Waitomo Caves and Attempting Tongariro

Waitomo Caves and Attempting Tongariro

After a wild night at Hobbiton, we headed over to Waitomo to see the glowworm caves. We booked a tour that was a bit less touristy and went to some different, supposedly more unique caves. We were not disappointed.

The first cave had tons of glowworms! Shawn and I have seen them before, but never on this level. We first walked through the cave in total darkness, then we got on a raft and our guide paddled us very quietly through the dark by light of glowworms. It was so awesome to see – it almost looked fake! We couldn’t really get many good photos, and our guide Norm had a strict “no photos in the raft” rule, so you’ll just have to trust us on this one. Better yet, check out what Google Images comes up with.

Larvae threads
Hard to capture a photo of the glowworms
These photos don’t do it justice

The next cave was a bit smaller. It was a project of our guide and some friends, and they had put a lot of effort into exploring the cave and getting it set up for people to see. The lighting in there was beautiful, and I particularly loved the cathedral, which is the largest part of the cave. There were only a couple glowworms, but it didn’t matter because it was so pretty.

After the caves, we headed south towards Tongariro, which we were planning to hike the next day.

Our campervan and views of Tongariro National Park

Tongariro is most famously known as Mordor in the Lord of the Rings. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4km track that goes across volcanoes and geothermal features, as well as alpine lakes. It takes 7-8 hours and is supposed to be one of the most beautiful hikes in the world. We had done our research and heard that we needed to be very prepared, so we spent the afternoon preparing.

We had arranged to park at the end of the track and have a shuttle pick us up and take us to the start of the track. We had been looking at the forecast and the weather seemed uncertain. That evening we got an email from the shuttle company saying we weren’t allowed to hike and our shuttle was cancelled. We were pretty bummed out, Morgan especially, as she is an avid outdoorswoman and was really looking forward to this as part of her NZ trip.

The next morning we tried to make the most of our day and decided to do a 2-hour hike to Taranaki Falls. Part of the reason our big hike was cancelled was that it was pouring rain that day. Decked out in our rain coats and semi-waterproof hiking pants, we headed out. It was an eerie hike with lots of fog and rain and we got completely soaked (I later poured about a cup of water out of my boots). The falls were beautiful, but it was a bit depressing to spend the day like that, especially because we were so bummed out about our big hike getting cancelled.

Too wet to see!

After returning to our campervan, we got out of our soaked clothes and had a cup of tea before heading to a place to stay on the way to Wellington. The bright side of this somewhat crummy day was that we ended up staying at the nicest campsite of our journey! Flat Hills Cafe and Campground, we love you! It’s a small farm and cafe with ponies, alpacas, sheep, and a tiny bit of free wifi. And hot showers! And the sun came out right as we arrived so we could dry our clothes! It definitely lifted our spirits a bit and helped us end the day on a high note.

Making an alpaca friend

Next up, we’ll discuss our time in Wellington and the beautiful Marlborough wine country.

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