Waipu Caves and Hiking in the Rain

I heard screaming from inside the cave. A chilling sound, especially frightening when pitch black.

Luckily, the screaming wasn’t a call to action, just a run of the mill group of Jr. High students on a class field trip.

They were obviously excited about the caves, evidenced by the dozens of beams of light criss-crossing, obviously a generation too late to heed the Ghostbuster’s warning. Also the afformentioned screaming.

Waipu caves are a free set of glowworm caves near the town of Waipu. A French photographer said the caves aren’t as bright as the famous ones in Waitomo, but they have the benefit of being quiet and dark…usually.

The cave entrance starts out wide enough, and a slippery path leads back to the first glowworm cave. In the dark, the glowworms look like constellations of blue. Words could not do the experience justice.

The cave narrows, to the point where you have to duck down and traverse some knee high water and leads to a second cavern full of glowworms.

The second cavern has a tunnel which circles back around and ends up where it started. If you try to continue on through the water, it becomes deeper and there aren’t glowworms reaching up to chest-high water. I didn’t venture further.

After the caves, I was inclined to do a short hike near the cave’s entrance. The hike led you through a forest, which put you in a person’s cow pasture.

I was getting rained on throughout the hike. I also was the only person on the trail either direction. The two could be related.

After the hike, I made my way to the next campground, about an hour and a half drive away.

There were very few cars on the road, as very few people live in New Zealand. There also were quite a few single car width bridges, with handy signs indicating which direction had the right of way.

I was expecting the highway up north (or 1) to be a highway, but it has been a one lane road with passing lanes every few kilometers.

I arrived at Otamure Bay, my campsite for the evening. The nearest town is Whananaki, which is a few kms to the South.

The campsite is situated next to a beautiful beach. It looks pretty similar to the last campsite. I have been told the North island areas all look pretty similar. I guess we will find out over the next few months.

Out into New Zealand

Early this morning, I scared an Italian man within an inch of his life. I wasn’t trying to scare him. In fact, I really wanted to show him I was a good driver.

I hit the windshield wiper instead of the blinker once. I almost ran a red light once. I misjudged how much van was on my left and almost hit something four times.

To be fair, the center of Auckland (home to a third of New Zealand’s inhabitants) would not be my first choice for learning to drive.

The Italian man and I were on the way to a campervan rental shop. He and his girlfriend had just sold me their van, Opheila, and now they were going to rent a van for their last week in New Zealand.

I left the couple with all their belongings on the side of the road a block from the rental place.

Slowly, I took Opheila up the coast to a campground near Waipu called Uretiti.

The campground is an official Department of Conservation campground (one of more that two hundred), and is situated on a beach. The campground itself was not too busy today, and I had the beach to myself.

I went on a coastal walk for an hour and saw some cool plants and views, but most of the time was spent figuring out what exactly came with the van.

I am glad to be out in the New Zealand countryside, and excited to make my way around the North island this spring.

Does Anyone Need a Hand? #1 finale

I left the boat today.  It was a sad goodbye.  The week was a fun departure from my original plan, and I am glad I got to meet some really interesting people.

I will definitely be doing side projects like this in the future to see if I can help out people in the places I travel.

I felt like they took care of me more than I helped them on the boat, but I am grateful for the chance.

Last night, I also got to see a pretty spectacular sunset, so here are some pictures of that.

I spent this morning calling places, and I finally have my van located.  I pick it up tomorrow and will say goodbye to Auckland.

Pictures and more stories to come.

Devonport: posh accents and surprise musical interludes

Today was my last day in Auckland.  It started off slow enough, but eventually I found a German girl who had also seen most everything Auckland had to offer.  We took a $12.50NZ ferry to the small village within Auckland called Devonport.  The name is really fun to try to pronounce with a New Zealand accent.


The place itself is charming,  with little shops lining the quiet streets.  There is a library located near the harbor next to the sea.  There is a hill close to the ferry that offers a beautiful view of the ocean.  We found it after eschewing the direct route from the ferry to the top in favor of a much more roundabout, some would say lost, way. There were also painted metal mushrooms on the top of the hill.  They look like exhaust vents that were covered up and made to look like a part of the scenery.


Back at the hostel I walked in on a German guy I met learning guitar.  He had been given a lesson by a woman staying at the hostel.  His laser focus really affected me.  He was so focused on trying to play the four chords to Boulevard of Broken Dreams that he shut out the rest of the world.  He continued practicing for the next four hours. He said he was going to take a break, but would return thirty seconds later saying he was ready to go again.  It is always nice to see people excited and motivated about things.  I hope he continues being that passionate about things.

I told the woman who taught him that I played a little piano and she insisted on a duet.  It took a few minutes to figure out a song that would sound good for both of us.  We ended up playing “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith.  It ended up sounding pretty good.  It was a lot of fun.  I hope we see each other again in the future for a reprise.


Rangitoto and the Sundance Kid

The original plan for the day was to head down to Rotorua with a few friends from the hostel to soak in some hot springs.  They woke up hungover and no one made plans to rent a car, so that idea ended quickly.

I had heard that the volcanic island of Rangitoto was an interesting place to spend a day, and google told me the ferry left in 15 minutes.

I jogged toward the pier (not easy in a backpack), and ended up getting there with almost a minute to spare.  The woman was telling everyone to wipe their shoes before getting on the ferry.  New Zealand is very strict about foreign contaminants, especially in the places that don’t see many visitors.


On the hike up, I chatted quite a few different people.  I met a Korean guy who was making a YouTube series about New Zealand travel.  I met a few Kiwis who were happy to tell me the good places to visit.  I met a Scottish woman and her Sri Lankan husband whom I chatted with for a few hours.

They invited me to their place when I make it out there, and I took down their information.


The summit offered a nice view, but my favorite part of the trip were exploring the lava caves.

Visitors are able to climb through a few of these caves.  There is a group of three, and the middle one gets narrow, then expands.  The exit is a few hundred feet past the entrance.


The last cave was a little further down, and many people turned back before reaching it.  I went to the fourth cave and was surprised to hear a woman playing a Shakuhachi (she later told me).  She was playing a beautiful song alone in the dark.  The acoustics of the cave were unparalleled, and the woman had quite a bit of talent.  I took a seat on a nearby rock and enjoyed the performance.  I introduced myself afterwards while trying not to scare her in a pitch black cave. She told me her dream was to one day study at Naropa University in Colorado.  “Strange,” I said.  “I live just down the street from there.”  It was like a Joni Mitchell song.


Small world.

There was a lighthouse located on a small island off the coast of this small island off the coast of Auckland.  There was no discernible way to reach it, unfortunately, so I had to make do just looking at it.

There was also a nice beach with dark sand.  I didn’t have much time to stay, as the last ferry left at 3:30pm.  If you missed it, you were out of luck.


For more information about the island, check out the Department of Conservation’s website here.