Day 6 Thursday 20 February – Waitomo, Rotorua

This morning was slightly overcast but mainly sunny and warm.  We left Auckland at 8.00am and headed south through the Waikato Region. As we drove along, Laurie and Malcolm gave us a brief history of New Zealand, including the political history.   We passed part of the Manakau Harbour, which was at low tide.

We drove along beside the Waikato River for some time – the river is 420 kilometres long and has 8 Hydro-electric power stations along it.  The Waikato Region is a rich farming area, mainly with Jersey and Fresian cattle – the average farm having only 400 cows.

We stopped at Huntly for morning tea at River Haven.  Huntly, with a population of approximately 8,000 people, has its own Power Station and a brickworks.

As we left Huntly, Sandy was delighted to see several Belted Galloway cows – the most common variety is black with a perfect white band around the middle.  We also saw some brown ones with the white band around the middle.  Sandy had seen one many years ago just outside Canberra on one of our trips to Leeton, but hasn’t seen one since!

We continued our journey to the Waitomo district, which is also predominantly a dairy farming region and arrived at the Waitomo Caves at about 11.15am.The underground limestone Waitomo Caves, formed over 30 million years ago, are famous for their stalactite displays ,as well as thousands of glowworms, which are tiny creatures that radiate a light to attract food.

We were taken by a guide into the caves, stopping at a Tomo (hole) that is a 16 metre vertical limestone shaft, and then we walked down several flights of stairs to a chamber called the Cathedral, where many famous people have sung, including our tour group, who sang “You are my sunshine”, and were thrilled at how good the acoustics in the chamber made our voices sound.  The temperature inside the caves had dropped from 26 degrees outside to a mere 14 degrees inside the caves. From there we made our way slowly down several more stairs to the entrance to the Glowworn Grotto, where several boats were waiting for us.  We boarded a boat and were asked to be perfectly quiet, while our boat glided silently through the Grotto.  Our guide manually pulled us along via a series of ropes/wires, while we watched the thousands of small lights glittering above.

We were not allowed to take photos inside the caves, but we have purchased a photo pack.

We stopped at Otoronanga for lunch and had a wander through the shops close by.

We continued our journey towards Rotorua, passing through Kihikihi and back to the Waikato River at Arapuni, where the first dam construction for a Hydro Electric system took place. Maria and Sandy hjad a chuckle about a sign at the butcher shop in Arapuni, which said “Moos, Baas and Oinks – Arapuni Bucher”.

We climbed up the Kaimai Mamaku Range, along the Mamaku Plateau, where we saw some Riolite Domes, and down into the Rotorua caldera.

Before going to our hotel, we drove beside the lake and stopped at the Government Gardens for a walk and the opportunity to see the Bath House Museum (formerly Tudor Towers), the Tea Rooms, the Bowling greens, lavendar gardens, parsley gardens and Rachel Spring – Whangapipiro (Evil Smelling Place), which was a hot spring that, as its name implies, had a strong sulphur smell and was 212 degrees.

We were taken to the Copthorne Hotel, where we caught up with our blog and relaxed before our special dinner.

Tonight, we enjoyed a Maori Hangi-style feast, where the food was cooked slowly beneath the ground in Maori ovens and we were treated to traditional performances of song and dance.
  John, one of our tour group members was invited up on stage to be the Chief and was greeted with a special welcome ceremony, the Powhiri, wishing him friendship and peace.  We were treated to some beautiful Maori singing as well as performances by 3 Maori men doing the traditional Haka and 4 Maori women doing Poi dancing/displays.

Maria was among several women from our group who were invited up onto the stage to learn some Poi moves and perform a special Poi dance.  Dennis and several of the men from our group were invited up to learn how to do the Haka.  There was much laughter and encouragement as they all did a great job!!

The four of us have had a wonderful day and we are looking forward to tomorrow’s adventures.

We have put some photos in the gallery and have added three photos to the Day 5 Gallery.

One Response to “Day 6 Thursday 20 February – Waitomo, Rotorua”

  1. Janet says:

    Wow the glow worms look amazing – I’ve always wanted to see them. And I love the photos of Aunty Maria and Uncle Den up the front doing the dancing/haka – classic! 🙂

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