Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Waitomo and A Bit of Auckland

        When I think about New Zealand, I picture never ending beautiful scenery. I've always heard about how photogenic this country was and when I set foot in it, I couldn't help but agree. 
      But besides the amazing landscapes, there's more to New Zealand than meets the eye. It's not just a place to relax, retire to and count sheep (or cows for that matter) - it's a place where you can really appreciate nature, breathe the freshest air that exists, and try outdoor sports and activities ranging from the tame to the most daring. 
      I wish I could put all of our New Zealand photos in one post but it would be a bit too many ;) Can't help but take a gazillion photos of this place and all the activities that we did (and for the extreme or semi extreme ones - they are prepared to take your photos for you for a price - but so worth it!).
      Our New Zealand adventure started in Auckland, as our flight landed here. We arrived in the morning and spent the day exploring the city. We happened to pass by the Auckland Art Gallery and decided to get to know the culture and history of the country we were visiting. While walking, we also got to see one of the campuses of the University of Auckland and ended up in Queen Street, which is one of the major thoroughfares with lots of stores and shops. But we were surprised that by 5pm, some of these stores were already about to close. We then ate an early dinner and decided to rest so we can leave for Waitomo early the next morning. 
At the Auckland Art Gallery

          When we were planning our trip to New Zealand, a good friend of mine suggested that we go to Waitomo to see the glowworm caves. This intrigued me so I researched on it online and was happy to include it in our trip itinerary. 
          It would be the first stop in our driving tour of the North Island. From Auckland, we decided to rent a car and drive ourselves to our destination. I was the navigator and my husband was the driver. The roads were well planned and the maps were easy enough to read even for a first time visitor, but we were driving on the wrong side of the road haha! It took some time to get used to right hand driving. My husband kept opening the wiper instead of the signal - and I would make fun of him almost every time - until I did it myself when I finally drove the car :P 

At Waitomo

       We stayed at a cozy bed and breakfast called Waitomo Caves Guest Lodge which was run by such gracious hosts. Colin and Janet were very helpful and gave us a lot of good tips on which tours to book and where to go. The room in the lodge was clean and comfortable, with an electric blanket to keep us warm at night! Breakfast was included and it was light but good. 

At Waitomo Caves Guest Lodge
        That afternoon we wasted no time and booked the tour to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves that Colin suggested. We were so glad we listened to him because the other tour had a bus load of tourists waiting to go to the caves. When it was time to go, we met our tour guide, Savitri, and we had a whole coaster to ourselves plus four Irish tourists who were traveling the South and North Islands with a camper van. I thought that was a great way to travel through New Zealand so I told my husband we should try that next time J

Beautiful backdrops
       As expected, our tour was quite relaxed and stress free. We even had time for a snack and tea after a short trek before heading to the caves. 

Snacks with the Irish!
     We walked towards the glowworm caves and officially went spelunking (cave exploring). The walk to our destination was fun though a bit quiet. But it allowed us to appreciate our surroundings more. Best of all, there were no long lines or waiting - we were able to go and explore on our own pace.

Walking to the caves and wearing helmets with flashlights to guide us in the dark

         We went to the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves first and admired the scene in the dark while riding a boat - it was like being under a starry night sky. It was pretty spectacular. The glowworms would lay eggs on the ceiling and walls, and these would emit light. The insect responsible for these glowing lights also build lines that hang from the ceiling that attract other insects which they eat for food.

The top 2 photos are of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves (wish my camera then was able to capture the glowing lights better) and at another cave nearby that we checked out.

        That night we had pizza in a place in the area called Morepork Pizzeria and Cafe (the name doesn't sound so healthy huh? hehe! but the pizza was good!). Then we headed back to our room to prepare for our nighttime  bushwalk at the Ruakuri Bushwalk a couple of minutes away from our lodge. Colin told us that it was nice to see the glowworms by the river banks and not to worry since there are no predators in NZ (now that was a relief to know). He even gave us torches (flashlights!) to bring along. However, when we got to the bushwalk parking and turned off our car headlights, it was pitch black! There were no lights at all and no people around. It was just us and the dark night left us a bit uncertain of our plans... we went down from the car and walked a few meters, and then walked back to the car again... then I said to my husband that I wasn't sure if this was such a good idea and it didn't take long for him to agree hahahahaha! so yeah, we thought we had enough glowworms for one day! :D

Waitomo at night

        We went back to the Ruakuri Bushwalk the next day even if we won't be seeing anymore glowworms. This bushwalk and scenic reserve is supposedly one of the best in the whole of New Zealand (and it's for free). It was just beautiful and the air here was the cleanest and freshest I have ever breathed (up until this day!). It was a very pleasant and scenic walk, and if you ever find yourself in Waitomo, this should not be missed - and try it at night too! I will if I get to go back someday J

The Ruakuri Bushwalk

Check out if you are planning to visit the North Island of New Zealand  anytime soon. This website was not available when we visited and it just makes planning your trip and itinerary so much easier :)

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