I’ve always prided myself on having a good memory. In college I almost never took notes in my classes or if I did, they would be some obscure representation of the lecture. When people borrowed my notes, they would exclaim “What the F$%@! is that?!” “I have a mind like a steel trap” I would tell them. The good news is that they never asked for my notes more than once. I have noticed that, just maybe, I’m not quite as sharp as I used to be. Unlikely, but it is a possibility.
After picking up Otis, both Susanne and I let out a big sigh of relief that we heard no more squeaks. All the hotels in the area were super expensive and super crappy—not what I was in the mood for. But we found a good place to stay just outside of Auckland that was a bit of a cross between a farm-stay and a B&B called Woodbury Farm B&B. It was a little ADU on someone’s 5 acre lifestyle property. We drove in and she greeted us and showed us the place. It was really nice. But the biggest bennie of them all was that she had an incredibly cute and friendly border collie that Susanne and I totally doted on.
The place even had a nice deck to hang out on. It was a bit chilly, but it was a nice relief to have the whole Otis thing behind us, a nice glass of wine, and a friendly dog to pet. We found a little Italian restaurant not too far away called Volare. It turned out to be surprisingly good! We headed back to the B&B to have some chocolate for desert. It wasn’t very good chocolate, but it was all we’d found. I insisted that we should put it in the fridge. Susanne hesitated and said we would probably forget it if we did that. I reminded her that I had a mind like a steel trap and I would not forget. She muttered to herself and just put it in the fridge. We were happy to be on the road again and had a good night’s sleep.
We got up the morning, had coffee, packed up, petted the dog one last time, and headed out for the glow worm caves near Waitomo. Stupid google sent us on some crazy routes again. Ugh. But overall it was pretty easy driving the whole way.
We were there way too early to check in to the glamping place, so we scoped out a couple of things to do in the area. The first was a short hike at the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve. It was right in the heart of the limestone where all the caves form, and traversed a creek that cut into and through the rock. It was a pretty cool little hike.
I had scoped out another cave, Piripiri, that you could go check out by yourself and for free, not too far away, so we decided to take a drive west on Te Anga Road to where the cave was. It was a gorgeous drive and would make a great bike ride as there was not much traffic on it. We got to the cave parking and walked up to and into the cave. It was a bit underwhelming. No real formations, just a set of wood stairs that descended into a small cavern. Oh well. On the way out, we encountered Toni, who was with a mobile car air conditioning company, heading into the cave. We chatted for a while and he told us that we should go down the Marokopa falls just down the road. “It’s worth the stop” he told us.
We drove down to the falls and did the short hike into it and both agreed that Toni was right….it was totally worth it. The falls were impressively big and quite beautiful.
We drove back up the road toward Waitomo and made one more stop at Natural Bridges, another random DOC (Department of Conservation) stop along the road. It was a short hike into this lovely canyon which was a collapsed cave that had a really cool natural bridge still intact. One thing we have learned from the drive down this little road is that you don’t blow off all the DOC sites thinking they aren’t any good! (Piripiri cave notwithstanding)
We decided to drive in to Waitomo and have an early dinner (=linner) and then just have a snack later so that I could have some wine and not be driving on a narrow windy road. Along the way, at the end of some tramping track there was a fence in which people had attached their boots. I guess it was a sign that the tramp was done and their shoes were worn out or something. It was kind of funny. Huhu cafe was open so we went there. We had some fish and chips and they were quite good…probably the best that we have had so far in New Zealand.
It was then that Susanne realized that I had forgotten the chocolate in the fridge in Auckland. Doh! The worst part of it all was not the loss of the chocolate, but the ungodly amount of poo I was going to have to endure after having been so smug about my steel trap mind. Clearly, it is a bit rusty.
After linner we drove back up the hill so we could check into the glamping place, Te Tiro. Angus and Rachel, the owners, met us in the parking lot. They were really friendly and it turned out they had lived there for a long time, were big spelunkers, and were the first people to take tourists on “Black water rafting” trips in the caves. Angus ran his first trip in 1986! He gave us a tour of the glamping tent and how everything worked. The view was awesome.
The next day we had a glow worm cave tour at Spellbound which was supposed to be one of the better and less touristy caves to visit. We drove over to the check-in place about 30 minutes away. There were just 6 of us on the tour which was nice. We piled into the bus and headed to the main cave. We put on our hard hats with lights and our guide pointed out some of the fresh water eels that were in the creek that flowed into the cave. They were pretty cool! and big too! Evidently, they hang out in the streams for a good chunk of their life and then at some point decide it is time to swim out to the ocean and are never seen again. Or something like that.
The glow worms were amazing. But to be accurate, they are not actually worms, they are fungus gnat larvae. And they dangle little gooey tentacles down and use their lights to attract mayflies and other insects to their untimely deaths. They put out a tremendous amount of light and the ceiling of the cave was ablaze with them. We drifted back and forth a few times in the raft they had in the cave just sitting in silence looking at them. It was totally worth it and should be put on the list of “must dos” when visiting New Zealand. After that cave, we took a short walk over to another cave that had some formations and an old Moa skeleton that Angus had found a number of years ago. It was nice, but nothing like the glow worm cave.
We headed back to Te Tiro after another lunch and just hung out and took in the views.
They had an outdoor tub and we both wanted to give that a try. It was chilly outside, and there was something decadent and relaxing about just sitting outside in the hot water watching the world go by. New Zealand is a great climate for a hot tub and we will definitely get one when we finally get a home. All in all, despite it being a bit chilly for glamping, the glamping was pretty nice. If it had been about 5 to 10 degrees (Celsius that is) warmer, it would have been perfect for just hanging out on the deck enjoying the view and stars.
Angus invited us over for a drink that night. We headed over around 5 and sat around chatting with Angus and Rachel. They were great fun to talk with and had spent a life creating adventures for themselves and I just loved their view of the world. We headed back to our tent and climbed into bed, tired but very happy. The glow worm tour was spectacular, and to end it with some great conversation with some really cool people was awesome. It was a great stopover on our way south and definitely worth doing if you are ever in the area.