I once again found myself up at the ass-crack of dawn today (this is becoming somewhat of a trend). With a few hours to kill before the bus was scheduled to depart, I walked to the grocery store and picked up some grub for later on in the day. On the way back to the hostel, I grabbed a cup of coffee and a sausage roll for breakfast. Sausage rolls seem to be pretty standard fare breakfast food, and, though a bit on the greasy side, are quite tasty! With breakfast and my caffeine fix handled, I grabbed my bags and went outside to find the bus. When I got downstairs there were 12 other people, my new bus-mates, already waiting. I was somewhat glad that the group was on the small-side as it made it much easier to get to know everyone. After some quick introductions, our drive “Mar” showed up, and we all boarded the bus and began our journey to Waitomo.
Everyone on the bus was extremely nice, and within a half-hour I knew everyone quite well. About a half-hour into our trip to Waitomo, we stopped off at a ranch to see a “Sheep Show.” 4 of us decided to attend the show: Jan and Paul (a retired couple from Australia), Joanne (a spinning instructor from Sydney), and myself. Now normally this isn’t the type of thing I would do, but when in Rome (or NZ)… The show was quite comical. We got to learn about all the different types of sheep, see how they are sheared, and watch an amazing demonstration of how sheep dogs are used for herding. In the middle of the show, I was pulled up on stage with 3 other audience members. We were each handed a baby bottle with a bit of milk in it, and were then informed that at the count of three we were all to have a drinking contest. When the count reached three, the presenter shouted STOP, then proceeded to unleash a small group of baby goats onto the stage. The drinking contest was a joke, and the bottles were there for us to feed the goats.The smallest of the goats, a tiny little guy not much bigger than a chuihuhua and covered in soft black fur, came tumbling towards me on very unsteady legs. I tried to feed him, but he was so excited the bottle kept missing his mouth and splashing milk on his face. The whole experience was great! Towards the end of the show they brought the dogs out on stage to show off their herding skills, this was by far the most impressive part of the show! They demonstrated how a single dog can herd upwards of 2000 sheep, they are able to do this by climbing on the backs of the sheep to make their way through the herd! To demonstrate, they had the dogs run back and forth across the backs of the sheep, and at one point the dog simply stopped and layed down on the back of one sheep, hilarious. After the sheep show, we all got back on the bus and continued our ride to Waitomo, making one more brief stop to see the longest swing bridge in New Zealand.
We arrived at the hostel in the mid-afternoon. The weather in Waitomo was quite a bit warmer than Rotorua, and the sun was shining. I decided to take full advantage of the weather and went for a run up a scenic trail near the hostel, passing through cow pastures along the way. The view from the top was spectacular! On the way back down the trail, I stopped to do a bit of bouldering on the remains of some rather sizeable formations in the middle of the pasture. After a long hot shower, I joined the rest of my bus-mates in their room for a beer and some conversation. Later we grabbed dinner down at Curly’s pub, then finished off the night with a couple more beers back at the hostel.
Tomorrow we’re off to Taupo: “Adventure Capital of the North.”