Glow Worms & Geysers…New Zealand!
New Zealand may be a couple of small islands, far from almost everywhere, but if you happen to find yourself there one day, there are a couple of things you don’t want to miss.
Flying in to the north island and the city of Auckland we were keen to get the most out of our three days in Aotearoa (the land of the long white cloud). My wife and I rented a Hyundai Getz, possibly the world’s most hideous car (in my opinion) and headed out of the city. Passing rolling green hills and paddocks with sheep and cows, already this was so different from our home in Perth. Our plans was to head to Rotorua, a place famous for geothermal activity and wild landscapes. A few hours later, we found ourselves drawn in to taking a detour to a place which took us completely by surprise.
Somewhere between sheep rooting New Zealander jokes and taking the piss (mickey) out of the Kiwi accent, we stumbled upon the Waitomo Caves. Jen and i love caves and jump at any opportunity to check them out no matter where we are, so it was worth the stop, especially when we discovered the caves are home to some of the most mysterious characters you will find on this wonderful planet.
Taking a short walk into the cave and then boarding a small row-boat, we entered the cool water-filled chamber (one of many). Then, in the total darkness we floated around a tight bend to be presented with an illuminates ceiling, a ceiling covered in glow worms! Long strings of glow-worm hung like stalactites and live on a diet of small insects. It was a sight I will never forget, but one I could not document- holding a camera still enough in the low light and while rocking in a boat is no easy feat. All I can tell you is the sight will leave you floored and when you emerge from the cave via boat to the daylight, you will be buzzing with excitement. To my knowledge there are few creatures on this planet which glow (the fire fly in Kuala Lumpur is another) like this and it really is a wonderful experience.
The cave and surrounding ones also offer a lot more than the glow worms (not that you need it) and have full adventure days available which include tubing in the cave, hiking through it in waterproof gear and abseiling a deep chasm. With more time and preparation, these caves could easily keep you entertained for days.
From the caves we continued on, spending the night near Rotorua. The following day we woke early and headed to the national park to find a wild landscape like nothing we had witnessed before. A forested area broken up by large steaming pools and a stench like rotten eggs. These smelly pools are the result of gases emerging from deep below the earth’s crust and while hard on the nose, are actually quite appealing to the eye. We walked around this prehistoric landscape for a short time before discovering there was a geyser which shoots steam and water 25 meters in the air everyday around 10:30am.
With not a second to lose we headed over to the geyser show, where a brave guide told us the story of the geysers discovery many decades ago. Apparently some pioneers used to use this place to wash their clothes, until one day when some of their soap ended up down the deep hole. From there a reaction took place and the pioneers ran for cover as the red-hot water and steam spewed violently from the hole. As the guide finishes the story, he throws a handful of this soap down the hole and scurries away. Only a few minutes later, the geyser goes off, spraying water for a solid 5 mins. Unlike ‘Old Faithful’, possibly the world’s most famous geyser in America’s Yellowstone National Park, this geyser needs the assistance of the soap to begin the reaction. Nevertheless, it is an incredible sight if you can bear the stench.
With the rest of the day we explored the ancient landscape and found more bubbling mud pots and steaming pools among the waterways and forest, before heading back to Auckland the following morning. If the south island is anything like the north (as I’m led to believe it is) I cannot wait for the chance to explore its many wonders.
Until next time travellers, travel safe and travel far 🙂