Before leaving Waitomo Caves I did a one-hour walk through a spectacular eroded cave structure called the Rukiura Bush Walk. The path goes through natural tunnels, along cliffs, and through thick ferny foliage.
On the way out of town I stopped at the Otorohanga Kiwi House to see the kiwis they have in captivity, including a rare Great Spotted Kiwi. The kiwi has no visible wings and a very unbirdlike lumbering gait, giving it a cartoonish quality. It’s a very weird bird.
All of which means that I didn’t really get going until 11:00. I made it as far as Russell, at the Bay of Islands, where I filled up at the oldest operating gas station in New Zealand (built in 1930) and had dinner by the bay. Russell has a Caribbean quality. It’s slow-paced, semi-tropical, and has British colonial architecture from the 19th century.
No time to stay, though. I need to be in Auckland tonight and I’m starting out by going in the opposite direction.
The final cave I went in for the day was with a different tour. This one was more sporty and involved abseiling down 20m (66 feet) to get in, abseiling over a couple of waterfalls, then wading, crawling, and walking down to a depth of about 75m (248 feet). Then we climbed, crawled, and waded back out.
Along the way were spectacular cave formations, fossils, and more glowworms.
It was excellent! If I were staying longer, I’d do another one.
This whole area is riddled with caves. I originally thought there were only three, but those are just the three famous ones that have been running tours for many years.
The land is all privately owned, mostly by farmers, and they also own any caves below their land. They then lease the tour rights to companies that develop different types of tours and build the infrastructure to support them. Each company typically has several different tours available for different preferences and fitness levels, as well as for the specifics of each cave.
And because Waitomo Caves Village is a very small town, they pretty much all know each other. I got all the necessary info from Colin, the proprietor of the guest house I stayed in.
After the glowworm cave, we went to what was called a dry cave (although it was not completely dry). That was the cave with the moa.
It also had cave weta. I wasn’t able to get a good picture because they are not friendly creatures and tend to scurry away. They’re skilled scurriers.
Anyway, I went to Weta Cave and I also saw cave weta. So…um…I don’t know. It sounded more interesting before I wrote it down.
This morning I went floating around underground looking at maggots.
New Zealand’s famous glowworms are not really worms, but the larvae of the fungus gnat, which extrudes sticky threads from its hinder regions and uses bioluminescence to attract insects.
When the larva becomes a fly, it mates, then flies around until it either starves or gets eaten by other glowworms.
But during the larval phase (about nine months), they cluster together in dark, wet places and put on a spectacular light show. We floated back and forth on an underground stream looking at constellations of these things above us. You’d need a tripod and probably at least a 15-minute exposure to get something good. This is what I could get with a hand-held shot at ISO 6400.
That’s nature: beautiful yet disgusting.