We got an early start and got to see a gorgeous sunrise over the ocean. Bonus! Simon dropped 5 of us off at the Waitomo caves where we ttought we were going tubing. Hmm. After changing into swim wear we donned 5mm wetsuits with extra protection on the butt and knees, gum boots (rubber boots) and a wetsuit jacket.
Walking to the entrance worked up a sweat and a look at the ladder freaked me out. Caleb (our trusty guide) assured me I would fit. I had to hug the ladder going down so my bum would fit. Once inside we gathered for stories and had to “elect” a leader. Lucky me. Yeah, the claustrophobic leading others through a cave. Good thing it wasn’t for too long. For the next 4 hours we climbed over and under rocks, through crevices and holes, swam through freezing cold water thath filled our boots. The water warms up in your boots but they’re so heavy!! I had to stop frequently and empty them as my legs were getting sore. The glow worms dotted the ceilings like stars or Christmas lights. We turned our head lamps off and they even provided a bit of illumination and reflected in the water. Beautiful, tiny blue lights with strings hanging down were everywhere. At one point we got to float on a tube and look at the ceiling and just sing …. very relaxing. Then back into the climbing and into the “hard rock cafe” where Josh and Caleb pulled out a thermos with a warm, sweet drink and a piece of chocolate for everyone. Nice!
More climbing through a narrow corridor over sharp rocks. I braced myself against the walls and placed my feet very carefully, not wanting to twist or break an ankle. When we finally reached the end I was so relieved as my muscles were just DONE. I could barely move my legs and my arms were sore. Once exiting the cave I tried emptying my boots by the dripping from the wetsuit just filled them up again. We had walk up, up UP another hill. Why is going home always up hill???
We quickly showered the mud off and got on the bus to go back to the shop where we got together and purchased a usb stick of photos since were weren’t allowed to take a camera.
Next stop was a Maori village in Rotorua where part of it was our chief (Ryan) greeting their chief (Shilo) and singing each other a song. We did a great rendition of Bob Marley’s 3 Little birds. Fun, and very appropriate 🙂 Rotorua is full of hot springs. Hot water bubbles up out of the water everywhere. You have to be careful as it’s often 100 C and will burn you.
We checked into our hostel and were treated to a hangi dinner which was steamed cabbage, chicken, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, stuffing and fried bread. It was a LOT of food but we were hungry.
I intended on going in the hot spring but at 8:30 it just seemed like too much effort to put on a suit and walk over there. Another early start tomorrow.
The further south we go the more daylight hours we get. Driving through Rotorua the landscape was dotted with geysers everywhere, spewing hot water. The golf course had plumes of steam coming out of the ground in random places
We dropped off the bunch going white water rafting, then some doing the Tongariro crossing and Gilles tried to go for a flight but they weren’t going. So Simon drove us up past the village of Whakapapa (pronounced Fuckapapa) to the ski mountain where we took a chair lift up Sue and Gilles looked at the mountain we wanted to climb and decided against it. I pulled my usual “act now, think later” and took off with Simon. It was a hard climb up rocks and gravel and I felt the altitude. Why is it that every trip I feel the need to experience altitude? Simon talked about a couple who were 55 and 65 who did the Tongariro crossing one day (19.4 km) and got up at 5:30 am to do the Taranaki trail.
The cloud started to creep in and I told Simon to go ahead, don’t wait for me. Get to top before the cloud but no, he waited, helped me up a couple of times and even ended up carrying my camera bag. The views from the top were well worth it. We saw the top of Mount Doom in the distance when the clouds parted briefly and witnessed lots of craggy, stark landscapes. I didn’t take enough photos in the 10 minutes we had before the cloud moved in as I was too busy admiring and in awe of the scenery. Bummer 😦
After checking into the hotel / hostel which, by the way was Skotel Alpine Resort (hehe) we walked to the village for some lunch. I was suddenly starving and feeling weak so was NOT impressed to find the cafe suddenly closed. We tried the other one but $16 for a blt was a bit too much so we walked back to see if Simon would let us into the breakfast chilly bin. Following the smell of burnt toast we found him in the kitchen making his own lunch so we dug in. I had a boiled egg and baked bean toasted sandwich. It was delicious but probably more so because I would have eaten practically anything by that point. Including the apple and coffee, it was a $20 meal. Yes!
Although Simon’s offer to let us clean the bus sounded pretty awesome we opted to go for another hike instead. The Taranaki waterfalll hike was about 6 or 7 km and took us over grassland, through jungle, forest and along a river for a while. There were lovely views of the surrounding mountains and several waterfalls. We stopped a few times for goofy photos and several different views of Mt Doom (Ngaurhoe) and were back in just under 2 hours.
Dinner was a buffet put on by the hotel and was wonderful especially since we got dessert 🙂