Excursion to Cave Stream, NZ

I first learned about Cave Stream while putting together a list of geocaches we might try to find to while on vacation in New Zealand. In December, I started trying to convince the rest of the family that walking up a stream in a cave for 600 meters would be a great adventure. By the time our plane touched down in New Zealand in February, I’d pretty much resigned myself to the fact it wasn’t going to happen. I just couldn’t seem to persuade our boys that the fun factor outweighed the risks and Mr. GeoK wasn’t very enthusiastic about the idea, either.

So when our Andy, our tour guide at Grasmere Farm asked the boys if they’d like to go to Cave Stream that afternoon and they replied “yes” I just about fell over!

It didn’t take long to get organized: a picnic lunch, bathing suits, sandals, headlamps, a waterproof camera, and (on a scrap of paper sealed inside a Ziploc bag) the list of questions we had to answer in order to find that geocache, which read as follows:

A = Number of significant waterfalls you have to climb up (anything more than about 50 cm high, which requires holding on, that you have to physically climb up i.e. is at a significant gradient)
B = Number of rocks you have to almost swim under
C = Total number of rungs you have to climb up in the entire cave
D = Number of clips which are attached to the chain
E = Number of other clips near chain but which aren’t attached to chain minus one – count both types
F = Right AFTER the third significant turn in the stream – as in you will almost be going back the way you came turn – there is a part where it looks like the path could split in two. Peer into the wrong path. How many sections does that part then split into?

GeoKs at the prescribed entrance to the cave, so that you walk against the current.
At the entrance to the cave, we decided who would remember the answer to each question, turned on our headlamps and followed Andy. For almost an hour, until we exited at the far end, C and I kept comparing waterfall counts. And since we knew there wouldn’t be any chance for a do-over, we had a family conference at point F until we all agreed on one number.

Mr. GeoK took charge of the camera and he did a great job with our little waterproof point-and-shoot. After a bit of practice, he got pretty good at light painting with his headlamp while using the camera in “twilight handheld” mode. Take a look, and remember to click on any of the photos if you’d like to see a larger version.

Back out in the sunshine, we warmed up quickly. Over lunch, I worked on the puzzle and – thanks to the checksum hint included in the geocache description – quickly derived a plausible set of coordinates. C headed off, GPS in hand, with Mr. GeoK close behind. No luck! I massaged a couple of answers and we tried again. Still no luck! But our disappointment at not finding the geocache container was greatly overshadowed by the experience of making our way through the cave.

Back at our lodging, I fired up the computer and emailed the cache owner, outlining the answers we’d come up with and asking if it was possible to get a bit of a hint as to where we’d gone wrong. We weren’t too surprised when she replied the next morning that we’d gone wrong with our count of the waterfalls, and then one other error became clear.

Grass-covered rolling hills, boulders, creeks and rivers are key features of the landscape at the Cave Stream Scenic Reserve.
So when we left Grasmere a short while later, our first stop was – you guessed it – at Cave Stream. With the corrected set of coordinates plugged into our GPSr, we soon had the geocache in hand and a hard-earned smiley added to our list of finds. 🙂

The rest of the time we were in New Zealand and people asked us what we liked best so far, Cave Stream was always at the top of my list. It became apparent that a lot of locals had never heard of it, so it must be one of New Zealand’s best-kept adventure secrets. We highly recommend it. If you go remember, be smart, be prepared and be safe.

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  1. Pingback: Geocaching Around the World – New Zealand | Out and About with the GeoKs

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