Waitomo Caves

Wednesday, 17th January 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  No Comments  |  Share

We left Hamilton, the largest inland city in New Zealand to continue down the north island to the Waitomo Caves, the home of Glow worms. We drove a few hours to a little campsite near the caves and specifically ‘Rap, Raft and Rock’ where we’d booked to do a 6 hour session.

I woke up quite excited raring to get down into the caves, we arrived at the office to meet simon, our guide for the day and took a short minibus trip to another hut, where he kitted us up in wetsuits, lovely purple trousers, and our miners helmets. Then another minibus trip to the cave entrance where the fun began (if getting kitted up wasn’t fun enough).

After a little safety talk and some instruction (quite rare for New Zealand) we walked down to the rappel point and lowered ourselves into the dark, a 28 meter drop into eel infested, freezing water. We were a group of 6 so one after another we waited for our turn. Once all of us were down and Simon had followed, we got out of our climbing harnesses and with our lights switched off, started to paddle through the water into the darkness of the cave system. As it got darker we started to pick out the glowing worms above us until we came out to a chasm absolutely covered in them, looking up was like looking at the stars. Simon created a huge bang on the water, as well as scaring us to death, the worms thought it was feeding time and started to glow brighter. He told us about the worms and how they weren’t worms at all but maggots, they glow because they cant go to the toilet so they burn their ‘waste’.

We walked further up to find the caves getting narrower and narrower until we were on our bellys scrambling through the mud, fantastic (or awesome) fun! at one point we came out at an underground lake and some of us jumped in the freezing water for a quick swim to clean off, absolutely pointless as we had to go back the way we came, through the mud.

Once back to one of the joining systems, we grabbed rubber rings, once again switched off our lights and with the aidf of simon floated down a pitch black river, the glow worms showing us the way, maybe simon too. At the end Simon told us to get off our rings to climb out of the caves, he didn’t mention however that were I was, was still 8 feet deep and surprisingly to me and Becky we went straight under, more freezing water. When we surfaced everyone else was standing looking at us and Simon chucking to himself.

Lastly (5 hours after we started), it was time to get out to daylight and dry land, this involved getting our harnessed back on and a further 28 meter rock climb out, with wellys! not a pair of scarpa boots in sight….

Have a look at the photos here

Auckland – Bay of Islands

Sunday, 14th January 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  No Comments  |  Share

Hoorah! We have a car! A white Nissan Sunny- classy! We drove off, relishing our freedom when we got toa motorway and I got a bit scared so did my usual thing on motorways, drove really slow in the slow lane (they call it that here) and annoyed everyone else. Kiwis had better get used to some traffic jams with me around!

We stopped off at Goat Island Beach, a black sand and rocky beach, looking over islands dotted around in the bay. No members of the public are allowed on the beaches as they are Nature Reserves. However one island was devoted to Goats. Why??

We drove on, meeting our first sign of Kiwi lunacy; unsealed roads! They are gravel roads and on this trip they seemed to play Russian Roulette on which piece of road they were going to seal or not. We drove up this 80kmor so road, every couple of km would be sealed, then a stretch of unsealed, then back to tarmac, gravel, tarmac, gravel. It took a rather long time. We did come across the wizard made out of wood though on the side of the road.

Russell “the hell hole of the Pacific” was suprisingly beautiful, a tiny little village with a harbour, cafes on the pavements and amazing views of the other islands. We had a little explore, found “long beach” which Andy ran into the water and then confessed later it was so cold his feet had gone numb!

We parked up at a Top 10 holiday park- we had been recommended these by a honeymooning couple in Fiji, they are camping/caravan parks with little apartments and motel rooms. We enjoyed a bit of luxurious camping for the evening, looking forward to our first big trip out tomorrow- Swimming with dolphins!

 The boat departed at a rather early 8am, so you all probably realise I struggled to wake up and do much for at least an hour- which was a problem as we had to leave the campsite by 7.50 and I woke at 7.30-Gah! Fear not, we made the boat- Tim was our dolphin watcher- he would casually stand ON TOP of the boat with hands holding super strength binoculars looking for tiny changes in the waves that would pinpoint the dolphins. We did this for about an hour and a half before be found our first pair of dolphins- a mother and her baby! They hung around the boat for ages, riding along the front of the boat, ducking and reappearing next tothe sides of the boat. Unfortunately New Zealand rules that if there is a ‘juvenile’ in the group we were not allowed to swim with them. So after taking loads of photos and enjoying their company we set off in search for other ‘common dolphins’ which live further out to sea than ‘bottlenose dolphins’ which we had just seen.

We searched and searched for another hour and a half, and eventually we headed over to some boats that we crowded around a pod of dolphins. They were amazing, Andy even saw one jump out of the water in the classic dolphin way. Awesome! We had to go back to Russell because our time had run out and although we didn’t get to swim with them it was still one of the best things I have done since travelling. Wow!

Look at the photos of Tim and dolphins here:

http://www.kitjunkie.org/albums/v/travelling/nz/auckland2russel/

Sweet as Bro

Friday, 12th January 2007 |  by  |  New Zealand  |  2 Comments  |  Share

We were told if we spent more than 2 days in Auckland and you’ll be bored… But no, this is our 5th day, we still haven’t eaten at the harbour, climbed one of the many volcanoes or been to the park. But until we’re back to fly out we’re calling it a day here. We’ve been up the sky tower twice, shopped, shopped, shopped, watched Casino Royale, attempted to buy a car but decided against it, walked, walked and walked, had a Dominoes Pizza (2 large pizzas cost $16, about 5 quid), had a subway (again a subway here is about 2 quid), Bex got a hair cut, travelled on the Link bus ‘the long way around’. Maybe we didn’t get bored because this is the first time we’ve been able to do some of this stuff for a few months, who’d have thought we’d get excited about Starbucks.

We’ve loved Auckland, its a really clean, friendly, spread out city where the road signs are polite and the pedestrian crossings sound and look like computer games, where the little green man actually walks when its time to go, then gives you a count down until the lights will change. The buses have screens just like in Total Recall, which show the news, weather, trivia (New Zealands favourite flavour is Chocolate, closely followed by Banana) and a map that shows you where you are, where the next stop is, and what your likely to see when you get off.

We’re staying in Auckland Central Backpackers, the biggest hostel we’ve been in with 10 floors of rooms the biggest kitchen you’ve ever seen! More of a hotel than hostel (but with hostel prices).
If you haven’t already, you can see some photos of Auckland here

So midday we’re off to get our Hire Car (a lovely nissan sunny) and drive north to Whangarei, a 3 hour drive, where we’ll be walking about the treetops and playing in the waterfall