Boating and Waitomo

Two days after we came home from the south my friend Rachel had two friends visit her from Canada. They were here for a week and so Rachel wanted them to go on a trip with her while they were here. So we planned something for the first weekend we were back. It was a two day road trip to Taupo and Waitomo to do a few activities.

So Saturday morning we rented a van (sadly not Shelley) and drove three hours to Taupo. We had been before during Easter but it’s so beautiful I can’t complain about going back. On NZ’s version of groupon we had found a boat tour for really cheap. So we arrived to a beautiful sunny afternoon in beautiful Lake Taupo. To our surprise, the company was just a man and his sailboat who did these relaxing tours on the lake. So we boarded and enjoyed an afternoon lounging on a sailboat on the lake. The most relaxing trip I’ve been on yet. The tour takes you to the Maori carvings on the lake. I wish I could tell you they are really ancient, but they’re only about 40 years old. I used to think stuff like this only existed hundreds of years ago, but it’s still very prominent and relevant in Maori culture today. They were really cool! The rock was naturally and so they carved into it and the rocks surrounding it. It kind of looks like a secret door to some temple.

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As we floated back to the dock he offered to stop if anyone wanted to swim. Three of my friends decided to jump in and try, I was pretty happy lying in my beanbag chair in the sun, so I just took pictures.

Afterwards we were starving, so we went for dinner in the town. We had some burgers and then drove an hour or so to our camping site. I fell asleep on the way, for doing nothing all afternoon, I was wiped. Our campsite only had one other occupant, a family from Australia who were on holiday in New Zealand. They had an RV and adorable little girl who came out to meet us later with her dad. She was dressed as a princess and we’re basically best friends now.

We went to bed in our tents. We bought three person tents near the beginning of the semester and used them often, but we’ve had to put four people in them, so they’ve been cozy.

The next day we drove to Waitomo, a town built completely on one tourism activity, caves. Before I came here my grandparents told me this was the one thing I had to do while I was here. On the same site we got the boat tickets we found discounted cave tour tickets as well. We used a company called Caveworld and chose the tubing tour. This was my favourite activity I’ve done in New Zealand.

First we were driven to their site where we had to put on these large heavy wet suits, jackets, shoes, and helmets. Then our tour guide drove us to their cave site. You would have no idea there were caves all over this area, most of it is hills of farm land. We through a patch of trees, picked up a tube then walked to the cave entrance. We walked down and sat on the bench at the entrance. We introduced ourselves and our tour guide told us about what we were going to be doing. He was really helpful and hilarious and did a fantastic job the whole time. It was just the seven of us which made it really fun and made the experience even better.

Now the part I’ve left out until now and the reason they’re so famous is their glowworms. The glowworm caves are limestone caves with water in them, which is where the glowworms live. As our tour guide explained, these worms (which aren’t even worms) live on the ceilings of caves above water. They glow a greenish colour so when other bugs come in through the water, they see the light and fly up towards it. Then they get stuck in the little strings the worms create and are eaten. As gross as bug life cycles are, it’s a really beautiful site.

The caves are COVERED in them so they look like stars in this huge dark cave. The tour was a really amazing adventure through the caves, starting with us walking through the water, then jumping backward onto our tubes down a waterfall. Then we blindly walked through the water with our hands on each others shoulders when our tour guide turned on his light and scared us. We screamed so loud. At one point we got to lay in our tubes and float through the caves looking up at all the glowworms. The last bit is a slide they built in the cave which was really exhilarating. Sadly we it ended and we had to walk back up to the real world again, it was weird seeing daylight after it being dark for so long. Kind of like when you see a movie in the middle of the day.

I loved the entire thing and would highly recommend if you come to New Zealand, I’d never seen anything like that before. One thing I really liked about the company was they take photos for you during the tour and give them all to you for free as well as a hot chocolate at the end. So we did get some photos!

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Since the car didn’t have to be back until later we decided to make a quick stop in Raglan on the way back to Auckland. It’s on the west coast of the island and is a major surfer town. It’s off season here now so it wasn’t that bumping, but it was really cute and fun to look around in. We got some burritos and looked at some stores then tried to find the surfers beach. It was a massive black sand beach that had plenty of people surfing, even for so late in the day. We spent some time on the beach looking around and having fun. It was mothers day in New Zealand so we recorded a video for our moms to wish them a happy mothers day from the other side of the world. Then it was time to head back to Auckland, I drove on the way home and about halfway we hit some major traffic. So it was a long drive and almost impossible to find a consistent radio station. But eventually we made it back to Auckland and said goodbye to another great weekend.

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