The tour lasted nearly 2 hours, with many wondrous sights. To get in, we descended a deep shaft using a large spiral ramp.
|I didn’t manage a good photo of the entry ramp, so I got a postcard|
|Stalactites, up close|
|amazing coral-like structure|
|sheets of rock|
|so many stalactites|
|caves within caves|
|a large cavern (note the handrail at the bottom, for scale)|
|other people enjoying the caves in their own way|
|a giant funnel|
|small stalactites and stalagmites, some connected|
|A ceiling full of spikes. Some are broken. This cave has been open longer, and in the early days, before it was known how long the stalactites took to grow, tourists were allowed to break pieces off as souvenirs.|
|over 6 feet high: like a vast leg|
|a ceiling like ice cream|
|a vast cavern; see handrail at bottom for scale|
|a petrified waterfall|
|I’m running out of things to say other than “wow!”|
|so fragile to have survived so long in a geologically active region|
|more petrified falling water|
|the huge cavern on the way back: see heads at bottom for scale!|
this is what makes the stone features -- slowly
When we left this cave, not only had the rain stopped completely, but the sun had come out, and it was a beautiful day. I had no specific time on my ticket for the third cave trip, so I decided to do the short Ruakuri bush walk, which my host at last night’s B&B had told me was the “best bush walk in New Zealand”. It goes along a river which itself goes through a natural tunnel (the path goes over the top though).
The sign suggested it was a 30 minute tramp. I took an hour. (That sounds better than “it took me an hour”.)
|a natural tunnel|
|the path goes through a twisty tunnel of its own|
|beautiful mossy trees|
|a view from inside the river tunnel (view accessed down a dark unlit staircase...)|
|another tunnel along the path: at least with this one, I could see the other end!|
|a view down to the river|
|the other end of the natural tunnel|
On the walk I passed two other people, until I got close to the end, when I passed a noisy crowd of about 10 teenagers on a tramp. Like with my Kauri forest visit, the solitude was part of the experience. I don’t know if it is the best bush walk in New Zealand; however, it is an excellent bush walk.
Next, back down the road to the Waitomo glowworm cave. We weren’t allowed to photograph in this one, as there were a lot of parties milling about, and it gets very dark. There was a short walk through a big cavern with lots of stalactites: very impressive, then, once our eyes had adjusted, onto a boat to see the glowworms. Um, wow! There is a big cave system with a lake that the boat moves slowly and silently down, and a relatively low roof, utterly smothered in glowworms. When the boat is still, it looks like an exceptionally starry night (except that the points of light are too evenly spaced for stars). When the boat moves, the shape of the roof becomes apparent. I’m running out of superlatives, but, amazing!
|Official photo of the glowworm caves|
Once I had done with Waitomo, I headed off to the Otorohanga Kiwi House, to see some more kiwis. This site again had a night enclosure, with four kiwis in separate pens. The largest kiwi, a mature female, was very active, strutting around her enclosure, probing the ground for food. Then it was feeding time. The keeper entered her pen with the food, and the kiwi went bonkers, running around, really fast, and kicking the keeper, really hard. The keeper told us after that she had been hospitalised twice over the years, once from a deep peck, and once when a kick hit her knee (rather than her tough boots). So much for fragile sweet little birds!
|three stuffed kiwis on display; the live kiwis are in a much darker environment|
|from Waitomo, via caves, to Tamahere, ~ 90km|