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Caving with an I-phone

Glowworm caves, the Hakka and the end of Jucy Lucy

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Sad to say, but we have just seen the last of New Zealand from our plane window. It has however given us an amazing time and thirty days, or 5,000km after our arrival, we can honestly say that it is the most beautiful country either of us has ever visited.

Each and every single day in New Zealand has been amazing. The last two days, true to form didn’t disappoint. Two days ago we decided to break up our long trip with a stop in Rotorua and not yet having experienced the Maori culture we visited a place called Whakarewarewa. It is a small Maori village on the outskirts of Rotorua and is still fully functional with sixty-five people currently living there on the edge of a thermal hotspot. We had a great time being guided around the village and being shown how the Maori have kept their culture in the face of modernisation. They still use the hot-springs for all manner of things; from steam cooking to washing. The only shame is that due to early European exploitation of the steam-fields to provide heating it has meant that the number of active geysers has been reduced tenfold. Those that have remained however were just as spectacular and seeing the plumes of water shoot from the ground was a sight to behold. To top it all off we were treated to a Maori cultural performance. The haka performed by the warriors; awesome; the love story played out; heart-warming; and the dance and music; entertaining and brilliant. The audience was also included as they taught us some Maori dance moves and got us to perform for them. To make it even better this experience cost us about a third of all others we’d come across anywhere else and was perfect for half a day. We left feeling entertained but also like we’d learnt something as well.

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The following day (yesterday) we visited the Waitomo caves, something Rach’s research had turned up. This spot is renowned for its glowworm tours so in a bit of a rush we booked ourselves onto a three hour tour of the Spellbound Glowworm Cave and Te Ana o te Atua (The Cave of the Spirit). Once we’d ventured inside and our guide had explained a little about glowworms, we were led to a waiting boat for a lights-out, silent cruise along a subterranean river. It sent tingles down our spines as we stared up, slack-jawed, at the myriad of pinpricks of lights covering the ceiling. Beautiful doesn’t really do it justice but it’s the best we can come up with at short notice. (By the way the pic below was stolen from the Spellbound Tours Company as our camera really didn't do it justice.)

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All too soon the lights went back on and after a brief break we were led into another cave to find the tour had been carried out in the wrong order. After the glowworm caves this cave was a bit of a comedown, and although the features were interesting, the Moa skeleton remains in particular, it just wasn’t the same. So looking to regain some of the high we’d experienced before we decided to do the Ruakuri Caves and Bush Scenic Short Walk, one of New Zealand’s top ten walks, after the tour. It was just what needed. It was an amazing walk through some brilliant cave formations, and doing a little off track caving we came across another couple with the same idea, but one step ahead of us with a torch (I-phone, what else?) We had an awesome time scrambling betwixt the stalagmites and stalactites we came across and only stopped when we couldn’t find any other route through. After getting back to the camper van, we realised, devastatingly, that it was time to head to Auckland and our flight onwards.

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And coming full circle we’re now in our seats, after a tearful farewell with Jucy Lucy, watching the in-flight entertainment (four films each already) as we beast the eleven and a half hours to Tokyo. Bring it on!

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Although touristy, unless you are lucky enough to stay with a Maori family, cultural ‘experiences’ are a great way to get a glimpse into an amazing culture.
  • There are so many caves in the Waitomo region that you’ll be spoilt for choice. Ask the information centre about the tours so you can decide which is best for you.
  • We chose a tour that we could take photos on but unfortunately unless you have a state of the art camera, nothing will come out.
  • At Waitomo if you want to see the glowworms go on a tour as the ones you can explore yourself, whilst impressive on the cave architecture, do not perform as well on the luminescent front.

Posted by rexontheroad 10:38 Archived in New Zealand

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