Waitomo’s wonderful wonderland

wonderful Waitomo Waterfalls

wonderful Waitomo Waterfalls

When I visited Waitomo for the first time as a backpacker in the mid 90’s, I was captivated. This tiny little village hides a natural wonderland that to me should be given a lot more credit than it gets.

Traveling a lot through Europe when I was younger, I visited many caves, gorges, rivers and forests. Many you had to queue up for, buy expensive tickets to get close and travel lots of km’s to even get there. But people do.

Waitomo is only around 2,5 hours away from Auckland. The drive to Waitomo takes you through some typical peaceful NZ countryside. Rolling green hills dotted with Totara’s and Poplars, horse stud farms and some small villages. It’s nothing spectacular, but really beautiful and relaxing at the same time.

Then you get to Waitomo. A tiny speck on the map with a campsite, shop, some café’s, restaurants, accommodation, and a hotel that was once Grand. It still looks spectacular in the evening with the lights on it, but is unfortunately a bit run down.
Don’t get fooled by this though. In any other country there would be several well-known hotels and shops and real estate would be unaffordable.
Waitomo is so worth it, but it has not developed this way. This adds to the charm of the experience, as you feel you are one of the few to know about it, but at the same time it always flabbergasts me.
It has got the most wonderful caves. All set in a beautiful natural environment which also hides one of the most stunning short walks you will ever do. Plus a natural gorge and bridge and the most amazing waterfalls. This all within a 25K radius of Waitomo and within easy reach. I wouldn’t wear high heels, but you really do not have to be a well seasoned hiker to be able to experience this all. And if this hasn’t convinced you yet, the underground spectacle will.

The caves can easily stand up amongst the great caves in the world with their formations, position and stories. But these still have something extra in store. Floating in the dark, on a little boat or if you’re up for it in a wetsuit on a tire (called Black Water  Rafting). You are in total quietness. And then you suddenly see them. Thousands and thousands of little lights, the glowworms. It is absolutely magical. An experience that should be on everybody’s bucket list.

20 years onwards from my Waitomo initiation and many many visits later, I still love going there and experience the magic. I have to admit that I ended up working for the company that manages Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Black Water Rafting. Lucky me, but it is not why I wrote this post.

Waitomo is a wonderful wonderland, that deserves to be written about.

Pesky or pretty Paparoa Peacocks

paparoapeacock

Peacocks are everywhere in the NZ country side. When we camped for the first time on our 10 acre block in the rolling hills near ‘the village in the valley’ Paparoa I was hoping to see the NZ native birdlife that occupy our little native forest. I was expecting to wake up to the musical song of the Tui, or maybe the chirping of fantails. Instead one of the first sounds we heard was loud screeching of what we know now were peacocks. They look totally out of character in the NZ countryside, with their bright blue and green coloured feathers, and their little stylish crest on their heads. But they seem to love it here, as they are thriving. You see them strolling across the hills and in the paddocks in large flocks, leaving flattened grass behind. You can even see them when you’re driving along State Highway 1.

Initially we were very excited, wow peacocks on our land! When we told our neighbour, a true Paparoa local farmer, we noticed that he didn’t share our enthusiasm and we got the ‘you city -people’ look. Those pretty peacocks ate his crops !

Having lived here now for several years, we have learned it is indeed better to keep the peacocks away from the areas where you live and plant veggies and fruit. They can indeed be a nuisance. However, I still love their feathers and strutting displays in springtime. To me it is one of the things that actually makes Paparoa quite special!

Endless Skies

Endless skies above Ransom Vineyard

Endless skies above Ransom Vineyard

20 minutes from Auckland, 500 meters from our main highway is a winery.  When sitting down at one of their outside tables to enjoy a platter of mainly local delicatessen, you can’t help but gaze over the vines into the distance. It’s incredible. You feel as if you’re hundreds of miles away from anywhere.

It’s easy to find emptiness and uninterrupted views in New Zealand. With a population density of around 16 people per 1000 square km, compared to about 400 in the Netherlands, and 260 in the UK, it’s no wonder that there are lots of open spaces and views with nothing but nature in sight.
It’s not the wide views you get in flat countryside like in the Australian outback. NZ is also sometimes referred to as the Vertical country, as it’s pretty hilly. What makes those views so spectacular though is the large skies often with some white clouds dotted in. It really feels NZ is at the end of the world and the skies above those hills just keep going and going.  They’re Endless skies.