I did question my sanity at times. The 12.1 mile (19.4km) hike turned out to be quite the test of endurance, but the hike turns into a story of triumph once you're standing at 6,000+ ft with 360 degree views of Northern New Zealand.
Lights out. Our senses raced to process while our eyes recover. We inhaled the dampness of the air as its coolness tightened our skin, while the roar of a distant waterfall grew closer. One-by-one, then cluster-by-cluster, the watery corridor was illuminated by tiny blue lights. We'd entered a literal wormhole to a galaxy inside the earth.
Like little birds queued to take their first chance at flight, our guides gently nudged us out of the "nest" one by one onto a seemingly precarious length of PVC pipe. Perched with wide eyes, tethered to nothing but rope and hope, it was all air between us and the floor of the cave entrance 330 feet below. "Is it too late to back out?" we both thought in unison as we smiled nervously at each other.
"Ok everyone, off the platform!" said the lead guide, sending our hearts and minds racing.