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Mar 15, 2016

Accessible Inaccessible Places – Ruakuri Cave, Waitomo

Think hill climbing. Think many stretches of coastline. Think of any long distance bus. And think caves. Dark, damp, impassable rock falls, large boulders all over and steep climbs and drops in the cave floor. Like the others in the list totally inaccessible for most people with mobility problems.

But no! There is one that is different – Ruakuri – one of the three main Waitomo caves. And it’s all due to a truly amazing effort at providing access to a very difficult place. Access is along a walkway - the base is in places wire mesh, and there are sections with of perfectly flat concrete paving. It is sloping down in places such as the entrance area, but does not tilt anywhere – it’s perfectly level. And side rails all the way along if you need some balance. The walkway runs the entire length of the lower levels of the cave.

It is entirely suitable for most people with impaired mobility – although best in pairs as the first section is a spiralling downward trail into the heart of the cave. And the kind of spiralling downward lights photo, is the path going down to the cave floor. It is steepish but quite OK for wheelchairs, for example. But as with all going down paths, there is a going back up mission later on. For those who are not so nimble, and people in wheelchairs… take a friend!

At the bottom the path continues at an easy grade past all kinds of cave features -stalagmites and stalactites and of course a Waitomo cave trip would not be complete without fairy light displays – glow worms. The glow worm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is unique to New Zealand. Thousands of these creatures radiate their unmistakable luminescent light at intervals along the walkway.

The guides who will lead you through, tell you everything you might want to know about the glow worms and the cave system. Tours are approximately 2 hours, with 1 ½ hours underground

It is a truly unique accessible experience and delivers a pretty special feeling of satisfaction and pleasure at having gone where we would never normally expect to go.

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Access4All will be listing accommodation and some other pretty interesting attractions nearby shortly.