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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Crater and Auckland’s Garden of Eden

I was about six kilometers into the walk back from the bank when I regretted walking.  The detours to Mt. Eden and the gardens had put my total walking for the day around twenty kilometers.  I was still tired from the day before.  I was a little hungover from drinking a few beers with some people from the hostel.  Rookie mistake.

The city’s unique views were my only salvation.  Well, those and the satisfying click pressing the crosswalk buttons.  Mostly the latter, actually.

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Earlier in the day, I hiked up a few steps to reach Mount Eden, a crater located high up in the middle of the city.

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As the city’s highest natural vantage point, Mt. Eden offered spectacular views of the city.

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Not pictures: scores of Chinese tourists posing and flying drones.

I also saw a woman who looked to be about over a hundred years old slowly making her way up the steps.  It was nice to see her being active, but I couldn’t help but think that this could be her last hike.

On my way out of the hiking path up, I noticed a sigh for the Eden Garden, a 5.5 acre garden located near the crater in the middle of the city.  This expansive space was home to hundreds of different types of trees and plants.  Despite not seeing a single person within twenty years of my age, I had a wonderful time.  The garden had an overwhelming number of plants and trees to ponder.

When I got back to the hostel, I felt as though I had accidentally walked into a Jr. High.  I’m only twenty-eight, but the sight of the average age of the hostel goers had me feeling a tad older.

 

Biosecurity Threat #1 and the Cherry Blossoms

“Go around to the biosecurity window.,”

This wasn’t the welcome I had anticipated.  To be fair, it was my own fault.  I brought a used tent and some used hiking shoes into the country.  I should have done more research.

Turns out, New Zealand has some of the strictest protocols regarding environmental safety.  They advised me to clean my gear better before using it, both a helpful bit of advice and a warning.

As I was retrieving my cleared tent, a woman in line told me a celebrity got in a lot of trouble for forgetting about an orange in her bag.  I never fact checked her, but it sounded like a good story.

Waiting for the bus into central Auckland, I chatted with a nice fellow coming back from a month long trip in Europe.  If it weren’t for him, I would have ridden that bus all night.  There were no indicators as to where, or if it would stop.

I crashed as soon as I made my way up the five flights of stairs.  And went through a door.  And got in bed.

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I woke up at 5 in the morning and wanted to go for a walk.  I googled free things to do in the city and noticed a park that looked to be the size of Rhode Island.  In reality, Cornwall park is a 670 acre park that was gifted to New Zealand in 1901 by a man named Sir John Logan Campbell with the stipulation that the park be free, forever.  It was about three miles away from my hostel, so coming off  what could be described as a marathon of sitting, I decided to hoof it.  It was well worth the effort.

The path to the top hill is surrounded by green fields.  In a lucky coincidence, it is also Cherry Blossom season here.  Crowds of parents and their children assembled under the trees.

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And more

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The top, a place called One Tree Hill, offered a spectacular view of Auckland.

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I spoke with an elderly Chinese man much longer than either of us wanted to, and he told me I should go to the bars to look for a wife.

I didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t.

The rest of the day was spent trying to figure out how to get a bank account set up.  I have an appointment tomorrow that should take care of that.  Then, to get a IRD number (for tax purposes so I can work), and then a van!

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Auckland is an interesting city, but I can’t see myself staying here for more that a week.  Hopefully, the bank and tax number are quick processes so I can head up to a lighthouse at the northern tip of the north island and hit a few rad camping spots.

We will see.