Waitomo, New Zealand September 15, 2007- September 17, 2007
The day of our departure from Auckland, not only did our budget begin (a new concept to both of us), but so did our roles. Ted is officially the driver- selected solely on his ability to flip left and right and drive like a maniac back home in bad traffic. He has also been dubbed the “communicator” based on his ability to perform in front of the likes of the news cameras- he was the perfect fit for the job (secretly, that means he makes the phone calls to book hostels and activities, but it sounds important). I am the self-appointed navigator and researcher. I read the travel books and grab handfuls of brochures everywhere we go to figure out where we should stay for pennies and what we can do for free or little cost. I’m also responsible for getting us there…wherever “there” is.
Ted and I spent so much time juggling phone calls from Auckland back home to finish up business, we had little time to research where we were going next. I threw out a city name, Ted called a holiday park there to make accommodation reservations and that’s all it took to get us on our way. Great choice of cities, but bad choice of routes that would require some backtracking later once we figured out what direction we were going on the North Island.
We arrived to our accommodations at the Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park www.waitomopark.co.nz , checked into our little cabin with a bunk bed (a far cry from our last digs) only to find out that the bathroom is across the park- a fun thought if you have to go in the middle of the night and it’s 50 degrees and raining outside. That’ll wake you up. To their defense though, the park had an impeccably clean kitchen, hot showers and a hot tub (sweet!). The owners were some of the friendliest people we’ve met yet. If we hadn’t stayed there, we would never have met this great family from Tasmania in the kitchen one night that offered us a place to stay upon arrival.
Waitomo is known for it’s green pastures (I won’t bore you with that) and its underground caves- perfect for caving adventures. Seventy percent of the people who come to Waitomo are only there for a few hours a day. Most don’t stay. We liked this fact. Presented our choices, we shelled out big dough to go on the Haggas Honking Hole half-day adventure described as “Indiana Jones abseiling through a washing machine”. Kudos to our guides at Waitomo Adventures: www.waitomo.co.nz. Donning our armpit-smelling wet suits, a hard hat with a head lamp and white rubber boots, we abseiled down 30m waterfalls,
rock climbed wet cave walls and crawled through small holes wrestling with the cold, running water passing through the cave- an amazing adventure overall!
We even got to see the famed “glow worms”. Turning off our headlamps in some of the passages we could see the little glowing blue-green lights all over the cave (disappointingly fly larva with glow-in-the-dark poop). The absolutely stunning stalactites and stalagmites were interesting, but not as exciting discovery I made at the end of the journey. A three-inch leech got wedged in the bottom of my rubber boot. I tied to walk on my heel for a while until Ted caught up with me just to show him before I squished it. Not until 20 minutes later did I figure out it was my sock poking though a cut in the sole of the rubber boot. The entire crew got a big kick out of that one! Below is a picture of me climbing through one of the passages and Ted abseiling down the largest waterfall.
Our last stop out of town was The Shearing Shed. Skipping the sheep shearing demonstrations offered just about everywhere for a price, we got to see well cared-for angora rabbits sheared for free.
Every three months, these fuzzy bunnies have to be “cut” to keep them for being overheated. Thanks to our kind hosts who let us film a video piece to be released in the next few months.