Day #76 - Glowing with Excitment!

Not many people wake up with a swimming pool and hot tub right outside their door - but we did! And James of course, took full advantage and went for an early morning dip. As usual, I decided it was too chilly for me!

On today's agenda was another bucket list experience - glow worm caves!

These were situated five minutes drive from our campsite, so after a light breakfast (yoghurt & fruit) and showering, we headed out for more adventures. 

Due to the sacred significance of the Waitomo caves and the fact glow worms and dark caves don't photograph well, I cannot post many images from this fantastic experience that had both of us blown away by its splendor and beauty. So I will have to use my words plus some images grabbed from Wikipedia!

The first part of the experience was a descent into the caves. Both of us have done a fair few cave tours in our time and we've done three on this trip alone, so we weren't expecting too much for this part. How wrong we were. These caves were the most magnificent I have seen - so cavernous and beautiful with their splendid and intricate formations. The limestone that forms the caves was almost pure white and the way the tour had illuminated them really made the rock glow.

The Cathedral chamber where concerts are held.
The largest chamber was large enough for them to host concerts with 200 seated guests. Dame Kiri te Kanawa, the Beatles and Katy Perry are among some who have performed there, the latter saying "I just survived the black abyss and saw glow worms! I love New Zealand - it's beautiful!"

After the main caves, we backtracked and headed down another pathway to the underground river where a boat was waiting for us. We were encouraged to remain quite as we were gently pulled through the water by our guide hauling on a suspended rope into the main cavern where the glow worms were. This was the most spellbinding and ethereal experience I think I have had. Sitting in a boat, in silence - just the occasional drip of water, in pitch darkness with millions of soft, blue pinpricks of light overhead. It was magical and spellbinding, something I won't forget for a long time.

No photos allowed? Well, there is always a way when there's a merchandise opportunity!

After such a wonderful experience and having been able to tick off a bucket list item, we reflected on how disappointed we were yesterday not to have seen a kiwi. So we decided to rectify that by taking advantage of the fact yesterday's ticket was valid for entry for the whole week and so we headed back - and guess what? We saw the kiwis!

If you read yesterday's post, you know they are nocturnal animals and very elusive. Also this kiwi house loves putting a lot of vegetation into its enclosures. Great for the creatures; not so great for the spotters! Plus it was dark remember! This time we stayed in the dark house for a good length of time to really let our eyes adjust. We were also banking on the fact that it was still early in the day (or night for the kiwi) so they were more likely to be active. Patience paid off! 

Ok, I can tell you're not impressed! Our elusive friend is just left of centre - you can see its long white beak pointing to the ground with its spherical body behind. Because this photo was taken in very low light, the camera phone was in Night Mode/Long Exposure mode, meaning that only still things come out really well. This is why the kiwi's head has kind of merged with the log! 
James however, managed to capture a better shot (well, he is the photographer!). 
After all this excitement, we had a bit of a drive to our next stop. We are thoroughly enjoying the amazing New Zealand countryside we are travelling through as we work our way southwards down the North Island. 
Sadly, the view from a moving campervan doesn't do the scenery justice!

We came across two famous lakes: Lake Tikitapu and Lake Rotokākahi aka the Green and Blue Lakes. The blue lake (Tikiapu) is a collapsed volcanic crater. The lake is shallow as lakes go with the deepest section being about 27m. If you're looking at it from above, in certain lights it looks quite blue/aqua/turquoise in colour. This is due to a pumice and rhyolite bottom which the sun reflects up. My photo doesn't show it!

The Green Lake (Rotokākahi) and surrounding area is privately owned by Tuhourangi descendants who are a sub-tribe of the wider Te Arawa tribe. Control of the lake is managed by the Lake Rotokākahi Board of Control. In the right conditions the Green Lake is quite emerald green in colour due to it being more shallow than the Blue Lake and the fact it has a sandy bottom. Again my photo totally fails to capture this!

We came to the town of Rotorua, famous for its hot springs and smell of sulphur in the air. We found it to be a quaint town with a few "historic" buildings, a shopping area that wouldn't look out of place in the centre of Swindon (most NZ high streets seem to follow the same design) and a lovely lakeside area. 

Our home for the night was our first experience of "Freedom Camping". This is the system in New Zealand where you can camp for free (or a small fee) without booking at a basic site (often a car park). Our location was a beautiful site on the shores of Lake Okareka and we were able to grab the very last spot which gave us a wonderful view. 

Lake Okareka

Again another wonderful day in our little home on wheels.