Saturday, 26 March 2016

New Zealand – Waitomo Caves & Auckland

At the end of the boat ride through the Glowworm Grotto
On our way from Rotorua to Auckland, we stopped to visit the Waitomo Caves.  We were told it would be cold so I wore a sweater.  There are three caves – Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave.  We only visited the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.  On hindsight, I wished we could have visited all the caves.  I had never been inside a limestone cave or seen stalagmites and stalactites.  Neither had I seen glowworms before.  Exciting, no?
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The visitor centre leading to the caves were nice and well-maintained.  We entered the cave from the highest level and walked downwards.  It was an easy and non-treacherous walk but it was slightly dark (as expected).  Photography is not allowed in the caves.  Our guide told us that we were considered lucky if water dripped on our heads.  The temperature in the limestone caves is always 14 degrees Celsius.  We walked down to the bottom level and viewed some stalagmites and stalactites.  All throughout the tour, we could see and hear water dripping down. 

We then headed on to the Cathedral, a part of the caves with excellent natural acoustics and where famous singers like Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and the Vienna Boys’ Choir had performed.  We were allowed to test out the acoustics ourselves by singing so if you are planning to visit Waitomo Caves, you can pick a song to sing beforehand.  And I was wondering why there was a grand piano in the middle of a limestone cave before our guide had explained what the Cathedral was! 
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Just past the Cathedral, we were asked to look closely under some low cave formations for glowworms.  Since it was dark, we couldn’t make out what we were looking at.  Our guide switched on his torch light and we saw glowing, silken threads hanging from the low cave ceilings.  It was almost like saliva!  The glowworms use these threads to help trap insects, which are their food.  I was so fascinated!  Our guide informed us that glowworms only live in some parts of the world – Australia, New Zealand and Borneo. 
Somehow, the picture doesn't capture how magical the experience was
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After that, we walked a short distance down to the jetty.  It was even darker and the steps were slightly wet.  The boats were also slightly wet.  We were told to be absolutely quiet on the boat ride through the Glowworm Grotto and watch out for the glowworms.  The boat was steered by our guide who pulled us along the Waitomo River with the help of ropes suspended parallel to the river.  When we looked up, the cave ceilings were covered with tiny, winking lights from the glowworms.  It was incredibly beautiful and serene.  I felt like I was in the movie Avatar!  It was over all too soon.  I would have liked to take another boat ride.  We climbed out of the boat and went to the restaurant that was on-site for lunch.  The food was much better than anything we had eaten at Rotorua. 
Waitomo Glowworm Caves Restaurant
Waitomo Caves was my favourite place of interest in New Zealand.  I loved it and won’t be passing up any chances to view more glowworm caves! 
Auckland city view from Sky Tower
Hotel toiletries from Rydges Hotel
After lunch at Waitomo, we headed off to Auckland.  Our tour of New Zealand was coming to an end.  We stayed at Rydges Hotel, Auckland.  I really liked the hotel!  It was new, spacious, had cute toiletries and a very yummy breakfast buffet.  We went to the Auckland Sky Tower to have a look at the city skyline.  I must say, I didn’t find it to be spectacular.  I wouldn’t have visited if it wasn’t included in the tour itinerary.  I found it quite boring.  We had a buffet dinner at Fortuna Buffet Restaurant at Sky City.  The buffet was good and the food was fresh. 
New York cheesecake, Federal Delicatessen
Reuben sandwich and poutine, Federal Delicatessen
I skipped the last day of the tour itinerary (a city tour and a visit to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Aquarium) and went shopping at Dress-Smart Outlet instead.  I did manage to do one thing that I had planned – visit Federal Delicatessen, a New York-style Jewish deli just outside Sky City.  I tried the Montreal poutine, toasted Reuben sandwich, New York cheesecake, smoked Kawahai (a type of fish) cakes and peanut butter milkshake.  Everything was good and I was very happy.  I was so hungry that I forgot to take pictures of the food before we started eating!
Some kind of weird sport in Auckland CBD
Final Comments
I had never liked the idea of joining tour groups but I think it worked for a place like New Zealand.  Some parts of New Zealand are quite isolated and require a lot of traveling by road.  I think it would have been difficult and boring to drive by yourself.  We also didn’t have to worry about finding places to eat, which I think wouldn’t have been easy (or cheap) in some parts of the South Island. 

I would definitely recommend going to Queenstown (fly straight in), Rotorua and Auckland.  My favourite attractions were the geysers, glowworm caves and Mount Cook.  That’s all I have to write about my New Zealand trip.  I hope you guys have enjoyed reading about it!  

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