A Slice of Paradise

photo courtesy: sites.psu.edu

On Friday, November 4th, Dan and I woke up extra early to pick up our rental car and drive a couple of hours south to visit the Waitomo Caves. First of all, driving was a little scary at first. Staying on the left isn’t the tricky part.. it’s knowing how far to the left you tend to drive. Getting to the caves wasn’t so bad. I drove and Dan did a great job in navigating.

We had already booked our tickets for the Waitomo and the Ruakuri tour, where we would see glowworms and cool cave formations.

Dan and I had our big boy cameras ready as we stood and waited for our 1:30 tour of the Waitomo Caves. While waiting, I noticed a “No Photography” sign. Wait… seriously?

I went in and asked if it were possible to take photos without flash.

“No photography at all.”

Darn it!

The first tour was alright. I was more excited about seeing a mass of glowworms than learning about the echo room or how “fast” the speleothems grow.

At the end of the tour, the group climbed on a boat and we sat in silence as our guide slowly moved us through the cave to see a mass of blue lights – glowworms! It was the coolest part of the tour and I wish so badly that we could have taken pictures. However, I am thankful to have seen such a site.

Afterwards, Dan and I rushed over to our next tour where we would explore the Ruakuri Cave for approximately 1 and a half hours.

This tour was pretty awesome!

We saw all sorts of cave formations and got up close and personal with glowworms. We were allowed to take pictures and as many as we wanted; Dan and I tried to take pictures of the glowworms, but it was pretty difficult without a tripod.

After our tours, we got back in the car and drove another couple of hours south to get to Taupo, where we would stay for the night.

Turns out, this place is kind of awesome.

Photos Courtesy (top to bottom): greatlaketaupo.com, matthewwilliamsellis.photoshelter.com, onthelake.co.nz, cascades.co.nz

We arrived at our airbnb and our host, Trish, told us about this great little spot that had thermal pools we could relax in for free. So, we quickly changed and headed over to Spa Park.

It was about 7:00 PM and the sun was still shining, but Taupo is a bit chillier than Auckland. The temperature was perfect for some heat! We got out of the car and followed a path through a park that took us over a hill and presented us in front of the Waitomo River.

There was a small, wooden bridge that continued around the corner, but underneath the bridge were thermal waterfalls and small pools of collected hot water that flowed over rocks and into the river. It was magical.

 

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Dan and I were like kids at a waterpark; so excited to see something so spectacular and fun. We stripped off our outer layers and jumped into the first pool. Well, not jumped.. we eased ourselves in as it was pretty toasty.

Each of us had the biggest grin as we sat down in the water and looked around us. Where are we? This is incredible!

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View from the thermal pools
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Cooling off in the river

Dan started chatting it up with another guy sitting in the pool with us. He lives in Wellington and is doing a big bicycle tour around the country. He was very nice and Dan and him chatted for a bit while I moved around to the other pool and stared in wonder at the waterfalls surrounding us.

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After about an hour, we dried off and watched the sky change colors and the water reflect the beauty before heading back to shower so we could get some dinner.

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Waitomo River
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Reflective Waters

We were full of thanks for Trish’s recommendation. We would have never known about this hidden gem if it weren’t for her.

 

The next morning, Dan and I headed further south towards Wellington where we would stay for the next few days.

Until then,

-B

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