September 3rd 2016 – New Zealand Day 14

Today I had a nice lazy start to the day. I woke up around 8:00am without an alarm clock. I had turkeys “gobbling” to wake me up instead. I worked on my blog, made breakfast, and had coffee, before driving about one kilometre to the Waitomo glow worms.

Having rented my camper through a company called THL I was given free entry to any of the glow worm caves. I had lots of time so I decided to visit all three of them.
The first one, Ruakuri Cave, or “den of dogs” was first discovered around 400-500 years ago when the Maori discovered wild dogs and followed them to the cave entrance, where the wild dogs were trying to make their home.
The cave entrance was used by the Maori as a burial site, and is thus a sacred area that has now been protected. The cave was originally open to the public from 1904 until 1988, when it was closed due to a legal and financial dispute. It was reopened in 2005. A man-made entrance was built between 2003 and 2005 with an impressive spiral drum entrance, so that the sacred original entrance would not be used. This also make it the only wheelchair accessible cave in the Southern Hemisphere.
The cave tour started the amazing decent down this engineering marvel of a spiral entrance. I believe the height was approximately 20 metres tall, but don’t quote me on that.
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The tour then took the group through a maze of caves that had heights between 2 metres to nearly 20 metres tall. It was absolutely amazing. There were glow worms spread out in different areas of the caves.
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The limestone formations in the caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean, approximately 30 million years ago. The caves began forming when earth movement caused the limestone bend and nickel under the ocean and rise above the sea floor. As the limestone was exposed to the air it cracked and weakened allowing for water to flow through, slowly dissolving the limestone over millions of years, forming the huge caves.
The cave formations; stalactites (grow on the top) and stalagmites (grow on the ground) grew from water dripping from the ceiling or flowing over the walls leaving behind limestone deposits.
Glow worms are various groups of insect larvae and adult larviform females that glow through bioluminescence.
I then visited the Aranui cave, opened in 1911, which had more cave formations, some even more grand than the ones in the Raukuri caves! The Aranui cave didn’t have any glow worms though.
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The last cave was the original Waitomo cave, opened in 1889! This cave tour was really special. It felt like something out of a movie. The tour takes you through the caves, which people over the last 125 years have unfortuneatly ruined most of the cave formations. The tour gets very special after about 200 metres, because you then board a boat in the dark, which the guide uses guide wires to guide the boat through this most amazing array of glow worms. There was thousands upon thousands of glow worms and the reflection of them on the water below was out of this world. Sadly no photography is allowed in this cave out of respect of the Maori’s.
After the glow worm caves I decided to drive about a half hour away to Mangapohue Bridge, and Marakopa Waterfalls. Managapohue is the remains of what was formerly a cave, but mostly fell down.
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I decided to camp at the same spot as last night because it was nice, and close by. When I parked my camper the campsite manager Shelly came over and we talked for about an hour and she said to come over tomorrow morning and she’ll show me how the boat and the plane history and how they came to be at this site.
I had a fairly early night and ended up going to sleep at around 8:30pm.
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August 21st 2016 – New Zealand Day 1

Today I woke up at 6:30am so that I could pickup my camper van. I was supposed to walk to the International Terminal at Auckland Airport to catch the “yellow bus” to the Britz campervan pickup location, but the “yellow bus” happened to be parked right outside my hotel picking up passengers to take to the airport. I hopped on the bus and arrived about 40 minutes early at Britz. I had a coffee while I waited and picked up some brochures.
When the time was ready I signed all the paperwork and picked up my campervan; a new model 2014 Mercedes Sprinter LWB (Long Wheel Base). The camper only had 30,000km on the clock, and looked immaculate inside. I drove back to my hotel that I stayed at the night before so that I could pickup my bags, and go to the grocery store across the street. I picked up $120 worth of groceries, and got myself a bottle of wine and a case of beer.
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It was time to hit the road! My goal over the next few days is to do the Northwest loop and visit Cape Reinga. I put in my first destination; Davenport. Davenport played a role during World War 2 and was used as an outpost to spot enemy ships.
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The next stop was Orewa Beach, where I walked along the beach and also picked up some more groceries because I forgot some. I forgot coffee, which is the most important thing!
The next stop was Waiwera Thermal Resort, which was quite relaxing. I relaxed in the thermal pools, and went down the waterslides a few times. When I was in the hot pools a small girl (about age 4-5) jumped into the pool from a kids play area, and couldn’t swim and started drowning. The mother was nowhere to be seen, and the lifeguard was too busy reading a book to even notice. I grabbed the girl and started looking around to see if I could find the mother. The girl was crying, breathing, and appeared to be okay since it was only about 5 seconds of panic before I saved her. The mother came up to me and grabbed the girl out of my arms and didn’t even say thank you, and stormed off. I feel so sorry for that girl. I went up to the lifeguard and explained what just happened and she didn’t even seem to care. This really disappointed me because she’s getting paid to watch over people and save lives. Apparently her book is more important. I left the thermal pools at around 2:00pm.
I had a two hour drive ahead of me towards Whangarei. I was getting tired along the way so I pulled over and made myself a cup of coffee. Good thing I purchased that coffee! I was almost in Whangarei, when I saw a sign that distracted me; Waipu Caves. I decided to detour to Waipu, and I’m glad that I did. They were glow worm caves, and best of all they were all natural and free! I took a ton of photos trying to get the right balance of light and finally got a few that I was satisfied with. I also hiked along a small 1.5 hour hike to a beautiful lookout.
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It was getting dark now so I had to find a place to stay. I drove into Whangarei, and found a spot on a small nature reserve near the aquatic centre. I parked next to two other campers, and cooked myself some dinner. Dinner was pasta with home made meat sauce.
I worked on my blog for a bit, and had a beer, before going to bed. Tomorrow I’ll be visiting Whangarei falls before heading up to Cape Reinga.

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