Adventures in Hobbitland Part Three: NZSS AGM
Friday, 23 October 2015 – Monday, 26 October 2015

Got the ferry with Arvid (overly keen and efficient German), Gav (really socially awkward diesel mechanic: if the lead character of a film drives a ford you know its going to be bad) and Marcus (chilled out NZ guy, young professional) at midday. Drove for 5 hours through serious LOTR territory before arriving at the Canterbury Caving Base (CCB) at about 10pm. The journey wouldve been quicker if Arvid wasnt so German and rules-obsessed and had driven above 100km/hr. There was quite a lot of beer to be drunk, so I got on with that. More people arrived and we chatted about stuff in the kitchen until everyone was in bed, at a stupidly early time of 1am (cavers dont seem to party as hard here, though I was assured by Alex on the way home that this was an unusually quiet AGM: past years have involved a bottle of vodka each and naked fighting with kitchen knives and chopping boards).

Up at sunrise the next day as I was sleeping outside. After bananas and peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast, we tried to get a trip sorted. Jonathan (IT geek and former Cambridge member, obsessed with drinking tea) was tasked with showing us round Te Tahi, a classic West Coast cave. He had no vehicle, no wellies and had lost his breakfast. Alice (really loud and officious botanist, chief oragniser of the weekend) gave him substantial hassle until things worked themselves out. We were still at the entrance before 10:30, far superior to most ULSA efforts. Weather was still really sunny so I was roasting in my wetsuit. Got to the Iron Room where we had about 45 mins of photos (to follow when Jonathan sends me them), really pretty formations a bit like the black stained ones in Notts II. After that, there was a great little splashy streamway for a bit and then we reached a really fun slide down a waterfall that apparently should be handlined (silly me; it was much more fun to toboggan though). Then onwards to a junction where you can exit up a 30m pitch or carry on to see a whale skeleton fossilised in the passage (pretty cool) and then out of the really horribly muddy (ankle deep mud, crawling, nothing compared to parts of GG, Easegill etc) rebirth canal. Awesome cave and really fun through trip, done in 5.5 hours with 2 long photo stops.

Then back to the hut to get boozy before the AGM dinner, for which Alice had requested we all wear a suit, specifically saying this is not the wild west. I therefore wore my neon cowboy hat that I had acquired for some party previously. It was a buffet, and I ate quite a lot. Marcus gave a nice talk on Bulmer (a generalised version is in a recent issue of Descent if anyone wants to know more). After that, again everyone went to bed quite soon.

Was awoken by a guy messing with plumbing near my head: still no rain, apparently very rare for the West coast. Got moving quite sluggishly but was soon looking for a trip. Had planned to go to Black Widow (fun sporting through trip) but Justin had cut his hand opening a bottle the night before so no one was going there any more. Instead, it was photography with Jonathan again, this time in a cave called Golf Course. This cave took quite some time to find, as it is an hours walk through really thick bush with only tape to guide the way. After some complications, we got underway. Made quick progress to the part of the cave giving it its name: amazingly deep pools in a streamway (would be fun to explore free-diving if you had a wetsuit), which are fun to avoid falling in. I almost made it through the trip without getting wet feet: however, on the way back I fell in the last but one pool (cruxy move). Sad times. We were out and back at the hut for 8pm after further route finding issues. There was a really yummy barbeque with venison burgers and sausages. Good stories of incompetence were told, and we all sat round the fire drinking and telling tales until it was bed time. Still no rain that night, and beautiful stars.

On the way home the next day we had planned to visit a cave called Profanity, but again we had issues finding the entrance. Once we eventually found it, we got about 20m in before we found the passage blocked by a massive rockfall after a recent earthquake (the passage is basically a massive boulder choke anyway so fun times). Thwarted, we made our way back to Picton for the ferry home.
Excellent weekend: despite not being as raucous as I had expected, it was great weather, good company and a chance to do some fun new caves. Big thanks to Arvid for driving and Alice for organising.