Rawhiti Cave was the farthest from the beaten track we got during our trip to New Zealand. Near Golden Bay, at the end of a dirt road marked only with a handwritten sign, we had to un- and re- latch a gate keeping in grazing cattle on private land. We parked in a grass field and made our way to the trail, which snaked into a steep and dark valley. No one else was there. We really should have gotten an earlier start. After a 30 minute walk along a dried up river, the trail began to zig zag straight up the side of the mountain, and the mosquitos began to whine in my ears.
I thought the switchbacks would never end, blood was pounding in my ears and it kept getting darker. Finally we arrived at our destination, and as we rounded the corner it was all worth it–a massive 100′ wide and 50′ tall gouge in the side of the mountain, framed by a ceiling and floor of stalactites and -mites, thousands of drips echoing around. I carefully climbed down into the cave, everything was wet and slippery. It sloped down into inky blackness, but I only went as far as my courage could take me, and then climbed back out. The sun was setting as we emerged back at the farm. We left without running into another soul.
(Editor’s note: Look closer. That’s Sarah Landau standing in the very back of that cave).
By: Sarah Landau