Visiting the glowworm caves in Waitomo: another item on my bucket list, albeit a late entry.
The glowworm caves were first explored in 1887 by local Maori Chief Tane Tinorau accompanied by an English surveyor; our guide on the day happened to be that Chief’s great grandson.
He first took us through the upper level of the caves, where he told us about the history and geology of the area. In The Cathedral, the largest cavern and known for its great acoustics, we were treated to a Maori song, accompanied by a traditional flute, the kōauau. Both concerts and weddings are held here. As we returned through the space, the strains of the Indian national anthem came floating towards us courtesy of the group that followed us.
The stalactites are eventually going to touch the ground while the stalagmites are reaching ever upwards (- one of the few things I remember from geography (?) at school!). Our guide pointed out the face of a dog, the profile of an elephant, a young family, and even Casper the friendly ghost. Well, you find whatever patterns you want to…
It’s hard to believe that the beautiful glow that we see in the caves is the result of a creepy crawly. The glowworms are worms – duh! Their lifecycle: from egg (3 weeks) to glowworm (3 months) to pupa (2 weeks) to adult fly (just 3 days! As an adult, it has no digestive system and so must survive on the energy ingested as a worm.).
The last part of the tour, the part we’d all been waiting for, involved getting onto a Willy Wonka boat which our guide steered around and through the glowworm grotto. We were asked to keep quiet, as the glowworms are best enjoyed in silence; the baby on board did not get the memo, however.
There are actually three sets of caves that you can visit, not just the glowworm caves, and you can also be much more active than we were with real caving, black water rafting or tubing.
After the spectacle of the glowworm caves, we passed through the town of Te Awamutu, ‘known’ (?!) for having spawned the Finn brothers of Crowded House ‘fame’ (apologies but I’ve not heard of them…).
The drive back to Cambridge, where we were staying, was glorious. I realise now, however, that I didn’t take any photos. What?! Well, Annie did do quite some filming with my GoPro (we’ll see what’s come out of all the filming I’ve done on this trip when I get home); and we also parked at one point in order to pose for a Thelma and Louise photo opp. (We’ve since discovered that our photo looks nothing like the original, but it does look like our OWN original, which we took at university many moons ago..)
The final day of our road trip saw us driving along a pretty boring road back up to Auckland. We did what we could to make it more interesting, though, squeezing in a few more attractions…
Another garden, and a fabulous one at that: Hamilton Gardens. A huge space, of which we only explored a small part. Here, it’s all about the design of the gardens, with the Paradise Garden Collection, for example, housing a Chinese Scholars Garden, a Japanese Garden of Contemplation, and an Italian Renaissance Garden, among others.
Alas, then it was time to return our baby (the BMW Z4) to its owner and we were once again without wheels. Next, we took to the skies…
The practical bit:
From Hobbiton we continued on to the Cambridge Coach House, where we stayed two nights in order to explore Waitomo and the surrounding area. We had a lovely little villa with gorgeous views of the countryside. It’s a little outside of town, though, so you do need a car (but, then, you probably couldn’t get here unless you had a car!). We received, and followed, two dinner recommendations: pizza at Onyx followed by fish at The Nash at the National Hotel, the latter with a menu from a former NZ Masterchef contestant.
Waitomo: The highlight of all the caves is the Glowworm Caves; tours depart daily every half an hour – adult price $49. We had lunch at Huhu Café across the road, which had a lovely terrace and view.
*NOTE: You can’t take pictures inside the caves, and that includes photos without flash or video. The pictures in this blog post taken inside the caves came from the CD that I bought in the shop after the tour – I was assured that this gave me full rights to use the pictures however I wanted.*
Hamilton Gardens: Open every day of the year, with free entry; less than an hour from Hobbiton, just outside the town of Hamilton.