4th- 6th April
It only took about an hour and a half to get to Waitomo from Matamata and we arrived where we were parking for the night at about 4.30pm. We passed the Waitomo caves and there was a choice of two free places to park overnight. We decided we would do a night at each so went to the one the furthest away first. They were both just little gravel pull up areas near the side of the road, the first a look out spot and where we stopped was a reserve called Mangapohue Natural Bridge Scenic Reserve. At the reserve there was a loop walk to a naturally formed bridge and the remainders of an old cave as well as a stream and a picnic area. There was a long drop toilet but it was horrible so we decided not use it again after Nath used it once. The car park area was fine, just off Te Anga Road, a mountain road, that wasn't really too busy, surrounded by forest and greenery. It said on the camper mate app that you could park here but we aren't sure if it's actually allowed but I don't think anyone would come all this way out to check. We parked up for the night anyway, had dinner and then had a night of chilling and drinking! It is Easter bank holiday weekend after all. Quite a few cars pulled up and went for walks which was a little awkward, but nobody bothered us and we didn't bother them.
When it got dark we walked through the track in the woods, not having a clue where we were going, until we came to a bit of the walkway that was lit up with glow worms. It was so good! We've paid to go see them in caves too and we have seen them for free here!
On the 5th we had a lazy morning, feeling a little rough. We had a pretty good drink last night and were both pretty drunk. It was a fun night! There was suppose to be a lunar eclipse which we were really excited for, but it was too cloudy so we didn't even see it, if it was even visible to the human eye. After lazying about we went for a walk in the light to the Natural Bridge at the reserve. It was a naturally formed stone archway that had formed from a collapsed cave. It was lovely! We had a drive into town and had a little wander around there before headed back up the mountain roads to our parking spot for the night.
For the night we stayed at Te Anga Road Haggas Lookout, about 10km down the road from where we parked the night before. It was a small gravel parking area at the side of the road with amazing views over the countryside, Waitomo and when it was clearer we could see Mt. Ruphea, which was literally breathtaking! We were in total awe of the views! There was only us there for the night too to enjoy them!
On the 6th we planned on getting up for sunrise to see it come up over the view but when the alarm went off it was too cloudy to see anything so we went back to sleep for an hour. The clocks changed here on Sunday and went back so we have lost sunlight hours which is a shame! The sun usually rises now around half 6 and sets around the same time on a night. We have been really good since we got the van though and are rarely up any later than 7.30am.
After a relaxing morning we headed to the Black Water Rafting Co. Base to wait to go on our tour! We were first kitted out with wet suits, jackets, socks, boots, and helmets with torches on. We looked real good! We had two guides come with us and we were in a group of 10 including us. We drove to Ruakari Cave and collected our rubber dinghies and had a practice at jumping backwards into our dinghies into the river there, so we knew what to do when jumping down the waterfalls in the cave. I thought it was pretty scary but it was funny and the water was freezing! The water in the cave was even colder!! We had about an hour and a half in the cave, wading through the water, floating in our dinghies with the glow worms lighting up the cave, and jumping backwards down waterfalls! It was so so much fun!! At the deepest point into the cave we were 50m underground. It was a lot more exhilarating that we expected and we got much more of an adrenalin rush! We have never done anything like that before at all! We have been in caves, but never unground in the water of them, in rubber dinghies, jumping down waterfalls with glow worms lighting the cave! At the end of the tour we climbed up the rocks out into the daylight of the forest. We didn't want it to end, but we were pretty cold from the freezing water! We were so glad that we went for the black water rafting trip into the caves and can't explain enough how fun it was!
After the cave trip there were hot showers and soup and a bagel waiting for us back at the base. We obviously weren't allowed cameras in the cave with us but one of the guides took photos so we bought the package on a USB afterwards as a reminder of our crazy cave adventure! After warming up, we headed off out of Waitomo and onto Taupo which took around 3 hours.