I woke up early this morning so I could hit the hotel gym before hitting the road. After packing our bags, Christine and I walked across the street to a small cafe for a bit of coffee and my first internet connection in the last 8 days. We spent the better part of a half hour catching up on emails and enjoying our coffee before returning to the hotel to pack up the car. After getting our bags, and ourselves, situated, we hit the road to Waitomo. The next few hours were filled with winding roads, green pastures, and rolling hillsides.
We arrived in Waitomo around 1PM. Fog draped landscape like a heavy blanket, and it began to rain lightly. After finding that the tours at the Blackwater Rafting company were full, we continued down the road to Waitomo Adventures, where we booked or 4 hour Blackwater Rafting tour.
The tour was amazing! The full tour at the Blackwater Rafting company turned out to be a blessing as the smaller Waitomo Adventures offered a much more personal and fun tour. The guides were great, pushing us to really dig in and explore the caves. We spent the 4 hours of our tour crawling, swimming, and tubing our way through the caverns. This has been one of my favorite experiences of the trip thus far, and I would highly recommend that anyone visiting New Zealand take the time to do it!
After our caving experience, we had a great meal at Curly’s Pub, then decided to drive on to Rotorua. It was pitch black, pouring rain, and the gps had decided that the best route to Rotorua was through winding, back-country roads. Every 3km or so we would take a left turn, then a right, then another left. I was damn near convinced we were going in circles. If you were to draw our route out on a map, I would imagine it would resemble something like you might see drawn with an ethca-sketch. Needless to say, this route took a lot longer than we had originally expected (the pouring rain and the fact that we were doing no more than 35mph the entire way only multiplied this). After about 3 hours of zig-zagging through the dark farmland, we finally came upon a town where I pulled over for a much needed cup of coffee. While in the gas-station, I had a chat with a very nice lady who confirmed that we had indeed taken “the back way” to Rotorua, and was kind enough to give me some rather detailed instructions for the rest of our trip. After about another 45m minutes we arrived in Rotorua, found a motel, and turned in for the night.
The next morning, I once again found myself up before the dawn. With time to kill, I decided to take a dip in the motels thermal spa. This was basically no more than a small tiled pool filled with water from the local hot springs. The water was warm, and smelled strongly of sulfur. There was a sign posted on the wall, instructing users “no dipping, diving, or splashing” to avoid getting some type of meningitis. It displayed a small wave with a smiley face above the water, and frowny face below. The whole thing was a bit comical, and I wish I had brought my camera to take a picture. I soaked for a while; the water felt good and helped ease my muscles a bit.
Christine and I enjoyed a nice breakfast at Capers cafe, then went for a stroll in the Kuirau park (a free thermal park near the city center). After exploring the parks bubbling springs and snapping a few photos, it was time for Christine and I to part ways so she could make her way back to Auckland where she would be catching a flight back to LA later in the afternoon. She dropped me at the Base hostel, and hit the road.
I was officially on my own now, and the gravity of things were really starting to set in. To combat the initial feeling of loneliness, I played some Mumford and Sons on my iPod and set out to wander about town. I spent the rest of the afternoon poking around the city, picking up some groceries, and finally figuring out how the whole cellphone system works abroad. Later in the evening, I stopped at the Lava bar (part of the Base hostel in Rotorua) where I took advantage of a nightly special they offered: a huge plate of bangers and mash and a pint for only $10! After dinner, I contacted the Kiwi Experience and arranged to hop on the bus in the morning which would take me straight back to Waitomo, before heading on to Taupo. Tomorrow morning is my first day on the bus, and I’m looking forward to making some new friends…
Ordering coffee in NZ and AUS:
- Filter Coffee: This is just a standard cup of coffee (what you would get if you ordered a cup of coffee in America).
- Long Black: Double shot of Espresso with water (this is essentially like a cup of normal coffee).
- Long White: Double shot of Espresso with Foam