Part one. We left Paihai bright and early. Our hosts waved us off with an All Blacks flag. Apparently there’s to be a referendum on the flag and a lot want this as the national flag. Why not I say though its lack of any Maori influence will probably and rightly count against it.
We detoured to the last remaining significant Kauri forest. These beasts are huge, competing with redwoods at least in my memory. Here’s a couple of pics.
The day was mostly driving. We were told, re NZ driving
1. The roads are empty and
2. No local will let you in.
The second was true (some of the time) and the first broadly correct outside of Auckland. What makes it a great drive though is a combination of the unfolding scenery and a satnav that insists on the back roads. It is so lush, there are so may herds of cows – not so many sheep yet a while – and but for the abundance of Palm trees, the mountainous backdrops brings to mind Wales and Scotland.
We took our time stopping on the east coast, having visited the west for the Kauris. Both are stunning though when the scenery levelled out mid morning it had a Dutch feel briefly.
Eventually we reached Hamilton – a rather sleepy Saturday afternoon, making one think of Watford or Bedford in October rather than a significant city. Nice chai latte mind.
Eventually after the sat nav decided we would go really rural we wobbled and wibbled between fields of everything until we reached our home for the next couple of nights.
This was Waitomo village, small and basically there for the caves. We ate well (again) at Hu Hu. And for me it was a somewhat nervy night as tomorrow was not only my birthday but also the Black Water rafting.
I’m not aquatic. I don’t like getting out of my depth. I also abhor small spaces and the two MRI scans I’ve had nearly turned my brain inside out. So it was obvious that I’d chose the Abyss Tour in these caves for a treat.
We were given these pieces of rope. ‘Cow’s tails or ADDs’ they said. ‘ADDs?’ ‘Avoding Death Devices’. Those I kept close.
So we were to abseil first. We practiced and, nervously, with our third in our group a charming lady from Frankfurt, Lena, we did a little aerial ballet.
Then they hung us over this hole. 35 metres of hole. With a gap like an hourglass to abseil through after which you need to spin 180 degrees and kick off the wall. This is me at the top.
I look shit-scared for a reason.
But then a bit happier (not the great footwear) – they photoshoped this. The Lawyer is more confident..
Next we walked a few hundred metres and were attached to a zipwire and sent off in the dark. You think it’s going to be pitch black but then you see these extraordinary glow worms. Either that or some amazing work creation programme has had some unemployed 18 years olds installing thousands of LEDs. They are stunning. It’s a shame when they tell you glow worms are essentially maggots, the glowing bits are their excretions and a male glow worm is made up of 50 percent genitals. They live to have sex for three days then die. Hmm, now if I was a Buddhist and had a choice what I came back as….
Oh and here’s an arty one
After that we were given a rubber ring and told to jump backwards, holding it to our rumps into the river. Which of course we did. We floated down stream and were pulled back up before climbing off into the river. Which was only about three to four foot deep. We followed Philippa our guide up stream, through the Birthing Canal…
And on to a pool, home to Cecile the eel (no piccy I’m afraid).
We paused for me to tell a poor anecdote and eat chocolate. After that we climbed up two waterfalls and out into the sun.
I can honestly say it’s the most fun I’ve had in ages. Apart from snoozing at the Test match of course.
Here’s a video showing what we experienced, though with the guides rather than us. Believe me it is very true to life.
We slept well.
Part two and we travel to Matamata and Hobbiton….