It was awesome to see such a thing that wasn’t touristy/commercialized. How cool is that? After a long time seeing the “stars” in the cave, we made our way out (see below), with the intent of making our way to Waipoua Forest…to see the biggest Kauri tree’s in the world! The day isn’t over yet….more to come in Day 3, Part 2!
A new day! Time to head north out of Auckland. First, we needed to go grocery shopping. It was a little nerve-wracking getting back in our RV to drive again, but it had to be done! We checked out of the Barrycourt and followed their directions to the grocery store. It was down near the wharf where we were yesterday. I thought it odd that we had to park in a garage underneath the store and then go upstairs to get inside! We picked up a few sundries….oatmeal, granola bars, peanut butter, bread, Nutella (MMMMmmmm), apples, apricots, etc. One thing we bought was this coffee in a can stuff. It’s a syrup that you mix with hot water to make coffee with cream and sugar in it already! Interesting, huh? I had never seen that before, but the can said it was perfect for camping. Excellent! We went through the checkout and went back downstairs to put our groceries away in the RV. The above picture shows me returning our cart (NJ) / buggy (GA) / trundler (NZ). Afterward, we went back upstairs to have a quick breakfast at a coffee shop before heading north.
Back on the road we went. Route 1 north….we made our way out of Auckland without any issues. Becky mastered the roundabouts quickly (I didn’t start getting the hang of them until a week later – lol!). All was going well…until a sign said that the highway was going to turn into a toll road…and that we had to pay $2.00NZ in exact change. AGHH! We didn’t have exact change…and there are no toll booth attendants. We pulled off to a rest area/info booth to find out what to do. We talked to a nice lady and she was quite helpful. Oddly enough, we found out you could pay your toll in advance at the rest area at a walk up machine, or you could pay it later online. You have to pay it though because a traffic camera takes a picture of the license plates as you go through the toll. She actually recommended that we pull off on to the “free road” which would take longer, but be more scenic. Well heck, that’s what we want right there! She had asked where we were from and when I told her I was from Atlanta, she reacted almost like I was some kind of celebrity! A lot of people did that, actually. It’s interesting how reknown Atlanta is there! Anyway, off we went on our scenic route and as you can see, there were really pretty beaches and trees along the way.
As we continued on, we stopped at the Sheep and Wool Center. It was really expensive to watch
them shear a sheep during their “show” so we checked out the shop instead and then moved on. As we left, I noticed that the sheep they had on site were spraypainted PINK! What the heck?! I guess that will remain a mystery…
Our next stop was Waipu Caves. This ended up being my absolute favorite part of the whole trip. I had read about it in a book called NZ Frenzy by Scott Cook. This book ended up being an amazing resource for us for cheap or low cost outdoorsy things to do. Yay Scott Cook! You ROCK! Anyway, back to Waipu Caves. We got off the main road and drove 12km on a narrow road to seemingly nowhere. We found a small car park with just 4 cars parked in it. Are we at the right place? We threw on our flip flops and our headlamps and headed toward where we heard voices from across a pasture. Yes, a pasture. We had to unhook the gate to get in, re-latch it behind us and walk across a big pasture to the woods, dodging sheep poop the whole way. The woods were really pretty with cool trees and instantly in front of us was the cave opening! We made
our way inside. It had a lot of stalagtites and stalagmites and I remembered that Scott said that we had to go to the biggest one and hang out for 7 minutes while we waited for our eyes to adjust to the darkness. This would allow us to see the GLOW WORMS! Yep, I said it. Wormies that GLOW in the dark! As time went on, our eyes began to adjust and we saw a couple of the worms glowing in the cave! I recalled that Scott said in his book to follow the stream to the back cavern for the real show. It was really muddy and slippery and steep in areas, but we made our way to what I assumed was THE chamber. We turned off our headlamps, and no joke, I started to cry. It was one of the prettiest sites I had seen in my life. All around us were tiny sparkling lights, not only on the walks and ceiling of this big “room”, but all the lights also reflected in the stream we were standing in. It was like we were standing in the middle of the Milky Way. My pictures don’t do them any justice, as I didn’t have a tripod and couldn’t figure out how to do a 15 second exposure with my little digital camera, but this still kinda gives you an idea…