|Went south from Bay of Islands via Auckland to Waitomo and their famous caves. My pal Amanda and her family had been here earlier this year and had very kindly given me a brochure for Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. I imagined this was place to come and have a walk through the caves marvelling at glow worms etc. Unfortunately our tour wasn't staying in the area long enough for a visit, instead I had the option of going caving / pot-holing (not sure what the difference is between the two) and drifting down undrground caves filled with water on a rubber ring. Never done it before but it seemed gentle (on paper).
Lucky for you guys that I don't have picrures of myself in the caving gear; white welly boots, wetsuits and orange hats, we all looked like extras from Lost in Space. What I thought was going to be a relaxing afernoon was anything but that. There was about 2 hours of walking, crawling and squeezing through caves and very cold water until we reached the glow worm caves which were amazing. With our head torches turned off, the caves looked a bit like coloured stars, lots of little blue / green lights, I was expecting a few lights but nothing like this... (much better than Harrison's Cave in Barbados). Our guide Sheldon told us some Maori stories about the caves and how we had to be careful of a scary creature that lived in the caves. To ward off evil and protect ourselves we had to smear clay on our faces.... that far from daylight we believed anything we were told! Though we didn't do much floting on rubber rings, lots of walking and scrambling instead, it was good. I think there are some pictures of us returning from our escapade looking rather shabby, fortunately I don't yet have the pictures!
Rotorua is famous for it's volcanoes and geothermal activity, I think this is where the earth's crust is at it's thinnest, and it smells a bit (but you get used to it).
At last a bit of culture...a morning visit to Te Whakarewarewa Maori Village and Thermal Reserve. Plenty of geysers here.... and lunch was cooked in a hangi (using the steam from the thermal pools), tasted good! Part of the visit involved an attempt at Maori traditional dancing.... it looked easy. All we had to do was to spin a pom-pom like thing and catch it.... it was really difficult, I watched a 5 year old Maori girl do it though.... I think it takes quite a bit of practice. We were introducd to some of the village customs, lifestyle and history. The best bit was watching a performance of the haka by a group of school children from Wellington. They were brilliant.