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Monday, May 31, 2010

NEW ZEALAND – WAITOMO CAVES

 

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.

Farm Fresh There is a weekly Saturday morning Farmer's Market getting started in The Britomart parking lot as I walk towards my car.

 

 

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.

Map picture

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.

 

Sloping Pasture The initial part of M1 South passes commercial and residential areas but soon leaves it all behind for wide open pastures and magnificent distant hills.

 


Like it's counterpart to the north, M1 snakes it way through many small towns most of which offer good reasons to stop.

Kiwi I take up one offer to visit with a gigantic colorful kiwi that is more fortunate than its nocturnal family which lives under the threat of extinction.

 

 


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.


Waitomo River For NZ$39 I sign up for the next Waitomo Glowworm Cave guided tour at 12 noon.

 

 

 

 

Waitomo Boat Most of the workers here are descendants of the Maori tribes that originally discovered the caves.

 

 

Waitomo Riders It was not until 1889 that the Maori shared their discovery with the rest of the world.

 

 

 


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.

Waitomo Caves I doubt I will find a comparable experience to Waitomo Glowworm Caves.

 

 

 

Old Barn I continue my exploration heading to Rotorua, New Zealand highest and most visited city.

 

 

 

Cool Mountain

 

I have driven many places but the roads from Waitomo to Rotorua provide the most beautiful driving scenery that I have ever seen.

                                                                                                                                    Road Trees Picture the most vivid greens and blues you have ever seen then accent them with an occasional royal purple, sunset orange or canary yellow.

 

Yellow SubmarinesAnd only then will you'll have a glimpse of the beauty that I am allowed to take in.

 

 

 

 

DSC00767There are so many “Kodak” moments that it requires a determined discipline to press on to my destination.

 

 

 

Purple Rain I do so with an occasional stop just to breathe the fresh air or to listen to sheep bleating by the roadside.

 

 

 

Honey Bee

Feeding Honey Bee

 

 

 

 

 

Stumped I am stumped by all the gorgeous scenery and landscape that I get to enjoy.

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