Another 3 and a bit hour drive up to Waitomo Caves. Again – not really a problem, and the roads were clear and scenary good – in my opinion, not quite up to the standards of South island. Some of it looked like Staffordshire, which you would expect with gentle hills and cattle on top of limestone, sandstone. (Staffordshire – Limestone, Keuper Marl and Bunter Conglomerate.) Other areas looked like otherworldly – which if you’ve been round Stoke…….
We did a three cave tour, starting with Waitomo Glow worm Caves, which had a little boat ride at the end of it. We were not allowed to take photos of them, so unfortunately, I will have to describe them. They reside on the top (roof) of the cave, like little stars in constellations – very pretty. There is a haze around them that could look like a Milky way (or is that because I missed lunch?)
We then drove quickly over to Aranui Cave, which is by Ruanaki walk, which we did not have time to do – its one of the top 10 short walks in the world, with natural tunnels, forest and in the evening glow worms. Time constraints to get to Hamilton meant that we gave this a miss.
The third cave was possibly the most entertaining trip, and if short of time, is the one that I would recommend. Ruanaki Caves looks a bit plasticised. You walk around a spiral walkway downwards lit up like the entry to Eve’s was all those years ago. (Oh how I thought they were sophisticated on Dirty Thursdays). There is structured walkways created because the original entrance was a Maori burial ground, and would be disrespectful to their traditions. There were Stalagmites and Stalactites, (Tites come down and Mites go up….), and another sort of deposit called a curtain, where the calcium deposit follows the cave wall and builds up over 10000s of years. I’d never seen this feature before, and along with the glow worms, another first.
The guide on this one was again more interested in talking about rugby, than the glow worms, but he did give us a biology lesson on them. We saw the glow worms as what effectively is the maggot stage. They then go into a cuckoo, and when they become flies, they have three days to live. One of them is spent with the male procreating for 24 hours, a statistic which left the men in the tour impressed and the women wistful. At which point, the males dies, and the females lay clusters of about 20 eggs all over the cave. The next stage is a real survival of the fittest. The first egg to hatch is hungry and so eats all his brothers and sisters to produce a snot like trail, which it uses to catch the insects attracted to the light. It’s digestive system then produces an enzyme which glows (effectively luminous shit). The thought went through my head that this must be every little boys dream – caves, maggots and snot, but then when you think that I’ve travelled halfway round the world with the point of seeing necrophiliac, nymphomanic cannibalistic maggots that have luminous poo, you’d have thought me mad.
Onto Hamilton for the stopover. Walking down the street was Warren Gatland – I swear I am not stalking rugby players.
Justified and Ancient – Dolly Parton and S-Express? Because we were all bound for Moo Loo land (Waikato’s nickname). The caves were also ancient.