Walkabout: Travel Life and Photographs

From the Caves of Waitomo to the Volcanic Plateau of Rotorua

October 16, 2005 

In my new set of wheels I set off again from Orewa this time heading South to a little village called Waitomo where I spent a few days. For being so little it had a lot to offer and see. I was a bit of an idiot in the Peri Peri Caves, but other than that had a great time there. Listed below is what I did.

Ruakuri Trail – This trail was a definite highlight. It can be completed in as little as 30 minutes, but has so much to offer it takes much more than that. There are caves/tunnels throughout the trail to explore, and even one that is off the trail that you have to climb up into. Don’t know if I was allowed to go in it or not, but did anyway. The trail is even better at night as it lights up with glowworms along the face of the rock walls and along the rivers edge. It was a great experience as I found a little rock to climb out on the bend of the river, turn off my flashlight, and watch the glowworms light up the river as they clung to rock face hanging over. Then it was back to the car for a good nights rest. =)

Piri Piri Caves – These were the biggest of the caves that I explored, and may be the last as well. They were located on the outside of town about 30k and only a short jaunt up the mountainside brought you to the entrance. No one else was in the area judging by the lack of other cars in the pull off. I was amazed by the caves sized when I reached the entrance. These made the caves I explored previously look like mere tunnels. With a headlamp on and flashlight in hand I began my descent into the cave. Being by myself I knew I shouldn’t go in so far incase something should happen. But I once I went in a little ways, I went a little further, and then a little further….and soon came to a crossing between one cavern and another. To my luck it was the lowest point of the cave and all water seemed to run to it willingly making for a very muddy and slippery spot. Nonetheless, I decided to carry on and clinched the sides of the walls to keep balance as I maneuvered through. Halfway across I slipped, tried to catch my balance, but ended up catching a stalactite to the head instead. I dropped the f-bomb as I grabbed my head to try and control the pain, and at the same time keep from losing my headlamp. It was awful. I recovered though and of course  ontinued on like a complete idiot into a few more caverns. Luckily nothing particular happened in these and made my way out. I hiked back down to my car and began driving to the next destination. As I was doing so I reached up to scratch my head and ended up with a palm full of blood…..Great…..I think I scraped my head more than I bumped it and didn’t know what else to do besides let it bleed and clean itself. Plus I didn’t want to go back to town and have to drive all the way back to see the falls and natural land bridge. So I carried on to those two destinations before checking into a local campsite where I could get a hot shower. There’s only one word that comes to mind when thinking of my actions, and that word is dumbass.

Marakopa Falls and Mangapohue Natural Bridge – Both nice short hikes that are worthwhile. Marakopa Falls are supposed to be some of the nicest in New Zealand. The natural bridge trail was well done with numerous boardwalks following the river that passed underneath the bridge, and looped around into the
countryside so you didn’t have to back track. And if willing you could climb to the top of the bridge as well. It’s fenced off, but a step helping you over it more or less encourages it as long as you pretend you don’t see the “Danger – 24 Meter Drop” sign.

Waitomo Walkway - The trail starts out on the edge of town and is within walking distance of most all accommodations. After passing a heavily forested area you reach a stream that joins the trail on and off again the whole of the walk. The beauty of this tramp though, and my personal favorite, is that it is cut through reserve and private cattle and sheep farms. The landscape is largely green, rolling hills with fortress like limestone formations dotting their sides. The path is that of the cows, making for an extra muddy experience apart from the gaze of the livestock watching your every step until the next bend is reached. Both going and returning on the trail I was able to observe the farmers round up their herds and move them to another location. One man did it with him on his ATV and three dogs running alongside the cows nipping and barking at their heels until the desired direction was reached. The cows mooed feverishly, but in the end succumbed to their demands. Another group of men took to horseback to move their herd in a much similar fashion as before. The trek ultimately ends at the car park for the cave/glowworm trail I did two days prior. I watched tourists in wetsuits guided by a local company fit their rears to an appropriately sized tube before splashing into the river and off on an adventure. I quickly looped the Ruakauri Trail once more before heading back when it began to rain and eventually pour. This left me to seek shelter in the bush until it subsided so I could get back to my campsite 20 minutes away. The Waitomo Walkway was unique and had a certain flare that would bring me back to it. Only of course after a heavy rain that is. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention a duck hissed at me several times. Yeah, a duck. The tongue came out and everything. I don’t know if it was hurt or guarding eggs since it wouldn’t stand up, but one thing is for sure. It’s
lucky it didn’t attack because I would’ve had to pull out my 9mm and bust a camp in it.

Yesterday I headed out of Waitomo and took my time getting to the next stop of Rotorua. I was such the typical tourist along the way as I stopped to take photos here and there. But in the end made it and spent the day today exploring the California Redwoods forest and volcanic activity in the area, and trying to get caught up on all my emails as well. I’ll hopefully post more pictures in the next day or two.