Eerie Stalactite Formations and Giger Inspiration — Caving in New Zealand, Part 1

crimsonclad @crimsonclad
· July 2018 · 5 min read · New Zealand · #photography

crimsonclad aranui cave formations in new zealand detail

Everything here glistens; it is unsettling.

      I've been on the road for days, criss-crossing the North Island of New Zealand powered by whims and a delightfully unhurried feeling that I've adopted and adapted to over years of no itinerary. (Truth be told, I'm probably more powered by Chocolate Fish, but that's besides the point. Adult Travel Professional™, remember?) Evenings spent star watching while huddled in a dim backseat with my headphones snugged down tight over my chilly ears and a rumpled, scribbled-over paper map cradled in my lap have lead me here. I never imagined that New Zealand could be so hollow, or encompass so much depth. I am, of course, referring to the caves.

I'm standing just inside of the entrance of one of them now, squeezing my eyes shut in intervals to help them adjust to the faint amber light.

      I've been to half a dozen caves already — unexpected, yawning holes open in surprising numbers alongside slow rivers or hidden deep inland in the middle of pastures full of cows who are unimpressed I'm tromping through. I've been keenly aware the non-plussed and outright annoyed bovines wouldn't be inclined to call for help if I broke my neck, even were they able to, so up to this point I've kept my explorations as safe as possible. Aranui is the first cave I've entered with a guide, and I'm grateful for him. To even get to this point required a trek through damp, jungle-like foliage, and a weird half squeeze through a locked gate barring a natural entrance, since the stalactite formations in this cave are some of the most spectacular — and vulnerable — in the country.

crimsonclad aranui cave weta in new zealand detail

       He's used to this, and waits for me to get my bearings and resettle my gear. I have been beyond lucky, and it's just me for this run. (I make it a point to show up as early as possible to anything that could be considered a tourist attraction. I'm selfish and like to explore the world as if it belongs solely to me. It's just after six thirty in the morning, and this scholar has been a gentleman to bother getting out of bed for this.) "Weta." He gestures indistinctly. I want to answer with "bless you," but my jaw clicks shut on my smart ass tongue as I notice the bizarre grasshopper-spider-prawn amalgam with quivering antennae unsettlingly close to my face. This is what Peter Jackson named his studio after? Okie doke. I step ever-so-slightly-like-only-a-smidge-really away from the wall because I want to and for no other reason whatsoever.

crimsonclad aranui cave formations in new zealand

We move forward, and the sounds of my foot scuffs and shallow breaths expand along with the acoustics as the main hall of the cave stretches overhead.

      The entrance nook was quiet, almost like a studio with sound deadening; the close walls and soft damp stone surprised me by swallowing up the sounds of my being into a heavy silence. Now, at the edge of the expanse, my presence begins to reverberate again. I realize I've got a crick in my neck from craning to take in everything above me around the same time a thick droplet splats unceremoniously above my eyebrow with what feels like the loudest bare-assed-cannonball-smack in recorded history.

It is magnificent.


crimsonclad aranui cave formations in new zealand

crimsonclad aranui cave formations in new zealand

The ceiling is alive. Waves and layers, knobbed limbs pushing at a slick membrane on the cusp of tearing, straining to break free and drop to the floor to hunt.

      Admittedly, my imagination is running wild... but I can't be sure that nothing there in the gloom isn't moving. My perceptions are skewed by the stretched echoes and the loss of perception and the vast space. Some of the formations are larger than city buses, but my brain has no way to prove it. It's not a far jump to a certainty that the walls themselves must breathing, pulsing wetly each time I look away. I'm mostly in a delighted state of awe, and partially sure a chest burster is going to clamp onto my gawping face as I set my long exposures.

crimsonclad aranui cave formations in new zealand

crimsonclad aranui cave formations in new zealand detail

There is art in nature. In this case, it's a Giger-drawn rilled and ridged tentacle nightmare daydream dripping from the heavens.


crimsonclad aranui cave formations in new zealand

      My guide is tolerant of being mostly ignored (or is asleep on his feet,) but either way, he leaves me to gawk and shoot around the cavern methodically. I get a little thrill each time I bring my camera to my face, as shutting on eye closes out the entire world but the truly alien square in my viewfinder and cuts down my awareness of my surroundings. Peering into the darkest recesses overhead with a long lens, we get ready to turn a blind corner and move on to the next room; I'm decently sure they aren't in the vents, and the game isn't over just yet.

crimsonclad aranui cave formations in new zealand

These photos and words are my own work, inspired by travels all over this pretty blue marble of ours. I hope you like them. 🌶️



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Good morning @crimsonclad! Very well written, as I could "feel" what you were experiencing in going through this cave.

"... but I can't be sure that nothing there in the gloom isn't moving ..."

Seems somewhere I've read there are certain caves down there that have remarkably large insects in them. Am I remembering that right? 😊

"I'm mostly in a delighted state of awe"

Great writing to help us with the "feel" of being there. I have been in caves myself a number of times, so you brought those old memories back "to life." Not just guided either, but going into them alone (well, with a partner) ...

Your story particularly brings back a memory of finding the entrance to a cave in the Mogollon Rim region of Arizona. Years ago, with a dear friend "out for the day" exploring ...

We uncovered the entrance, at the bottom of a sinkhole, and decided to go in. Which required some gymnastics, with gravity working in our favor. Leading to the obvious dilemna soon thereafter, "yeah but ..." how are we going to get back out? When it wasn't in our favor ...

A little forethought goes a long way, but I was "young and foolish" back then (vs. old and foolish now ... 😊). Long story and an unforgettable experience, but we did make it ... 👍

Upvoted 100%.

Steemin’ along and on the move ...

P.S. Would you mind sharing the source of your animated GIF, i.e. who made it for you? Thank you!

The fabulous @overkillcoin put that together for us~ you can find the post here:

Seems somewhere I've read there are certain caves down there that have remarkably large insects in them.

You can see a picture of the weta in the second photo! They're kind of like inside grasshopper prawns, I suppose.

Very good. Thank you for the follow-up @crimsonclad! As time permits, I will definitely be checking into @overkillcoin's services.

Again, no problem on the "time lag," as I know you are very busy.

We "out here" in "minnow land" appreciate all that you and the PALnet team are doing!! 👍

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You are so brave crimmy for venturing to the unknown deep crevices of the earth known as caves. I like also to explore such places and wonder and gaze upon the peculiar beauty of the stalactites and other formations there.

Some stalactites I knew was like defying gravity, changing their vertical formation into a branch-like features because in the area they are forming there is no wind and as the tips of the stalactite evaporate it calcifies and thus forming a weird type of stalactite.

Великолепная статья. Вы прекрасно сумели показать красоту пещер.

Magnificent article. You perfectly managed to display the beauty of the caves.

I so appreciate you saying so! there are so many beautiful places on earth that just need to be discovered and rediscovered~

Я так ценю, что ты так говоришь! существует так много красивых мест на земле, которые нужно просто открыть и открыть заново

Wow that is certainly unsettling. Like an alien claw in the process of being petrified. Alien cocoons. Alien goo....

And here I am wondering if you used flash hahaha....

Very interesting place, thanks for sharing!

I didn't actually; these are all slightly long exposures. There are small spotlights in the caves, but it can be really tough for the camera to track and adjust to get any detail without blowing the images out. It doesn't see the same way your eyes do, so some fiddling is involved.

Having to stand still for a few seconds with dripping slime sacs and alien bugs on the walls... delightfully weird!

I like caves. When I was a kid there was a small one right behind our house, and I practically lived in it. I found one on an island near Sitka with garnets studding the walls, like God had set it with gems.

Actually, I guess that's exactly what happened!

you have no way of knowing, but I think garnets are stunning and they are some of my favorite stones. What an incredibly delightful thing to imagine!

Wow this photos are like from another planet also incredible quality for dark cave photos :D Some of the columns look like creatures or fossils. :) The texture looks fascinating, would love to touch it. Understandably that's usually forbidden for conservation's sake xD

I was told many, many times to resist touching. They may look strong and of incredible size, but are so beautifully delicate~

Yup that's why I bought a bunch of stones and gemstones on a yearly gem market once :) very interesting various textures.
Sadly I gave most away, it was before I started taking photos and I stopped wearing jewelery. Might buy again some other time ^^

This truly looks like some kind of sci-fi movie alien scenario for sure!
so surreal...

Oh hell yeah, those rock formations look like their straight out of Alien - very Giger indeed. I’ve got a few friends that have been to New Zealand, I’m told it’s a beautiful part of the world.

Absolutely beautiful!!! We've got a lot of caves by the rivers down here too! Most of them are small, but there are a few big ones! Caves are beautiful and a very odd yet amazing ecosystem of their own!