A Travellerspoint blog

Waitomo to Rotoroa, New Zealand

We spent a week in NZ after disembarking - three days in Waitomo and Rotorua before the leisurely drive back to Aukland. In Waitomo, we went on the "Spellbound" tour of the glow worm caves which I highly recommend. It is a small, low-key tour of private caves and we saw some remarkable things. We piled into a 12 passenger van and traveled on one lane roads through this beautiful countryside (Cher got the shot gun seat. I wish I had wrestled her for it. More on that later in this narrative!)



After about a half hour, we arrived at the trail head that would lead us down the cavern to the entrance of the glow worm cave. A river runs through this cave - an ideal habitat for glow worms. Our guide was a good naturalist and he spotted a rather formidable fresh water eel, which he captured so we could see it better.


Helmets on, head lamps on, we entered the cave.


Glowworm light is made from a biochemical reaction called bioluminescence. The glowworm larva uses the light at its tail end as a lure to attract small flying insects lost in the darkness of the cave. The glowworm makes its home in the cave by attaching a silk hammock to the cave ceiling. To catch food, the glowworm larva builds a network of silk threads that hang down vertically all around, and also within reach of its hammock. As the glowworm extrudes each line from its silk glands, it places droplets of very sticky mucus over the thread line. A lost insect will fly towards the larva’s light lure and into a tangle of sticky silk threads and rarely escapes. The glowworm feels the tug of a struggling insect and reaches out of the hammock to haul up its meal. (It was much too dark to take pictures so these are courtesy of the Spellbound website.)


Within the cave was a path that led us to the rafts on the river. Once in the rafts, we turned off our head lamps and floated down the river. As our eyes adjusted, pinpoints of light appeared like the milky way in a dark sky. It was spectacular.


From this cave, we went to Te Ana o te Atua, or the Cave of the Spirit. This was the first cave in Waitomo, explored and recorded by a European, Dr. Arthur Thompson. He had been instructed to collect fossil bird bones requested by the British Museum. At TeAna, he found Moa bones (extinct, flightless birds similar to an Emu) and throughout the 19th century many more moa bones were taken from the cave in the interests of science.


After this visit, we had a very fast and curvey ride back to the Waitomo General Store. I had felt a bit car sick on the ride in, but it hit me like a ton of bricks on the way out. Once back at the car, I tried to gather myself, but it was a lost cause. Cher took over as navigator and we were on our way to Rotorua. Unfortunately, this was a two hour drive over hill and dale. After one emergency stop, we arrived at our hotel and I staggered into bed for the night.

The next day, Cher decided to take a sick day and opted out of our tour of the hot springs that surround the town. Rotorua is set on a lake and is renowned for its geothermal activity and Maori culture.

"In the Whakarewarewa Valley, there are bubbling mud pools and the 30m-tall Pohutu Geyser, which erupts many times daily. It’s also home to a living Maori village and the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, with traditional wood carving and weaving schools." (Source: Wikipedia)

What Wikipedia doesn't say is that Rotorua is one step away from being a Maori Disneyland. Tour busses and RV's are everywhere along with kiddie parks, fast food joints, and campgrounds.

We got up early to see the eruption of the Pohutu Geyser, along with about 500 friends. Since it is a tourist attraction, they put something into it to make it erupt. Old Faithful it is not.


We then went on to Wai-O-Tapu to see the volcanic crater lakes, spouting geysers, bubbling mud pools, hissing fumaroles and colorful sinter terraces. It was beautiful but it was also hot with plenty of people touring despite being there in the morning.



We opted to skip the Maori Village as there was a line up even to get into the car park. I also wasn't that interested in a facsimile of Maori life. About 20 years ago we had visited the South Island for a conference. Since there were some native people from Australia at the conference, there was a traditional Maori Haka ceremony. It was a fierce welcome with loud chants and protruding tongues and a once in a lifetime experience.


Posted by Culinerrion 16:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rotorua new_zealand waitomo

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.