Monday, 21 September 2015

Our Kiwi Road Trip Part 4: Waitomo to Waihi Beach

Day 13:
We left Rotoura this morning and headed to Waitomo. Waitomo was only 170km away, so we were booked in and set up by 11.30am. We grabbed lunch before heading out for a stroll around Ruakuri Reserve walking trail. The trail wasn't very long, but was a lot more interesting than some of the walks we have been on. Crouching through caved tunnels, crossing bridges which pass over the fast current rivers and we even stepped into a darkened cave with a mighty drop below, it was well worth the visit.

We have been in New Zealand for 13 days and still haven't seen the countries most sacred and endangered animal, the Kiwi. So as we had time to spare (As we booked a day full of cave tours for tomorrow), we headed down to the Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native a Bird Park. I didn't realise Kiwis were nocturnal creatures, so the display was in darkness with a few lights dotted here and there. This meant it was quite tricky to begin with to find the Kiwi's, but luckily enough one came wandering right past the window. The are very strange creatures and a lot bigger than we initially thought they would be. But now we can finally say we have seen one. Whilst exploring the rest of the park, a giant wood pigeon literally dive bombed by head, twice. I knew there was a reason why I didn't like pigeons. 

We then headed to Curlys Bar, just opposite the caravan site, for a quick beverage before heading back to chill for the night. 
We have 3 cave trips booked for tomorrow which should keep us busy for a bit.

Day 14:
Our first tour of the day didn't start until 10am this morning, so we had a little lay in before heading down to Waitomo Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre to catch a mini bus to the first cave of the day.
The first cave was the Ruakuri Cave, which to reach you had to walk down a darkened spiral entrance. The cave was full of different cave formations, shawl-like limestone formations and crystal tapestries which had been created over millions of years. We also got up close to glow worms and learnt about their life journey. It was a pleasant 2 hour walk through the snake like passageways which once formed a river. We learnt that in New Zealand, if a cave passes under your piece of land, technically that part of the cave belongs to you because you own everything below to the centre of the Earth. How crazy is that, but of course the government can tax you for it. So as always they are still making money from you.

We then stopped for lunch before visiting the second cave of the day, the Aranui Cave. The Aranui cave was the last cave of the three to be discovered. The cave was full of huge stalactites and stalagmites, as well as very high chambers and flowstones. The structure seemed very different to the Ruakuri cave, due to no river running through it so different formations were formed. The cave was also home to lots of cave dwelling wetas, which were large crickets like creatures with very long legs.

The final cave of the day was the main tourist attraction to this area, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Lots of the information shared by our guide was information we had learnt from the previous two guides. So this trip was more for just viewing the beautiful surroundings. We wandered around the cave for a bit, before boarding a boat where we silently glided through the cave. We rode under thousands of magical glowworms which, until today, never realised how big glow worms actually were. The boat ride didn't last long, so it wasn't long before we were back at the Visitors Centre.
Unfortunately we could not take any pictures during this tour, so there is little to show you of the glowworms. 

We have both had a brilliant day exploring the different caves, next time (Beacuse we will definitely come back in the future!) we will take to the black water rafting through the Ruakuri Cave, as this seems to be a more thrilling way to view this magical place. 
But for now, it is time to chill out for the evening as tomorrow we will finally get to see the world famous Hobbiton!

Day 15:
The day has finally come to take a visit to Hobbiton. I literally cannot wait!
We left the caravan site by 9.30, Hobbiton was only an hour and half way so it didn't take us long to get there. We had booked a tour for 1.30pm but arrived by 11am, eager beavers I know. But it gave us time to grab a coffee and cake from the cafe, as well as an opportunity for us to wander around the gift shop. We still had loads of time to spare though, but luckily the lady behind the ticket desk was able to change our tour slot for an earlier one. Perfect.

The tour lasted about 2 hours and we were taken by coach down to the Shire. That is where the magic began. We were guided on a walk through the Shire consisting of 44 different Hobbit Holes, as well as many other well known sights within the Shire. Only one Hobbit Hole was open for us to peek inside, not that there was much to see as all the filming inside the Holes was filmed in a studio. Nonetheless, the outside of the Hobbit Holes remained the same as in the movies. Even the miniature clothing lines still had miniature clothes pegged onto them, as well as having gardeners to keep fruits and vegetables growing in the garden patch all year round.

Within the shire there were only 5 doors which were 100% in size (Meaning they were the same size as a regular door), all the rest were 60% in size as Hobbits are only meant to be 3 feet tall. The larger doors allowed the producers to adapt the film so the actors and actresses didn't look out of proportion and we could realistically believe they were 3 foot tall. 
Our guide filled us with loads of information about the area and the filming. After The Lord Of The Rings films were finished, by contract the company ripped out all of the Shire, unaware that they would need it again to film the Hobbit later on. So they had to rebuild the whole place to make it look exactly the same as it had in the films before. This required them to artificially build the tree above Bilbo Baggens Hole, because they had killed the last one by removing it. They only had to wire on 200,000 leaves individually! I would not have liked to have that job.
Near the end of the tour, we got to grab a beer or cider from the famous Green Dragon Inn, which has specially brewed drinks only available to buy there. It was nice to get inside in the warm where the building inside was laid out just as you would picture it would be in the films.

Once the tour was finished and we had raided the gift shop for souvenirs, we needed to find somewhere to set up camp for the night. We drove another hour and a half to a place called Waihi Beach, which is situated on the East Coast. We got a perfect little spot right by the sea, however it was extremely windy and cold. Where has the lovely sunshine gone? Hopefully it will be back tomorrow when we head to Hot Water Beach.

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