Hey yo, what’s up?!
Did you know that New Zealand’s national bird, the Kiwi is considered a mammal rather than a bird? No? Me neither, until I learnt all about it at the “Kiwi House” in Otorohanga.
But first, I went to explore the “Hamilton Gardens”, which are seen as one of the most beautiful in the world. No, I don’t necessarily like gardens, but these ones were beautiful! It would have been even more beautiful, if it hadn’t been raining non stop! -,- The weather forecast states it’s gonna be raining all month, wish me luck guys, I’ll be walking around in swimwear from now on!
The gardens were subdivided in little themes. So you could see the difference between international gardens and even Maori gardens. Definitely worth a visit! I recommend summer or spring though: less rain and beautiful colours 😉
Getting back to the Kiwis, I was quite disappointed at first figuring out those are nocturnal animals. You could watch them in a night house, but weren’t allowed to take any photos. I did not even spot one until later. I did not spot anything at all in the whole bird sanctuary in the beginning. I know, I’m usually the last to spot exciting stuff, but come on, what did I pay for?!?!
All good, I good to see one a bit later during a feeding. Seeing this little something running around was the cutest thing I’ve seen all day. To everyone who doesn’t know it: these “birds” can’t fly, but they have an excellent sense of smell and whiskers! By the way, they lay eggs as big as emu eggs!! Those tiny things?! While they’re pregnant, they’re not even able to eat, since there is not enough room for food and they carry around 25% of their body weight!! 25%!! In contrast to that humans carry only 5%!
So yeah as I said, unfortunately no pics of a living Kiwi, but I got a few other shots instead:
Finding a sleeping spot that day was like going through hell!! The first caravan park I tried was apparently hiding their office from me, I don’t know. I’ve been driving around for half an hour, but couldn’t find it, even after I asked a lady about it. So I decided to try somewhere else. But the second caravan park I tried was currently under construction and didn’t take non – self contained campers. So I drove ALL the way back to where I just came from to book into another park, knowing that I have to drive all the way back again the next day for my future plans… Yep, a traveller’s life is not all fun and laughter, referring to my last blog post..
In my case, my future plans were basically abseiling into a cave to see glowworms 😛 Yes, that’s correct! I went down one of the “Waitomo Caves”, which are world famous glowworm caves! Well, the cave that I went into, was a completely natural cave, only accessible via an abseil! The first time of my life I’ve actually done that properly and it was definitely fun! At the bottom, you landed in a river which has, together with the cave itself, the Maori name “Manghawitikau”, which means translated “the river you shouldn’t cross”… We did it anyway!! 😛 This was apparently also the only company still running their wet tours, since we recently had a lot of rain and the caves are basically flooded. The river was a lot higher than usual and the current was a lot stronger, but that also meant there was a lot more fun! Especially because you had no idea where you actually stepped! Normally the river is clear and you can see every rock, but now you can’t see a thing 😛
We all got a tube for our cave tubing experience and made our way down to the end of the cave first. To get there, we literally had to climb the cave walls… one handed, since we had the tube in the other hand! That’s how it happens quite easily that you slip and fall down into the river, getting pulled by the current! 😀
Every now and then we had to squeeze ourselves through the tiniest holes! I’m not joking, one of them was not much bigger than my helmet!! And we did it with our lights turned off! But surprisingly I got through and got instantly rewarded by a million glowworms! I can’t describe what I saw, you definitely have to experience it yourself! Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to bring our own cameras though.. Here are the pictures that the guides took though:
Let me tell you this, glow worms are actually maggots who have quite an interesting life. They basically eat for nine months, sleep for two weeks, mate for two days straight and then die. Yep, that’s it 😀 To catch their bait, they produce little sticky threads, hanging from underneath them. A little bit like a spiderweb! From close up they definitely don’t look as nice as they do from further away, glowing in the dark!
These glowworms were everywhere! It was for sure a magical moment!! We could still watch them while tubing down the cave, down tiny waterfalls and through minor rips! It was definitely fun, even if you fell out of your tube!
To get out of the cave, we all had no other choice than climbing up a 20 metre cave wall! It was steep and slippery as hell, trust me! I’m so proud that I made it wothout falling. Of course we were secured on a rope, in case we slipped! Other than that, the rope didn’t do much! We had to do the climbing ourselves 😀
The whole adventure took 5 hours and was so worth it! This is the only cave system in the world that allows you to see glowworms, while tubing down its stream! Pretty cool right?!
I was soaked, clearly having trouble to get out of boots and wetsuit afterwards! Oh, by the way, they had to cut the back of my gumboots open to make them fit! My calves were to big for the regular boot.. what should I say… I’m sorry, mate, those are dancer – legs! 😀
I could definitely feel my arms the next day!! Luckily, I didn’t spend my day climbing another wall. Instead, I drove to Matamata to see the “Hobbiton” movie set. People who know me are probably gonna think ‘hang on a minute’, while reading this. Which is fair enough, I mean.. I have neither finished any of the movies, nor have I read any of the books.. the effort was there though!! I started two of the movies.. but fell asleep 😦
So yeah, I had noooo idea what happened at this movie set or who any of the characters are and I had nooo idea why I still paid 80$ to see it.. Well, the answer is clear: I don’t know… I kinda felt the urge to see it. It’s a beautiful place though! I got some awesome shots! Couldn’t answer any of the questions that have been asked during the tour but 😛
I still learned some interesting facts though: Did you know, that the actors of Bilbo and Gandalf (?) are actually of the same height?! Thanks to some special movie tricks, they appear to be of a 5 foot difference in the movie! Plus, it is the only living film set in the world, constantly being maintaned!
In the end, we all got a free drink at the “Green Dragon”. No alcohol, of course! Don’t drink and drive, kids! 😀
The next day, I was barely driving at all! Instead I decided to walk 14ks… in the pouring rain… for whatever reason… it started with me trying to get a bee out of my car, after it landed on my passenger seat.. It could have flown anywhere, but decided to land there. What the hell?! A bad sign?!
Just kidding, it was still worth it! The first 5k return walk went up to the top of the “Wairere Falls”, which are the highest of the North Island, plunging 153m in two steps! The walk, or better hike, was absolutely ridiculous! I think, it was one of the hardest I’ve ever undertaken!! It basically went constantly uphill, over a thousand rocks and roots, a thousand steps up and through the deepest mud, which made the whole thing even more fun!! It took one and a half hours to climb up 2.5ks!! In addition, it even started raining halfway through, making it even more slippey than it already was before! I was sooo glad when I FINALLY reached the top! The reward was a view over Matamata’s farmlands and of course the massive waterfall! Well, I couldn’t really go anywhere near it, since it was so windy that you just got all the water which was supposed to fall down the cliff, splashed straight in your face!
On the way down, you could literally hear almost everyone passing me swearing and puffing 😛 I actually thought I was super unfit, but maybe this walk is just Satan’s personal masterpiece 😀
I definitely got the confirmation, when I was about to walk the last 20m to my car … I tackled the whole walk without slipping, falling, getting lost or anything… but on the last 20m, on flat ground.. I fell and rolled my ankle… -,- Karma is a b*tch!! Don’t worry guys, my ankle is super flexible for some reason, I’m fine 😀
Anyway, Karma still wasn’t finished with me on my second walk. A 9k return walk to the”blue spring”. 70% of New Zealand’s bottled water is obtained from this spring! I totally get why! This is the clearest and cleanest river I’ve ever seen in my life!! You could see every single plant in the river and the further you walked, the more the colour changed from green to turquoise to blue! Definitely the most beautiful river I’ve ever seen!!
Karma didn’t let me enjoy the views much though since it started pouring again, as soon as I finally reached the “Blue Spring” -,-. Of course, it wouldn’t stop either, turning the way back into a massive slip n’ slide!! I had to go through three gates and one of them was electrified.. I just opened the gate, like normal people would.. and got a shock!! What the hell?? It’s part of a tourist track, it shouldn’t give you shocks?! But maybe it’s just my permanent bad luck, I don’t know 😀
In the evening I actually realized why Karma hates me so much: I lost something of really high personal value, without noticing.. I actually got this from someone of high importance and if that person would find out, that person would be super disappointed.. It literally could be anywhere.. I hope it still turns up somehow… I could punch myself for that!! How did I not notice?!?! :((
But I found it back, guys! Chances were literally one in a million to find a little coin, but luckily I lost it in my car! What an adrenaline rush! I later got a similar feeling seeing the MASSIVE “Huka Falls” in Taupo!! First I thought ‘not another waterfall’. Kinda had enough of that in the past days, but seeing these falls is SO worth it!! Simply, because these falls are so different from others!! By massive, I mean strong as hell! I’ve never seen such a strong current!! It joined into the unexpectedly very contrasting, CALM Waikato River. The stream just looks like foam all the way, hence its name. “Huka” is the Maori word for “foam”. Seeing all that was just unbelievable! You’ve got these massive forces and then suddenly, without any warning, it’s just gone!! Rafting would be fun here, I guess!! 😀
How is this naturally possible, you might think? Well, the only reason I know of is a gap in some rocks way too tiny for the water masses, causing a built-up in pressure and consequently a strong current like that! Comment, if I’m wrong!
And because I’m in the part of the world, where extremes live right next to each other, I even got to experience a geothermal natural phenomenon in the same day! The silica terraces you can see in the photo are remnants of the pink and white “Terawera terraces”, formerly considered as the 8th world wonder, but unfortunately, they got destroyed in a volcanic eruption in 1886. These terraces are not naturally formed, but the silica formations and the hot water are all 100% natural. You could find these in the Maori village “Wairakei”. I’ve seen quite a few geothermal formations now already, but I had never seen anything as spectacular as this formation!
Did you know that the Silica hot pools are of high therapeutic value, curing skin deseases, arthritis and rejuvenile soul and body?! They contain all these components like iron or magnesium that I’m lacking! I should get a private hot pool in my van, hey?! 😛
I wish I was sitting in that hot pool, while I was sitting on a sailing boat called “Barbary”, sailing to Maori rock carvings in the pouring rain and freezing wind! The rain over here is unreal!! I’ve barely had any sunny days, it’s crazy!! In Australia, everyone is praying for rain and over here, they can’t get enough!
The sailing adventure is not to be missed though! First of all, because you finally start to be aware that you’re sailing on the second largest super volcano in the world! After “Yellowstone”, “Taupo Volcano” has caused two of the most violent eruptions in geological history! In fact, there has been major eruptions every thousand years! How scary is that?! Before I came to New Zealand, I had absolutely NO idea about the volcanic activity going on over here!! It’s not all about beautiful landscapes!!
The second reason for “Lake Taupo’s” popularity are Maori rock carvings, only accessible by boat! They are up to 10m high, carved into the cliffs in the 1970s, depicting “Ngatoro-i-rangi”, the Maori navigator, who navigated two tribes into the Taupo region. The carving is still missing pupils, which were supposed to be added February this year, after it had caused a lot of trouble for being left out on purpose. Surprisingly, this never happened. Next to the big carving are a few small ones. One being a mermaid’s face, which is supposed to live in Lake Taupo eating cayaks and children according to a myth. Another one is a big lizard and a third one is the carver’s wife, standing on top of a rock naked! Why not 😛
Highly interesting, that’s for sure. However, I was glad being back on solid ground as my motion sickness started to kick in again. 😦
I didn’t feel better while driving the “Lost World Highway”. I don’t even know why I took this way. I knew it would be windy and hilly.. “plans” for the day kinda changed. I actually wanted to check out “Tongariro National Park”, but it was raining like crazy and there for sure wasn’t any views, plus the whole park was turned into a winter wonderland… So I drove on for now .. My next destination was the “Taranaki region”. To get there, you had two highway options. I don’t know why on earth I chose the windier and longer option, but I guess the so called “scenic route” got me… and fooled me! It was 151ks long and mainly about historic places, which is not really my thing. It offered nice views here and there and you had to drive through a 180m tunnel, which was fun. Intersting and crazy at the same time was, that you drove through a place called “Whangamomona”, which declared itself a republic, having its own passport and residential election!! Hence, I also drove past a sign stating:” Farewell from the Republic, welcome back to New Zealand!” I was super confused im first place, until I found out what it was all about! 😀
It was less fun driving 12ks on muddy gravel road but!! I actually had to pull over at some point, feeling extremely sick 😦
Guys, to everyone out there suffering from motion sickness… I got ya and feel for ya!!
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Take it easy!