Auckland-hot water beach - Waitomo
So as I didn't spend 3 days in Paihia I ended up on a different bus with just a few people I had already met. And what a great thing that turned out to be!! Everyone was really nice and I got chatting to some girls at the back. The driver was different but just as good as the last one, very funny and very knowledgable about NZ. He gave us loads of info about where we were going and the hostel etc. on the way to Hot Beach we stopped to break up the journey and took a short hike to Cathedral Cove. It was a steep walk down a big hill and we ended in a small deserted beach, it was stunning! There were huge rocks in the sea that almost looked as if they were floating, as the water had eroded the bottom of them. A couple of us decided it would be a great idea to go for a swim! Baring in mind it is winter in NZ and I had come from swimming in the tropical warm waters of Fiji it was pretty painful!! But it was a good laugh. To top it off we then decided to shower the salt water off under a fresh water waterfall which I'm pretty sure was even colder than the sea!
Back on the bus we went, a bit damp and cold. Our first stop was hot water beach which to the uninformed eye looks like a pretty, but ordinary, beach. However if you dig a hole in the sand when the tide is out hot springs underground fill the hole with hot water and you get a natural spa! The hostel lend out spades and we all went down at low tide which was about 8pm, with torches and dug ourselves some hot pools. It was a bit traumatic as the hot springs were actually boiling hot, so you had to funnel in a bit of freezing cold sea water to cool it down. It was tricky and quite often, depending on the waves, it either froze us to the bone or burnt our bums and led to us leaping out in pain! After the beach we all cooked a group meal and had a few drinks, it was great getting to know everyone. As it was such a small group ( only about 20 people, normally there are 50+ on kiwi buses) we all got on as one big group and there were no rifts.
The next day we had an early start and were on our way to Waitomo. On the bus each day the driver sends round a few clip boards, one with accommodation options and the other with activity options. If you want to do an activity the clipboard, and the driver, give you lots of info about it and you can sign your name up if you are interested. The Waitomo activity was caving and I signed up for a 5 hour caving extravaganza with zip lining, abseiling and black water rafting included. Super exciting!! I knew NZ was all about these kinds of adventure activities so I couldn't wait to get stuck in!
Today's mid trip stop was a walk through an old mining route in the side of a cliff, it was really beautiful and still had the old tracks along the walkway. In the mine there were cut outs in the walls for windows and you could sea out into a leafy valley. It was a really awesome way to have a break from the bus!
We got to Waitomo and went straight to the caving company. We got all kitted out in very thick wet suits, let's not forget that it is winter!!! And thick socks, shoes, hats and helmets. After a few photo ops and some abseil training we were taken to the mouth of the caves where there was a 30 metre sheer drop! We had to abseil down dangling in the middle of this hole in the ground! Not only that but a few metres down it turned into a sort of funnel and you had to squeeze through then it opened up into a huge open expanse and you were literally dangling in the middle of a massive cave! I made the mistake of looking down and felt a bit freaked out, my heart was definitely racing but I got down and am so glad I did it! Next we climbed a bit further down into the cave and came across a ledge. There were ropes rigged up and we were told we were to zip line down. The catch being you had to turn your head torch off so you did the zip line completely blind! It was terrifying flying through a cave with no clue which way was up or when you would stop. But what made it incredible were the hundreds of glow worms that littered the cave walls. So it was like flying through space with loads of tiny stars. It was beautiful and so fun!
So far we hadn't got wet but after the zip line we sat on the edge of a bit of rock and looked down a few metres to the dark water below. We were given some flapjack and a hot cup of cocoa which was a lovely touch as it was pretty chilly down there. We were then given an inflatable ring and told we had to jump off the ledge, backwards, into the water and land on the ring! It was quite a drop so it was pretty obvious you were going to go completely underwater. That definitely woke everyone up! The water felt like actual ice and it really slowly sept in through your wet suit and into your shoes so it was elongated torture! We bobbed around on our rings and then made a train while the guide pulled us along and we looked at the glow worms above and all around. They are so pretty! She told us lots of info about them and why they glow which was really interesting.
For the next three hours we had an amazing time, we jumped off rocks and belly flopped into pools, we clambered through tiny crevasses almost totally under water hoping not to get stuck! We went down natural water slides and climbed up sheer waterfalls with the freezing water pounding into our faces, and this was with no ropes! Just a lot of faith in your arms not giving out or your feet slipping. Eventually we climbed up the last waterfall and saw daylight! The whole experience was exhilarating and although it was pretty expensive I would do it again tomorrow! I highly recommend it!