We left Whitianga on the bus at 7.45 in the morning. We were heading to Waitomo. We made a short stop at the Karangahape Gorge where they used to mine gold which is quite pretty. We drove through the prime dairy faming area of New Zealand. There were lots and lots and lots of cows! :-) We arrived in Waitomo early afternoon and were dropped at our hostel - the Kiwipacka YHA. After almost dying waiting for the desperately ditzy woman to check us in we settled into our room. The village of Waitomo consists of about eight buildings! It's only there as a base for the different tours of the caves. We had lunch in the cafe then went to the i-site and got ourselvses booked onto the 'Spellbound' caves tour for the next day. We went into the museum of caves which was desperately boring (and very small)!! There were some mannequins of cavers hanging from the ceiling that looked like dead bodies! Very freaky!! They had some dead bugs on display that live in the caves that started to put me off going in! There were more scary mannequins in the section about tourism in the 1950s. They're everywhere! In the evening we put on some laundry. We made ourselves pasta and sauce for dinner. It turned out to be a bit of an adventure as pasta sauce in NZ come in tins and the hostel kitchen was distinctly lacking in tin openers! We ended up stabbing a hole in the side of the tin!!! Much laughter!
After breakfast we headed straight down to the Spellbound office to go on our tour. A mini-bus takes people from the office to the caves. There were 12 of us in our group. The roads were a bit hair-raising. The tour consisted of two caves. The first was the wet cave. We had to wear silly helmets on our heads with torches on the front. Once you got into the cave entrance it got dark very quickly. We walked through the cave a bit then got into an inflatable raft on the river that ran through it and had to turn our torches off. We glided up and down the river a bit. As you get used to the darkness the glow worms all over the cave ceiling get a brighter green colour. They're ver pretty and far more dense than I had expected. When we got out of the inflatable we had to walk in the dark without our torches on like a line of elephants. It was quite scary. When we got out the sun was painfully bright! We then walked down a path to a little hut where we were given hot drinks and biscuits before going in the next cave. The second cave was a dry cave. We walked around it on a built up path. It was full of stalactites and stalagmites, and various other rock formations. There were 'tomos' which is like a funnel above ground leading to a hole in the ceiling cave. We saw the bones of animals that had fallen in the holes. Maori's believed that a spirit lived in the cave due to the cold breeze coming out of the entrance. After the second cave the minibus took us back to Waitomo. We had lunch and then headed to 'the shearing shed', the only German angora rabbit farm in New Zealand! They're HUGE white fluffy rabbits. We got to meet and stroke a rabbit. We spent the evening faffing around the hostel and swapping stories with our new room mate. We had to fight the sparrows for our dinner. They're REALLY cheeky over here. They jump onto the table and try and steal the food off of the plate. We packed up our stuff and went to bed.
January 24th (1)
Our bus wasn't due til the afternoon and we'd kind of 'done' Waitomo so we spent much of the morning reading and writing journals. We popped back to the rabbit farm to se their daily shearing show that we'd missed the day before. They shaved a rabbit in front of the audience. We found this really disturbing! The rabbit was clearly petrified. We made a quick escape and went and got ice cream! The magic bus picked us up around three to take us to Rotorua.