Whangarei, Auckland, and Rotorua

Going backwards, our second day in Whangarei was incredible – snorkeling and glow worm caving. The snorkeling was perfectly clear to about 100 feet where there was a rock shelf. Most of the fish were either the pink and blue maomao or the two-spot demoiselle (think this but from above), but we also saw a huge stingray. The day was overcast but the water was still crystal clear, the water was so cold – I wore a wetsuit for the first time!

After snorkeling, we went back to the hostel and grabbed our new American friend Robin and went to the glow worm caves. It was free and just a 10 minute walk through the back yard. Glow worms are really cool – looking up in a dark cave it looks like green stars on the ceiling. More about glow worms here. After our nice hike, we cooked a nice dinner at the Little Earth Lodge and watched Lord of the Rings (seemed fitting).

The next day on our drive back to Auckland, we stopped at the Kiwi Experience where I was excited to see the kiwi hatchery. They breed kiwis and raise the babies, then set them free back in the wild. The tour was amazing! We saw a 2-day old kiwi baby being fed and 3 adults in their pens. Since we all had to be quiet entering the open kiwi area, when a male who is just reaching puberty let out his mate-seeking wail it scared all of us to death! Turns out he only does it every 1-2 days so we were very lucky to be there for it.

We also stopped at an unlikely place – a clock museum. Turns out it really fascinating! They had clocks going back to the 1700s and all manner of cuckoo clocks, pendulum clocks, a gravity clock, even very specific ones like a night-watchman’s clock and a parliamentary speaking clock (you have 15 minutes to speak and it rings when you have to stop).

That night we stayed at the Verandahs again, it’s nice to have a comfortable, convenient place to come back to.

The next morning, we started the long drive to Rotorua. Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity, hot springs, sulfur pools, etc., so first thing we found a place called the Polynesian Spa and sat in some hot water with a LOT of Japanese tourists. The hostel we originally were booked at didn’t pass the sniff test, so we found another one that, while tiny, was clean and our room faced the quiet backyard.

This brings us to this morning…on the way out of town, we stopped at a place called the Waiotopu Thermal Wonderland. Besides being possibly the stinkiest place I’ve ever been, it was also fascinating. The colors of the waters ranged from turquoise to red and from clear water and geysers to boiling mud. Afterward, we consulted Blair’s Hot Springs of New Zealand book and drove to 2 different free, natural swimming springs. Both were about 110 degrees, a little hot for my taste. But they both had small, natural waterfalls and one had a few locals in up to their knees.

Now we’re in Taupo and it’s raining, so we’re in an Internet Cafe for a little while. The guy running it is the Kiwi Comic Book Guy. He gave me props for using WordPress…

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