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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July 1st 2016 – Rockbound Lake & Tower Lake Hike

Today I went on a beautiful hike to Rockbound Lake and Tower Lake with my friend Sara. I woke up around 6:30am to pick her up from Lake Louise (where she is living for the summer). We started the hike at about 9:30am. The hike starts off gently, and gradually turns into a gradually steeper hike that is switchback after switchback. You eventually reach Tower Lake after approximately 7km. Tower Lake is a beautiful emerald green colour, with Castle Mountain as a beautiful backdrop off to the side. The hike continues another kilometer or so up to Rockbound Lake. The view is absolutely stunning, with mountains surrounding it on all but one side. We sat down here on some rocks to eat some lunch and admire the views. The hike took 2 hours 45 minutes to get to Rockbound Lake, and about 2 hours to get back to the car.

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April 8th 2016 –Hanakapi’ai Trail

Today I woke up at 8:30am, partially because I was tired, and partially because I had too much to drink the night before. I made myself some coffee, and had breakfast and drove towards the trailhead, which was about a half hour away.

The trailhead taunts you with what is going to be a pretty difficult hike, but well worth it in the end. The hike is brutal in some parts, but easy in others. Here’s an elevation profile so you can see what I’m talking about.

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The views are spectacular all along the way. You basically run alongside the ocean for the first 2.0 miles (3.2 km).

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After the 2.0 miles you reach a beach called Hanakapi`ai beach. The beach doesn’t have much sand at all, but it has a lot of amazing rock formations that people have placed.

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After the beach you continue inland another 2.0 miles (3.2 km) to Hanakapi’ai Falls. You cross over the river multiple times to get there, and I’ll be honest I fell in once and it wasn’t pretty. At least I got a good laugh, as well as others. I could hear the falls getting louder and louder as I approached. Even the photo from a far was quite beautiful.

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When I arrived at the falls there was a ton of people there, some even swimming in the little lake at the bottom. I quickly noticed that someone was sitting on the rocks enjoying herself, and thought it would be a neat photo to take a picture of.

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I then gazed my eyes up and down the falls and was quite overwhelmed by how beautiful they were.

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Oh yeah and there was a random kitten just hanging out by the waterfalls… Nobody knew why it was there or how it got there. Poor kitty, but it looks like many people were feeding it.

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It took 2.5 hours to hike to the falls, and 1.5 hours to hike back to the car. 22000 steps later, and I’m exhausted. I drove back to the condo, showered, and then got some beer, chicken, and mashed potatoes from the grocery store. I talked with Kirsty for a bit, downloaded my photos, went for a swim in the pool, and now I’m just going to relax for the rest of the day.

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