Having left my rental car on the street overnight for FREE PARKING, I am up early to start my day and avoid a parking ticket. The morning is filled with sunshine but there's still a chill in the air from the wind blowing between the high rise buildings.
Huge cauliflowers, beets, vine ripe tomatoes along with fresh bread and pastries are just some of the selections offered.
A short stop at an Asian Market on Beach Rd next to Alternative Rent A Car and I pick up two bags of kiwi fruit for NZ$1. A bargain compared to Foodtown where they sell for NZ$3.39 per kg.
At the checkout stand I also grab a 120VAC plug adapter for NZ$3. Most hotels have ones that are loaned out to guests (good luck) or you can purchase them at the airport for NZ$11-20.
East on Beach Rd, I make my way to M-1 South towards Hamilton headed for Waitomo and then Rotorua.
It's about a two and a half hour drive to Waitomo.
Like it's counterpart to the north, M1 snakes it way through many small towns most of which offer good reasons to stop.
Approaching Hamilton I wish I could spend time there as the radio announces an important rugby match will be played later today. Out of Hamilton I follow M3 to exit on RTE37 for Waitomo.
Along the road there are businesses offering various adventure packages including cave tubing, rappelling and horse back riding. All of these events can also be arranged at The Visitor's Center as half or full day trips.
We are greeted by stalactites, stalagmites and the sound of dripping water as we enter the upper entrance of the caves. By artificial light, the effects and beauty of combining water and limestone over millions of years can be seen.
Descending stairs puts us in “The Cathedral” of the caves and after a bit of questioning about our nationalities and coaxing from our guide we are entertained with a folk song by a group of “Aussies”. I miss another karaoke opportunity to represent my birthplace with Harry Belafonte “Day O”.
Lights out and we get a brief experience of what to expect later on in our tour. We are then shown a close up of the glowworms food capturing system that involves self-made fishing lines. Another set of descending stairs and we wait our turn to board a powerless boat that will continue our tour.
As I search my surroundings, I sense that I am outside and night is beginning to fall. I know otherwise because I am encompassed by cave walls, I am just beginning to observe the glowworms in action.
About twenty eight passengers board an oversize aluminum type row boat. Our guide who stands on the bow requests our silence then maneuvers the boat using an overhead rope system into the full darkness of the cave.
As if by magic, we have been transported outside and are under a star filled sky on a moonless night. Eyes slowly adjust and every breath is held as we silently taken in this awesome and spectacular scenery. The glowworms are at work above us and twinkle like stars. It is by far the best I have ever witnessed of nature in action.
After ten minutes we are encouraged to breathe as the cave exit approaches. Our exit is the original entrance used by a Maori chief in 1889 to allow the first Non-Maori a British Explorer into the caves.
I have driven many places but the roads from Waitomo to Rotorua provide the most beautiful driving scenery that I have ever seen.
Feeding Honey Bee