West Coast of North Island
16.10.2010 21 °C
After a couple of weeks staying in Tauranga, at the New Zealand home of the Cronsberrys, we thought it was about time we headed out to see a bit more of this country. So, on Oct. 13 we hit the road in our “Kiwi Car” and headed to the west side of the North Island to the town of Otorohanga .
Otorohanga Holiday Park
Our first New Zealand campground is the Otorohanga Holiday Park. After setting up our tent we went to plug in our electrical cord only to find out that it did not ‘fit’ in the provided outlet correctly. In New Zealand all caravan parks have ‘special’ electricity codes for campers. Each site is serviced with an electrical box. You can just see it on a post near the opening in the back hedge of our campsite in the above picture. This electrical box requires a special plug. In order to get electricity we had to buy a caravan adapter with an “RDC”. RDC stands for very expensive gfci. A 30 metre cord with this plug and RDC cost a trip to town, a trip to a neighbouring town (60kms), a visit to a wholesalers store, a visit to a retailer and $180NZ. Yes $180. The wholesaler would have sold it to us for $310.40, but suggested we go to a retailer and they may be able to do a better deal. The electrical store four doors down sold it for $180. They had to go down the street to the wholesaler and pick up the exact one Paul was holding in the wholesaler. The four store walk saved $130.40. This was our ‘fun’ for Wednesday October 13!!!
On Thursday October 14 we headed to the town of Waitomo to do a tour of some of the many caves in the area. One of the attractions to the caves in Waitomo is the glow worms that live in the caves. We booked a tour with “Spellbound”, a local tour company that take people into the caves.
Above is a picture of the tour guide Mr. Flemming (can’t remember his first name) followed by Ayden and Claire entering the cave.
Here you see us sitting in a raft underground ready to go along the underground river to see the glow worms. The lights on the helmet are only used as you walk down into the cave. Once seated in the raft all lights are off. It is the glow worms that light the way at this point, and light they way they most certainly did!! The closest thing that we can think of to describe the sight of the glow worms in the cave is that it looks like you are looking at the Milky Way in the night sky. Simply amazing. Millions and millions of tiny dots of bright white light cover the roof of the cave. As we silently glide down the under ground river we could not get enough of the magnificent sight.
Look closely. Do you see the short strings hanging from the rocks? These are the webs of the glow worms. The function of these ‘webs’ is to catch food for the worms. Flying insects are attracted to the light of the worm, fly towards it, and then get stuck in the web...dinner for the worm. Did you know that glow worms are actually the larval stage of a fly. (Fly larvae are also known as maggots, not worms)
After our tour of the glow worm cave we had morning tea and then headed off with Mr. Fleming to another cave to take a look at the stalactites and stalagmites.
In this cave we also saw the bones of a moa bird. These birds were hunted to extinction by the Maori up to 500 years ago. They are sturdy birds of which there are a number of species. They are somewhat similar in appearance to emus or ostriches, but their legs are thicker. They are slow moving and some species can be up to 10 feet tall. The bones that we saw were from a bird that was about 4 feet tall.
Our caving tour involved a couple of walks through this plane looking scenery, hills, limestone outcroppings, sheep, trees and a gorgeous sky.
Ruakuri Scenic Reserve
After doing the caves, we thought we’d do some of our own hikes. The first was a hike in the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve. The scenery was fantastic. Every thing that wasn’t green was covered in green moss. Many of the walking paths were anchored to the side of gorge walls as you see above.
There were so many natural caves and tunnels, that we lost count. Truly a fantastic walk.
Besides the tunnels and caves, there were some big trees around also. There’s Ayden up ahead waiting for “the parents” to catch up.
This is the river that is partially responsible for digging out the gorge, caves and tunnels.
Claire hanging around waiting for “The Parents” to catch up.
Mangapohue Natural Bridge
After being very impressed with the hike we did after visiting the glow worm caves, we decided to do more hike in the Waitomo area on Friday October 15. The first hike was the Mangapohue Natural Bridge. This hike took us through magnificent New Zealand forest to a location where the was a natural bridge cut out of the limestone. Can you see Ayden’s breathe in the above picture? This is because of the humidity not the temperature as it was not that cold during the walk.
Here is the bridge. It is believed that there was a large cave in this area many years ago and this is the only part of the cave ceiling that has not collapsed over the centuries.
Claire stepping over a cow fence.
Many bushwalks take you through farmers fields. This set of steps is a common way of getting over a fence without having to have a gate. Of course we thoroughly enjoy dodging cow, sheep or goat plops on our tramps!
The above picture is an example of the scenery that we see when we are traveling along the roads in New Zealand. Very rarely do you find flat land or a straight road. The contours of the land are continually a delight to take in on our journeys.
The Piripiri caves was the second hike we did this day. This is a self guided caving experience. Don’t worry, you can only go in about 50 steps and then it ends. You can still see the entrance. The room is huge though, probably 35 feet tall and just about as long and wide.
Marokopa Falls were fantastic. A short walk, our third of the day, to these falls. They are probably about 40m tall and 20m wide. We could not get too close to them, but we stayed and watched them for a while with no one else around to block the view.
Our final stop of the day was Kiritehere Beach on the West coast of New Zealand.
This beach is unique in that the sand is black. Not just dark brown, but it is black. In order to get to this beach we had to drive along a very very windy road, past, of course sheep, cattle and goats grazing, through a number of wrong turns onto dirt roads but finally found the beach. It was well worth the drive! At the beach, we met a few Kiwis that were white bait fishing. White bait are a tiny transparent fish that they catch in dip nets with very fine mesh . These nets are similar to minnow traps in Ontario. It takes about 1200 white bait fish to make 1 kg of catch. One kilogram of this tiny fish sell for about $140. You cook them up like a fritter and eat them. I don’t think I will be buying white bait for lunch.