Alex Robson and Fiona Chadwick (Indecision), and Richard West, Sally Chesterfield, Ariana Hitch, Jennifer Roberts, Stefan Konopatzk, Myra van der Woude, Jane Furkert, Anne Dowden, Nick Crang, Cherie Marshall (Famous Five). Leader and Scribe Simon Davis.
Special thanks to the Wellington Caving Group for gear hire and advice.